The main effort in academic publications is devoted to our multivolume bibliography on antisemitism, four volumes of which have now been produced. Scholars can also access the bibliographic project's computerized data base through the ALEPH system of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Research possibilities cover a large area, and after a number of years of work in the field the Center has decided that the investigation of antisemitism in the twentieth century should concentrate on a number of crucial problems: psychological interpretations of antisemitism, antisemitism in the media, Muslim fundamentalism, antisemitism in Eastern Europe, attitudes to Jews in the Christian churches, and anti-Jewish intellectual trends in the Western World.
Research proposals that would fit these new priorities are welcomed. Proposals are reviewed by experts in the field, and approved annually by the Academic Committee in May or June. In addition, Felix Posen Fellowships are awarded each year to a number of doctoral candidates whose research focuses on antisemitism.
A native of Great Britain, Mr. Sassoon volunteered to fight in Israel's War of Independence, and went on to become an outstanding success in business. Among his many social concerns is that of promoting education against prejudice.
A reception was held in his honor at the home of Mrs. Sue Fox, Assistant Director of the Center, on June 9. Members of the SICSA staff and Academic Committee, Mr. Felix Posen, and others were present.
Vidal Sassoon was also honored at the Founder's Dinner of the American Friends of the Hebrew University, Los Angeles on June 25. The festive dinner ushered in the conference on "Fighting Bigotry through Education: The Challenge of Xenophobia, Racism, and Antisemitism." Among the speakers and respondents connected with SICSA at this conference were Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Prof. Shlomo Avineri, and Prof. Franklin Littell, all of whom are members of the SICSA Academic Committee, and Dr. Rivka Yadlin. Among the other speakers were Prof. Alan Keyes, and the Hon. Jesse Jackson.
Millions of Germans have already seen Steven Spielberg's masterpiece Schindler's List. Millions more will see it by the end of 1994. An endless number of talk shows in the German media and newspaper articles contribute to the public debate. Some observers of German society and culture conclude that something new is happening in Germany. But, are we really confronted with a new public awareness and new images of the Holocaust?
Throughout German postwar history there have been periods of ignoring the past, on the one hand, and cultural waves of encountering the historical legacy of National Socialism on the other. Some aspects, usually concerning the existence of the extermination camps in the east, found their way into the German mind. Others, usually concerning the complicity and responsibility of wide strata of the German people, remained to an amazing extent outside collective or individual consideration.
Throughout postwar German history the cultural twins of remembrance and amnesia were strongly interwoven with changing images of the Jews. In 1979, an outstanding event influenced the public discourse on the place of the Holocaust and the image of the Jews in German memory. Probably more than 15 million Germans saw the American TV miniserial Holocaust. The main reactions to this film in 1979, twenty-four years after the liberation of the concentration camps, were emotional shock, relieving identification with the victims, and the oft-heard phrase: "we didn't know." Afterwards, the term Holocaust came into common usage in German. However, the impact of this TV film on public consciousness eroded quickly and did not influence the debates on the Third Reich and the Holocaust. Fifteen years later, in 1994, many Germans have misinterpreted Schindler's List as a story about the "good German."
Film and Historical Consciousness
Film can be a powerful tool in forming both historical consciousness and esthetic ways of perceiving one's own history. But every new cinematic work of art adds another layer to existing layers of images of the past and their reflections in present-day culture. And nowhere are representations of the Nazi past and of the atrocities com-mitted against the Jews more imbued with collective and individual meaning than in Germany. Schindler's List is being shown after three years of anti-foreigner violence and growing antisemitism in Germany. Some Germans even believe that the right wing extremist attack on the synagogue in the city of Lþbeck, earlier this year, is a reaction to the screening of the movie. The movie -- as with all other films since 1945 that make reference to the Holocaust -- illustrates that the Nazi past is not at all a closed chapter but that its basic problems can resurface culturally at any given occa-sion when, and only when, the emotional impact of the cinematic representation cannot be pushed away.
