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Visualizing the Holocaust: Documents, Aesthetics, Memory

Article excerpt

Visualizing the Holocaust: Documents, Aesthetics, Memory, edited by David Bathrick, Brad Prager, and Michael D. Richardson. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2008. 336 pp. $75.00.

Visualizing the Holocaust is the first volume in the series Screen Cultures: German Film and the Visual, edited by Gerd Gemünden and Johannes von Moltke, and consists of a series of twelve essays, all but one of which began as projects for a DAAD Summer Seminar for College Teachers at Cornell University. In his introduction, David Bathrick distinguishes the nature of this volume from anthologies such as Visual Culture and the Holocaust (2001), edited by Barbie Zelizer, by noting that the latter explores the myriad and diverse settings in which the Holocaust has come to be visually represented, while Visualizing the Holocaust focuses on "core philosophical and methodological issues underlying the field as a whole" (p. 16). It is also different from anthologies that are sustained explorations of at tistic representation such as Absence/Presence: Critical Essays on the Artistic Memory of the Holocaust (2005) edited by Stephen Feinstein, Impossible Images: Contemporary Art after the Holocaust (2003), edited by Shelley Hornstein, Laura Levitt, Laurence J. Silberstein, and Image and Remembrance: Representation and the Holocaust (2003) edited by Shelly Hornstein and Florence Jacobowitz. Visualizing the Holocaust focuses primarily on Holocaust film and photography, with some attention to architecture and art, and should be read in the context of works such as Terri Ginsburg's Holocaust Film: The Politics and Aesthetics of Ideology (2007).

Visualizing the Holocaust maintains an overlapping set of references, particularly the work of Marianne Hirsch and her notion of postmemory, and is framed by controversies surrounding films such as Shoah and Shindler's List. But it goes beyond an analysis of narrative to examine more complex relationships between image, affect, and ideology. Like many contemporary visual artists today who grapple with the continuing legacy of the Holocaust, the new generation of authors dealing with Holocaust representation theoretically attempts to challenge or complicate taboos sutrounding Holocaust representation and claims of unknowability and unrepresentability. Visualizing the Holocaust thus represents an important contribution to the literature on Holocaust representation. …