"For decades, Stanley [Kubrick] looked for material that might allow him to make a film about the Holocaust" (1). A quest then began to find the right story and, at the same time, the director assembled numerous documents (archive images, photos...) on the historical period and the Shoah. In 1976, he asked Jan Harlan to speak to author Isaac Bashevis Singer – who lived in New York, surrounded by refugees of the Nazi regime – and ask him to write an original story. However, Singer replied to Harlan that he "don't know the first thing about it" (2).
Several years later, in 1991, Kubrick discovered Louis Begley's novel Wartime Lies (1991). The story, incorporating autobiographical elements, is told from a child's point of view and relates the story of Maciek and his Aunt Tania, two Jews who pass themselves off as Catholics during the Nazi occupation of Poland.
Kubrick wrote a script outline that he proposed to Warner Bros., and pre-production began. Johanna ter Steege was chosen to play Tania, and Joseph Mazzello would portray her nephew. However, Schindler's List by Spielberg, which deals with a similar subject, came out during that period and enjoyed tremendous commercial and critical success. Full Metal Jacket (1987), Kubrick's previous film, had already suffered from the success of Oliver Stone's Platoon, released a year earlier. So as not to make the same mistake twice, Kubrick and Terry Semer, the co-director of Warner, then decided to put the Aryan Papers project aside. Kubrick would never get back to it.
(1) Jan Harlan, "From Wartime lies to "Aryan Papers"", in The Stanley Kubrick Archives, Alison Castle (ed.), (Köln, London, [etc.], Taschen, 2005), p. 509.