A strange picture evolves when looking at reactions to films shown in Germany since 1945 that deal with the unique experience of the Holocaust and the involvement of hundreds of thousands of Germans in the crimes. First, it was neither the film Holocaust nor Schindler's List that exposed for the first time the historical truth about the German persecution of the Jews on the screen. Secondly, the exposure of the crimes and the cinematic representation of the fate of the Jews ranges from the allied documentary Death Mills (1945) to an impressive number of German movies up to the present. Thirdly, films dealing with the Holocaust and its aftermath do not imply that the messages and lessons of these representations have become automatically part of public and individual consciousness. There exists a wide gap between the representation of images of the Jews and their fate on the screen and the historical consciousness of wide strata of the German population. The cinematic truth, even of documentaries, is not always taken for historical truth nor is there reflection on its relevance for the understanding of German national history.
Fighting Antisemitism on the Screen
In order to illustrate the mutual relationship between films dealing with the Holocaust or Jewish topics and German historical consciousness one has to take a look at the period immediately after 1945. One of the main goals in denazifying and democratizing Germany after the downfall of the Third Reich was to fight, reduce and overcome antisemitism.
One of the American officials dealing with film in Germany was Billy Wilder. He stressed at the time that newsreels, documentaries and feature films should be used as important instruments for accomplishing the task of cultural re-orientation. It was clear that the films produced in the Third Reich would not be shown, but then, what should be shown?
The answer was the import of American movies. Charlie Chaplin returned to Germany, Rita Hayworth replaced the Nazi beauties, and Ronald Reagan rode for the West. But except for The Great Dictator, a film that referred to the persecution of the Jews, these movies were mostly light entertainment without reference to the German situation. New feature films were needed in order to enforce the development of a democratic culture, to combat the antisemitism that existed in about two-thirds of the German population, and, in the end, to change attitudes toward the Jews.
But before presenting new cultural images on the screen, the responsibility for the crimes perpetrated by the German people against the Jews had to be established as part of German collective and historical consciousness. Not only the mind but also the eye had to be influenced. The truth about the Holocaust and its consequences had to be visualized in order to become a vivid and lasting element of German historical consciousness.
This was done with the first newsreels and documentaries that were shown in the German movie theaters. The most impressive documentary was Death Mills. Its main message was that concentration camps had existed everywhere and murder of millions had been going on all over Germany. It soon became obvious that the images of industrial annihilation could create guilt consciousness, but could they also create new humanistic and democratic attitudes toward Jews, in particular toward the Jewish survivors inside Germany?
Postwar Images of the Jews
One has to recall, that by 1946 about 250,000 Jews were living - more or less temporarily - in occupied Germany, mostly in DP camps. Thus the mere presence of Jews in Germany after the liberation of the camps already meant a threat to amnesia, repression and willful forgetting. The pictures of the concentration camps reappeared in some documentaries or newsreels but almost no picture of the DP camps. Besides, the images of mass murder were soon replaced by images of the destruction of German cities, of the suffering of the German people and the need to rebuild, to reconstruct society on a democratic basis.
Thus images of Jews and things Jewish - with the necessary production time delay - reappeared more in feature films than in the documentaries or newsreels.
One of the first movies produced by Germans and licensed by the allies was In Those Days (1947). In one episode a Jewish woman proposes to her non- Jewish husband in 1938 that he divorce her, an idea which he rejects. Here, in the reconstruction of German decency for the postwar audience, a Jewish issue is used which serves as one motif in the reconstruction of historical consciousness. The Jewish topic is not Auschwitz but the pogrom of November 1938. This will be a recurring pattern for years to come in the esthetic representation of the Holocaust, which is confined to German-Jewish and Nazi-Jewish relations in the time before the gas chambers began to work.
But there is another, even more important aspect, that reappears even today in German cinema. The Jewish woman in this movie is a Jewish actress. Other actors in the movie were former Nazis, fellow-travellers of the Nazis, persecuted communists, or emigres. The audience recognized these actors. The past that seemed to be rejected in the plot of the film could nevertheless be incorporated through the presentation of the actors. The film was, in other words, one of the first works of esthetic reconciliation with the past. This, in fact, is one of the major aspects of Jewish issues in German culture. They usually do not serve to enforce the contradictions of historical experience which could lead to a rational and emotional working through of this past. Instead, these Jewish issues are part of a German discourse to reach a reconciliation with the past.
