On Reimer and Reimer's Historical Dictionary of Holocaust Cinema

By Baron, Lawrence | Jewish Film & New Media, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

On Reimer and Reimer's Historical Dictionary of Holocaust Cinema


Baron, Lawrence, Jewish Film & New Media


On Reimer and Reimer's Historical Dictionary of Holocaust Cinema Historical Dictionary of Holocaust Cinema. By Robert C. Reimer and Carol J. Reimer. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2012. 272 pp., ISBN 978-0-8108-6756-7 (hc). US $75.00.

As part of the Scarecrow Press series "Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts," Robert and Carol Reimer's volume on Holocaust cinema fulfills the aim of these reference works to provide concise A-to-Z entries on key events and figures in the history of Nazi Germany's persecution, internment, or murder of European Jews, gay men, the Roma, and the severely disabled, and on how these policies and their postwar repercussions have been represented in documentary, experimental, feature, short, and television films. The book begins with a chronology of the evolution of Nazi policies to disenfranchise and eradicate groups targeted as threats to the Third Reich, but omits dates relating to the suppression of male homosexuality and the implementation of state-sanctioned euthanasia in 1939. Background on the former appears in the entry on homosexuals later in the book. The timeline is more detailed on the release years of significant films depicting these crimes against humanity and their lingering impact on those who condoned, perpetrated, resisted, or survived them.

Reimer and Reimer's introductory essay divides Holocaust cinema into five chronological periods: pre-1945; the immediate postwar period; 1950-1970; 1970-1990; and 1990-2011. While this periodization identifies the characteristic themes of the limited corpus of such films made before, during, and immediately after World War II, the three twenty-year periods after 1950 are too broad to adequately categorize the national and international trends in Holocaust movies and the contemporary events that influenced their production as their numbers rapidly proliferated from the 1960s on. For example, the discussion of films from the sixties attributes their focus on concentration camps, survivors, and war-crime trials to Israel's capture and trial of Adolf Eichmann at the beginning of the decade. Other historical events, however, sparked interest in the Holocaust, including the rise of the American civil rights movement, the Frankfurt trial of Auschwitz guards, demonstrations against the Vietnam War, protests by reform movements in countries behind the Iron Curtain, and the beginnings of ethnic identity politics. Within the length constraints imposed by the format of the series, Reimer and Reimer still manage to engage in insightful, albeit brief, analyses of the impact of documentaries like The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) and Shoah (1985), television docudramas like Holocaust (1978), blockbusters like Schindler's List (1993), and comedies like Life Is Beautiful (1997) and on the genres, iconography, and storylines of subsequent motion pictures dealing with the Holocaust and the issues it raises. I wish the authors had been allotted more space to elaborate on these subjects.

Although the individual entries are typically several paragraphs long, they delve more deeply into these films than the plot synopses presented in The Holocaust Film Sourcebook, edited by Caroline Joan Picart (Westport, Conn. …

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