Shoah In Jerusalem



The extraordinary story of the day an epic Holocaust documentary was premiered in Israel.

Thirty years ago Claude Lanzmann released his epic, nine and a half hour documentary of the Holocaust, Shoah. Watching it the day it was screened in Israel for the first time, were the country's prime minister, president, chief rabbi and head of the military. It was all but a state occasion.

But also in the audience were survivors of the Holocaust, some watching their story told in public for the first time. The occasion would become remarkably intense, with one survivor collapsing following a heart attack, another fainting from the emotional strain.

Writer and broadcaster Jonathan Freedland saw the film as a teenager. Now he speaks to those present at that unique premiere - from the prime minister of the time, Shimon Peres, to Claude Lanzmann himself. He discovers that much more than a film was on display that day in Jerusalem. The occasion would also prove to be a moment when Israel would confront the most traumatic event in Jewish history, the event that had preceded Israel's own creation and which had haunted the country from its birth.

Now he tells, for the first time, the story of those extraordinary hours in the dark in a Jerusalem cinema - and charts Israel's complex and troubled relationship with the Holocaust.

An Open Audio production for BBC Radio 4.