American films, in particular those of Jewish directors with a German background, introduced a different perspective in films that were also made for showing to the German audience.
One very early and outstanding example is The Search (1948) which deals with the fate of children who survived the concentration camps. The perspective of the victims, the survivors, and the Jewish returnees in some movies were part of a moral and emotional reorientation and were intended to arouse compassion on the German side beyond the identification with the suffering that the German themselves had experienced.
Two outstanding films, German-Jewish-American co-productions, reflected the Jewish East European and the German Jewish experience in occupied Germany. As in The Search, one common feature of these movies was that they were multilingual. Dialogues included Yiddish, Polish, German, English, some were subtitled. Language in these films also presented the other, the stranger, but the films showed that it was possible to understand each other, that the real barriers were those of the past, of antisemitism and group-prejudice.
The first one is "The Call" (1948). It is the story of a German-Jewish scholar who is teaching in California and receives a call from his former German university. The professor returns, but this proves to be a failure. Antisemitism and hatred among his colleagues in Germany are too strong. The professor sees all his hopes in a new Germany shattered and dies of a heart attack. The illusion of a renewed German-Jewish symbiosis cannot be revived. But his death leads to a clarifying shock among some of the German students. Perhaps the younger generation may learn from this tragic end.
The second movie, "Long is the Way" (1948), deals exclusively with Jewish displaced persons. Two survivors, a mother and a son, are searching for each other in 1945-46 between Poland and Germany. The message of this film is twofold: it aims at a general reconciliation, and it intends to contradict Nazi antisemitic propaganda. It shows how Jews learn jobs, work the soil, prepare themselves for a new life. The focus on the search for lost relatives was also in keeping with German experiences where hundreds of thousands were searching for their relatives. The German audience could thus understand that - in the end - Germans and Jews had, to a certain extent, a common fate after World War II. The Holocaust in this context becomes reduced to just another event of the horrors of the war. But the main goal is to arouse compassion for the survivors' fate and future. The images of Jews in these two movies are clear: Jewish and Zionist rebirth on the one hand; and skepticism concerning a renewal of Jewish life in Germany because antisemitism still exists, on the other.
The State of Israel was founded in 1948, and in 1949, the two German states. The vast majority of Jews emigrated from Germany, and along with them Jewish topics in German cinema disappeared. The 1950s were almost devoid of images of Jews in German cinema. But antisemitic continuities and the ambiguities in the German historical consciousness (which led to an outburst of antisemitic vandalism at the end of the 1950s) were also reflected in newly produced films.
In West Germany the film "Children of the Economic Miracle" (1958) depicts everyday antisemitism before 1933. A Jew has to leave Germany after 1933, and returns in 1945 as an American officer. He still speaks German but he does not belong anymore. Through the Third Reich the German Jew has become an outsider again. Another outstanding example that relates to the Holocaust is the movie "Stars" (1959), directed by the Jewish film director Konrad Wolf in East Germany. The film tells the story of a German soldier who is confronted with the deportation of Greek Jews via Bulgaria. The question of individual responsibility is raised but not answered.
The Ambivalence of the New German Cinema
In the 1960s and 1970s, with the growing importance of television many documentaries on the Third Reich and the Holocaust were shown, but only a few feature films contained direct confrontations with the Holocaust. The image of Jews and Jewish topics were not of primary interest to the script writers and directors of the New German Cinema. However, when Jewish characters did appear on the screen the message was ambivalent and stereotypical. Directors like Volker von Schl-ndorff or Rainer Werner Fassbinder rarely related to Jewish characters, and when they did the outcome was highly problematic. Very often moral distance was created along with an esthetic atmosphere of ambiguity that could not lead to a renewed consciousness of historical responsibility on the part of the younger generations. In most cases the offensive esthetics of antisemitism were perceived and rejected. At the same time the fascination with Nazi esthetics retained its power on many spectators. For instance, when Fassbinder's Lili Marleen (1980) strides on through the gleaming luminosity symbolizing Hitler, the spectator will recognize the typical Nazi staging utilized by Fassbinder, and may admire the esthetic presentation - but not before the movie's plot has led the viewer to identify Jewish financial manipulations in a stereotypical way as part of the realm of evil. In addition, in this movie and in Fassbinder's Veronika Voss (1982), the moral difference between German perpetrators and Jewish victims is blurred: now, Germans are victims, and Jews become perpetrators. This treatment reconfirms traditional anti-Jewish biases for a new generation of Germans.
