Film and Lecture Series Examines Soviet Holocaust Films

Olga Gershenson

“The Phantom Holocaust: Soviet Cinema and Jewish Catastrophe,” a new book and film series curated by Olga Gershenson, associate professor of Judaic and Near Eastern studies, begins Tuesday, Sept. 17, 5-7 p.m. at the Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies.

Gershenson, who is the author of the recently published “The Phantom Holocaust: Soviet Cinema and Jewish Catastrophe,”will discuss her research and show clips of Soviet narrative films dealing with the Holocaust. Her book draws on archival research and in-depth interviews to tell both the tragic and the triumphant stories of filmmakers who found authentic ways to represent the Holocaust in the face of official silencing.

The Soviets were actually among the first to portray the Holocaust events on screen. In 1938, several films exposed Nazi anti-Semitism, and a 1945 movie depicted the mass execution of Jews in Babi Yar. Other significant pictures followed in the 1960s.

The series continues Oct. 8 with a screening of the 1938 film “Professor Mamlock.”

On Oct. 17, Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer will present “School Pictures in Liquid Time Assimilation, Exclusion, Resistance,” an examination of 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 1920s 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. 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, and Spitzer is the Vernon Professor of History Emeritus at Dartmouth College.

The films “Goodbye, Boys” (Nov. 19), “Commissar” (Feb. 4) and “Ladies Tailor” (April 2) fill out the rest of the series. Gershenson will introduce and discuss each of the films.

The Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies is located at 758 North Pleasant St.