Past Programs & Events

Feb 4, 2014


1967/1988, dir. Alexander Askoldov, 110 min

One of the most striking films of Khrushchev's Thaw, Commissar was banned in the Soviet Union for its expression of overt sympathy for the Jews who were persecuted during the Russian Civil War. The most controversial part of the film is a scene depicting the future Holocaust to come, as envisioned by a Russian commissar woman. Askoldov's brilliant cinematography, influenced by Soviet masters of the silent film, uses subjective camera to create arresting black-and-white images that made Commissar into one of the best known Soviet masterpieces.  Introduced and discussed by Olga Gershenson, author of “The Phantom Holocaust.”

Nov 19, 2013

Goodbye, Boys

1964/1966, dir. Mikhail Kalik

In the lazy summer days of the late 1930s, three teenage friends roam the streets of the small Russian seaside town as their youth slips away and World War II looms. The boys, one of whom is Jewish, optimistically look forward to their military careers, getting away from overprotective parents, and becoming heroes. However, in the course of the film, it becomes clear to us that the inexperienced idealists will be sent off to the front lines where they will encounter horror and tragedy. To tell this story, Mikhail Kalik a filmmaker of Goodbye, Boys!, used excerpts from other films, fictional and documentary, to function as flash-forwards to the war and the Holocaust. In Western Holocaust films flashbacks are common for depicting trauma, but flash-forward was Kalik’s remarkable innovation.  Introduced and discussed by Olga Gershenson, author of “The Phantom Holocaust.”

Oct 17, 2013

School Pictures in Liquid Time Assimilation, Exclusion, Resistance


Photographs of school classes appear very early in the history of photography and are pervasive in individual and family albums throughout the world.  Despite their ubiquity as potent media for recall and memorialization, class photos have received little critical attention.  This talk examines the ideological deployment as well as the historical, memorial, and aesthetic dimensions of class photographs as a vernacular genre.  Reflecting specifically at the process of exclusion of Jews in 20th century Central Europe, it looks at school pictures taken in the 1920’s and 30s, as well as in sanctioned and clandestine schools – some, in ghettos and camps – in the years of the Holocaust.  It analyzes both historical images and critical re-framings by contemporary artists who expose photography’s ideological role within political climates that shifted from emancipation and integration to exclusion, persecution and genocide. 
A light reception will follow.  


MARIANNE HIRSCH is William Peterfield Trent Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and Professor in the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. She is President of the Modern Language Association of America. Hirsch's recent books include The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust (Columbia University Press, 2012), Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz in Jewish Memory, co-authored with Leo Spitzer(University of California Press, 2010), Rites of Return: Diaspora, Poetics and the Politics of Memory, co-edited with Nancy K. Miller (Columbia University Press, 2011). With Diana Taylor she co-edited the Summer 2012 issue of é-misferica on “The Subject of Archives.” Other recent publications include Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory (1997), The Familial Gaze (ed.1999), a special issue of Signs on "Gender and Cultural Memory" (co-ed. 2002), and Teaching the Representation of the Holocaust (co-ed. 2004. Hirsch is one of the founders of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference

LEO SPITZER is the Vernon Professor of History Emeritus at Dartmouth College. The recipient of numerous fellowships, including a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation and a National Humanities Center award, he writes on photography, testimony, and Jewish refugee memory and its transmission.  His most recent book, co-authored with Marianne Hirsch, is Ghosts of Home: The Afterlife of Czernowitz in Jewish Memory.  He is also the author of Hotel Bolivia: The Culture of Memory in a Refuge from Nazism (Hill & Wang, 1998); Lives in Between: Assimilation and Marginality in Austria, Brazil and West Africa (Hill & Wang, 1999); The Creoles of Sierra Leone: Responses to Colonialism(Wisconsin, 1974); and co-editor, with Mieke Bal and Jonathan Crewe, of Acts of Memory: Cultural Recall in the Present (UPNE, 1999).  He is currently working on The Americanization of Poldi, a memoir about Jewish refugee immigration and acculturation in New York in the 1950s and, with Marianne Hirsch, on a book of essays on school photos.


Oct 8, 2013

Professor Mamlock

1938, dirs. Herbert Rappaport and Adolf Minkin, 100 min

Made in Stalin’s Russia, Professor Mamlock was one of the first films worldwide to tackle Nazi anti-Semitism head-on. Based on a famous play by a German-Jewish exile to Moscow, Friedrich Wolf, and directed by an Austrian-Jewish exile, Herbert Rappaport, the film tells with brutal honesty the story of a Jewish doctor and his family as he becomes a victim of the Nazis’ rise to power in 1930s Germany. Professor Mamlock is not only impressively acted but also beautifully shot—and was a hit with audiences both at home and abroad. Introduced and discussed by Olga Gershenson, author of “The Phantom Holocaust.”

Sep 25, 2013

Rolf E. Schütte, Consul General of Germany for the New England States will lecture on "German-Jewish Relations Today"

Since entering the foreign service in 1981, Consul General Rolf Schütte has served in Moscow, Tel Aviv, the United Nations in New York, Rome, and San Francisco.  He studied for a year in the United States on a Fulbright fellowship, and throughout his career he has paid special attention to fostering the German-Jewish dialogue.