Monday, May 05, 2008

“Holocaust Movies” and Holocaust Denial: Creating False Images

Yesterday I watched “The Counterfeiters,” which recently won the Oscar for best foreign film. It is a tale of a group of Jewish prisoners the Nazis forced to forge foreign currency. This past week was the annual memorial day of The Holocaust, an apt time to point out certain problems in some “Holocaust movies.”

Movies about the Holocaust are often thought important in battling Holocaust denial, teaching and introducing the Holocaust to many who otherwise would have never learned of it and are thus susceptible to revisionist falsehoods. To an extent this is true. However, at times these movies function as a two-edged sword, serving those accounts of the Holocaust that attempt to present it as an aberration in human history, existing out of time, having nothing to do with normal people, improbable, monstrous and inhuman yet still always filled with fantastic stories of perseverance. This might lead some to believe not only that it could never happen again but also that the false claims of its exaggeration, fabrication and even impossibility contain an element of truth. Not all Holocaust movies suffer from these ills, but many of the more famous ones do.

Examples: (1) The main theme of many popular Holocaust movies is one of survival. While survival may make for better drama and storytelling, survival is not the story of the Holocaust, it is the deviation. (2) German characters often appear in Holocaust movies in one of two pairs: the sadistic monstrous Nazi vs. the brave benevolent German, and the perverted evil Gestapo officer (often with a limp or one eye) vs. the German solider who is simply fighting for his country. In fact, the Holocaust has little to do with these archetypes; the story of the Holocaust is the story of the vast majority of Germans who occupied the space between these two caricatures. It was normal people like you and like me who carried out the crimes and allowed them to happen. Once again, both the sadistic monsters and the angelic saviors were the digression. (3) Some of these movies have dramatic shower scenes – the protagonists are led into a structure, told they are about to shower. The suspense is built on the audience’s expectation that the characters are in fact led into a gas chamber, but then, rather than deadly gas, water pours out of the ceiling. In fact, the Nazis would lead their victims into gas chambers under the pretext of having them shower. These movies reverse the facts – the lie is turned into the reality and the historic reality remains an unrealized fear. While perhaps good for dramatic suspense, these images, implanted in the minds of the viewers – many of whose only encounter with the Holocaust is through such widely distributed movies – are known historical falsities. In reality the gas chambers could not even function as showers at all. It is a fallacious image.

These narrative structures, images and character types, when presented to those who are ignorant of the Holocaust, fit much better with the narrative of denial than with the historical truth. For the great majority who learn most of their history from film, if the main images they are offered of the Holocaust are of inhuman acts, non-realistic monsters, gas chambers that turn out to be showers (rather than the other way around) and where the protagonists survive, for all the good intentions the more plausible story might turn out to be the false one, that of denial, exaggeration and fabrication. At the end people remember the drama, the images, the main narrative and characters, not the background.

Posted by Ori Herstein


Michael C. Dorf said...

I don't disagree with anything Ori says here about Holocaust films in general and I'm not sure how much of what he says is meant to be true of The Counterfeiters (which has a gas chamber turns out to be shower scene). I do want to offer an explanation of one point, though: It's inevitable that Holocaust stories (whether written, spoken or visualized) will be mostly survivors' tales. We have some first-person narratives from people who did not survive, but they are distortions too, the Diary of Anne Frank being the most famous: because the Diary ends before she is taken to a death camp, it seems hopeful, and the stage play based on the Diary is a tale of triumph of the human spirit, rather than its defeat. But most of the victims did not leave written records and so the stories we have are mostly survivors' stories. These are necessarily atypical precisely because the people telling them survived. For example, my mother-in-law, who spent the war variously in a ghetto in Poland and then with false papers in Slovakia, repeatedly escaped capture through what looks in retrospect like divine intervention---but only because the much larger number of Jews who weren't as lucky did not live to tell their tales.

Yonatan said...

Good post, Ori.
I completely agree with Prof. Dorf's factual point that stories of survival are the ones most readily available; memoirs of the deceased are few and far between. However, Ori touches, I believe, upon a different notion - that of the optimism in most cinematic portrayals of the Holocaust; this point does not necessarily emanate from the identity of the narrator. Stories of survivors are not always optimistic; in fact, they can be - and usually are - far from it. This should be obvious to anyone who has read the accounts of Ruth Bondy, Primo Levi and countless others; anyone who has watched Claude Lanzmann's Shoah; anyone who has heard multiple first hand accounts from survivors.
Nor is this a limitation of the medium. In fact, the post reminded me that Ori and I attended Antony Sher's "Primo" a couple of years ago, and we both found it astonishingly effective (as well as an amazing performance); no optimism, not even anger, just despair and horror at the doings of men and wonder at the few who survived. Surely a play and a movie are not THAT different?
So why is this element of horror missing from movies? I'm not sure I can entirely explain it, other than by reference to prosaic reasons such as the economics of making movies. That, however, cannot be the whole story; a middle ground between a project like Shoah and a feature movie that portrays the Holocaust in the bleak, terrible colors of realism must exist.

