“Essential viewing.” - Variety

San Francisco Chronicle pick for ‘Highlight of the S.F. Jewish Festival’


Silver Warsaw Phoenix, Jewish Motifs Film Festival, Warsaw Poland 2010


Birmingham Holocaust Education Center (2016)
Toronto Jewish Film Festival (2011)
Westchester Jewish Film Festival (2011)
Atlanta Jewish Film Festival (2011)
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (2010)

Jewishfilm.2010 NCJF’s Film Festival
NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE New York Jewish Film Festival, Lincoln Center (2010)
Jewish Motifs Film Festival, Warsaw, Poland
Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival (2009)
Prix Italia (2009)
IDFA International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (2009)


France: France 2
Finland: YLE
Israel: Channel 1

FROM THE PRODUCERS OF Being Jewish in France


Nazi mobile killing squads, led by highly-educated officers and aided by local collaborators, systematically murdered over a million Jews. Who were the men who carried out mass murder at close range? Prazan's definitive masterwork features a powerful array of astounding, never-seen-before film and photographs.


In June 1941, Nazi mobile killing squads, known as Einsatzgruppen, were dispatched throughout Eastern Europe. By the spring of 1943, the 3000 members of the Einsatzgruppen, led by highly-educated officers and aided by local collaborators in each country, had systematically murdered over a million Jews and tens of thousands Roma, handicapped, partisans, Communists and Soviets. Who were these men who organized and carried out mass murder at close range?

Prazan’s definitive masterwork is one of the essential films documenting the Holocaust and features a powerful array of astounding, never-seen-before film and photographs (some in color) discovered by the filmmakers in Eastern European archives. Prazan interviews a slate of internationally renowned historians, including Christopher Browning, Christian Ingrao, Martin Dean and Ralf Ogorreck, along with Holocaust survivors, witnesses and perpetrators (several filmed using hidden cameras).

The film’s scope is broad, treating the Einsatzgruppen’s leadership, rank-and-file and collaborators, the machinations of their operations and the attempts soon after to dig up and destroy the evidence. The later part of the film explores efforts to bring members of the Einsatzgruppen to justice. Benjamin Ferencz, prosecutor of the Einsatzgruppen trial, is interviewed at length.


Einsatzgruppen members were drawn from the SS, Waffen SS (military formations of the SS), SD, Sipo, Order Police, and other police units and they received assistance from German and Axis soldiers and other SS units. Einsatzgruppen often utilized local civilians and police in carrying out mass-murder operations.

In contrast to the methods later instituted of deporting Jews from their towns and cities or from ghetto settings to killing centers, Einsatzgruppen came directly to the home communities of Jews and massacred them.

Wherever the Einsatzgruppen went, they shot Jewish men, women, and children without regard for age or sex, and buried them in mass graves. Often with the help of local informants and interpreters, Jews in a given locality were identified and taken to collection points. Thereafter they were marched or transported by truck to the execution site, where trenches had been prepared. In some cases the captive victims had to dig their own graves. After the victims had handed over their valuables and undressed, men, women, and children were shot, either standing before the open trench, or lying face down in the prepared pit.

The Einsatzgruppen following the German army into the Soviet Union were composed of four battalion-sized operational groups. Einsatzgruppe A fanned out from East Prussia across Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia toward Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). It massacred Jews in Kovno, Riga, and Vilna. Einsatzgruppe B started from Warsaw in occupied Poland, and fanned out across Belorussia toward Smolensk and Minsk, massacring Jews in Grodno, Minsk, Brest-Litovsk, Slonim, Gomel, and Mogilev, among other places. Einsatzgruppe C began operations from Krakow and fanned out across the western Ukraine toward Kharkov and Rostov-on-Don. Its personnel directed massacres in Lvov, Tarnopol, Zolochev, Kremenets, Kharkov, Zhitomir, and Kiev, where famously in two days in late September 1941 units of Einsatzgruppe detachment 4a massacred 33,771 Kiev Jews in the ravine at Babi Yar. Of the four units, Einsatzgruppe D operated farthest south. Its personnel carried out massacres in the southern Ukraine and the Crimea, especially in Nikolayev, Kherson, Simferopol, Sevastopol, Feodosiya, and in the Krasnodar region.

For more on the Einsatzgruppen, visit the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


Michael Prazan was born in 1970 and graduated with a degree in linguistics from the Sorbonne in 1996. He taught French literature before becoming a filmmaker. Prazan lived in Japan for several years while making his first two films The Nanking Massacre: Memory and Oblivion (2006) and Japan, the Red Years (2002), about the terrorist tendencies of some of Japan’s May ’68 children. He has written a book on the making of the Einsatzgruppen film, which will be published in France later this year.


Director/Writer: Michaël Prazan
Producer: Michel Rotman
Executive Producer Marie-Hélène Ranc
Interviewees: Christopher Browning and Christian Ingrao, Ralf Ogorreck, Martin Dean, Benjamin Ferencz
Original music: Samuel Hirsch
A Kuiv production with the participation of France 2 and of Planète


Review in Variety (PDF)


Press Kit (PDF)


Classroom/Library Use 2 DVD Set: $350

Does not include Public Performance Rights. More Information

Digital Site Licensing (DSL) available - Contact us

Step down pricing for K-12 & public libraries may be available - Contact us

Arrange a screening - Contact us

Back to Top

The Death Brigades

Les Commandos de la Mort

France, 2009, 180 minutes
English narration, French, German w/ English subtitles
Directed by Michaël Prazan

Part I: Mass Graves (1941-1942)
90 minutes
Part II: Funeral Pyres (1942-1945)
90 minutes

Buy Now

Public Exhibition formats: Beta, DVD





Join our mailing list!