The Seventh Million – The Israelis and the Holocaust

2x55 minutes documentary, 1995

The Seventh Million is a thought-provoking documentary series. It is based on a book by Israeli historian Tom Segev. The film, directed by Benny Brunner and written by Segev, examines some of the most sensitive and previously undisclosed chapters of Israeli history. It explores the Zionist leadership’s ambiguous response to the Holocaust as it was occurring and the challenges that the new state of Israel faced in dealing with the trauma of the Holocaust. The film also portrays the often-negative reception of Holocaust survivors in pre-Israel Palestine and in the new state of Israel, where they were frequently ignored or scorned by a society focused on heroism and the creation of a “new man.”

A key moment in Israel’s coming to terms with the legacy of the Holocaust was the Eichmann trial in the early 1960s, which was broadcast live on Israeli radio. The trial served not only as a form of group therapy for the entire nation but also as a turning point in the Israeli attitude towards Holocaust survivors, who were finally able to share their stories publicly.

Segev’s narration is supplemented by a range of interesting and compelling archival footage, dramatic location shooting, and visits to Holocaust memorial sites in Israel and Poland. The film also features interviews with well-known Israeli writers who witnessed many of the events depicted in the film, providing a counterpoint to Segev’s arguments and creating an engaging dialectic.

Overall, “The Seventh Million” provides valuable context for understanding the profound impact of the Holocaust on the Israeli psyche. It takes a critical look at the complex relationship between the Holocaust and Israel’s cultural and political identity in the first 50 years following this devastating event in Jewish history.

Production: A Benny Brunner, ARTE, ZDF, ViewPOINT Productions, IBA, production

Broadcast: (as thematic evening) Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Israel. Just broadcast: Australia

Festivals: 1996 IDFA; 1996 Jerusalem International Film Festival (JIFF); 1997 SF JFF; 1998 San Diego Jewish Film Festival (SD JFF); 2004 Barcelona International Jewish Film Festival (BIJFF)

The Seventh Million – The Israelis and the Holocaust

Benny Brunner (L), Tom Segev (C), Yehiam Weitz (R)

Tome Segev (R) and Benny Brunner during production at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum

Tom Segev (L), Benny Brunner (C), Ram Lital (R)

Tom Segev during production at Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum.