The Holocaust in popular culture – Wikipedia

There is a wide range of ways in which people have represented the Holocaust in popular culture.

The subject of the Holocaust has been dealt with in modern dance.[1]

The Holocaust has been the subject of many films, such as Night and Fog (1955), The Pawnbroker (1964), The Sorrow and the Pity (1969), Voyage of the Damned (1976), Sophie’s Choice (1982), Shoah (1985), Korczak (1990), Schindler’s List (1993), Life Is Beautiful (1997), and The Pianist (2002). A list of hundreds of Holocaust movies is available at the University of South Florida,[7] and the most comprehensive Holocaust-related film database, comprising thousands of films, is available at the Yad Vashem visual center.[8]

Arguably, the Holocaust film most highly acclaimed by critics and historians alike is Alain Resnais Night and Fog (1955), which is harrowingly brutal in its graphic depiction of the events at the camps. (One of the more notable scenes shows Jewish fat being carved into soap.) Many historians and critics have noted its realistic portrayal of the camps and its lack of histrionics present in so many other Holocaust films.[citation needed] Renowned film historian Peter Cowie states: “It’s a tribute to the clarity and cogency of Night and Fog that Resnais masterpiece has not been diminished by time, or displaced by longer and more ambitious films on the Holocaust, such as Shoah and Schindler’s List.”[9]

With the aging population of Holocaust survivors, there has also been increasing attention in recent years to preserving the memory of the Holocaust through documentaries. Among the most influential of these[citation needed] is Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, which attempts to tell the story in as literal a manner as possible, without dramatization of any kind. Reaching the young population (especially in countries where the Holocaust is not part of education programs) is a challenge, as shown in Mumin Shakirov’s documentary The Holocaust – Glue for Wallpaper?.

The Holocaust has been a particularly important theme in cinema in the Central and Eastern European countries, particularly the cinemas of Poland, both the Czech and Slovak halves of Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. These nations hosted concentration camps and/or lost substantial portions of their Jewish populations to the gas chambers and, consequently, the Holocaust and the fate of Central Europe’s Jews has haunted the work of many film directors, although certain periods have lent themselves more easily to exploring the subject.[which?][citation needed] Although some directors were inspired by their Jewish roots, other directors, such as Hungary’s Mikls Jancs, have no personal connection to Judaism or the Holocaust and yet have repeatedly returned to explore the topic in their works.[which?][citation needed]

Early films about the Holocaust include Auschwitz survivor Wanda Jakubowska’s semi-documentary The Last Stage (Ostatni etap, Poland, 1947) and Alfrd Radok’s hallucinogenic The Long Journey (Dalek cesta, Czechoslovakia, 1948). As Central Europe fell under the grip of Stalinism and state control over the film industry increased, works about the Holocaust ceased to be made until the end of the 1950s (although films about the World War II generally continued to be produced). Among the first films to reintroduce the topic were Ji Weiss’ Sweet Light in a Dark Room (Romeo, Juliet a tma, Czechoslovakia, 1959) and Andrzej Wajda’s Samson (Poland, 1961).[citation needed]

In the 1960s, a number of Central European films that dealt with the Holocaust, either directly or indirectly, had critical successes internationally. In 1966, the Slovak-language Holocaust drama The Shop on Main Street (Obchod na korze, Czechoslovakia, 1965) by Jn Kadr and Elmer Klos won a special mention at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965 and the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film the following year.[citation needed] Another sophisticated Holocaust film from Czechoslovakia is Dita Saxova (Antonn Moskalyk, 1967). [10]

While some of these films, such as Shop on the Main Street, used a conventional filmmaking style,[citation needed] a significant body of films were bold stylistically and used innovative techniques to dramatise the terror of the period. This included nonlinear narratives and narrative ambiguity, as for example in Andrzej Munk’s Passenger (Pasaerka, Poland, 1963) and Jan Nmec’s Diamonds of the Night (Dmanty noci, Czechoslovakia, 1964); expressionist lighting and staging, as in Zbynk Brynych’s The Fifth Horseman is Fear (…a paty jezdec je Strach, Czechoslovakia, 1964); and grotesquely black humour, as in Juraj Herz’s The Cremator (Spalova mrtvol, Czechoslovakia, 1968).

Literature was an important influence on these films, and almost all of the film examples cited in this section were based on novels or short stories. In Czechoslovakia, five stories by Arnot Lustig were adapted for the screen in the 1960s, including Nmec’s Diamonds of the Night.[citation needed]

Although some works, such as Munk’s The Passenger,[when?] had disturbing and graphic sequences of the camps,[citation needed] generally these films depicted the moral dilemmas the Holocaust placed ordinary people in and the dehumanising effects it had on society as a whole, rather than the physical tribulations of individuals actually in the camps. As a result, a body of these Holocaust films were interested in those who collaborated in the Holocaust, either by direct action, as for example in The Passenger and Andrs Kovcs’s Cold Days (Hideg Napok, Hungary, 1966), or through passive inaction, as in The Fifth Horseman is Fear.[citation needed]

The 1970s and 1980s were less fruitful times for Central European film generally,[citation needed] and Czechoslovak cinema particularly suffered after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion.[citation needed] Nevertheless, interesting works on the Holocaust, and more generally the Jewish experience in Central Europe, were sporadically produced in this period, particularly in Hungary. Holocaust films from this time include Imre Gyngyssy and Barna Kabay’s The Revolt of Job (Jb lzadsa, Hungary, 1983), Leszek Wosiewicz’s Kornblumenblau (Poland, 1988), and Ravensbrck survivor Juraj Herz’s Night Caught Up With Me (Zastihla m noc, Czechoslovakia, 1986), whose shower scene is thought to be the basis of Spielberg’s similar sequence in Schindler’s List.[citation needed]

Directors such as Istvn Szab (Hungary) and Agnieszka Holland (Poland) were able to make films that touched on the Holocaust by working internationally, Szab with his Oscar-winning Mephisto (Germany/Hungary/Austria, 1981) and Holland with her more directly Holocaust-themed Angry Harvest (Bittere Ernte, Germany, 1984). Also worth noting is the East German-Czechoslovak coproduction Jacob the Liar (Jakob, der Lgner, 1975) in German and directed by German director Frank Beyer, but starring the acclaimed Czech actor Vlastimil Brodsk. The film was remade in an English-language version in 1999 but did not achieve the scholarly acceptance of the East German version by Beyer.[citation needed]

A resurgence of interest in Central Europe’s Jewish heritage in the post-Communist era has led to a number of more recent features about the Holocaust, such as Wajda’s Korczak (Poland, 1990), Szab’s Sunshine (Germany/Austria/Canada/Hungary, 1999), and Jan Hebejk’s Divided We Fall (Musme si pomhat, Czech Republic, 2001). Both Sunshine and Divided We Fall are typical of a trend of recent films from Central Europe that asks questions about integration and how national identity can incorporate minorities.[citation needed]

Generally speaking, these recent films have been far less stylised and subjectivised than their 1960s counterparts. For example, Polish director Roman Polanski’s The Pianist (France/Germany/UK/Poland, 2002) was noted for its emotional economy and restraint, which somewhat surprised some critics given the overwrought style of some of Polanski’s previous films[citation needed] and Polanski’s personal history as a Holocaust survivor.[citation needed]

There is a substantial body of literature and art in many languages. Perhaps one of the most difficult part of studying Holocaust literature is the language often used in stories or essays; survivor Primo Levi notes in an interview for the International School for Holocaust Studies, housed at the Yad Vashem:

This type of language is present in many, if not most, of the words by authors presented here.

These authors published fictional works as their memoirs and claimed to be holocaust survivors:

The Holocaust has been a common subject in American literature, with authors ranging from Saul Bellow to Sylvia Plath addressing it in their works.

German philosopher Theodor Adorno famously commented that “writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”, but he later retracted this statement. There are some substantial works dealing with the Holocaust and its aftermath, including the work of survivor Paul Celan, which uses inverted syntax and vocabulary in an attempt to express the inexpressible. Celan considered the German language tainted by the Nazis, although it is interesting to note his friendship with Nazi sympathizer and philosopher Martin Heidegger.