Ori Herstein said...

Perhaps the point about the false optimism is simply explained by the fact that most of the best-known holocaust movies are ones directed at wide audiences. Movies you can have dinner after, even if a reflective dinner. Also, many of them are Hollywood movies…

The most difficult and perhaps the best movie I have seen on the war is “Come and See” (or “Go and See”). It is not a holocaust movie, but more on the Nazi atrocities in Belarus. Actually the main character survives, but it is not an inspiring story of hope, or on the triumph of the human spirit etc., not at all.

路傑 said...

免費A片, ut聊天室, AV女優, 美女視訊, 免費成人影片, 成人論壇, 情色交友, 免費AV, 線上a片, 日本美女寫真集, 同志聊天室, 聊天室交友, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 色情網站, 辣妹視訊, 美女交友, 微風成人區, 色美媚部落格, 色情影片, 成人影片, 成人網站, 免費A片, 上班族聊天室, A片,H漫, 18成人, a漫, av dvd, 一夜情聊天室, 微風成人, 成人圖片, 成人漫畫, 情色網, 日本A片, 免費A片下載, 性愛, 成人交友, 嘟嘟成人網, 嘟嘟成人網, 成人貼圖, 成人電影, 成人, 中部人聊天室, 080中部人聊天室, 成人貼圖, 成人小說, 成人文章, 成人圖片區, 免費成人影片, 成人遊戲, 微風成人, 愛情公寓, 成人電影, A片, 情色, 情色貼圖, 情色文學, 做愛, 成人遊戲, 成人影城, 色情聊天室, 色情小說, 一葉情貼圖片區, 情色小說, 色情, 寄情築園小遊戲, 色情遊戲, 成人網站, 麗的色遊戲, 色情網站, 成人論壇, 情色視訊, 情色電影, aio交友愛情館, 言情小說, 愛情小說, 色情A片, 情色論壇, 自拍, 癡漢, , 俱樂部, 豆豆聊天室, 聊天室, 色情影片, 視訊聊天室, 免費視訊聊天, 免費視訊, 視訊交友90739 情人視訊網影音視訊聊天室 免費視訊聊天室 視訊聊天 視訊交友 美女視訊 視訊美女 視訊 免費視訊 免費視訊聊天 視訊聊天室 辣妹視訊 一夜情 色情a片 aio交友愛情館 情色電影 情色視訊 色情遊戲 色情 情色小說 一葉情貼圖片區 色情小說 色情聊天室 情色交友 成人論壇 成人網站 色情網站 情色論壇 小高聊天室 女同志聊天室 6K聊天室 080苗栗人聊天室 080聊天室 聊天室尋夢園 UT男同志聊天室 男同志聊天室 尋夢園聊天室 UT聊天室 聊天室 豆豆聊天室 A片 成人電影 成人貼圖 嘟嘟成人網 美女交友 本土自拍 成人交友 成人影片

kutyhgvd said...

I am so happy to get some hero gold and the hero online gold is given by my close friend who tells me that the hero online money is the basis to enter into the game. Therefore, I should buy hero gold with the spare money and I gain some hero money from other players.

. said...

酒店喝酒,禮服店,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,制服店,便服店,鋼琴酒吧,兼差,酒店兼差,酒店打工,伴唱小姐,暑假打工,酒店上班,日式酒店,舞廳,ktv酒店,酒店,酒店公關,酒店小姐,理容院,日領,龍亨,學生兼差,酒店兼差,酒店上班,酒店打工,禮服酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,台北酒店,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,禮服店 ,酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工,酒店小姐,經紀 彩色爆米花,經紀人 彩色爆米花,酒店傳播,酒店經紀 彩色爆米花,爆米花,童裝,童裝拍賣,童裝大盤,童裝寄賣,童裝批貨,酒店,酒店,童裝切貨,酒店,GAP童裝,酒店,酒店 ,禮服店 , 酒店小姐,酒店經紀,酒店兼差,寒暑假打工

wsty said... .
[url=]puma shoes[/url]
[url=]chaussures puma[/url]
[url=]nike air max ltd[/url]

酒店經紀ㄚ君姐姐 said...


freefun0616 said...

酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店小姐兼職, 便服酒店經紀, 酒店打工經紀, 制服酒店工作, 專業酒店經紀, 合法酒店經紀, 酒店暑假打工, 酒店寒假打工, 酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店小姐兼職, 便服酒店工作, 酒店打工經紀, 制服酒店經紀, 專業酒店經紀, 合法酒店經紀, 酒店暑假打工, 酒店寒假打工, 酒店經紀人, 菲梵酒店經紀, 酒店經紀, 禮服酒店上班, 酒店小姐兼職, 便服酒店工作, 酒店打工經紀, 制服酒店經紀,,