Projecting The Holocaust Into The Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema 0742543331, 9780742543331

Most Holocaust scholars and survivors contend that the event was so catastrophic and unprecedented that it defies authen

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Table of contents :
1 The Holocaust: A Cinematic Cataclysm?
2 Picturing the Holoca ust in the Past: 1945–1979
3 The Biopic: Personalizing Perpetrators, Victims, and Resisters
4 Condenmed Couples: Lovers and Liquidation
5 Serious Humor: Laughter as Lamentation
6 The Children Are Watching: Holocaust Films for Youngsters
7 Relevant Remembrances: Themes in Recent Holocaust Movies
8 Projecting the Holocaust into the Twenty-first Century
Selected Bibliography
Filmography: 1990–2004
Internet R esources
About the Author
Recommend Papers

Projecting The Holocaust Into The Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema
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- Projecting the Holocaust into the Present

Proj ecting the Holocaust into the Present The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema

Lawrence Baron

R OWMAN & LITTLE FI ELD PUBLIS H E R S, IN C. Lilli/Will ' I1m/aff • Neu) )-Ork • " ;)fOII/O • Oxford

ROWMAN &. LITTLEFIELD I'UBIISIIERS. INC. l'uhh, lwd 111 the Umtcd Statc, of Anwrlca by R owlll.ln &: Littldidd I'ubh(1,11 SlIIlIies: n,e Ne1l' S.'rieJ 5, no. 3 (1999): -IS. [0. R ichard Schich-l. "Fa11 e",rJlm"I!!'/' Gfrr~idl' (l3ouldl'f. CO: Wt.·stvkw Pf('Ss, 1996). 68. Graeme Turner, Fi/m liS Stlodl Prd((i((, 2nd cd. (New York: Routledge. 1993).38. 69. Sec {he chapter on '·StU Powt.'r:· in King. iVlw HoIlYII~l!ld, 1-1-7-77. 70. Andrea Rei!!'· r. Namllirrg ri,e Noh)(tlrlSl. traIlS. Patrick Camiller (New York: Continuum, 2000). 50-83. 71. Compare to [mdorf, !rule/iblc 5/lIId"U'5, 245-~9. 72. Rick Aiullan. Film / Cl'lire (London: Briti,h Filr)) Institute. 1999), 1~2-43; also sec Stc've NealL-. Geltre "'1I11-lollyu~l!ld (New York: I~o\ltlcdge. 2000), 73. Adrienne Kertzer, .lly rlfother's [111(f Childrell, l.Jtemturr. "wi rile HO/OalU51 (Peterborough. Canada: I3roadview ['rcss. 2002). H - 75.

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ChaptC( I 74. Alvin H. Ros(:nfdd, "The AI1l Holocaust. possess no inscribed meaning>; meaning is (onstructl·d by COII\Jl\unitk'S of illlerpretation- differently by diffcr('l1t COllI11111!litk'S--Qut of their own motives and needs. I - Abn Mintz


111ell the victorious Allied troops entered the gates of hastily ab:l!ldolled German COllcl,'ntration , extl'rmination, :l1ld labor camps, they surveyed the remnants ofthl,' Third R eich's ideological and r3cial W3r. The stench and sight of rotting corpses scattered on the spOtS where they had died or been stacked before thl,'y could be buried or burned overwhelmed even the t1IOSt battlchard ened veterans. The ashes in the crematoria :md the instruments onCe piled in medical experiments :l1ld torture sessions testified to the f.lte of victims who left no remains. T he bony bodies :l1ld vacant 6'Jzes of the survivors made them look like phantoms returnl,'d from the netherworld. As Robert Abzug has observed, "The libl,'rations made horrified beltevers out of the skeptics and brought a new and hideous sense of reality even to those who never doubted the worst."2 Doculllemary fi lms, newsreels, and photographs disseminated these appalling sce nes.) Oy May 1945,84 perCent of Americans polled believed that Germany had sla ughtered many civilians lt1 its ca illps and wa rtime operations. 4 The prosecution team at the Nuremberg TTlals submitted a compilation of footagl' of the atrocities d iscovered at the liberated camps as evidence of GerlIIan "crimes against humanity." The gaunt survivors, crematoria chimneys, barbed wi re fellces, gas chambers, Illass graves, railway cars, SS insignia, Sur of David armbands, striped camp clothing, swastikas, warehouses full of personal 23