Poet Charles Reznikoff, in his 1975 book Holocaust,[23] created a work intrinsically respectful of the pitfalls implied by Adorno’s statement; in itself both a “defense of poetry” and an acknowledgment of the obscenity of poetical rhetoric relative to atrocity, this book utilizes none of the author’s own words, coinages, flourishes, interpretations and judgments: it is a creation solely based on U.S. government records of the Nuremberg Trials and English-translated transcripts of the Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. Through selection and arrangement of these source materials (the personal testimonies of both survivor victims and perpetrators), and severe editing down to essentials, Reznikoff fulfills a truth-telling function of poetry by laying bare human realities, and horrors, without embellishment, achieving the “poetic” through ordering the immediacy of documented testimony.

In 1998, Northwestern University Press published an anthology, edited by Marguerite M. Striar, entitled Beyond Lament: Poets of the World Bearing Witness to the Holocaust,[24] which, in poetry, defends the sentiments of the statement of Adorno, in a section entitled “In Defense of Poetry,” and reinforces the need to document for future generations what occurred in those times so as to never forget. The book collects, in poetry by survivors, witnesses, and many other poetswell known and notremembrances of, and reflections on, the Holocaust, dealing with the subject in other sections chronologically, the poems organized in further sections by topics: “The Beginning: Premonitions and Prophecies,” “The Liberation,” and “The Aftermath.”

Aside from Adorno’s opinion, a great deal of poetry has been written about the Holocaust by poets from various backgroundssurvivors (for example, Sonia Schrieber Weitz[25]) and countless others, including well-known poet, William Heyen (author of Erika: Poems of the Holocaust, The Swastika Poems,and The Shoah Train), himself a nephew of two men who fought for the Nazis in World War II.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly, by Hana Volavkova, is a collection of works of art and poetry by Jewish children who lived in the concentration camp Theresienstadt.

Pinaki Roy offered a comparative study of the different Holocaust novels written in or translated into English.[26] Roy also reread different Holocaust victims’ poems translated into English for the elements of suffering and protestations ingrained in them.[27] Elsewhere, Roy explored different aspects of Anne Frank’s memoir of the Nazi atrocities, one of the more poignant remembrances of the excesses of World War II.[28] Moreover, in his “Damit wir nicht vergessen!: a very brief Survey of Select Holocaust Plays”, published in English Forum(4, 2015: 121-41, ISSN2279-0446), Roy offers a survey and critical estimate of different plays (in Yiddish, German, and English translation), which deal with the theme of the Holocaust.

Ernestine Schlant has analyzed the Holocaust literature by West German authors.[29] She discussed literary works by Heinrich Bll, Wolfgang Koeppen, Alexander Kluge, Gert Hofmann, W.G. Sebald and others. The so-called Vterliteratur (novels about fathers) from around 1975 reflected the new generation’s exploration of their fathers’ (and occasionally mothers’) involvement in the Nazi atrocities, and the older generation’s generally successful endeavour to pass it under silence.[30] This was often accompanied by a critical portrayal of the new generation’s upbringing by authoritarian parents. Jews are usually absent from these narratives, and the new generation tends to appropriate from unmentioned Jews the status of victimhood.[31] One exception, where the absence of the Jew was addressed through the gradual ostracism and disappearance of an elderly Jew in a small town, is Gert Hofmann’s Veilchenfeld (1986).[32]

White Wolf, Inc. put out Charnal Houses of Europe: The Shoah in 1997 under its adult Black Dog Game Factory label. It is a carefully researched, respectful, and horrifically detailed supplement on the ghosts of the victims of the Holocaust for the Wraith: The Oblivion.

The songs that were created during the Holocaust in ghettos, camps, and partisan groups tell the stories of individuals, groups and communities in the Holocaust period and were a source of unity and comfort, and later, of documentation and remembrance.[33]

Terezn: The Music 194144 is a set of CDs of music composed by inmates at Terezn concentration camp.[34][35][36] It contains chamber music by Gideon Klein, Viktor Ullmann, and Hans Krsa, the children’s opera Brundibr by Krsa, and songs by Ullmann and Pavel Haas. The music was composed in 1943 and 1944, and all the composers died in concentration camps in 1944 and 1945.[37] The CDs were released in 1991.

