Czech and Slovak Cinema: Theme and Tradition

By Peter Hames | Go to book overview

5. THE HOLOCAUST

The Jewish-born Slovak film-maker, Ján Kadár, director of the Oscar-winning The Shop on the High Street aka The Shop on Main Street (1965), once said that, subsequent to the war, he had never encountered racial discrimination either in his work or in his private life. Although he had been imprisoned in Auschwitz and ‘chose’ his Jewish identity as a result of the Nazi Race Laws, he nonetheless regarded anti-Semitism as a matter of degree, remarking that, in the Czech lands, it had been a peripheral influence. This comment could, of course, be regarded as merely tactical but he also observed that it was one of the reasons that he had regarded the persecution of others as ‘mistakes’.

The issue of anti-Semitism in the post-war period in Czechoslovakia has, as far as I know, not been addressed in the feature film but, in its treatment of the Holocaust on film, the achievement of Czechoslovakia is probably unequalled in its range and persistence. Undoubtedly, there was a strong Jewish representation within the intelligentsia – writers such as Jiři Weil, Arnošt Lustig, Norbert Fryd, Ludvík Aškenazy, Ladislav Grosman and Ladislav Fuks and directors such as Alfréd Radok, Jiři Weiss and Ján Kadár, all of whom were to receive international recognition. Furthermore, there was a strong Jewish element within the post-war leadership of the Communist Party itself.

In the Stalinist show trials and purges of the 1950s, there was a clear antiSemitic element. As pointed out earlier, of the fourteen leading Communists arrested at that time, which included the Secretary-General of the Party, Rudolf Slánský, eleven were executed and three sentenced to life imprisonment. Eleven of the fourteen accused were Jewish and labelled as working for

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Czech and Slovak Cinema: Theme and Tradition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents iii
  • Traditions in World Cinema iv
  • Acknowledgements vi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- History 15
  • 2- Comedy 32
  • 3- Realism 55
  • 4- Politics 75
  • 5- The Holocaust 95
  • 6- Lyricism 112
  • 7- The Absurd 129
  • 8- The Avant-Garde 144
  • 9- Surrealism 168
  • 10- Animation 188
  • 11- Slovak Directions 206
  • Bibliography 229
  • Filmography 243
  • Index 254
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