|The Holocaust in movies. (Dora Trif)|
In the memory of Ladislau Grun
When I decided that I would try to write about the Holocaust’s representations in movies, somebody asked me where did I get that idea from. Somehow in the last semester of my master program we had more and more discussions about America and the Holocaust, about movies and the Holocaust and statements like: the Americans do not understand the Holocaust, and Spielberg is a really bad director; Schindler is loved because he is so commercial; Life is Beautiful is mocking at something so sad as the Holocaust; if Night and Fog had been directed by an American for sure nobody would complain about the loud music, and the bad synchronization between sound and image; Benigni succeeded in what no other director did: a comedy about the Holocaust; How can you represent in a movie one of the most important events of the modern history?; How can an American understand the Holocaust; became just normal discussions during our courses. Having heard these debates and others like them quite often, I have started to ask myself if the Holocaust is someone’s property, if there are nations and people that “have more rights” than others to write about the Holocaust, and even more, if art changes the facts of a historical event. Max, one of the characters in The Model Apartment by Donald Margulies says, “That’s my life! […]This is mine to tell”, and reading the play I have asked myself once more, who has the right to tell the story, and who is entitled to carry on the message? Obviously this is not a “task” that has been reserved only for the survivors, because in that case soon there will be none left to say what happened in the death camps. In addition, thousands of historical, philosophical, theological and fictional texts have already made their contribution to telling the story. Still, the questions remains about proprietary rights to the story. Further, there is an ongoing conversation about weather the arts can offer us a different kind of understanding of this event. It is obvious that the Holocaust affected not only Europe, that the murder of 6 millions of Jews and millions of others during the World War Two has had consequences not only for the Europeans, but upon most of the nations of the world.
Who then inherited the Holocaust? It seems that everybody did, and that the Holocaust does not belong to the Europeans, to the Americans, to the Jews. Holocaust is not meant only for Hollywood, or only for the European film market; we all have the right to it, we all have the right to understand, if possible, how could the Holocaust happened, and if art – books, music, theatre, film – can help us to understand better what happened, the nationality, ethnicity, religion of the writer, director, actor, and so on should be our concern only for the way it affected the finished artistic product. The main concern should be then the reflection/representations of the historical truth through art, in order to enhance the understanding one might get from these representations.
How is the Holocaust represented in the movies? Are the American films picturing the Holocaust differently from the European production? Is there a “commercial” Holocaust promoted by Hollywood? Do films aim for the "box office" and, in doing so does it influence the cinematic result? My main focus in this paper will regard these questions. In this thesis I will try to prove that through an investigation of representative Holocaust films we can understand how art/movies has shaped the perception of the Holocaust. For my purpose I will take a look at some movies regarding the Holocaust, movies that had a great impact at the moment of their release, and have been important ever since: The Diary of Anne Frank (1959, directed by George Stevens), The Pawnbroker (1964, directed by Sidney Lumet), Schindler’s List (1993, directed by Steven Spielberg), Lina Wertmuller’s Seven Beauties (1975) and La Vita e Bella (1997, director Roberto Benigni).
Each of these movies is representative because they deal with the Holocaust from different perspectives: The Diary of Anne Frank brings us in the middle of the war in a hiding place and portrays a real character, Anne Frank from Amsterdam, the 14 year-old-girl trapped in a war she can hardly understand in the beginning, faithful to her diary to whom she wants to confess all her emotions, all the events from the Secret Annex. This movie is also very important because is based on an authentic diary, which was adapted for the stage and for the film. How much has this changed the real story? Which details were considered to be unimportant and what was the reason of these omissions? Is the movie more commercial in this way? These are the questions that will guide the discussion of the movie. The Diary of Anne Frank is also very important because is one of the first movies that deals with the Holocaust; and of course the figure of the little girl hidden in a house in Amsterdam trying to survive the cruel war, is probably one of the most famous “stories” and Anne one of the most significant figures of the Holocaust "art."
The second movie I will deal with is The Pawnbroker, a totally different perspective upon the Holocaust, but still a very important one, because The Pawnbroker is one of the first movies that is concerned with the Holocaust survivors. Sol Nazerman the operator of a pawnshop is a concentration camp survivor. He faces a horrid internal conflict. Trapped in a New York ghetto environment, Sol suffers flashbacks. The flashbacks mix concentration camp images with life in his Harlem neighbourhood. The Pawnbroker was widely criticized for the daring theme: the juxtaposition of the African American and Jewish experience, which was considered a vulgarization of the Holocaust. Still, the movie succeeded something that no other movie did till that moment: to bring in front of the viewers the inner life of a Holocaust survivor
From movies that represent, in a way, innovations in the field, I will discuss one of the most famous movies concerning the Holocaust, Schindler’s List. Considered by many the masterpiece of the genre, Schindler’s List deals with the Holocaust from the perspective of a benefactor, a person who chose to save Jews knowing that he exposed himself to the same fate as theirs, an idea reflected even in the movie’s tagline, the Talmudic verse: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.” Schindler's List is based on the true story of a Nazi Czech businessman Oskar Schindler, a man who sees profit in using Jewish labour to start a factory in occupied Poland. But as the war progresses, and the fate of the Jews becomes more and more clear, Schindler's motivations change, and from the avid businessman thinking only of his own profit, Oskar Schindler becomes a saviour; human sympathy prevails over commercial profit and he is able to save over 1100 Jews from certain death in the gas chambers. But Schindler’s List is much more complex; Spielberg's art has much to tell us about his perspective on history, Jews, altruism, human evil etc in this “three-hour long epic of the nightmarish Holocaust.” Its documentary appearance recreates the dark horrible times of World War II. Except for the opening and the closing scenes, and two other brief moments (the little girl in a red coat and candles burning with orange flames), the entire film is shot in crisp black and white, creating an authenticity of the time that increases its shock. Spielberg succeeds in making the audience part of the history, while watching the movie one might feel as a survivor; the difference is that we are always on the “safe side”. Praised and criticized, loved and hated at the same time, Schindler’s List is surely one of the most important movies in film history and its place in this overview of the Holocaust representation in the movies is fully justified.
The next section of this research will be dedicated to the representation of the Holocaust in two European movies, Lina Wertmuller’s Seven Beauties (1975) and La Vita e Bella (1997) directed by Roberto Benigni, in order to compare the treatment the Holocaust receives with my assessment of selected American movies.
Seven Beauties (1975), Lina Wertmuller’s bizarre, dark comedy drama is for sure one of the most controversial movies about the Holocaust. The film is the story of Pasqualino, a Napolitano dandy known as Seven Beauties, who ends up in an unnamed death camp where he is doing everything in order to survive. Indeed, Seven Beauties is looking at the Holocaust from a comic perspective, but the humour goes further, ending quite often in the grotesque vision of a world of depravity.
“Holocaust fictions are scandalous”, most of them are not authentic, and are not written/directed by the survivors. For sure La Vita e Bella, Roberto Benigni’s Oscar winning movie, had and still has many detractors. But La Vita e Bella succeeded in doing something that no other movie did – it represents the Holocaust in a comic way but without being indecent; through comedy, Benigni underlines the tragedy. The importance of this movie is also given by the fact that it is an European movie, and it looks upon the Holocaust from the Italian perspective, a country that had been the faithful ally of the Nazi Germany. Some might wonder why these movies are found in this investigation together with three other Americans movies; I think that presenting La Vita e Bella and Seven Beauties might help the reader to understand the characteristic of both film industries, but also the different perspectives, American and European, upon the Holocaust.
“Write and record” – these seem to be the last words of Simon Dubnow, the famous Jewish historian, killed in the evacuation of Riga’s ghetto. Dubnow’s words have been taken by many as a sacred duty, to further tell the story, to keep the flame alive so that the cruel massacre of the European Jews will never be forgotten. But how could one do this? Since “Auschwitz defies imagination and perception; it submits only to memory…Between the dead and the rest of us there exists an abyss that no talent can comprehend” as Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Prize – winning novelist and Holocaust survivor has said. Still the amount of the material regarding the Holocaust – scholarly writings and discussions, films, television programs, musical compositions, plays, photography, and internet materials, is enormous. Sixty years after the end of the war, questions continue concerning the ethnical and artistic representation of the Holocaust. Which is the best method to present the massacre of 6 million Jews? Are there words or images or sounds to describe such a disaster? Primo Levi, the Italian Jewish writer who himself survived Auschwitz, believed that “our words” describe different types of hungriness, tiredness, and pain:
They are free words, created and used by free men who lived in comfort and suffering in their homes. If Lagers had lasted longer a new, harsh language would have been born; and only this language could express what it means to toil the whole day in the wind, with the temperature below freezing, wearing only a shirt, underpants, cloth jacket and trousers, and in one’s body nothing but weakness, hunger and knowledge of the end drawing nearer.
The next section of this paper will provide a few theoretical methods concerning the representation of the Holocaust in art/ movies. This part will propose a possible historical background for the next chapters, in order to better understand the way the Holocaust is presented in the selected movies. How did Nazi policy change from the relocation of the Jews to mass murder? Why or why not is the Holocaust unique? Why did not the Jews react to Hitler’s anti- Semitic plans? These questions will find their answers in this first chapter.
In section three of the paper I will present the three American movies that I have already mentioned: The Diary of Anne Frank (1959, directed by George Stevens), The Pawnbroker (1964, directed by Sidney Lumet) and Schindler’s List (1993, directed by Steven Spielberg). I am making distinction between American and European movies because the American film industry has its own characteristics that make it different from the European one. It has been widely discussed the “commercialization” of the Holocaust promoted by Hollywood and I believe that a special section for the American movies would help us to comprehend better the differences between Hollywood and European film industry. My second reason is actually a very “technical” one. Because this paper represents the final project for the American Studies Master Program, so my preoccupation for American movies is completely understandable. For the same purpose the forth section will provide a comparison between Schindler’s List (1993, directed by Steven Spielberg) – the best known Hollywood film concerning the Holocaust, and La Vita e Bella (1997, director Roberto Benigni) maybe one of the best European productions about the destruction of the European Jews in the Second World War. Lina Wertmuller’s Seven Beauties (1975) will also be presented in this section as La Vita e Bella’s forerunner.
Art represents, illustrates, yet it does not copy…at least not through replication. This is one of the reasons why I chose The Diary of Anne Frank and Schindler’s List for comparison; both movies are based on a true story, but differ widely in their methods. And although both have some of the same intention, a comparison of their methods and goals will highlight the variety and complexity of the ways in which Holocaust materials have been used. A discussion of the other films will reveal further how artists attempt their individual way of “representing” the Holocaust.
One might ask why such a subject? Surely the systematic killing of the European Jews has gained its place as one of the most important events in history, the attention that this event has drawn being incommensurable. Still, for a long while, the Holocaust has been considered a very sensitive subject and the movies I will discuss are the best examples I know that can provide insight and understanding into the historical event that still attracts uncountable readers and writers who seek to know more about this dark chapter in recent human history.
The Final Solution – the murder of the Jews of Europe became the plan of the Nazi regime led by Adolph Hitler. This event is now known in history under the name of the Holocaust - the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. The term Holocaust, began to be widely used in the 1960’s but its origin goes back in the third century B. C. Holokaustos comes from the Greek translation of the Old Testament and signifies the burnt sacrificial offering dedicated exclusively to God – the idea of sacrifice or martyrdom of Jews being preferred in this reference, rather than victimizers.
The first section deals with some of the historical events between 1933 and 1945 and asks a number of questions: how did Nazi policy change from the relocation of the Jews to mass murder? Is the Holocaust Unique? And if so, why? Why did not the Jews react to Hitler’s anti-Semitic plans? In the second part I will try to provide a few theoretical concepts for a better understanding of the Holocaust’s representation in art. Which is the best method to present such an atrocity? Are there some words/images/sounds better able to describe the Holocaust?
2.1. Historical Holocaust
In January 1933 the Nazi regime came to power in Germany, this was the beginning of one of the darkest pages in modern history. But before 1933 a few events deserve to be mentioned that are relevant to the story, most of them related to Adolf Hitl
Hitler and other SS members
Adolf Hitler was born on 20 April 1889 as the son of an Austrian border policeman. He fought in the First World War and he succeeded to the rank of corporal and to get a decoration on the Western Front. Immediately after the war Hitler became member of the German Worker's Party. When Hitler joined the party, it was comprised of only a few members. We can not really talk about an organized party because there was no platform, but the right-wing orientation was consonant with Hitler's doctrine. He saw this party as a way to reach the power he had been dreaming of, and his hatred towards the Jews became part of the organization's political platform. Later, the name of the party was changed to the National Socialist German Worker's party, and the red flag with the swastika was adopted as the party symbol, all these being stated in the platform Hitler had conceived. The Nazi party began to grow as more and more members joined it, many of them being but victims of the economic inflation who found comfort in blaming the Jews for their troubles.
In November 1923 Hitler held a rally at a Munich beer hall and proclaimed a revolution. Leading about 2.000 people he tried to take over the Bavarian government. The police put down this putsch; Hitler was arrested and imprisoned at Landsberg. He was sentenced to five-year in prison but he was freed after only nine months. While in prison he wrote Mein Kampf, partly an autobiographical book full of his own detailed views on the future of the German people. Mein Kampf became the “bible” of the Nazi doctrine and gained quite a huge popularity among the Germans who were still affected by The Treaty of Versailles and were having more and more problems in a Germany affected by a severe economical crisis. An important part of the book is concerned with the “Jewish problem”:
[The Jews'] ultimate goal is the denaturalization, the promiscuous bastardization of other peoples, the lowering of the racial level of the highest peoples as well as the domination of his racial mishmash through the extirpation of the folkish intelligentsia and its replacement by the members of his own people.
Hitler felt that the German people were of the highest racial purity and it was destined to rule the world. To become the absolute master and in order to maintain this purity it was absolutely necessary to avoid intermarriage with “subhuman races” which he designated as the Jews and the Slavs. In time, many psychologists and psychiatrists studied this issue of a “Germany as a biological organism” and of the “German-Aryan purity”. According to the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton the idea was that the German nation “was threatened by a kind of collective illness – a potentially fatal threat to a formerly healthy society. The task of Nazism was to cure the German Volk by eliminating all sources of corruption – carried mainly by the Jews, but evident also in the feebleminded, the incurably ill, and the insane.”
These ideas did not remain only theories. By 1925 Hitler had already begun to create special units that would later become central for the Nazi regime and would carry out Hitler’s plans: SS – protection troops, GESTAPO – secret police, RSHA – Nazi Department of Security etc.
The propaganda of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party aimed at the lower classes of the society, and by promising a reduction of the unemployment and the regaining of the “German dignity”, the party succeeded in 1932 to get the majority in the Parliament. This is another issue many specialists have been concerned with: how come so many people followed Hitler and his diabolic plans? Historian Michael R. Marrus believes that “anti-Semitic indoctrination is plainly an insufficient answer” to these questions, but in some cases indeed the motivation for the later mass murder can be found in the anti-Jewish hatred. According to Raul Hilberg, through this “machinery of destruction” – the Nazi regime succeeded “not only to destroy its victims, but also to engage an ever-wider circle of perpetrators in the murderous task.”
Hitler grew more and more popular and he managed to instil in people’s soul hate, revenge, and scorn. In 1932, Hitler ran for President and won 30% of the votes. His growing power peaked in 1933, when on 30 of January he was appointed chancellor and took over the political and military power of the state. Germany’s economy was improving and Hitler claimed credit for it in order to consolidate his position as a dictator, after having eliminated challenges from the other political parties and government institutions. The German industrial machine was built up in order to prepare for war; the reorganization of the army, navy, and aviation, were signs that the preparations for the war were underway.
In April 1933 the first boycott of Jewish shops was ordered, but still without having them closed. Step by step Jews were being eliminated from the civil service and from the educational system. At that point there were approximately 500.000 Jews living in Germany, representing 1% of the whole population. The ordinary people had not considered the Jews a threat until the Nazi propaganda infiltrated their lives through media, movies and sometimes even through children’s books.
Starting with the 2nd of August 1934 Hitler’s power grew even bigger due to his auto-proclamation as the Fuhrer and by the promulgation of the Third Reich. By the end of 1934 it was more and more obvious that the Nazi party was looking for a solution to the “Jewish problem”, but it was still not clear what their intention was.
On 15 September 1935 the “Nuremberg Law for the Protection of the German Blood and of the German Honour” was adopted, an absolutely necessary law in the Nazis vision because the “purity of the German Blood is the essential condition for the continued existence of the German people.” Some of the articles of this law stated: “Marriages between Jews and subjects of the state of German or related blood are forbidden. Marriages nevertheless concluded are invalid, even if concluded abroad to circumvent this law, […] and Jews may not employ in their households female subjects of the state of German or related blood who are under 45 years old, […] and Jews are forbidden to fly the Reich or National flag or to display the Reich colours. They are, on the other hand, permitted to display the Jewish colours.” And this was only the beginning; the definition of the Jews, and in a few years, their “expropriation, concentration, deportation, and finally murder” would follow.
Taking advantages of the status the power gave him, Hitler started to extend the territory of Germany. He ordered the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland in 1938. The assassination of a German official in Paris produced one of the worst pogroms against Jews during the period prior to the Second World War, Kristallnacht - “the Night of Broken Glass." On the nights of November 9 and 10, young Nazis rambled through Jewish neighbourhoods breaking windows of Jewish businesses and homes, burning down synagogues. More than 100 synagogues were destroyed and almost 7,500 Jewish businesses were devastated. 26,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps, and almost 100 were killed. The official German position on these events was that they were spontaneous outbursts.
In March 1939 Czechoslovakia was devastated by the Nazi troops and a few months later, on 1 September Hitler's army invaded Poland, forcing France and England to declare war on Germany.
On 21 of September, Reinhard Heydrich the chief of the security police sent a letter to all “Einsatzgruppen” concerning "The Jewish Question in the Occupied Territories". Heydrich decreed that the Jews would be rounded up and forced into urban ghettoes, the largest of which were the ghettoes of Warsaw and Lodz, and the so-called Judenrat were formed: Jewish Councils, most often composed of former community leaders, rabbis, and other influential people. The Judenrat took on all the duties of a local government. The Ghettoes were infested with diseases, and the Germans kept relocating more and more Jews into them. Some were taken to slave labour camps, later they were put in cattle trucks and taken to the death camps. Talking about the ghettoes’ formation Raul Hilberg was describing them as:
A captive city – state in which territorial confinement was combined with absolute subjugation to German authority. With the creation of the ghettos, The Jewish Community of Poland was no longer an integrated whole. Each ghetto was on its own, thrown into sudden isolation, with a multiplicity of internal problems and a reliance on the outside world for basic sustenance.
In April 1940 the so-called “Blitzkrieg”- "lightning war" started: a German military tactic based on the speed and the surprise of a military force of light tank units supported by planes and infantry. Denmark, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and France could not resist the German attack. In December 1941, The United States entered the war.
Before the invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 “Der Komisar Befehl” was issued; it stated that all the Jew and Gypsy commissars from the Russian territories would be shot immediately without a trial. In time, more documents like this were found, but unfortunately not even one signed by Hitler himself, a situation that has allowed deniers of the Holocaust to declare that the Fuhrer did not even know about the atrocities that were taking place in the death camps or in the occupied territories. Still, there have been found letters between Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Eichmann and Joseph Goebbels that cite Hitler’s disposition regarding the “Final Solution”. Even so, deniers have maintained that the “Nazi documents that spoke of the final solution of the Jewish problem, were really referring to the proposed transfer of Jews to ghettos in the east.” After ghettoization followed deportation to labour and concentration camps (where the political opponents of the Nazi regime and the war prisoners were sent), and finally, a new type of camps appeared – death camps, specially designed for the elimination of the Jews, the Gypsies and the homosexuals. Though the Nazis considered the process of elimination inefficient, by the end of 1941 despite its “inefficiency” 1.200.000 Jews had been exterminated.
By the beginning of 1942 it was decided where and how the death camps would be established; every Jew was a target, because “the only good Jew is a dead one,” as Nazi used to say. The Nazi considered at one point that the physical liquidation of the Jews was not efficient enough, so the idea of the chemical murdered appeared. And because most of the European Jews were living in Poland, the main death camps were established there: Auschwitz – Birkenau, Treblinka, Majdanek, Sobibor, Belzec and Chelmo (the biggest one was Auschwitz where is estimated that 1.300.000 Jews were killed).
While the offensive of the American, British and Soviet troops was getting stronger Hitler’s dream to “conquer the world” was vanishing little by little. In May 1943 the war in the North of Africa ended with a German defeat, and in July of the same year, Italy capitulated. 1944 brought even more defeat for the German army, and a murder attempt upon Hitler – on 20 July during a conference, was attempted but failed.