uerm and human hair, and Zyklon-U canisters became cornlllonly recognized symbols ofNlZl inhum:lll lty.s AccordIng to David Wyman, "the news reports from Nuremberg ... catalogued thl' scope and cnormity of the extermimtion, and impressed them, along with tll(' nu mber six Ilullron, on the \\'orld's conSCiOllSIll'SS."6 Many scholars maintain that the initial shock over the revelations of the decimation of European j ewry was short-lived. International awa reness of the Final Solution alleb'Cdly dissipated as jcwish losS('S were subsutll..:d under the staggenng casualty statistics for World War II as a whole and overshadowed by subsequent events like the droppmg of atomic bombs on j apan. the onset of the cold war, and dealing with domestic problems neglected dunng wa rti nl":, Most countries occupied by or allied with Germany concealed their records of collaboration In Illlpicmentlllg alii i-Semitic polici..:s or indifference to thc arrest and deportation of their fellow j ewish citizens. T he Soviet Union pressured the ,tatcs it "liber:Hed" 10 interpret the ordeal of World War II in doctrinaire communist tcrm~. It perceived Nazis as agents of monopoly caprlahsts who crushed COlmllllll i ~1ll :lnd distractl,d the lllasse~ wi th wars and r.rcism. 7 jC\vs suppost~dly fostered tim historical amnesia too. Thos..: who survived the camps. ghetl()("s. and maS5.1CreS or evaded capture by fleemg. hiding, or livmg Illcognito as Aryans suppressed theIr tr.rulllatic memories. Psychologists hypotlwsizcd that survivors \wre wracked with guilt fo r escaping death wh ile their loved om's had per i shed.~ jewish immigrants to Pail'stine found tht'mselves embroiled in a ~tnlggle firq against the Uri tish and tlien against the Arabs.') jl'wish citizens of Westem democracil's downplayed their concem about the annih ilation of European jewry and support for I s r~cl to dispel suspicions of dual loyaltil's. With hindsight. they fdt they had not heeded the warnings of a j ewish bloodbath in Europe and f.liled to save theI r doomed corehgion ists. HI j l~\\,S umkr Soviet rule dared not memorialize their slain brethren in anticipation of pl'rsl'clltion as reanionary nationalists. 11 Yet. forty-four lTIOVleS on I iolocauq themes appeared III the four-yea r per iod following thl~ cessaflon of hostilities III Europe. T he llI e llJ orie~ of those whose live~ had been inl penlcd by the Nazis \\'ere still frc~ h l2 (~ee table 2,1). T he Kremlin's clallTl that j ews. along with comlllunists and Slavs, were rnerely the sca pegoats of fascist rcgillle~ went unchallenged. The R ed Army. after all. had defeated Germany on the e.lSIl:r1l front. theTl'by spa ring the relllniningj..:ws there from liquidation. 1.I Although high lighting the plight of the j ews might generate diplomatic and popular sympathy fo r Zionism. the Soviet Union telllporanly supported the creation of a JeWIsh sute in Palestine to provide a havt~n for j ewish refugees. underlllllle Urrtish dominann' in thl' Middle East. and win the gratitude of the SOCial ist leadt'T$ of till' new jewish stale. H

PiClurillS Iflr l-/o/vcmlSl ill Table 2.1.

Ill!' n ISI; 19 -4 ~ / 979


Holocaust Movie Database, 1945- 1999


1945- 1949

Number of rilms Bu lgaria 0 EaM Germany 5 FrJl'K:e Hungary Isr.wl Italy 3 Pol.lrlll United Kmgdom 2 United St~les Soviet Union/Russia \Vest Ccrmany/Ccrm.lny 3 Yugosl.wi,l 0 Multinational Ot IM'r Ilelgium 1

1950-1959 1960--1969

76 0


•, •2



• ,



6 0

"5 6 5 3 5



33 3







AuS1ria 1 Ileigium 2 Greoxe 1 Nether lands Sw/!{ien 1



0 0






, ",

" "",

63 2







6 6



5 38

Auwia 1 J.Ipa n 1 Mexico 1 Nether lands

Argen.2 Australia 2 Aust ria 4 Belgium I Canada 4 Spain I Finlaoo 1 Switzcrland Irel.lnd I Nelh(>rla nds

