Films of Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing
Saviors in the Night (2009): German Loyalty—to the Reich or to Humanity?: Michael Resler
Even in the midst of ongoing genocide, no single nation or people has a monopoly on either good or evil. For decades, films depicting everyday Germans living under National Socialist rule largely disregarded that simple dictum. The “good German” was only rarely to be seen on the big screen, other than as the focus of an occasional subplot, that is, until close to the end of the twentieth century, when Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List came upon the scene in 1993. To be sure, in the earlier post-war years, “interest in altruism in general and the specific individuals who risked their own lives to save Jews already existed.”1 Yet, not at all surprisingly, given the role played in the Holocaust by Germans, it was non-Germans who are portrayed in the central role of selfless savior, with few exceptions. Among others, the 1945 film, The Last Chance and Ich weiß, wofür ich lebe2 from the year 1955 exemplify that initial post-war pattern. And in what is perhaps the most celebrated of such stories, The Diary of Anne Frank,3 it is, once again, non-Germans (the Dutch co-workers of Otto Frank) who shield the family, over a period of just over two years, in a secret warren of rooms located behind and above the father’s place of business in Amsterdam.
By the time of the 1978 American docudrama Holocaust—appearing more than three decades after the end of the war and the liberation of the...
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