Meanwhile pitiless extermination went on in the death camps. Because there was no place left to burry the corpses, in Auschwitz the Nazi built crematoriums and they burned sometimes, even 24 hours a day the bodies of those that had been killed in the gas chambers.
By the beginning of 1945 the end of the Nazi regime was evident. The soviet troops were getting closer and closer to Germany, Prague, Budapest and Vienna having been liberated already. On the western front the Anglo-American troops could not be stopped anymore. But even so Hitler was too eager to have the power and he did not want to admit the failure and the defeat; in his official discourses he would keep trying to be charming, and he would be talking about “a weak moment of the German army.”
On 22 of April he gathered for the last time his collaborators – he wanted to know if there was a chance to save himself and his dream. But there was none, since the soviet troupes were too close, so on 30 of April Hitler committed suicide. Two days later, on 2 May the soviet army took Berlin. The war in Europe was over and the official date of victory was announced for 9 May. The official end of the Second World War came on September, after Japan’s capitulation.
Killing was obviously an important part in Nazi’s plan to conquer the world. “In the end the slaughter was awesome, as we know, with the murder of many millions of Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Byelorussians and others. In terms of the numbers murdered the bloodbath may have surpassed even the Final Solution, although the grim distinction of Holocaust is usually reserved for the massacre of Jews alone.” More than 55.000.000 people died in the war, and approximately 6 millions were killed in the extermination camps. From these 6 millions most of them were Jews. They had been concentrated in 60 ghettos and “relocated”/deported to 30 concentration and death camps. If we keep in mind that gypsies and homosexuals also found their death in the camps, the final number of the victims is around 6,5 millions people.
These figures have been contested, in part because the official number can never be known, so that the deniers use this as a proof for the “non-existence of the Holocaust”. They even accused the Red Cross and other organizations of “exaggerating” the numbers. Probably the exact number of the fatalities will be never known, but though we can still say with confidence that the Holocaust remains the cruellest moment in modern history. No matter how many victims there were – 4, 5, 6 million, or more, documentary participants’ testimony make its historical truth indisputable to anyone except those who insist, for ridiculous ugly reasons, that the catastrophe was a fabrication. It was such a hideous and enormous crime in human history that sometimes we might even want to say “it couldn’t have happened”…but, of course, it did.
One might ask why do I give such importance to the deniers. Probably in a few years there will be no survivors of the Holocaust left to tell the real story, there will be nobody who could say “I know it, because I was there”, and if people will take art as history, and movies as a real representation of the Holocaust we might be confronted with another form of denial.
2.2 The Artistic Holocaust
A Holocaust artistic memory is what Primo Levi called "the memory of offence" a wound that can never heal/be healed. As Levi put it, the "oppressor remains what he is, and so does the victim" no matter how the art would represent them. They are united: determined by past events that will to some extent always control their existences, and further, their stories. For Levi, it is absolutely necessary that the memory of the Holocaust to be preserved, both by the oppressors and by the victims. But, at the same time, exactly as Levi has pointed out:
A memory that is recalled too often and that is expressed in a verbal form tends to set as a stereotype—a form tested by experience, crystallized, perfected, and adorned—which settles in the place of the raw record and grows at the expense of the original memory.
So, by stereotyping their memories through representation and repetition, that is, through art, the experiences of the perpetrators and the victims become diminished of their original power and surprise.
But “to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all”, it is as if you ignore that the Holocaust happened, considers Elie Wiesel. The story must be told, although how the artist tells the story, reinvesting it with shock and power, is the challenge that remains. Primo Levi remarks:
A sorrowful, cruel and moving story; because so are all our stories, hundreds of thousands of stories, all different and all full of a tragic, disturbing necessity. We tell them to each other in the evening, and they take place in Norway, Italy, Algeria, the Ukraine, and are simple and incomprehensible like the stories in the Bible. But are they not themselves stories of a new Bible?
The Holocaust without any trace of a doubt possesses unique features, in scope, technology, duration, legal and political strategy. The American literary critic Irving Howe observes that we become speechless in front of such a cruel reality. For others, the uniqueness lies elsewhere. Norman Finkelstein simply believes that the Holocaust is “unique because it is inexplicable, and it is inexplicable because it is unique.” For some the Holocaust is unique because it can not be compared with any other event in our history, and perhaps because its unique attributes it has claimed the imagination of many artists to attempt its representation in art.
Three main questions that influenced the debates regarding Holocaust’s representation in art in the last few decades are: how can an individual observer relate himself/herself to the past through texts, visual arts and the media? What is the accuracy of memory for those who experienced the Holocaust and its aftermath, and, are there certain kinds of representation that should be avoided or condemned? In spite of these “obstacles” more and more treatments of the Holocaust continue to appear: poems, novels, films, plays, musical and dance compositions about this subject proliferate. The simplest reason for this activity is that the “Holocaust is a story of stories,” containing themes and inquires that are both universal and continuously urgent. In art the Holocaust is unique and it is a rich subject because it “is the story of extreme situations,” a story that can be retold, can be interpreted and, as Saul Friedlander argues “there is no ‘objective’, outside criterion to establish that one particular interpretation is more true than another.”
One thing has to be kept in mind all the time, that realistic art – literature, movies, photography, as authentic and close to reality as it might get can not possibly cover the whole Holocaust, can not reflect in an exhaustive manner the unimaginable grief and terror the Jews went through in so many places from so many backgrounds. A Yiddish poet, Aaron Tsaytlin said after World War II that “even prayers are false” now. But it is not the goal of art to be real that is only one method of trying to encompass some of the experience.
In “Writing and the Holocaust”, Irving Howe touches a few issues regarding the way we depict Holocaust moments and recreate them in art. “Holocaust writings often reveal the helplessness of the mind before an evil that cannot quite be imagined, or the helplessness of the imagination before an evil that cannot quite be understood,” but attempting to relate the evil does not mean it should not be tried. Can we enjoy the Holocaust as a piece of art? Do we find pleasure in watching this kind of movies, and if so, does that make us accomplices? I do not think that there is a “right” answer for these questions, but in my opinion recalling an event does not mean that it is going to happen again as many people believe. Howe notices that even today there are communities that totally believe that there are things that should stay unspoken. The Holocaust representation in art destroyed in a way the barriers around this subject. We can even say that art succeeded maybe in destroying the taboos surrounding the Holocaust.
Another issue Howe discussed is that of the “judgement”; are we entitled to judge the survivors, their deeds? “The Law of the Lager said: ‘eat your own bread, and if you can, that of your neighbour’, and left no room for gratitude.” But who are we to judge the victims because “there are situations so extreme that it seems immoral to make judgments about those who must endure them.” Therefore art should represent and not judge the victims. On the other hand some might expect the perpetrators and bystanders to be judged for the “lesson to be learned.” But I am asking myself what lesson can someone learn from such an extreme event? If we feel for the victims, if we believe that we could never be perpetrators or bystanders, do we automatically become better persons? If this is what people should have learned from the Holocaust “the lesson” has hardly been learned since genocide is so widely spread nowadays. I think that art is fascinating for it can judge without pointing with the finger on perpetrators and bystanders. In The Diary of Anne Frank the Dutch Christians who helped the Franks come in contrast with those who betrayed them; in The Pawnbroker the sacrifice of Jesus in order to save Sol’s life symbolizes the sacrifice of those who during the Holocaust chose not to be bystanders; Schindler’s List in itself is dedicated entirely to the saviours of the Jewish people. The judgment in this case is not directly, but still a statement has been made through these movies: why could they do it and others did not? The same thing can be said about the perpetrators, even if not directly, art judges them, and the portrait of Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List is representative. His cruel behaviour, his inhuman side force the viewer to despite him – the perpetrator is judged.
“The stories” I will present in the following pages are the stories of both people who survived and of those who did not. They are just a few stories from the immense collection of the Holocaust narratives. In investigation how artists have told the stories, we will be more able to understand the difficult and contentious place where history and art intersect. Of course, no story, however well it is told, could “make up for” the millions that didn’t survive the Jewish Genocide. 
Our perception and understanding of the Holocaust has been influenced by the polysematic way of presenting it. Different communities have different ways of remembering the Holocaust and the memories - controversial and fragmentary - have influenced our understanding of the symbolic meanings of the Holocaust and its victims. What I will try to present in this section is how an European event was reflected in the American movies, and even more how the understanding and the perception of the Holocaust has been changed by the American film industry.
As shown before the American movies used in this part of the research will be The Diary of Anne Frank (1959, directed by George Stevens), The Pawnbroker (1964, directed by Sidney Lumet), and Schindler’s List (1993, directed by Steven Spielberg). Each of these movies is representative because each deals with the Holocaust from a different perspective, and the popular perception of the Holocaust has changed considerable because of the release of these films. How can a movie change the understanding of an historical event? How is it possible that the “Nazi Holocaust” was transformed in America into “The Holocaust”? In his book The Holocaust Industry. Reflections on the exploitation of Jewish suffering, Norman G. Finkelstein, makes a clear distinction between the Nazi Holocaust as the historical event, and The Holocaust as the representation and understanding of the Holocaust in American society. How much from the real stories has been changed for the sake of the audience? These will be the questions that will guide this part of the paper.
3.1 The Diary of Anne Frank
Between the end of the war and the beginning of the 1960s the Holocaust has hardly had any impact upon the American film industry. As in other forms of art the theme had stirred little interest. Only a few books dealt with it, and most of them not very successfully, probably because the event had not yet been recognized as one worthy of artistic treatment it was left to historians to define and decide the parameters of the catastrophe. The only movies available at that time in the United States concerning the Holocaust were newsreels and documentaries made by the allied armies (some using Nazi footage of the atrocity). The first cinematic “looking back” on the Holocaust was Alain Resnais’ Night and Fog in 1956, and that was produced in French and unlikely to be known or understood by Americans. In this context the appearance of The Diary of Anne Frank, first as a play, an adaptation after Anne Frank’s famous diary in 1956, and then as a movie in 1959, had a much bigger impact then its producers had expected.
First published in Holland in 1947 under the title of Het Achterhuis, The Diary was edited by Anne's father, who removed certain family references and some of her highly intimate confessions. Anne’s story made its appearance in America in the beginnings of the 1950s, first as the English translation of the original diary, later as a dramatization, and as a movie in 1959.