, ,

9 NlKWay 1 Pakir.t.ln I Sf)'lin 1





3 6 2


6 66 5


., AuStral ia 2 Auwi,1 4 Be lgi um 1 Canada 6 China 1 Denmark 2 Iceland 1 Jap.ln 2 Mexico 2 Netherlands

3 Norw children, there is a suhtext Jbout death, dislocation, and trauma that tempers the joy of the film '5 cnding. Zin!lelllann sought to educate the public Jbollt "a vital modern problem" while cntertaining them sufficiently so that they would see the movie. The shocking interviews with the children, their frightened reactions to the rourines in the CJmp, and the intrusion of the past into KJrel's present circumstanccs discomfort the viewer. This double nJrrative, J charJcteristic in subsequcnt Holocaust films, wraps a sugar coating around a bittcr pill. ZinlleIllJIlll Jdmitted JS much w hen he told an interviewer, "All of us realized, of coursc, thJt it would be necessary to softell the truth to a certain extent, beCJuse to show thlllb'S as thcy reJlIy were would hJve I1lcant-at lcast in our sincere opinion-that the American audicnce would hJW lost ally desire to (.1Ce it, used as they hJve been through the yl~ars to seeing J semimcntalizl'd world."50 Al though it depicts the H oloCJust more obliquely thJn the Eastern European filllls discussed earlier in this chJpter. -nit' Sellf(lt surpassed them all in the honors bestowed on it. It received five AcadclllY Award nominations and won Oscars for best screenplay and Ivan Jandl's perfoTllIJnce JS Karel. It garnered awards from the United Nations, the British ACJdclllY of Film Jnd lclcvisioll Arts, and the Golden Globes for its script and prolllotion of lntemational understanding. sl E[even years would pJSS before a HoloCJusf lIIovie earned morc criticJI acclailll. Unlike Karel, its heroine was not reticent.


Clwpln 2

T H E DECADE OF THE D IA RY: THE DfARY OF ANNE FRAj\!K Directed by George Stevens (United $t;ltes: Twentieth Century Fox. 1959) Anne Frank died becallS~' her parents could not get thellisdn'S 10 believc in Auschwitz. And her ~lOry found wide acclaim because for us 100. it dellies implicitly that Auschwitz ewr existed. ffall men aR' good. there was llewr an Auschwitz. 52 -BruJlo I3cttdheim

J1,1' Diary ,ifAlllle Frdllk. however. derives its shattcring impact a~ much from what is kft ullsaid as frolll tilt assumed a higher public profile due to the Eichmann trial, Rolf H ochhuth's controversial pby l11t' Dqml)' (1963), which :lccused Pope Pius X II of suppressing reports about the liquidation of deported Jews, and the West German trial of Auschwitz guards between 1963 and 1965. These accordingly sparked debates over the motivations of Nazi perpetrators, tlKlr guilt under international bw, :lnd the Illoral duty of le:lders like the pope and ordinary citizens to defend 1I1110Cellt victims of oppression. 93 The two IllOSt famous American Holocaust filllls of the 1960s continued the univcrsalizing Ilarr.ltive stratt"gies of theIr predeCt:ssors. Stanley Kramer's judglllt'1I1 (1/ N llfcmbe'S!. (1961) employs the COurtroOlll parrying bctwecn the defClISe ~nd prosecution b wyers to prescm the American and German pcrspectives on individ l1 ~1 culpabil ity for abetting Hitler's crimes against 11tl11l~nity. T he American attorney makes his case against several German judges by demonstrating how the ir rulings sanctioned the e:wclltioll of a Jewish man convicted of making sexual ~dvances to all Aryan girl ~nd the stcrilization of a feeblcminded man incapable of forming a sentence Ollt of three words. The exterlmnation of "two-thirds of the Jews of Europe" is mentioned only to identify which groups comprised the victims seen in the atrocity foouge scrcened during the (f ial. The German lawyer casts the burden of gui lt more broadly by noting that the Soviet Union and Vatican signed treaties with the Third R eich, Winston Churchill admired Hitler's c~rly accomplishmcnts, and the U nited States pr:lcticed eugenic sterilization and dropped atomic bombs on Japan. Although the Amer ican judges convIct the dcfellcbms, the epilogue reveals how quickly these sentences were COlll1l11lted:)~ Sidney Lumets 711t' HII/JI/broker (1965) d:lred to reenact a Holocaust SllTvivor's tormented IllClllories of being ill ~ deportation train and concentr.ltion call1p. The scenes from the train alld calllp initially appe~r and disappear as b~rcly perceptible jll inp cuts that gradually last longer and preoccupy the


