(JTA) – Claude Lanzmann, one of the world’s foremost makers of documentary films about the Holocaust, died Thursday, July 3 at the age of 92 at his home in Paris.
Lanzmann, a French Jew, was best known for directing the canonical 1985 film “Shoah,” a nine-hour-long documentary bearing the Hebrew-language name of the Holocaust. But his many projects “have changed the history of film making forever,” a Le Monde author wrote in an obituary.
His works about the Holocaust were extensive and innovative in how they were among the first to tackle for a wide audience aspects of the genocide that had been scarcely discussed for their sensitivity, including the role and level of knowledge of locals in Eastern Europe about the mass murder of Jews in their countries. He also dealt with the sensitive and divisive subject of Jews working in the service of the Nazis.
Lanzmann, who in 2011 received the French Legion of Honor, the country’s highest distinction of merit, had two children, one of whom, Felix, died last year of cancer at the age of 23. Lanzmann was deeply affected by Felix’s death, Le Monde wrote.
Lanzmann was also an author and frequent contributor of essays to publications in France and around the world.
In 2013, Lanzmann released the documentary “The Last of the Unjust,” based on interviews that Lanzmann conducted in 1975 with Benjamin Murmelstein, the only surviving president of the Jewish Council in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Shunned after the war as a collaborator, Murmelstein was imprisoned and then acquitted by the Czech authorities.
“Claude Lanzmann was single-handedly responsible for keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive in the hearts and minds of so many around the world,” Natan Sharansky, outgoing chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel. “His magnum opus, “Shoah,” captured the horrors of that period through the personal testimonies of survivors, witnesses, and perpetrators alike and was the first time many were confronted with the reality of the Holocaust as told by those who were there. His personal dedication to commemorating the Shoah was unparalleled, and he traveled around the world, even in his later years, to ensure the memory of the victims was never forgotten. For that, we owe him a great debt of gratitude. May his memory be a blessing.”