George Stevens, the one who had made the film of the liberation of Dachau, which now unrolls continually at Washington Holocaust Museum, took the task of directing this movie in 1959.  The Diary of Anne Frank was an immediate critical and popular success, reviewers being especially enthusiastic about Anne’s spirit, optimism, and nobility, but also about her literary skills. Peter Novick in The Holocaust in American Life argues that the “Jewish groups hailed and promoted both the stage an screen adaptations.”
After its adaptation for the stage and later for the screen, written by the husband-wife team, Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich, The Diary of Anne Frank evolves from a European work written by a young Jew hiding from the Nazis in Holland to “a more Americanized, universal symbol; indeed, it becomes one of the first enduring popular symbols of the Holocaust,” as Judith Doneson argues in her article “The American history of Anne Frank’s Diary”. Doneson writes that the film production of the Diary reflects America's ideological crisis in the 1950s. She claims that the movie's stress on Anne's faith that "people are good at heart" promoted the ideal of democratic liberalism by turning the Holocaust victims into a symbol of humanistic strength.
The movie version of The Diary touches upon some important questions regarding the Holocaust and its victims: was the Holocaust strictly Jewish, or we can talk about an universal Holocaust? Is there a connection between the universalization of Anne’s message and current political issues in the American society? The Jews were the victims, but were they really weak figures? How important is the historical accuracy?
The main criticism against the movie was that the Jewish aspect of the Holocaust is universalized. Meyer Levin, who sought, unsuccessfully, to write the stage version of The Diary which was finally rejected by Otto Frank, considers that one of the most important quotations in Anne’s Diary, the very one that underlines that the Holocaust was specifically Jewish and was changed in the movie:
Who has inflicted this upon us? Who made us Jews different from all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God, too, who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when this is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be help up as an example.
The Jewish essence of The Diary is particularly obvious in this fragment, a fragment that was left out of Goodrich and Hackett’s adaptation and provoked Levin’s fury. In the movie, the idea of Jewishness is very weakly conveyed: 
We’re not the only people that have had to suffer. There’ve always been people that have had to…Sometimes once race…Sometimes another…and yet…
In one of the opening scenes of the movie, Anne explains that “we had to wear yellow stars” – another line that provoked serious controversial discussions. In the original version of The Diary, Anne is using the term Jews while in the movie Jews become “we”, the universalization being evident. Judith Doneson believes that there is no difference because who else then Jews were supposed to wear “the yellow star”. Even so, the meaning has been changed, because the audience can now identify itself with the young girl from Amsterdam. Here, Anne the character is talking about a universal pain that could be applied to all races and ethnic groups. In this way the Holocaust was introduced to a huge American public as available to be claimed by all, and its meaning “reinscribed” for a country that, in the 50s, was feeling the need to identify with an invented post-war goodness and optimism.
Another aspect of The Diary and its later forms that was heavily criticised was the portrayal of the Jews as weak figures. Bruno Bettelheim in his well-known essay “The Ignored Lesson of Anne Frank” argues that the way in which the Franks are presented in the movie is that of Jews waiting for their end. The stubbornness in keeping a normal life in hiding, transformed Anne and her family into victims, they died because the parents “could not get themselves believe in Auschwitz.” Still Bettelheim admits that if they had been fighting there would not have been too much difference “because they all died anyway except for Anne’s father. But they could have sold their lives for a high price, instead of walking to their death.” Here, we talk of an obvious form of denying the reality of the Holocaust as Bettelheim notices. But in my opinion what is even more dangerous is the final line, famous by now “In spite of all, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Her optimism is for sure very important for the comfort of the audience, but still this very optimism could lead to another form of denial of the murderous fate that the family shared. One might say that if a victim can so easily forgive, maybe the Holocaust was not such a big deal after all, maybe it has never even happened.
Further, how important is in this context the historical accuracy of the film? As I have said before, art and history are two distinct areas, and the goal of art is not to be real, remaining faithful to a given reality. It is only one method of trying to encompass and interpret some of the experience. Still, in the case of Anne Frank, the movie adaptation of The Diary made a clear distinction between Anne Frank the person and Anne Frank the character. Anne died at Bergen-Belsen, cold and hungry, shaved and looking like a skeleton, but nothing from this real Anne can be found in the play about Anne Frank. Her idealized image presented in the movie, the optimist Anne, has little to owe to the young woman, Anne Frank, who died in the very last moments of the war, and not only because The Diary ends before her death is “known”. By keeping her end unremarked upon, Anne can exist for the purposes of the filmmaker’s art. Thus, in George Stevens’ The Diary of Anne Frank we have a piece of history, but rewritten as Alvin Rosenfeld also noticed, “a piece of European history repackaged on Broadway and in Hollywood as a protest against war and discrimination in general.” What can be seen is that Anne Frank, though was a real person, has written the story of her life in hiding that provides lessons she never intended; we see on the screen the character Anne Frank, “manufactured” for an America in the 1950s.
3.2 The Pawnbroker
What is the connection between Afro-Americans struggling in Harlem, and Jewish people in death camps? Can such a comparison be made without destroying the historical record? One might say that no, there is nothing that can be compared with the Holocaust or that there is nothing to be gained from awakening the dark memories of a Holocaust survivor. Sidney Lumet’s movie, The Pawnbroker, proves the contrary, by associating Harlem with the Holocaust, and blacks and Puerto Ricans with Jews.
The Pawnbroker, both Edward Lewis Wallant’s 1961 book, and Sidney Lumet’s 1964 film, were widely criticized for the daring theme: the juxtaposition of the African American and Jewish experience, which was considered a vulgarization of the Holocaust. Most of the time critics complained that by associating these two experiences we might falsify the historical truth, or if we name all the massacres the “Holocaust” the term will lack any important significance. But on the other hand The Pawnbroker succeeded something that no other movie did till that moment: to bring in front of the viewers the inner life of a Holocaust survivor, and even more to create as Omer Bartov argues “a non- Jewish Jewish victim.”
The Pawnbroker tells one of the many stories of the Holocaust – a former professor who lost his wife and children in the death camps, runs now a pawnshop in Harlem. But Sol Nazerman is not telling us his entire story; the “hidden” part is revealed trough the flashback technique. The audience comes in contact with Sol’s most painful past through these flashbacks, allowing the film to portray the survivor Sol Nazerman as a figure whose past intrudes upon and cripples his present life, calling him back to the scene of his trauma:
Nazerman’s postwar world is hell, a life to be endured after death, not the paradise that we expect survivors to have felt themselves entering following their liberation.
Nor does it present a picture of optimistic America, as was the basis for Steven’s posthumous perspective on Anne Frank.
The technique is fascinating because the viewer is increasingly “reading” the visual codes that have been captured in the movie to identify a clash of realities inside the mind of a tormented refugee. Another interesting association is that between Harlem and the death camps, several similarities can be discovered even from the beginning of the movie. As already shown Nazerman runs a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem. The pawnshop functions also as a money-laundering front for the crime organizations in the neighbourhood. What is shocking is the way the pawnshop is intended to remind the viewer “artistically” by its presentation as a series of cages: wire mesh, bars, locks, and alarms – all things that would reinforce a sense of entrapment.
On his way home from work another involuntary memory, another association between camps and the neighbourhood invades Sol’s consciousness. The distant barking of a dog on the street brings back memories with another dog in the camp, a dog that is running to attack a prisoner. Back on the Harlem street Nazerman passes an abandoned area where a group of hooligans are assaulting someone. The images go back in time, revealing the concentration camp again. A Nazi guard stands in the centre, and a man in prisoner's clothes hangs on the barbed-wire fence, screaming for help as the dog bites his legs. These are only a few examples from the many flashbacks that constitute an important part of the movie. What do we learn from them? First of all we understand that there is a parallel between contemporary brutality on Harlem streets and a Nazi concentration camp that provokes Nazerman to relive his anguish. Then we understand that Sol, hunted by his past, sometimes can’t even distinguish between it and the present. Thirdly, the flashbacks constitute for the viewer a way to penetrate Sol’s inner life and to understand his drama.
Two things about this movie provoked critics: in the first place the association of the blacks with Jews and of Harlem with Holocaust, and secondly Christian allegory from the end of the movie. Judith Doneson argues that Jews are presented here and elsewhere as weak characters, almost feminine, people who learned nothing from the Holocaust:
American society is responsible for the suffering of the blacks; and the Jew, himself so recently a tragic victim, is guilty of complicity, not unlike the German responsible for the pawnbroker’s suffering and the death of his family. The Jew is portrayed as having learned nothing from the Holocaust, while the viewer, from his ‘objective’ standpoint understands the lesson.
Although both the movie and the book that inspired this film were clearly Jewish in conception and creation, it is obvious that the filmmaker’s intention was to displace an exclusivist Jewish interpretation of the Holocaust with a wider American/ Christian universal interpretation of the massacre. In the final scene of the movie Sol re-experiences in a way his Holocaust drama. In an attempt to save his life, Sol’s assistant Jesus (note that the name of his apprentice is symbolic) lunges in front of Nazerman (in Omer Bartov’s view also a symbolic name “the man of Nazareth, or Nazarene, the ancient name for Christ or Christian”) when a group of criminals are trying to shoot him. Jesus Ortiz gets himself killed and Sol again can not do anything about the murder he is witness to. The effect upon Nazerman is devastating, his inner life is awakened and the only way to save himself, as many critics saw it, is through Christianization – symbolically Sol is piercing his hand on the spike used for the tickets. It is an obviously act of crucifixion that stands for his Christianization.
But if there is hope in the film it does not come necessary from this act of Christian salvation. Hope comes from inside: Sol re-experiences his original trauma; he has been doomed to repeat what he wanted to repress. Sol’s stigmata represents the cracking of the wall he created to deny his emotional self, his acquiescence in feeling pain so that it can be shared, not denied. Still, a concurrent idea that breaks out from this symbolic re-experiencing of the trauma is that Jews are the victims of the past, African Americans and Puerto Ricans embody the victims of the present. Judith Doneson considers Sol’s deeds from the end of the movie stand for “spiritual weakness,” because in The Pawnbroker the Jew is still alive, but his soul is dead and can be saved only by his helper, Jesus. The conclusion is one that many viewers were offended by as being both unhistorical and untruthful.
With The Pawnbroker the American representation of the Holocaust moves one step further. We are now beyond the questions of responsibility that were central to the earlier representations of the Holocaust victims. But what this movie succeeds is showing “a world that remains indifferent to pain and sorrow and keeps producing victims.”
