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The Construction of European Holocaust Memory: German and Polish Cinema after 1989

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Malgorzata Pakier

Is a common European Holocaust memory possible? The author approaches this question by analyzing Polish and German cinema after 1989, and the public debates on the past that have surrounded the filmic narratives. Of all media, cinema has exerted the broadest impact in the formation of collective memory regarding the Holocaust. Despite the distance in time, and especially since the fall of communism, this traumatic chapter in European history has come into ever sharper focus. Film makers have refracted evolving public awareness and in turn projected the dramas and images that inculcate mass opinion. This work examines these dynamic trends with regard to selected Polish and German feature films. The author shows how cinema opened hitherto taboo aspects to discussion. She reveals both a deep divide between the two countries, as well as significant similar trends in the memory of events.

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Acknowledgments ................................................................................................. 5 CHAPTER I Holocaust Film and European Memory ............................................................ 9 The Holocaust: Europe’s Foundational Myth? ............................................. 9 Holocaust Memory – Beyond Narratives and Images? ............................. 15 History, Memory and Film ......................................................................... 18 CHAPTER II An Entangled European History: Holocaust Comedy Europa, Europa (Germany-Poland-France 1990) ...................................................................... 25 20th Century Europe: A Philosophical Tale ................................................ 26 Europe from a Jewish Perspective .............................................................. 30 Polish History in Europa, Europa .............................................................. 36 The Portrayal of Germans in Europa, Europa ............................................ 44 The Reception of Europa, Europa: Polish Reactions ................................. 50 Competing for the American Academy Award: German Rejection and Polish Indignation ................................................................................ 53 Europa, Europa in Germany: Hitlerjunge Salomon ................................... 56 Conclusions 62 CHAPTER III Holocaust Melodrama: Beyond History – or Burdened with the Past? Aimée and Jaguar (Germany, 1998) and Far away from the Window (Poland, 2000) .................................................................................................... 65 The German and Polish Films’ Common Theme and Style ....................... 66 Aimée and Jaguar and Far away from the Window in German and Polish Press Discussion ........................................................................ 68 The Historical Discourse of Aimée and Jaguar: An Ordinary Woman in the Nazi Era ............................................................................................ 75 The Historical Discourse of Far away from the Window: The Mythical Matka-Polka Confronted with the Holocaust ....................... 82 8 Table of Contents The Jewish Character and German-Jewish Relations in Aimée and Jaguar: A Positive Symbiosis? ............................................................ 90 Closed in the Past: The Portrayal of the Jewish Character in Far away from the Window ......................................................................................... 96 Conclusions .......................................................................................... 101 CHAPTER IV Collective Portraits of Poles and Germans. The Narrative of “Ordinary People” in Just beyond this Forest (Poland, 1991), Burial of a Potato (Poland, 1990), and Jewboy Levi...

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