Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  65 minutes
Date:  2014
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English; French
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
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When Memory Comes: A Film about Saul Friedlander

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A film about historian Saul Friedlander and his lifelong quest to describe the extermination of the European Jews without losing or repressing a primary feeling of disbelief.

When Memory Comes: A Film about Saul Friedlander

WHEN MEMORY COMES: A FILM ABOUT SAUL FRIEDLANDER is a visually arresting documentary that interweaves leading Holocaust historian Saul Friedlander's personal story of survival with an introduction to his work and thought.

Originally a political scientist, Friedlander avoided writing about the Holocaust until an exchange of letters with German historian Martin Broszat, during the 1980s. Broszat believed that victims are unable to write the history of the period in which they were victimized, because they are not objective enough. For Friedlander, subjectivity and personal interest in stories as not being a problem for historians-as long as they are clear on where they stand. 'There is a Jewish dimension to this history, and Jews can deal with it as objectively as anyone else,' he says in the film. Historians should 'accept subjectivity and even use it... very clearly and very explicitly.'

That realization would lead to his magnum opus, Nazi Germany and the Jews , and its follow-up, The Years of Extermination .

For Friedlander, the Shoah is unique, in that its intent was to wipe out an entire population whose very existence was a threat to the survival of the Aryan race. Standing among a set of propaganda posters, he points out that Nazis tended to refer not to Jews, but to 'the Jew'-an abstract principle whose cause had to be eliminated.

In contrast, Friedlander shares his own experience as a man who changed identities four times-first, when he moved as a child from Prague to France and had his name Francisized, then when he was hidden from the Nazis in a Catholic seminary and took a French, Christian name-and finally when he reclaimed his own identity as a Jew and Zionist. He also tells the heartbreaking story of how, in arranging for his safety, his parents unwittingly doomed themselves to death at Auschwitz.

This wide-ranging film looks at Friedlander's views on subjects ranging from anti-Semitism as a redemptive, to Jews' own lack of understanding of the scope of the Holocaust, to kitschy pop culture representations of the period.

Filmmaker Frank Diamand first met Friedlander more than 20 years ago, and is himself a Holocaust survivor. WHEN MEMORY COMES puts both Diamand and Friedlander on screen, and their presence together offers a the film a greater sense of immediacy and intimacy. This documentary is an excellent introduction to Friedlander's work and to the issues raised by Holocaust scholarship and historiography.

'Saul Friedlander [has] transformed our understanding of this period by weaving into a coherent whole the perspectives of ordinary Germans, party activists, military and political figures, and, most importantly, victims and survivors.' -The MacArthur Foundation


** Official Selection, 2013 Jerusalem Film Festival
** Official Selection, 2013 Netherlands Film Festival


Main credits

Diamand, Frank (film director)
Diamand, Frank (interviewer)
Mendel, René (film producer)
Friedländer, Saul (interviewee)

Other credits

Photography, Melle van Essen; editing, Simone da Silva; sound recording, Piotr van Dijk.

Distributor credits

A film by Frank Diamand

Docuseek2 subjects

World History
Jewish Studies
World War II

Distributor subjects

Closed Captioned
History (World)
Jewish Studies
World War II


Saul Friedlander; historian; The Years of Extermination; Kitsch and Death; Friedlander; holocaust; Nazism; Nazi Germany; documentary; history of; Israel; policies; video; film; Jewish; DVD; Jews; European; "When Memory Comes: A Film about Saul Friedlander"; Icarus Films

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