Sol Nazerman’s compassion, in the end of the movie, for his fellows, evokes sympathy for the Holocaust survivors, but also for other victims in general. Is this an accurate conclusion to draw from the Holocaust? Is it a true America’s minorities and urban life in the 1950s? The called for the political and legal response that could have been found in the first movies about the Holocaust, is in The Pawnbroker substituted with image of the survivor’s psyche that calls for emotional identification. What more it does, caused it to be both criticized and praised: to enlarge the Holocaust’s concerns beyond the European site of death to an analogous America filled with corruption and, perhaps, redemption.
3.3 Schindler’s List
Schindler’s List (1993) represents Steven Spielberg’s first try to narrate so heavy an historical event as the Holocaust. Schindler's List tells the story of a German businessman, Oskar Schindler, who transforms himself through a series of events from a practical Nazi - capitalist into a saviour of Jews. For this Schindler trades even his long desired fortune, and ends bankrupted, all in order to protect his Jewish workers from the gas chambers at Auschwitz. But Spielberg’s movie succeeded in important and multiple ways. His presentation of Schindler’s story is considered the most significant cinematic statement on the Holocaust in the last decade, achieving not only remarkable commercial success but aesthetic success as well, and ultimately success as a way to educate about the Holocaust. The movie, which received an Oscar for the Best Film of 1993, Schindler's List, is often shown in high schools to teach students about the Holocaust.
Maybe no other movie in the last years generated so many debates as Schindler’s List. The questions included: who has the right to tell the story of the past? How authentic is the reality Spielberg presents? Is Schindler’s List a documentary or fiction? Is this history or art? How Hollywood-like is this film? These inquires are the starting point of hundreds of reviews, and critical essays concerning Spielberg’s Holocaust representation. Unfortunately this is not the proper place for a detailed debate concerning these questions and many others that come in our mind when we think about Schindler’s List. My only concern here is to see how much has influenced this film the perception about the Holocaust. In this sense I will argue that the last scenes of the movie changed actually the understanding of the Holocaust for those that saw it, and that a film that seemed so well documented and such a “truthful” representation of the Shoah could have spared its audience its last ten minutes.
After watching most of Schindler’s List one might get the impression that Spielberg actually succeeded in making a movie about the Holocaust that is actually not really movielike, that is a movie that can stand as a document, a piece of history before it is anything else. Spielberg’s merits are many in this film, and he was even praised for transforming himself into a “non-Hollywood moviemaker.” But Schindler’s List still remains a Hollywood production and inevitably has a plot with a happy- ending, even if something like this seems almost impossible to conceive when we talk about the Holocaust. Many said that no matter how we would interpret the facts of the Shoah we should not have a happy-end, an end that might comfort the audience, and give them uplifting optimistic feelings, simply because this end is not realistic. Most of these opinions are based on the last scenes of the production, which, in Omer Bartov’s view, “undermine much of the film’s previous merits.” The main criticism brought to these scenes is the breaking down of Schindler when he is supposed to leave his Jews. Bartov considers this a humanization of Schindler; but this humanization “banalizes both the man and the context of his actions.” Indeed Schindler’s Jews forge him a ring of gratitude. They were grateful until the end of their days, but the weeping scene from the end of the movie transforms it from a documentary like production into a Hollywood drama, and Hollywood’s business is entertainment, giving hope and showing the optimistic view of the Shoah. Thomas Keneally, the author of the book that inspired the movie, made another choice for success; his interest in the Talmudic verse “whoever saves one life saves the world entire,” reflects the “universalist value of liberal Judaism” as Peter Novick points out.  The same line, which became meanwhile the motto of the film, is engraved in the ring forged by the Schindler’s Jews, and provokes Oskar’s breakdown: he could have sold his car and buy more lives he cries, he could have saved two more people only with his Nazi emblem. I believe that this was not a necessary scene. What should the audience understand from Oskar’s speech? That a Jew was worth half from a gold Nazi emblem? Or that he could have been even a better person because he could have saved 1.102 Jews instead of 1.100? Schindler’s breakdown aims actually to touch the feelings of the audience, and, most likely, increase box-office success at the same time.
By no means “the rescue of the Schindler Jews is a matter of luck and gamble rather than melodramatic coincidence.” Not every German businessman saved Jews, 6 millions Jews were not so lucky as Schindler’s Jews, so there was no need, in my opinion, for this fairy tale optimistic end. Especially because a few moments later the shift into image shows us the cruel reality in numbers: Schindler has saved 1.100 Jews, but there are only four thousands Jews remaining in Poland today and the movie is dedicated “to the memory of more than 6 million Jews who died during this years.” The lines in the end of the movie remind us that what we have seen so far is not characteristic, and that most of the Jews died. And there was nothing optimistic in their deaths. Also the effect these numbers might have upon the audience is that of relief, relief that we were on the other side of the screen, that we were not one of the 6 million that died, that we are survivors in a way. With this end we actually have an optimistic vision as Sue Vice also points out in her book Holocaust Fiction:
Schindler’s List is situated in the fraught territory of seeing the Holocaust as allegory, or heading towards that of the play The Diary of Anne Frank, which suggests that even in terrible circumstances human goodness shines through. 
The last scenes of the movie could indeed lead to some prosaic confessions as Sara R. Horowitz notices in her essay “But Is It Good for Jews? Spielberg’s Schindler and the Aesthetics of Atrocity”: “Schindler’s List made me a better person” as Oprah Winfrey was saying, “Now I know it really happened” – a woman exiting a cinema showing Schindler’s List; or that after seeing Spielberg’s representation of the Holocaust one rabbi confessed that now he “could finally mourn.” But the questions still remain; how can a movie make us better? Acknowledging that the Holocaust happened means that we suddenly became better people? If Schindler’s Jews were the victims, Oskar was the perpetrator, what are we, those who believe that seeing a movie could transform us in better persons? Bystanders?
For sure Oskar Schindler’s story could have been adapted differently, Spielberg’s is only one interpretation. Even if the movie was criticized because it presents the Holocaust only from the perspective of the saviour, of the Nazi businessman that had “the freedom of choice” because he was the one who decided which Jew he will save, the merits of Schindler’s List are many, because through it we can understand how come one person can make a difference, and why a man like Oskar Schindler, a Nazi businessman represented for his Jews the life, the future.
In one of his last interviews Ladislau Grun, a survivor from Auschwitz-Birkenau and Kaufernig – Dachau, was saying that even if he did not agree with Holocaust representations in movies, he always considered that it is better to acknowledge Shoah like this rather than never finding out that it happened. Ladislau Grun was saying that probably no film, no novel, no piece of art can help us to understand completly how was the Holocaust possible, but as long as art can help us understand that the extermination of the Jews happened for real, its merits are enormous.
Hollywood is aiming for the money; European film market is more interested in producing art. Hollywood is not an international industry, it belongs to Americans; Europe has its own film market, which owes nothing to Hollywood. It is easy to create these oppositional statements because the so-called “battle” between Europe and Hollywood has been the subject of hundred of essays, books, and scholarly works. I am interested in this section of my thesis in the representation of the Holocaust in two European movies, and to compare the treatment the Holocaust receives with my assessment of selected American movies. The historical event, of course, has been widely presented in European movies whether they were French, Dutch, Hungarian, Polish or some other nations’ films. As such, they show the Holocaust from a totally different standpoint than the American one.
This chapter will take a look at the Italian film industry, more exactly at two of its most famous productions, which deal with the Holocaust from a totally different angle than noted earlier. Lina Wertmuller’s Seven Beauties (1975) and La Vita e Bella (1997) directed by Roberto Benigni, use a taboo “ingredient” in presenting Shoah – humour. Can the Holocaust be funny? Can this kind of movies be valuable, convincing, morally serious or aesthetically justifiable? Should the comic reflex come into being also in such cruel moments? Although happiness and laughter may come in the most unexpected situations, this cannot be the only justification for the filmmakers’ preference to use humour in a very specific manner, time and circumstance. Rather than being “only” outrageous Seven Beauties and La Vita e Bella show human behaviours deeply marked and investigated by artistic intelligence; we can even say that they pay tribute to some of the deepest impulses in the civilization. And because on the other side of the ocean the Holocaust movie with the biggest impact was Schindler’s List, and because Spielberg tried to represent the Holocaust as real as possible rather then inventing, I will use this film as counterpart in analyzing the two Italians movies.
4.1 Seven Beauties
Seven Beauties (1975), Lina Wertmuller’s bizarre comedy drama is one of the most controversial movies about the Holocaust, being extremely provocative in its images of concentration camps and in its technique of using broad humour. Seven Beauties provides a truly incomparable treatment of such a serious theme as the Holocaust is, in a satirical tragicomic manner.
Giancarlo Giannini plays Pasqualino, a Napolitano dandy known as Seven Beauties, which, according to him, is because of the effect he has on women: he may not be attractive, but the ladies like him however. Seven Beauties is also the ironic name given to his seven unattractive sisters. The moment we meet Pasqualino, he is a deserter from the Italian army during World War II. Together with Francesco, another Italian fugitive, he witnesses Nazi soldiers executing a group of Jews in a forest and they fear that they will be killed next if caught. This is the moment when Lina Wertmuller introduces the flashbacks technique, previously used by Sidney Lumet in The Pawnbroker. Here as well we get to know Pasqualino’s past through these flashbacks. We find out that he hates killings, but recalls a time before the war when he had to do it as well; he had to take a life himself in order to save the honour of his family. This was in the time when he lived in Naples as a small time crook, living off the hard work of his mother and seven ugly sisters. One of his sisters is seduced by a Mafia boss, who persuades her to become a prostitute and amateur “dancer” by promising that he will marry her. Pasqualino - faithful to the family's strict code of honour - murders the boss and in order to cover his deeds dismembers him and mails pieces of the man all over Italy. The scene is one of the most comical murder scenes filmed, designed to underscore the foolishness of Pasqualino’s concept of honour as well as his profoundly cowardly nature. For his bad luck he is arrested and thrown into an asylum. While there he rapes an inmate and he is put to electrical shocks. His only salvation is to go to war, so he is sent to fight on the Eastern Front. His luck though seems to have abandoned him, because after deserting he is caught by the Nazis and put in a concentration camp.