A Past that Does not Vanish
Along such problematic and controversial films, TV serials like The Oppermanns (1983) and The Bertinis (1988) have told the story of Jewish families in Germany over several decades and did not evade the impact of antisemitism. The outstanding movies Abraham's Gold (1990), and Bronstein's Children (1991) pursued this historical realism and gave painful depictions of a past that did not vanish in German society. But even a movie like Europa, Europa (1992) that evolved around an individual Jewish experience with Nazism led to controversial reactions in the German public. It was not nominated by Germany as a candidate for the Oscar because it did not seem to represent the new united Germany in a proper way. The contents of the film and the contents of present-day German historical consciousness clashed because the story of the film did not match the image of the Jews that wide strata of the public have or believe they have. Reconciliation was felt to be necessary and not the historical truth about the Holocaust.
Looking back at the history of German film since 1945 and its analysis in a growing number of books on the subject, several aspects relating to German historical consciousness need further discussion.
First, images of Jews in literature and film are usually analyzed in terms of antisemitic or non-antisemitic content. As the above examples show, it may be equally important to ask what images of Jews and things Jewish exist in the minds of the spectators. It is the discourse between the imagined reality in the film and the reality in the minds of the audience that can show the measure of antisemitism in the depiction of Jewish topics.
Second, the fight against antisemitism is usually reflected in terms of political and social activity or theoretical writing. Yet one must also ask how combating antisemitism relates to those works of artistic culture that carry Jewish issues and have an impact on wide strata of the population. The critique of German cultural antisemitism has not come to an end with the common perception that Veit Harlan's Nazi movie Jud Suess belongs to the cultural trash of history. The overt and hidden images of the Jews in German cinema still transport both the antidemocratic cultural legacies and a humanistic approach that does not evade the anti-Jewish burden of German history. In short, we need more movies like Schindler's List that confront the Germans realistically and convincingly with their past.
Frank Stern teaches Modern German History and is a member of the staff of the Institute for German History, Tel Aviv University. He is a research fellow of SICSA, and recently published The Whitewashing of the Yellow Badge. Antisemitism and Philosemitism in Postwar Germany (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1991). Currently he is working on a study about images of the Jews in public discourse, literature and, particularly, in German film from the liberation of the camps in 1945 until German unification.
Antisemitic attitudes have been passed on to a younger generation, a pilot study by Austrian sociologist Herta Herzog reveals. In the fourth of the occasional papers published by ACTA (Analysis of Current Trends in Antisemitism), Dr. Herzog points out that Jews are widely perceived as "others." This is in contrast to the perception of non-Austrians, such as foreign workers, as "outsiders." Dr. Herzog's study took the unusual approach of asking not what the respondents themselves thought, but rather, what they had "heard" about Jews.
The information and documentation service of ACTA enables researchers and students, as well as the SICSA staff, to easily access articles, reports, surveys, and specialized journals that deal with current antisemitism. Advice and assistance is provided by the ACTA staff. Inquiries are welcomed. Sarah Grosvald is in charge of this service.
The bibliography will offer researchers in Jewish-Polish relations an aid for finding material on the main trends of antisemitic ideology (especially that connected to the extreme nationalist Endecja [National Democratic Party]), social and political polemics, and debates concerning the status of the Jewish community in Poland; the reaction of the Polish intelligentsia to antisemitic attacks and official policy; the Polish Church's approach to antisemitism; and forms of Jewish responses to antisemitism.
The first part of the bibliography includes an annotated listing of books and pamphlets on the "Jewish Question" written by Polish authors in the interwar period, along with significant forewords to the translations of foreign pamphlets. There are about 150 titles in this section.
