Death Mills

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Death Mills
Directed by Billy Wilder
Hanuš Burger
Written by Hanuš Burger
Edited by Billy Wilder (supervisor)
Distributed by United States Department of War
Release date(s)
  • 1945 (1945) (Germany)
Running time 22 minutes
Country United States
Language English/German

Death Mills (or Die Todesmühlen) is a 1945 American documentary film directed by Billy Wilder and produced by the United States Department of War. The film was intended for German audiences to educate them about the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime. For the German version, Die Todesmühlen, Hanus Burger is credited as the writer and director, while Wilder supervised the editing. Wilder is credited with directing the English-language version.

Synopsis[edit]

A British Army bulldozer pushes bodies into a mass grave at Belsen. April 19, 1945

The film opens with a note that the following is "a reminder that behind the curtain of Nazi pageants and parades was millions of men, women and children who were tortured to death - the greatest mass murder in human history," then fades into German civilians at Gardelegen carrying crosses to the local concentration camp.

Most of the film includes footage of the newly liberated camps over a score of stark classical music. The narrator notes that people of all nationalities were found in the camps, including people of all religious or political creeds. There is no mention of the particular fate of Jewish people. The film states that 20 million people were killed and describes many of the familiar aspects of the Holocaust, including the medical experiments and the gas chambers.

Concentration camps[edit]

American war crimes investigators question Irmgard Huber at the Hadamar Euthanasia Centre, May 1945
As Minister of Economics, Walther Funk accelerated the pace of rearmament and as Reichsbank president banked for the SS the gold rings of Buchenwald victims

The images from the camps are fresh and brutal, with many shots of piles of skeletal corpses, naked skeletal survivors (often supported by fellow prisoners) together with footage of prosperous-looking German citizens being forced to observe their suffering. Some are also forced to carry the corpses to be buried, although most of this work was usually carried out by ex-camp guards (as at Belsen concentration camp).

There are shots of mass graves, as well as of individual burials, as at Hadamar, now known to be a euthanasia or action T4 centre. Some of the footage appears to be of Soviet origin, and includes shots taken at Majdanek death camp which was one of the first camps to be liberated in 1944 by the Russians. There are shots of the crematoria at several camps, as well as the infamous slogans erected at the entrances of most camps, such as Arbeit macht frei.

Perhaps most moving of all are the piles of stolen personal belongings of gassed victims, filmed by the Russians when they liberated Auschwitz, as well as by US troops at Buchenwald. They include piles of clothes, shoes, toys, wedding rings and gold teeth destined for the vaults of the Reichsbank.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]