Cluj/lIef 2

thoughts of Sol Nazcrlllan. LUlllct never disgu ises that Nazcnmn isJewidl. Yet, thc portrayal of Nazcnnan as a cynical and unfeeling figure who loathes IllS ililpoverished customers in Hark111 pcrpetll~tes the traditional anti - Semitic stereotypc of the Jew as an aV:lric i oll~ \lSurer. As his twenty-fifth \wdding :llllllversary :lppro:lchl's, Nazerlll:lll 's repressed nlemor il's resurfKe whcll hc rides a slIbw:lY. witnesses :l lllugging, and is propositioned by :l prostitute. This bst event is crosscut with N:lZcrl11:lIl's remembrance of watching his wife having mtercourse with SS mcn, an il11prob:lble occurrence g iven thc Nazis' ~bhor­ rence ofHr.lcial·· defilenlent. Th e viewc r cOllies aW:ly belicving that stlrvivon arc emotional cripples :lnd that th eir persecution under Nazi rule was an:llogous to the plight of dis:ldv:l maged r.lcial minorities in the United States. When his :ll11bitiolls Pu erto Rican assistant,Jeslls, sacrifices himself to shield NazCTlnan from a blillet. Nazefln:ln im pales his hand on a spindle but cannot cry. The alternatives to N:lZerman's icy indifferencc arc the companionship offered to hun by a lonely social worker and the protectivelless Je~lls felt toward hnn. nil' PaWl/broker dl'serves its rcput:ltion :lS a cilll'matic classic 011 the basis of Rod Stciger's riveting performance:ls Nazl'Tman, LUl11l't'S stark vision ofpnsonal anguish and collectivc poverty. and Ql1lllcy Jones's cvocatiw Jazz score. Yet. thl~ film's response to Nazerman's detachmcnt I_~ an endorsement of the liber:ll idealism of thc United States m the 1960s. LlIlllet's confhtioll of American racial discrimillation and NazI exterm ill:l(iOIl di~torts the historical reality of each. 95 The H oloca\l~t films produced by the Eastern Bloc COlilltnes III the 19605 pose more convincing par.llleis bet\veen the existe nti:ll dilemmas confronting individuals coping explicitly with w~rti!1le German dominatioll and implicitly with postwar Soviet rule. The sharp increase in the Ilumbcn of such movIes over the dec:lde, from one to thirteen ill Czechoslov~ kia, one to five in Hungn ry. and six to sixteen in Pobnd, indicates that these motion pictures functioned ~s contemporary political protests as well as h istoriC:l1 period pieces. The death of Stalin in 1953 :lnd Khrllshev's promulgation of a "thaw" in his predecessor's repressive policies in 1956 contributed to a liberaliz:ltion of state supervision of the Czech. Hungari:lll. :l nd Polish film industril.'s.'X, Until then, World War 11 h:ld been picture(1 as a Russian-led defensive ~f,>;linst Western capitalists who 1l1:l11ipubtl.'d Hitkr to crllSh conl11Hlnism and wage ideological and imperi~1istic wars.')] Collaboration with, or resistance to. the German occup~tion. however, could be perceived subvcnivdy a~ symbolizing lI1dividu~1 accOlllmodation or opposition to Soviet puppet reglilles. To devote partiCllbr :lttelltioll to the plight of the Jews challcnged the Marxist shibboleth that religious identity represented a divcrsion:lry social construct that subordinated economic denunds and worklllg-cbss solidnrit), to thc illusionary goals of eternnl salvation :lnd Sll-

