Criterion recently released legendary Italian director, Gillo Pontecorvo's "Kapo" (1959) to DVD.
In the film, doe-eyed Susan Strasberg plays Edith, a lovely, young Jewish girl transported to a Nazi German concentration camp in Poland who takes on a new identity in order to survive, eventually becoming a "kapo," a Funktionshäftling or "prisoner functionary." Strasberg worked on this film immediately after being inexplicably passed over for the movie version of "The Diary of Anne Frank" following her Tony-nominated Broadway portrayal. Her work in "Kapo" as the conflicted "Nicole" is excellent.
As the Red Army advances steadily towards the camp the prisoners wildly anticipate their liberation. A few of the Soviet soldiers are captured by the Germans and interned in the camp, providing impetus for the film's dramatic ending. Pontecorvo, an Italian communist, depicts the Soviets in what can only be described as a highly idealistic manner while history tells us that the Red Army and NKVD often rivaled the Nazis in apportioning death and misery.
"Kapo," one of the very first films to treat the horrors of the Holocaust in a realistic fashion, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1961 as Best Foreign Film. The cinematography of Aleksandar Sekulovic is outstanding. Director Pontecorvo went on to direct the controversial masterpiece, "The Battle of Algiers," in 1966.
But buy this movie for Strasberg, a beautiful and talented actress who never got her due.