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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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CHAPTER III. Holocaust Melodrama: Beyond History– or Burdened with the Past? Aimée and Jaguar(Germany, 1998) and Far away from the Window (Poland, 2000)

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CHAPTER III Holocaust Melodrama: Beyond History – or Burdened with the Past? Aimée and Jaguar (Germany, 1998) and Far away from the Window (Poland, 2000) The differing expectations of national audiences towards the genre of the Holocaust films become less problematic in the case of two other films: the German Aimee and Jaguar: Love Larger than Death (Aimée und Jaguar. Liebe grösser als der Tod) by Max Färberbock from 1999 and the Polish Far away from the Window (Daleko od Okna,) by Jan J. Kolski from 2000. Both can be classified as melodramas, or psychological dramas, telling stories of love affairs between Jews and non-Jews during the Holocaust. In accordance with the rules of the melodramatic genre, the emphasis is put on singularity of situations and events, and complexity of individual experiences and choices, thus facilitating emotional identification with the characters and offering a possibility of more universal interpretations, in which national identities would no longer play a central role. The concentration on individual experiences and on intimate relations between the characters, at the expense of presenting a broader historical background, allows for the presentation of wartime stories in the form of universal tales about love and suffering. An attempt at offering a fresh perspective on the past can be seen also in the focus on female characters, with which both the German and the Polish film distinguish themselves from other movies dealing with the war and the Holocaust. The focus on emotions and gender discourses can...

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