Seven Beauties is a very bizarre movie, with much unpredictable and dark humour, in a way characteristic of that period for the Italian cinema. But the most controversial scenes are to come. As any other death camp, the unnamed one where Pasqualino ends up is a hell on Earth, coloured in shades of grey, in an apocalyptic way. The feelings the audience get is that this place is a factory of death, which is what the prisoners believe also. Yet Pasqualino decides he will survive, and in order to live he is ready to do whatever it takes, even seducing the female kommandant, an obese, ugly Nazi officer. And here it comes the film's most famous scene in which Pasqualino seduces the warden, kissing her fleshy body, in a desperate attempt to arouse her and himself. But life, and the concentration camp, has been cruel to Pasqualino, and before he can, as the commandant says, “reach the end of his performance,” she has to feed him. She understands, despite his protestations, that his attempt is driven by the need for food and by his desire to live: “First you eat, then you fuck,” she says. “If you don't fuck, then kaput.” Pasqualino survives, crawling up on the commandant’s enormous body; soon after, now one of the camp’s kapos, “he plunges into the very bottom of degradation by shooting his best friend in the head in order to demonstrate his loyalty to the Germans,” so that he can survive. Returning to Naples he finds out that all he did and suffered in order to maintain the honour of his family was useless. Actually all what he did was ridiculous from the beginning, and Wertmuller’s point is that the machismo of Pasqualino is a mask for his stupidity, violence and cowardice. Pasqualino discovers that not only his seven sisters, but also his mother and even his girl friend, wearing lipstick and shoes with red bows, have survived the war just fine in his absence. The movie ends with the short dialogue between Pasqualino and his mother, she tells him “Don't think about the past—you're alive.” He answers, slowly, sadly, “Yes, I'm alive.”
We are left wondering what is the point of this film, how to asses its fun, its grotesque incidents, its sarcastic tone and its tragic context. Wertmuller succeeds in combining all these, all in order to present Pasqualino’s desperate survival instincts. But not only this, Wertmuller is brilliant in directing this movie, because in many cases the audience feels manipulated enough to hate Pasqualino, but at the same time admiring his stubborn will to stay alive; you want him to win but the reality stresses that is quite possible he may not and that he should not because of his terrible absence of ethnical principle (the cowardly, accidental murder of the Mafia boss, the rape of the bound patient, the grotesque seduction, the murder of his friend) in order to physically survive. Still is true, that time and time again we are given enough reason to despise him, and by the end of the movie he is despising his own actions too.
Seven Beauties is certain one of the most controversial movies about Shoah, and maybe not only because it looks at this event from a comic perspective, but also because the humour goes further, ending quite often in the grotesque vision of a world of depravity. But it is war, it is hell, and Pasqualino's degradation in the name of survival is quite understandable and at the same time reprehensible. His deeds are wholly selfish and, as Richard Astle notices, “the most notable absence in this film is the total lack of collective resistance,” collective action I would add. This sets the film very far apart from Benigni’s, for Guido in La Vita e Bella is doing all to enable his son to survive, Paqualino thinks only about himself. Early in the movie, before the first flashback to pre-war Naples, Francesco and Pasqualino are wandering through Germany and come upon an systematic genocide scene, but run away. “We're guilty too,” says later Francesco, “we didn't say anything or try to stop them, but Pasqualino answers, “that would have been suicide.” No action, just his own concern to survive. But “life is not worth the price Pasqualino pays,” says Peter Bondanella, reflected also by the deeds of “those camp inmates who rebel and are killed rather than submit to the Nazi system.” The same idea is reflected in the final scene of the movie when “Pasqualino’s haggard face convincingly suggests that some values are more vital to human existence than survival.” We might laugh, because Paqualino’s gestures and language are sometimes incredible funny, but we might also feel guilty that we do, but humour is in Seven Beauties only the background for tragedy, for incommensurable grief, created from a combination of comic and tragic moods. Most tellingly, Wertmuller is striking back at the heart of the most common and important conceptions of comedy: that in its purest form it proposes a world where life defeats death.
What is also interesting about this movie is that Wertmuller constructs the story around an antihero, Pasqualino is for sure not a typical “hero”. Her choice is even more controversial because Pasqualino is not a Jew, and even if the Holocaust was not strictly Jewish, Pasqualino is “an Italian who becomes a ‘Jew’” as Omer Bartov puts it. And what better example of a victim than a Jew:
The best way to expose and shake up Pasqualino – a simultaneously likable and detestable character – is to turn him, the quintessential Neapolitan macho, into a ‘Jew’ in a Nazi camp, the ultimate example of the non-human.
By putting Pasqualino in a Nazi camp, Lina Wertmuller reduces him to the lowest condition, and sends the movie in extreme. Seven Beauties provides for sure unique treatment of such a serious theme as the Holocaust. And if comparing Harlem with a concentration camp was considered outrageous, for sure Lina Wertmuller’s representation of the Holocaust was even more scandalous. But her intelligent way of operating with flashbacks, juxtaposing bitterly funny incidents in Naples with the atrocities of the Nazis in the concentration camps in a satirical tragic-comic manner, end up in a marvellous, original movie that owes nothing to the previous Hollywood productions.
4.2 La Vita e Bella vs. Schindler’s List
“This is a simple story, and yet it’s not easy to tell” – the voiceover narrator is telling us in the beginning of one of the most controversial movies about the Holocaust, La Vita e Bella. This must be one of the many stories Primo Levi was talking about, “a sorrowful, cruel and moving story” though “simple and incomprehensible like the stories in the Bible.” But still this story is different, not because the events are apart, but because this movie, the product of Italian comic Roberto Benigni, is unique combination of comedy and tragedy, of laughter and tears. La Vita e Bella is not just a tragicomedy, but it is first comic and then tragic, a perfect symmetry.
La Vita e Bella is, as shown before, not the first attempt of this type in the Italian cinema. In 1975 Lina Wertmuller’s Seven Beauties generated almost as many discussions as Benigni’s movie. Of course the movies were criticized from different points of view, but still they dared to approach the Holocaust in a comic manner. Seven Beauties was for sure much darker than La Vita e Bella, and maybe more plausible for some critics, and that’s why the film was not really castigated for having made fun of the Holocaust.
La Vita e Bella starts like a typical Benigni comedy, with a sequence that features a runaway car and a mistaken identity, with a prince who encounters his princess. For the next forty-five minutes the production seems just a romantic comedy set in Fascist Italy, with Guido (Roberto Benigni) trying to charm a pretty girl, Dora (Nicoletta Braschi). Seeing the first half one might ask if one went into the wrong movie theatre, if this is indeed a movie about the Holocaust, although there are enough clues that warn us about the drama from the second half.
Fifty minutes into Life is Beautiful, there is a transition, a subtle moment which shifts the comedy to the serious. It is now 1944, and Guido and Dora have a five year-old son, Giosue. The Second World War is in its final days, but the Jewish Italian families like Guido's are the subjects of cruel persecutions. One day, the police break into Guido's house and take him and his son into custody. Dora, his non-Jewish wife, chooses to go with them. They are put in a cattle train, and taken to a nameless concentration camp. Guido is well aware of what is going on there and is determined to save his son no matter what this would imply. He carefully constructs a fantasy around Giosue, telling him that these are all parts of an elaborated game. The object is to get 1.000 points; the winner gets a real tank. The rules are changing every day, but Guido succeeds in convincing Giosue that this is indeed a game, which they will finally win – Giosue gets his tank, he meets his mum, but Guido dies just before the end of the game.
This could be in a few lines the summary of the film, but the plot is much more complicated. Every detail is extremely well thought, nothing is accidental in this story, and most of the time the innocent jokes hide a cruel reality. Benigni creates a perfect symmetry; we can not talk about pure comedy or about true tragedy. The film can indeed be divided in two parts, the first one the love-story between Guido and Dora, and the second one the war story, first comic, the second one tragic. But is not that simple, because Benigni gives us clues about the tragic end even from the first scenes of the movies, he lets us draw parallels with the Fascism right away: Guido’s gesture in the brakeless car “Via! Via!” is mistaken with the Fascist salute and Guido is confused with the king. Mussolini’s imperial doctrine is caricaturized in Guido’s empire – Addis Ababa, an empire with camels and ostriches. One of the most important events in the first part, Dora’s engagement takes place in Grand Hotel, symbol of Italy’s efforts to enter modernity. Benigni/Guido is a master of language, and this allows him to deliver a brilliant, caricaturized Fascist discourse about race. All these small details resemble actually the tragedy from the second part. But the transition between the two parts is smoothly made: Guido and Dora disappear in the greenhouse, in Paradise, for their first night of love, and in a few seconds we see Giosue emerging from the same greenhouse as symbol of their love. But Giosue is playing with a tank, sign that everything is about to change. A little bit further in the second part when we are already in the camp, another transitional detail catches our attention: during a selection Guido encounters Dr. Lessing, a carryover from the first part, his German guest with whom Guido was exchanging riddles. We first think that Guido has found his savior, and that maybe we have in Lessing the “Good Nazi”, his very own Oskar Schindler. But Dr. Lessing is preoccupied just by an unsolved riddle, and not by Guido’s fate or that of his family. But this is not the only link between the two parts of the movie, Benigni being extremely careful with the details. With La Vita e Bella we are in front of a perfect mixture between humor and grief, combination that stays with us from the first to the last line. Giosue happily claims in the end of the movie “abbiamo vinto,” and is true, they got the thousands points and he got the promised tank. Giosue is victorious in the arms of his mother, but Guido paid the price for this liberation moment.
La Vita e Bella has been widely criticized, mostly for the lack of authenticity: the movie was described as "a blasphemy," and another critic underlines that "the Holocaust misrepresentations of Life Is Beautiful [are] unforgivably obscene," or La Vita e Bella together with Schindler’s List “made mass extermination safe for mass consumption." It is true, La Vita e Bella fails the test of authenticity, the cruel reality is almost never explicitly presented, we hardly see any atrocities (except maybe the scene when Guido is walking with Giosue in his arms through the “fog”, which proves to be the smoke from the incineration of the bodies), and the only Nazis we see are caricaturized and reduced in intelligence and compasion. But those who criticize it from this perspective forget one essential issue, art about the Holocaust is just art – it is not, and never can be, the actual thing, and it does not pretend to be something else than a movie. “To condemn La Vita e Bella on the basis of its alteration of the facts,” Gefen Baron argues, “is to assume that art’s role in relation to history is to document, to give a human face to events in order to inform the public about them.” Benigni expects us to go to the theatre with at least basic knowledge about the Holocaust, because this is a story of survival, this is a story of love and commitment.