Picwri"g rile Holocaust ill tlte />'w: 1945- 1979


pcrn:ttur:tl beliefs :tnd ritulls. Generlting symplthy specificllly for the Jews das hed with the official Soviet opposition (0 Zionism rhlt emerged when the Soviet Union tilted toward support of the Ar:tb countries :tgainst Isr:tei from the 1950s on. By delling with how their COllntrics trelted the Jews during World War I I, directors in Soviet sl tcllite countries reclaimed their Il:ttion:tl histories from the SOVIet interpretation of the w:tr.'JIl The usc of the H olocaust :ts :t sub plot in Fdix Mariassy's Sprill~cril/!/' ill BlIdapw (1955) or :ts the prillllry srory:ts in Zbynek I3rynch 's lhlllsporrfrmll Pamdisl' (1961) :tnd Andrzej Wajdl'S Smllsml ( 1961) coincided with the rise of movements for politic:tl reform in I-Iunglry in the 1950s :tnd Czcchoslovlkil lnd Pobnd in the 1960s. 99 1711' Shop 011 Maill Street ( 1965) received more nltional and internationll recognition than :tny othl'r film produced by l Soviet bloc country in this period. Its codirectors, J :ln K:td:ir and EIIlI:tr Klos, h:td solid credemills in the Czech state- run film industry. Kld:ir's plrems lnd sister h:ld died in Auschwitz, but he "fortunately" had been interned in :l work camp by the H ungariln occupiers of the region of Czechoslovaki:t where he resided. Klos plrtici p:tted in the postwar nationllization of Czech studios because he believed thJt public subsidiZltion would free directors lnd screenwriters from the commercill considerntions thJt uSlIllly dictated which films got produced. As the two exercised their lrtistic license :ts filmmakers in colbborltive efforts, they were re pe:ltedly cellSUTed for criticizing the corruption of the Czech bureaucracy and the political plr:tlloil of the communist 1cJdl'rship. Disillusioned by the Czech show trials of d issidents in the elrly 19505, the Soviet cr:lckdown on H ung:l ry in 1956, :lnd officili denuncinions of their films, K:l&ir lnd Klos bbmed the repn:ssiveness of communism not 011 the system itself but 011 the lI1dividual officill s who ordered or condoned its unjust policies. 'oo Thus, when K:td:ir and Klos Ill:lde a film :lbout the disenfrlnch isement :lnd deport:ltion ofJews frolll f.1scist S!ovlk i:t during World War II , they trKcd how :In otherwisc decent tlIan's petty tlIotivcs uititll:ttdy lead to the de:tth of :l11 elderly Jewish w01l1an. As K:ld:ir succinctly put it, n,l' SllOp (11/ j\l/aill Street was not about "the Six Million, but the OIIC." 'OI The opening scene siW:ltes the rebtionship that wi!! develop between Tono Britko, :t poor apolitical carpenter, :tlld R osalie Lalltlll:tnn, the deaf owner of a button store, within :t historiC:lI framework. Chr istians dressed for church and :l few Hasidic Jews proll1enade on :t Sl1nd:ty :tfternoon Jlong the !113m bOl1lev:trd of a bucolic vilbge to [he melody of l waltz pbyed by :l bJnd perforlTllllg on the vil!:tge square. A prologue informs th e llKlience th:lt the Slov:tkilll st:lte carved Out ofCzl'choslovakia by the Third R eich W:lS the first Gef11lJn cl ient S[:lte to take the in iti:ttive to illtrociucc anti-Selllitic policies b:lsed on till' r.aci:l! criteri:l of the Nuremberg Laws. 102 Tlw AtlIcric:tll distributor of the Illovie provided no Eng!ish tr.allsbrioll of the prologlle. I03