There is also a list of Polish periodicals which published antisemitic articles, or articles on the "Jewish Question." For example, the weekly My- l Narodowa (National Thought) appeared between 1921-1939, and the monthly Przegl-d Judaistyczny (Judaic Review) from 1923 to 1924 (changing its name to Przelom in 1924). Both of these periodicals were founded in order to present a higher, "intellectual," assessment of the "Jewish Question." My-l Narodowa was the most important publication of the leading figures of the Endecja movement, for whom the "Jewish Question" was one of the most urgent problems to be resolved during the revival of independent Poland. The model of the Catholic Pole propagated by the Endeks revived traditional Christian hostility towards Judaism. Dr. Prokop-Janiec found about 1200 items in her survey of the Polish press.
A subject index points to the most important themes, beliefs, and stereotypes relating to the Jews of Poland, and lists specific events in interwar Poland connected to the Jewish community: the debates on anti- Jewish legislation and official policy (e.g., the numerus clausus and "ghetto benches" at the Polish universities, and the economic boycott). The subject index also lists the main Polish antisemitic organizations, the names of Polish Jewish writers and poets who were targeted by the nationalist press (such as Julian Tuwim and Boleslaw Lemian), and the names of people involved in anti-Jewish scandals and discussions.
A list of previously published bibliographies on Polish-Jewish topics will complete this volume in order to offer a more complete guide for students and researchers on the history of antisemitism in Poland, and the political and ideological debates which it aroused.
Dr. Ofer received her academic education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her field of research covers the history of the Holocaust, the Jews of Palestine during the Mandate period (the Yishuv), and the State of Israel.
Her major work on illegal immigration during the Holocaust discusses the rescue of Jews in occupied Europe, the attitude of the Yishuv to the fate of European Jewry and the politics of rescue carried out by the leadership of the Zionist movement, as well as the role of British Middle Eastern policy in the Jewish refugee issue, and the attempts to motivate the United States to pursue a more vigorous policy of rescue after the establishment of the War Refugee Board. Her book, Escaping the Holocaust: Illegal Immigration to the Land of Israel, 1939-1944 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991) received the Jewish Book Council Award in 1992; also in that year, the original Hebrew version received the Yitzchak Ben Zvi Award.
The Jewish refugee issue was studied by Dr. Ofer in the context of the everyday life of refugees waiting to leave Europe. In The Dead End Voyage, by Dalia Ofer and Hannah Weiner (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1992) (Hebrew), the story is told of one group of more than a thousand refugees - mostly from Germany and Austria - that was stranded in Yugoslavia and murdered by the Nazis in 1941-42. The life, social organization and leadership, and private lives of individuals is presented.
Dr. Ofer is currently researching "Jewish Organizations, the Government of Israel and the Mass Immigration to Israel 1948-1958"; and "Memory and History: Israel and the Holocaust."
With Deborah Weisman, she organized the Workshop on Gender and Contemporary Jewry, sponsored by the Center for the University Teaching of Jewish Civilization, held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, July 10-14, 1994.
The keynote address was given by Prof. Emil Fackenheim, on "The Philosophical Implications of the Holocaust." Other speakers included Prof. Shlomo Aronsohn, Prof. Daniel Carpi, Dr. Asher Cohen, Dr. Hagit Lavsky, Prof. Dan Michman, Dr. Dalia Ofer, Dr. Robert Rozett, Dr. Yechiam Weitz, and Dr. Hanna Yablonka.
Prof. Gutman is a member of the Academic Committee of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism.
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem has awarded a master's degree to Yael Raz, whose thesis was "Antisemitism as Reflected in the Pamphleteering of Dietrich Eckart."
Graciella Ben-Dror has been awarded a doctorate by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her dissertation was on the "Catholic Church in Argentina and the Jewish Problem in the Holocaust Era 1933-1945."
Brandeis University has awarded a doctorate to Ofer Shiff, whose dissertation was on "Jewish Perceptions of Antisemitism in the United States in the Early Post World War II Era."
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