La Vita e Bella has proved to have an overwhelming effect upon the audience. While Schindler’s List, another controversial movie, is criticized and at the same time appreciated for its documentary appealing and shocks with his real-like images, Benigni’s film touches different feelings. For example in Schindler’s List we witness Jews’ deportation and a few moments later we face the cruel reality: this is no relocation, this is a death sentence, and all their possessions are collected and sorted including thousands of photos, jewellery, paintings, gold, silver, and maybe one of the most terrifying images, thousands of golden teeth. We see nothing from all these in La Vita e Bella, but we hear Guido’s ironic laughter when Giosue is telling him that “They make buttons and soap out of us.” By mocking his son’s stories, Guido betrays the cruel reality:
GIOSUE: They make buttons and soap out of us.
GUIDO: Giosue, what are you talking about?
GIOSUE: They cook us in the ovens.
GUIDO: Who told you that?
GIOSUE: A man was crying and he said they make buttons and soap out of us.
GUIDO: Joshua! You fell for it again! And here I thought you were a sharp kid! He smiles. Buttons and soap. Right. And tomorrow morning I'm washing my hands with Bartholomew and buttoning my jacket with Francesco and my vest with Claudio . . . He is laughing as he pulls a button off his jacket and lets it fall to the floor.
GUIDO: Uh-oh, Giorgio fell off! He picks up the button and puts it in his pocket.
GUIDO: They make buttons out of people? What else?
GIOSUE: They cook us in ovens! Guido stares at him and laughs.
GUIDO (laughing) They cook us in ovens? I've heard of a wood-burning oven, but I never heard of a people-burning oven. Oh, I'm out of wood, pass me that lawyer over there! No, that lawyer's no good, he's not dry! Come on Joshua, get with it! Let's get serious now. Tomorrow morning there's a sack race with the bad guys, and you.
What we see here is a “real” perception of the horror, because by naming their fellow inmates in the barracks and then hypothetically turning them into instruments of civilized toilette, Guido is proving to his son the absurdity of the Nazis’ methods. What we see here is not unconscious laughter, is not just irony, and for sure is not denial as many named it. On the contrary, we are asked to link our historical knowledge (because people indeed were transformed in “button and soap”) with the actual act of making soap, buttons, bars, belts, out of human body so that we are reminded of the Nazis’ atrocities at the same time that Guido is laughing at them.
Representing the reality exactly as it was is impossible; first because no matter how good a script is, no matter how talented an actor or a director is, a movie can’t show real life; secondly such a reality is actually not desirable because of the likelihood of alienating and audience; who wants to see exactly that cruel reality? Guido is dragging Giosue and us into a game, into a fable, into a comedy about surviving. How harmful can these normal human feelings be? Omer Bartov notices that indeed, maybe
“neither love, even the most intense and self-sacrificial, nor humour, however crazy and infectious, is known to have actually saved anyone in the Holocaust. But love and humour are among the most human of all qualities, and devotion to saving the soul of a child is the most notable of all sacrifices.”
Further, in the comparison between the two movies, Schindler’s List is the story of the Jews while La Vita e Bella is the story of a Jew and his son – this is another central difference between the two movies. Janice Wendi Fernheimer talks about the “depersonalization and dehumanization” of the victims in Schindler’s List, while La Vita e Bella is a personalized story that allows the audience to identify with the hero. The first part of Benigni’s fable allows us to know the characters, we saw them falling in love, playing, we’ve been there when the prince took his princess on the white horse, and their story in the camp becomes much more personalized. On the other hand, in Schindler’s List we hardly get to know anything about the victims, the most we know is about Stern – he is a very talented bookkeeper. But this is the “distance” required by the documentary like movie, by the historical realism. Both approaches have their disadvantages. By applying the rule of “historical realism”, Schindler’s List leaves place for discussions about its fictionality, while on the other hand La Vita e Bella’s opens itself to criticism about its factuality.
No doubt both movies break the rules, and go further than the previous representations of the Holocaust. But what I am concerned about in this thesis, is how can this “breaking” influence the perception of the Holocaust, which is the danger, if there is any, the public is exposed to. Both movies require from us at least a basic knowledge of the Holocaust, so expecting that these movies will provide us the historical truth, is wrong from the start, because as discussed before, this is not the goal of art. While Spielberg’s representation of the Holocaust allows discussions about the role of history in fictionalized pieces of art, Benigni’s movie opens another series of different arguments questioning whether or not a fable can give voice to such an important historical event as the Holocaust. Schindler’s List may indeed be mistaken with a “history-lesson” movie, but against its documentary style, it remains a fiction movie. In the same time La Vita e Bella lacks exactly this truthfulness that Spielberg is trying to give us, and by domesticating the horror of the Holocaust we are closer to the person but further from the reality. Maybe there is no one right choice here, nobody can solve this “battle” between fact and fiction, but the reconciliation might be found in a serious acknowledgment: Holocaust representations in art are not history, and no movie can ever give us the “historical truth” that we will find in the history books, documents etc.
The systematic killing of the European Jews has gained its place as one of the most important and catastrophic events in history, reflected also in the attention that this event has drawn. The uniqueness of this episode in the history has been widely discussed and most of the people agree that the Holocaust was “an event at the limits.” Naturally, such an important experience found its place in scholarly writings and discussions, films, television programs, musical compositions, plays, photography, and internet materials. Sixty years after the end of the War World II questions concerning the ethnical and artistic representation of the Holocaust continue to be discussed and argued about.
What I have tried to examine in this paper is whether or not the cinema can modify our vision of the Holocaust. This issue generated in the last few decades intensive debates among scholars, especially between historians and media scholars. The main controversy concerns the function of the cinema, whether or not it is a form of expression suitable for conveying history, one that can bring historical subjects closer to our understanding.
One conclusion that can be reached is obvious: that cinema and art in general are different from history, and no matter how real a movie is, is not reality and is not aiming to be considered as so. Even when is based on a real fact the movie can not reveal exactly the reality of the Nazi camps, and, as noted above, this is not the porpoise of art anyway. What art may do is to reveal a “different kind of truth”, one that provides insight into the emotional (non-factual) side of the Holocaust experience. By telling us what the Holocaust felt like for its victims, its survivors, and its later generations, we are able to know the Holocaust in another way than is provided in a book of historical description and explanation.
Still, most artists, that is filmmakers together with playwrights, novelists, poets and television screenwriters have skilfully mixed fact and fiction in order to create a certain type of representation of the Holocaust. Most are reluctant to remove their art from the historical context that gave the art its origin. Perhaps for this reason, their role has been widely contrasted, even confused with the role played by historians, and many times their movies (not the documentaries) have been taken to task for the accuracy of their reality. Schindler’s List is maybe the best example. Considered by many a documentary-like movie, Schindler’s List remains a piece of art, and should not be taken as a piece of history. We talk in this case about a special characteristic of the popular culture, who has sometimes the ability to provide in the same time entertainment and historical understanding, both fact and fiction. But, as I have already mentioned before, Schindler’s List is the kind of movie that includes some historical background for a fuller, more complete understanding. It is the case of the other movies presented here, because none of them can stand as an authentic historical document, and I am sure none was created in that sense.
Surely all the movies presented here had a big influence in the decade of their release, each of them painted the Holocaust in different ways: The Diary of Anne Frank, the story of a 14 year-old-girl trapped in a war she can hardly understand in the beginning, but still finds the power to believe in goodness; The Pawnbroker, concerned with the inner struggles of a Holocaust survivor; Schindler's List, the story of an amoral businessman who turns out to be a saviour of 1.200 Jews; Seven Beauties – a dark comedy about survival at any price; La Vita e Bella, a film that represents the Holocaust in a comic way in order to touch upon the themes of anti-Semitism and survival, but without being superficial.
Can art/films shape the perception of the Holocaust? Obviously yes, and obviously art is influenced as well in the same time by different factors, social, economical, and political, characteristic in the period the movie was created. Many see no danger in this mutual influence; even survivors as we have seen before consider that although a movie can’t reveal the Nazi Holocaust as it really happened, is better to acknowledge the Shoah like this rather than never dealing with it. The danger that might appear in this case concerns those who take the films as history, because this could lead to a different form of denial the Holocaust. For example, if Anne, who was evidently a victim, could still believe in the goodness of the people, maybe her fate was not so cruel after all. If Oskar Schindler saved 1.100 Jews maybe every Nazi businessman saved his Jewish employees. Or if Giosue survived, maybe many more Jewish kids survived the cruel conditions from a death camp, and we should thus see in the Holocaust an optimistic conclusion. To be sure, these statements are extreme expressions of a misunderstood condition, but, in the near future, because there will be no survivors left to tell the real story, and if one considers a movie as part of the history, then these exaggerations could take on some credibility.
Another issue raised in this research was to ask if art is capable to help us understand better how such a hideous and enormous crime as the Holocaust happened. Probably no two people will agree about what a better understanding is, but we will find some kind of answer in art, in history, and in the stories of the survivors, as long as we expect neither uniformity or fixed ideology from the responses, and as long as the effort is made with integrity and a commitment to honestly carrying on the search for a partial understanding of the human side of the catastrophe. Yes, the Nazis spoke of the cruel reality of the death camp, as: “Hier ist kein warum,” and as Primo Levi noticed in Survival in Auschwitz that “to destroy a man is difficult, almost as difficult as to create one: it has not been easy, nor quick, but you Germans have succeeded.” But survivors and artists (and some who were both) have been able to create a reality that is neither nihilistic nor entirely tragic, and the movies under discussion show a wide spectrum of belief and intention.
The Diary of Anne Frank would seem to contain the most positive message from all the movies presented here, shown to us in a realistic and obvious declaration of human innocence and vitality that fit well into the needs of the western world in the 1950s. Schindler’s deeds reveal the image of an indifferent German businessman moving toward goodness, perhaps a necessary re-evaluation of Germans and Christians for the 1990s, when the Shoah was again receiving intense scrutiny and controversy. Wermuller’s movie, Seven Beauties, is maybe the most difficult to align with the others, because she seems to want to give more attention to Italian Patriarchal fascism than to the Holocaust. But her observations contain truth and wise, if cynical, examination. Sydney’s Lumet film surely influenced how survivors were seen in the America in the early 1960s, when their stories of survival were hardly mentioned publicly. And Begnini’s film, rather than weaken the Shoah’s claim on our attention through its comic approach, heightens the sadness and pain we feel about the death of millions as only tragicomedy can.