OIl1I1I('r 2

The movie paints Tono as an mnatcly passive person who IS COl1lent to make his daily rounds and SlJy aloof from the politics of his conullunity. Yet. he cannot even take a step befon: a tram carrying soldiers and Illlht.1ry equipment block~ him from walking across the tracks. Tono inverts the master-pet hierarchy by pulling the wagon 111 which his dog 13randy is riding. When he fina lly arrives home. his dOlllll1ecring wife, Evelyna, dl'lIland~ dlat Tono give her his earnings and reprimands him for acn~pting pigeons as part of his paymelll. She nags him to ask her brother-in-law Marcus, till' local fascist chief, for a \x'ner job but doubts Tono will do this because he refusl'S even to s,1lute Marcus. TOllo heads off to [Own with Brandy typically walking in front of him. I-k cordially greets a Jewish mall and chats with a Jewish barber aboul not getting involved in a "filthy busin:trdcn, o\'ergrown grass tennis coun, and locked from b>:tte to the villa, along with the recitation of the Jewish mourning prayer and names of NazI death camps,l:!'! The majority ofdll' It.llian Holocaust filllls frOIll rillS period exploited the degracbtion and ddltlll1a111zation of concentration camp prisolll'rs pornographically, earning thcm the epithet "the nasties," POrllography achieved a modicum of respectability In the t 9705 as a consequence of the free speech, women's liberation. and hippy movements, Although stert:otypes of the German dominatrix and pervcned brown-shined s[Orm troopers dlted back [0 the Weimar Republic, and filflher 111 tht, case of thl' formt' r. they 1I1spircd a genre of movies about Nazis who lISe concentration and dt'ath camps as brothds and laboratories for sexual eXperlll1l:ms and to rture, The best known of these "pornocaus(' pictures was the AmCrlcan production IIsc: 5"1' lli'!f of IIII' 55 (1974),'l() Yet, It was Ital ian ~tlIdlOs that churned out most of such movies, which bore titles like S(//au Kill)' (t 975), Deportcd r HlII1I'1I (!f '''l' 55 Spcci(// 5/'{· lioll (1976). '111/' C('st(/{!(ilJw:n,1' Po/il;fS "J I\/fuwry ill 17,,111(1' (Palo Alto. CA: Stanford University Press. 200.J). 62-66. 126. Colo1l1b~t, 11!C 1/('/(>(,lIIsl iI/ F,('I/c". 49- 86, 261 - 97: Grl'ene. Lllllisrllpcs. 50-59. 73- 80. 127. Angela Daile V3(che, '11!C Bou/)' iu till' 1\ /i",,,: Slwpl's 'if /-lisl"')' ill 11"liall Cll"'I/W {Princcton. NJ: Princcton Univcrsity I'Tt'~s. 19')2),57- 92: Kriss Ravcto, '!1le Uumnk'il!~ .?f 1:;'l$(lsl / 1(,SII,l'lifS (Minlll'apolis: UnivlIl1li::illg Pt'fjX'lrdl{>rs, Vi(/illlS, aud R I'sislCrs


Dis[Urbing delusions vIvidly illustr:nl.' the disintegration of Hitler's mind. In a tender moment, when he seems truly affectionatc toward Ev:t 13r:tun, she metamorphoses into a bevy of blond goddesses cbd in white t0l;3s with garbnds in their hair. Later, olle of these sirens floats behind :a gb ss b:arrier beyond Hitler's re:ach. [n his script notes, Hershey :accordingly writ.:s, "Cont:act/ touch destroys illusion." Wr:apped III :a swastib banner, H itkr proclaims, "All life is p:aid fo r in blood. I crushed the skulls of rny enel11ies." Footage ofGeTm:an soldi.:rs ill retrc:tt o r slaughtered on the .:astern from fills the scn:en . H itler dict:att's the order to destroy :all Jews to wrest a victory from defe:at. l3lood starts seeping from every corner ofth.: bunker :and floods th.: roolll. H itler bmellts, "[, too, w:as tr.tpped in th.: wlllTlwll1d. We created an empty IlllTror fill.:d with h:ate." The movie ends with :a backlit close-up of H itler's t:lce contorted in :t horrified gri lll:lce. Th is Image resembles the m:tsk of tr:agedy or the mirror phantom in Disney's Suow !¥I,ilf who tells the wicked queen she is not "the t:li rest o ne III th e bnd." Unlih~ previous H ider biopics, with th e cxception of Syberberg's Ollr H illa, n it' Eli/pI)' Mirror docs no t employ :a tr.tdition:a[ n:arr:ative structure. With its imerpby of di:alog, W:agneri:a n :and olher classical llIusic, soundtracks from newsreels, and :t ph:ant:tsmagori:a of film clips, photographs, :and Nazi symbols charting Hitler's meteoric r ise to power and his precipitous downt:l11, it exemplifies the notion that the medium i~ the message. Hitler starred himself III an epic war Illovie about raei:al struggle th:at culminated ill a c:tt:aclysll1 for his homeland :and hum:anity. Hershey w:anted to po rtr.ty Hider :as :t Illan tr:apped 38 Although m:any reviewers pr:tised the film for its vislI:tl III his own l11yth. complexity, others eb imed it was "pretl'ntious and boring."3,) Yet, I find til:tt it effectively comnltlllieatl's Alan 13ullock's insight that "it's when he IHitlerl gets to that point where he no longer m:a nipulates his im:age, but believes in it entirely, when he drops the lIl:anipulation, then he's desrroyed."4o Altho ugh :t the:ttrical flop, T11l' Eli/pI)' 1\ firror achicvcd sOllie success at fi lm festivals, o n c:able television, and through video fent:a!s :an d s:a les. Premiermg at the F:a ntasporto Film Festival in Portllg:tl ill 1997, it won the :award for best e il1l'm:ttog r~ph y :and g:trnercd morc :aw:trds :at Americ:t11 film festivals. Yet, it took twO Illore years for the film to find all AlIlcr ic:tn distributor. [n 1999, it was booked :at only fo ur movie houses :tnd grossed less th~n S30,000 in boxoffice receipts during the month it played. As it h:ad ach ieved critical acclaim , the film's video rights were picked up by Univcrs:tl Studios th e next year, when th e movil' appeared on 1-1130. T his led to its rele:tse ill EllTope in 2001. 41 Other 1990s Illovil's :tboU! Hitler speclilate :tbollt how he might have behawd in privatl' o r after the war. Armin Mueller-Stahl's directorial debut, CIII1'{'rsl1liOIl //filii lilt' Bc(1SI (1996), postulates th:at o ne of Hitler's doubles committed suicide in the bunker. Th e elderly Hitler lives in obscurity lIntil :til


