9. ‘The Sorrow and the Pity’

In 1969, another French director confronted Holocaust memory in two-part documentary “The Sorrow and the Pity.” Marcel Ophüls exposed the heroic and the monstrous in French reactions to World War II, spending equal time documenting the resistance and those that collaborated with Nazi Germany. Part one involved and extended interview with Pierre Mendès-France, a Jew who escaped the Vichy government to join Charles de Gaulle’s forces and would later served as Prime Minister of a liberated France. Part two details the alternate path, confronting the anti-Semitism and Anglophobia that lead Christian de la Mazière to embrace Fascism and fight on the Eastern Front in a German uniform.

Once more, France was unwilling to reflect on the truth of its mixed history, and the film was banned. President of the European Parliament Simone Veil, an Auschwitz survivor, was the primary force behind the ban, claiming the film was too one-sided. Though “The Sorrow and the Pity” was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 1971, it didn’t make it to French television until 1981.

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