"The Phantom Holocaust In Soviet Cinema," by Olga Gershenson

November 25, 2013
7:30pm till 9:00pm
Location: 602 Hamilton






Images of the Holocaust have become iconic in the West. Documentary or fictional, they have been widely circulated, both shaping and reflecting collective memory, and used for different political purposes. However, in the Soviet Union, the very notion of the Holocaust did not exist, and images of violence against Jews, as well as Jewish resistance, were silenced or universalized as a part of the “Great Patriotic War.”


And yet, some filmmakers still dared to broach the subject. Moreover, the earliest representations of the Holocaust in fiction film worldwide stem from 1930-40s USSR, making Soviet depictions of Nazi genocide among the first in history. Some of these films received theatrical release, but others have been shelved or quietly taken off screens. Today, they are nearly forgotten in Russia, and are entirely unknown in the West. They are the phantoms of the Holocaust history on screen.


In this talk, illustrated with movie clips, Olga Gershenson will introduce several such forgotten films. She will ask—and attempt to answer—the following questions: How is the Jewish life during WWII depicted in these films? How do they compare to the Holocaust films in the West? Finally, how do these Soviet films reflect and shape the very understanding of the Holocaust today?


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