French journalist and filmmaker Claude Lanzmann, best known for Shoah (1985), a nine-and-a-half-hour documentary about the Holocaust, died on Thursday. He was 92. Lanzmann’s family confirmed the news to French newspaper Le Monde, but did not mention the cause of death, according to The Guardian.
Lanzmann was born to Russian Jewish immigrants in France on November 27, 1925. At the age of 17, Lanzmann joined the French Resistance, a collection of movements against German Nazi forces organised across the country during the Second World War. Lanzmann later joined the board of Les Temps Modernes, the journal founded by philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. He was in a long-term relationship with French intellectual Simone de Beauvoir and took over from her as chief editor of the publication after her death in 1986. He served in that position throughout his life.
Starting with the documentary Pourquoi Israël (Israel, Why) in 1973, Lanzmann made several films, but hist most acclaimed work is Shoah, which was made over 11 years. With a running length of 566 minutes, Shoah includes interviews with survivors, perpetrators and witnesses of the extermination of Jews during the German Holocaust. The film was shot across several locations in Poland, including at extermination camps.
The film was released in Paris in April 1985 and won numerous accolades, including the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Non-Fiction Film and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Award for Best Documentary. Filmmaker Marcel Ophüls called Shoah “the greatest documentary about contemporary history ever made.”
Lanzmann’s most recent work, The Four Sisters, featured interviews with Holocaust survivors that had not been included in Shoah. The film was theatrically released in France just a day before his death.