Holocaust on film
by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2005-10-26
Holocaust and The Moving Image
2001's Holocaust, Genocide and the Moving Image symposium looked at how the big screen and small screen covered the Nazi era.
Now, the book takes some of these themes and looks to put them into words to educate and inform readers.
With over 35 contributors offering their thoughts and perspectives, the book attempts to provide the reader with access to information that previously was not easily accessible or known about.
It is a tough book. Not so much in terms of its content, but more on how it attempts to cover both big screen as well as small screen. It's also tough in terms of reading some of the chapters. Some of the contributors come from the academic world and is written with the academic/historian perspective, very dry and not easy to get into, while other chapters are written well and give the reader something to learn from regardless on how knowledgeable they were previously.
And that's the real problem with the book, it doesn't quite know who it is being aimed at? Is it academic/historian, is it general reader? Or is it trying to cover both?
The chapter of the notorious Nazi film Jud Suss (Jew Suss) is written extremely well and provides an excellent overview on the film, how it came to be made by director Veit Harlan. The writer of this chapter, Susan Tegal provides an easily digestible piece full of facts and other useful trivia that puts everything into perspective. From how the Nazis were not the first to make a film on the life of Joseph Suss Oppenheimer to how Jews actually had supporting roles in this piece of propaganda.
Likewise, a chapter on Fritz Hippler's The External Jew written by Terry Chapman provides an excellent overview on this "documentary" that looked at Jews in Poland and aimed to make people despise Jews and how they live.
The problem I have with the book is that when its interesting to read, the content is truly fascinating and engages the reader to read it, but certain chapters do not engage with the reader and so will be skipped.
For me, the coverage of the big screen during the Nazi era is the most interesting.
As well as finding out what the Nazi's were releasing, a chapter by Matthew Lee details short anti-Nazi films made during the time by the Ministry of Information.
Overall, the book provides a much needed resource but there are a few things I would have liked to read about. What about Nazi films of the time that were made in English? What did the Nazi regime do with regards to that issue? Likewise, did anyone make anti-Nazi films in German to be shown to Germans? These are some themes, I would like the book to have examined.
The book also leaves out some major films that cover the issue of the Holocaust, no mention of Robin Williams' Jakob The Liar, nor the unreleased The Day The Clown Cried starring Jerry Lewis.
Holocaust and The Moving Image provides a useful starting point for readers to explore its themes. There is certainly scope for one of the themes, screen film to be further expanded and developed into its own book.
Holocaust and The Moving Image (£16.99) is published by Wallflower Press