Chaprer J

Wlwl docs Hitler (Norman Rodw,ly) see ill his reflcelion? The Empty Mirror. Courtesy of Walden Woods Film Company.

American hisfOl"wn confirms his identity and ki lls him. M ueller-Stah l strips Hitler of his power to render him "a silly. childish mnn trying to hurt oth(:(s."42 Aleksnndr Sokurov's Mo/a"h (1999) follows Hitler nnd Eva Braull on one of their Alpine retreats. Joseph nnd Mngd;l Goebbds nnd Mnrtin Bormann. who reeks of poison b':l.s. sycophnnticnlly listen to H itler pontificnte about Aryan vIrtue, immortality. nnd vcgetnri n !li~lll. Cognizant of how pretentious "Adi ·· (Eva's nickname for H itler) is, Evn relllnins obsl'quious until the two nrc Hl the bl~droo!ll and remnrks, "Without an audil~llce. you ·re nothing more than a corpse."4\


Directed by Er ic Till (Germa ny, Cumin: NFP Tdcart/Norflicks. 1999) If your opponent hlS a cOllScienn', then follow Chlndi and nO Ilviolence _But if your enemy has no conscience. then follow Uonhodfcr.·· - Marcin Luther KingJr.

TIl(' Bi(Jpi(; Persl>lIIl/i.::illg Perpetrators, Victims, III1iI RI'sisfl'rS


Until German reunification in 1990, German movies about the resistanCl~ to H itler and his policies reflected the cold war loyalties of the twO Germanys. East Germ:my perceived itself as the heir to the communist and socialist opposition to Nazism, whose leaders either fled their homeland or f.1ced internlllent. The Soviet Union imposed a cOlll1llunist government on its occupation zone, claiming it constituted a broad-b:lsed coalition of German antiflscists. 45 Deutsche Film AG (DEFA), the state-run film studio, produced pictures like "1111' 1\ 11m/am A re mlll>llg Us (1946), Marriage ill tile Silildoll's (1947), Lissy (1957), Prlifessl>r Alilili/OC/.? (1960), MilllliI, I Alii A /il'l' (1976), and SillISibilr (1987), which depicted the T hird R eich's persecution of Jews, leftists, and Soviet prisoners of war. The Soviet Union justified its control over East German affairs by recalling its role in defeating H itler and preventing pro-Nazi and conserv:ltive clites from returning to pO\ver.46 Conversely, West German films neglected com munist resist:lllce :lnd glorified the officers, diplomats, civil servants, cle%'Ymen, and trade unionists involved in the plot to assassinate H itler 011 July 20, 1944. They were depicted:ls defending C hristia n and nationalistic values and disassociated from the taint of COll l111Unism o r Soviet inf1uence,47 H istorical movies like Cmltlris: .\/1I5ter Spy (1954) and II Happelll'd 1m 1/11' 201114J"/y (1955), as well as fictional films like "I11t' DI'I/i/'s CI'llem/ (1955) and Wilil/'fSpl'll (1977), character ized the conspirators as patriotic Germans who reluctantly took drastic measures to stop H itler's strategic blunders and cr imes against humaniry.48 From the 19705 on, West German scholars devoted more research to th e socialists and com munists who had partic ipated in gnssroot.~ resistance cells or emigrated to join anti-Nazi movements in otha countries. Sevenl f.1ctors nised public awareness of the contribution of these two groups to the opposition to H itler: the formation of the first postw:lr social democratic government in 1969, the chancdlorship of Willy Bnndt, who h:ld sl"rvcd in the Norwegian underground, diplonlatic initiatives to n0Tl11alize rebtions be[\veen tll{.' twO Germanys, the study of local resistance activities, which n:vcakd considerable left-wing involvement, and the :lppoimment of a commission in 1983 to create a memorial to the German resistance to Nazism in its "whole breadth and diversity." Kbus Maria Brandauer's Georg E1ser.'AIi IlldillidlUllfrom GmlldilY (1989) revived the l11el11ory of a working-class loner who tried to kill H itle r 49 1ll 1939. Although reunification encouraged the Memorial Site for German R esistance to mount exhibitions covering the f,.f:mllllllil(~ illlhe Ullilcd SIII/I'S: Rt'I~,lllIiou or E,,)lllIi,JII (A ustin: Uni\'ersity of Texas Press. 2(03). 146-61.