Finally, the challenge remains. Others continue to attempt to find understanding of the Shoah through film, as well artists should. For the arts tell us about ourselves, the good and the bad, as much as they tell us about history. We will want to know how the Holocaust was possible, and to learn something from the artistic facts in addition to the historical facts. Whether or not there are answers to our questions, it may be found playing at our local theatres.
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1. La Vita e Bella, Roberto Begnini, Miramax, 1997
2. Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg, Universal, 1993
3. Seven Beauties, Lina Wertmuller, 1975
4. The Diary of Anne Frank, George Stevens, 1959
5. The Pawnbroker, Sydney Lumet, 1964
 Ladislau Grun was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Kaufernig – Dachau when he was 14 years old. Ladislau was just a normal kid until the beginning of May 1944 when he was put in a cattle train heading for the German concentration camps, with his mother, father and sister and the entire 10,000-strong Jewish community of Targu- Mures, Romania. Released after two years, Ladislau weighed just 32 kg. On returning to Targu - Mures he discovered his mother and almost the entire Jewish community had been murdered. But he used to say: “I have managed to rebuild my life. I married and have two children. But at the same time we should never forget. Most from Auschwitz couldn't talk about it without crying. But I resolved to talk, not to forget. I will never forget how my father saved my life when he told the Germans I was 17 and that I was a carpenter, someone who could be of use to them. I won't forget that they murdered my mother because they thought she was an old woman, her hair having turned grey on the train to Dachau. And I won't forget my number ... 72045.” Parts of his testimony will be found also in this paper. Ladislau Grun passed away a few months ago.
 Donald Margulies, The Model Apartment in The Theatre of the Holocaust, edited by Robert Skloot, The University of Wisconsin Press, 245
 Sue Vice, Holocaust Fiction, New York, Routledge, 2000, 95
 Vice, ibid, 1
 Michael R. Marrus, The Holocaust in History, New England, University Press of New England, 1987, XIII
 Marrus, ibid, 2
 Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz. Touchstone Book, 1996, 123
 Marrus, ibid, 3
 Most of the historical dates were provided by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Web and the Holocaust Encyclopaedia, available on World Wide Web at: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/. Other information were provided by About Library, available on World Wide Web at:
 The treaty was signed on June 28th 1919 and it represented the peace settlement signed after World War One. Germany had to give up to a part of its military troupes, lost most of the colonies and had to pay huge amount of money as war damages.
 Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf – excerpt from The Holocaust - a reader edited by Simone Gigliotti and Berel Lang. blackwell Publishing 2005, 82
 Robert Jay Lifton is a visiting professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Hospital and a former distinguished professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Graduate School University Center and director of The Center on Violence and Human Survival at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at The City University of New York. He is well known for his studies regarding Nazi Doctors, Hiroshima survivors, and Vietnam War experience and Vietnam veterans.
 Marrus, ibid, 51
 Marus, ibid, 47
 Marrus, ibid, 48
 Simone Gigliotti and Berel Lang, The Holocaust - a reader, blackwell Publishing 2005, Nuremberg Law for the Protection of the German Blood and of the German Honour, 82
 Gigliotti, idem
 Marrus, ibid, 48
 Raul Hilberg, “Ghetto Formation”, in The Holocaust - a reader edited by Simone Gigliotti and Berel Lang. blackwell Publishing 2005, 139
 The head of the Department for Jewish Affairs in the Gestapo from 1941 to 1945 and the chief of operations in the deportation of approximately three million Jews to extermination camps
 Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda
 Deborah Lipstadt, Denying the Holocaust. A Plume Book, New York, 1994, 50
 Radu Balas and Kocsis Francisko, 370 de Zile de Teroare, Fundatia Cronos, Tg.-Mures, 2003, 15 (personal translation)
 Balas, ibid, 19
 Marrus, ibid, 53
 Primo Levi, "The Memory of Offense," in Geoffrey H. Hartman, ed., Bitburg in Moral and Political Perspective, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986, 130
 Levi, Survival. 65
 Irving Howe, “Writing and the Holocaust” in Berel Lang (ed) Writing and the Holocaust, New York, Homes and Meier, 1988, 27
 Norman G. Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry. Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. Verson, London, 2000, 45
 Philip Hallie, “Scepticism, narrative, and Holocaust ethnics” in The Philosophical Forum. Volume XVI, Nos. 1-2, Fall- Winter, 1984 – 85, 44
 Hallie, ibid, 48
 Saul Friedlander, Probing the Limits of Representation; Nazism and the “Final Solution”. Cambridge University Press, 1992, 6
 Howe, ibid, 28
 idem, 30
 Levi, Survival, 160
 Howe, ibid, 30
 Peter Novick, The Holocaust in American Life. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston – New York, 1999, 117
 Judith E. Doneson, “The American History of Anne Frank’s Diary”, in The Holocaust in American Film, 2nd ed. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2002, 149
 Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl. Bantam Books, New York, 1993, 207
 Alvin H Rosenfeld, “Anne Frank and the Future of Holocaust Memory” in Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Annual Lecture, 14 October, 2004, 8
 Doneson, ibid, 153
 Bruno Bettelheim, “The Ignored Lesson of Anne Frank”, Harper’s Magazine, November 1960
 idem, 250
 idem, 251
 Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, The Diary of Anne Frank, Dramatists Play Service, New York, 1986, 101
 Rosenfeld, ibid, 5
 Doneson, ibid, 110
 Posters available on World Wide Web at: http://www.imdb.com
 Wendy Zierler, "My Holocaust Is Not Your Holocaust: "Facing" black and Jewish Experience in The Pawnbroker, Higher Ground, and The Nature of Blood”, Holocaust and Genocide Studies - Volume 18, Number 1, Spring 2004, pp. 46-67, Project Muse
 Omer Bartov, The “Jew” in Cinema. From The Golem to Don’t Touch My Holocaust, Indiana University Press, 2005, 98
 Bartov, ibid, 96
 Doneson, ibid, 112
 Bartov, ibid, 97
 Doneson, idem
 Bartov, ibid, 98
 Posters available on World Wide Web at: http://www.imdb.com/
 Barbie Zelizer, “Every Once in a While. Schindler’s List and the Shaping of History” in Spielberg’s Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler's List edited by Yosefa Loshitzky, Indiana University Press, 1997, 18
 Schindler’s List can easily constitute the theme of a separate thesis
 Zelizer, ibid, 26
 Omer Bartov, “Spielberg’s Oskar. Hollywood Tries Evil” in Spielberg’s Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler's List edited by Yosefa Loshitzky, Indiana University Press, 1997, 45
 Bartov, ibid, 45
 The traditional version speaks about “whoever saves one life of Israel” as Peter Novick notices in his book The Holocaust in American Life
 Novick, The Holocaust in American Life. 183
 Miriam Hansen Bratu, “Schindler’s List is not Shoah. Second Commandment, Popular Modernism, and Public Memory” in Spielberg’s Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler's List edited by Yosefa Loshitzky, Indiana University Press, 1997, 82
 In the end of the movie we are offered a few statistical information
 Schindler’s List, director Steven Spielberg, Universal, 1993
 Vice, Holocaust Fiction, 95
 Sara R. Horowitz, “But Is It Good for Jews? Spielberg’s Schindler and the Aesthetics of Atrocity” in Spielberg’s Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler's List edited by Yosefa Loshitzky, Indiana University Press, 1997, 119
 Vice, ibid, 97
 Interview with Ladislau Grun realized by Dana Ardelean, 10 April 2005, Tirgu-Mures, Romania, in possession of the author. Personal translation
 See the dedication of this thesis
 Grun always believed that a movie remains a piece of art, and no matter how talented the actors are, no matter how elevate are the skills of the director, nobody can reproduce exactly the atmosphere from the death camps.
 This constituted also the subject of my own mid – term essay for the course Introduction to American Studies; “Hollywood vs. Europe?” in possession of the author
 Wertmuller’s favourite actor, they worked together frequently (The Seduction of Mimi, Swept Away)
 Wertmuller, Seven Beauties, 1975
 Bartov, The Jew in Cinema, 69
 Lipstick and shoes with red bows were the proof that they prostitute themselves to American soldiers
 Wertmuller, idem
 Richard Astle, Seven Beauties, Survival, Lina-style”, from Jump Cut, no. 15, 1977, pp. 22-23
 Wertmuller, Lina, idem
 Peter Bondanella, Italian Cinema. From Neorealism to the Present. New Expanded Edition, A Frederick Ungar Book, Continuum, New York, 1996, 362
 idem, 362-363
 idem, 365
 Bartov, The Jew in Cinema, 70
 See the previous chapter – The Pawnbroker
 Roberto Benigni, La Vita e Bella, Miramax, 1997
 Levi, Survival. 65
 Out of the way
 We won
 The English title of the movie
 Gerald Peary, Life is Beautiful review in The Boston Phoenix, quoted in “Life Is Beautiful: Reception, Allegory, and Holocaust Laughter” by Maurizio Viano, Jewish Social Studies - Volume 5, Number 3, Spring/Summer 1999 (New Series), pp. 47-66, Project Muse
 J. Hoberman, in Voice, quoted in “Life Is Beautiful: Reception, Allegory, and Holocaust Laughter” by Maurizio Viano, Jewish Social Studies - Volume 5, Number 3, Spring/Summer 1999 (New Series), pp. 47-66, Project Muse
 Gefen Baron, “Benigni’s life-affirming lie: Life is Beautiful as an aesthetic and moral response to the Holocaust” in Beyond Life is Beautiful. Comedy and Tragedy in the Cinema of Roberto Benigni edited by Grace Russo Bullaro, Troubador Publishing Ltd, Uk, 2005, 182
 Baron, idem
 Bartov, The Jew in Cinema, 123
 Janice Wendi Fernheimer, “Breaking the Commandments of Holocaust Representation? Conflicting Genre Expectations in Audience Responses to Schindler’s List and Life is Beautiful” in Beyond Life is Beautiful. Comedy and Tragedy in the Cinema of Roberto Benigni edited by Grace Russo Bullaro, Troubador Publishing Ltd, Uk, 2005, 313
 The white horse painted in green for being a Jewish horse
 Fernheimer, ibid, 318
 Friedlander, ibid, 3
 Levi, Survival in Auschwitz. 28
 Levi, ibid, 150