Claude Lanzmann  

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Claude Lanzmann (27 November 1925 – 5 July 2018) was a French filmmaker known for the Holocaust documentary film Shoah (1985).

Life and work

Lanzmann was born in Paris to a Jewish family that had immigrated to France from Eastern Europe. He is the brother of writer Jacques Lanzmann. He attended the Lycée Blaise Pascal in Clermont-Ferrand. His family went into hiding during World War II. He joined the French resistance at the age of 17 and fought in the Auvergne. Lanzmann opposed the French war in Algeria and signed the 1960 antiwar petition Manifesto of the 121.

From 1952 to 1959 he lived with Simone de Beauvoir. In 1963 he married French actress Judith Magre. They divorced in 1971, and he next married Angelika Schrobsdorff, a German-Jewish writer. He divorced a second time and married Dominique Petithory in 1995. He is the father of Angélique Lanzmann, born in 1950 and Félix Lanzmann (1993–2017).

Lanzmann was chief editor of the journal Les Temps Modernes, founded by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and lecturer at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. In 2009 he published his memoirs under the title Le lièvre de Patagonie ("The Patagonian Hare").

Lanzmann died on 5 July 2018 at his Paris home, after having been "very very weak" for several days. He was 92. His death came one day after the theatrical release of Les Quatre Soeurs (The Four Sisters), which features testimonials from four Holocaust survivors not included in his Shoah.


Lanzmann's most renowned work, Shoah (1985), is a nine-and-a-half-hour oral history of the Holocaust, broadly considered to be the foremost film on the subject. Shoah is made without the use of any historical footage, and uses only first-person testimony from perpetrators and victims, and contemporary footage of Holocaust-related sites. Interviewees include the Polish resistance fighter Jan Karski and Raul Hilberg, the American Holocaust historian. When the film was released, the director also published the complete text, including in English translation, with introductions by Lanzmann and Simone de Beauvoir.

Lanzmann has disagreed, sometimes angrily, with attempts to understand the why of Hitler, stating that the evil of Hitler cannot or should not be explained and that to do so is immoral and an obscenity.

Selected works


As subject

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