Chap,er 3

11. A Frirndship in Vie!llw, directed by Arthur Abn Sci(klman (Ullited StattOs. 1988).



Doris Orglol. "111(" DeI!iI

ill Vie!lllll

(New York: Obi Books. 1978).

12. Resmers: Slo,it'S of Comn__~{'-- 'Ii,~, Ilvmen, dirl'Clcd by Pl'lIlI CI'Tl/um Narralil'f' Gillfllhl RC/I1('Jllbrrs Ilrf HISI (Ncw Yurk: Twayne. 1')92). 188- 92; Eric Santner. Sirmuled Olljcas: ,\/(mmillg, ,\ 1c!IJ()r)'. dlld Film ill H'sIIHlr Germnuy (Ithaca. NY: Cornell UniWTsi ty PROSS, 1990),57- 102. 56. Cited in "'1m Kern fei);c': l'ar:lbel v~. Aulhcnzitll. qu~lc l1 de Langsamkeit ~l~ I'rogralllm: Didi Danquart liber sei nen prcisgL:kekrolllel! Film. Vicltjlld Lel'i:' ·1;',~I('sz!·iIUIl,i!, Sl'ptc1l1ber 30,1999. 57. Oilier Bartov. nu' ')1."," ill Cillcmll. From 1/1(' Golcm I{/ 0011'1 "/,UU/' til)' /-I"I"eallsl (Blool1!ingtol1: Ilidiana Ulliwrsi ty Prl·ss. 2005),100-105. 58. [an Kcrshaw. POllu/"r Ophli,,,, mul "rhrr's j«,i((': CiIi/drclI, l.itemrurc, /lIId ri1l.' /-{(l/I)(dIW (Pett'rborough. Canndn: Bro~dYi('w Pre~s, 2(02), 74-75. For KeTtzer's 1110~t ren'l)[ discussion of Holocaust childr/,)(dIlSI ;11/0 the "/il'l'lIIy:first Cell/lfry


these an' swept up to b(' carried to the riVe-T. and Ihe !:1st bits of our dust. thaI simply floJI thcr~' in air arollnd th c working of the m'w group. These bits of dust are grey. We settle on their shoes and Oil their fKes, alld in their lungs. and they begin to get so IIsed to us that soon 111w York: Oxford Uniwmry !'rt'Ss.20nO. Ilorlon, Andn'w. and Stuart Y. McDougal. cds. Play II A.!!am, Smu: RI'Mkl'.' 1m RnlM~'l's. Berkeley: UlU\'Crsil'Y of Clhfonm I'n,/"(1'. New York: R OIIIJc(lge. 1999. N~rell1ore, J.Ullt"s. Film Allllf'/IIli,,". New Bruuswick, NJ: Rut gers Umwrsit)' l'T.\"1$ ill Col1ll'.\·I. Detroit, M 1: \Vayne Slall' UniVl'rsity Pfl'SS, 1995. Sloc um. J. David. cd. Vio/ellce nls .-1lollf':"I111' /I,,/.>(,IIISI iu Ulr""urr. Chicago: UI1IWNUY ofClllcago l'r('((l1I 1"/eiul