The massacre of Jews at Babi Yar inspired a poem written by a Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko which was set to music by Dmitri Shostakovich in his Symphony No. 13 in B-Flat Minor, first performed in 1962.

In 1966, the Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis released the Ballad of Mauthausen, a cycle of four arias with lyrics based on poems written by Greek poet Iakovos Kambanellis, a Mauthausen concentration camp survivor.

In Pink Floyd’s album The Wall (1979), one of the record’s tracks is titled “Waiting for the Worms”. This song is set in the middle of the time the main character, Pink, has become a neo-nazi, and the head of a fascist group. The song seems to be set in a march down a main street in Brixton, England, with Pink singing/saying the lyrics through a megaphone. One of the lyrics from the song is, “Waiting! For the final solution to strengthen the strain!”

In 1984, Canadian rock band Rush recorded the song “Red Sector A” on the album Grace Under Pressure. The song is particularly notable for its allusions to The Holocaust, inspired by Geddy Lee’s memories of his mother’s stories[38] about the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, where she was held prisoner. One of Lee’s solo songs, “Grace to Grace” on the album My Favourite Headache, was also inspired by his mother’s Holocaust experiences.[38]

In 1988, Steve Reich composed Different Trains, a three-movement piece for string quartet and tape. In the second movement, Europe During the War, three Holocaust survivors (identified by Reich as Paul, Rachel, and Rachella) speak about their experiences in Europe during the war, including their train trips to concentration camps. The third movement, “After the War”, features Holocaust survivors talking about the years immediately following World War II.

Kaddish (1993), by Towering Inferno, and Kaddish, by Israeli band Salem (1994), are concept albums based on the Holocaust.

In 2007, composer Lior Navok composed “And The Trains Kept Coming…” (Slavery Documents no.3) for narrators, soloists, choir and orchestra, based on real documents, correspondence between the allies, train schedules and last letters. It was premiered in Boston, by the Cantata Singers, David Hoose, music director. [1]

The fifth track on Sabaton’s Coat of Arms (2010) album is titled “Final Solution” and contains explicit lyrics describing the trains and the furnaces.

On Disturbed’s album Asylum (2010), the song “Never Again” is about the Holocaust.

There are many plays related to the Holocaust, for example “The Substance of Fire” by Jon Robin Baitz, “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui” by Bertolt Brecht, Jeff Cohen’s “The Soap Myth”, Dea Loher’s “Olga’s Room”, “Cabaret”, the stage adaptation of “The Diary of Anne Frank”, “Broken Glass” by Arthur Miller, and “Bent” by Martin Sherman.[39][40] In 2010 the Advisory Board of the National Jewish Theater Foundation launched the Holocaust Theater International Initiative, which has three parts: the Holocaust Theater Catalog, a digital catalog in the form of a website containing plays from 1933 to the present about the Holocaust that has user specific informative entries, the Holocaust Theater Education (HTE), which is the development of curricula, materials, techniques, and workshops for the primary, secondary, and higher education levels, and the Holocaust Theater Production (HTP), which is the promotion and facilitation of an increased number of live domestic and international productions about the Holocaust, that includes theater works to be recorded for digital access.[41] The Holocaust Theater Catalog, which launched in October 2014, is the first comprehensive archive of theater materials related to the Holocaust; it was created by the Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies and the George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies both at the University of Miami and the National Jewish Theater Foundation.[40]

Creating artwork inside the Nazi concentration camps and ghettos was punishable; if found, the person who created it could be killed. The Nazis branded art that portrayed their regime poorly as “horror propaganda”.[42] Nonetheless, many people painted and sketched as inhabitants needed a way to bring life into their lives and express their human need to create and be creative. The Nazis found many of the artists’ works before the prisoners could complete them.

From Holocaust Survivors And Remembrance

DEFA Film Library Massachusetts

World ORT Resources:

Excerpt from:
The Holocaust in popular culture – Wikipedia

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