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BA Film Studies and East Asian Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Screening the Holocaust

Unit code GERM30481
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by German Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit will examine the filmic treatment of the Nazi atrocities from the late 1940s to the present. Tracing the ongoing debates around appropriate modes of Holocaust representation, we will examine the major political and aesthetic issues at stake in feature film and documentary. In so doing, we will consider film’s potential to convey the personal dimension of the Holocaust together with art’s ethical implications in the face of atrocity.

Starting with Eastern Bloc cinema’s pioneering of central modes of Holocaust representation in the first two postwar decades, we will consider the changing portrayals of politics, race, gender and sexuality in Holocaust film throughout the decades. We will then turn our attention to the impact of the Holocaust on the postwar generations. The study of German film in its international context will afford a comparative view of Holocaust film as a transnational body of works.


Pre/Co/Antirequisite units:  Any course unit with a film component


  • To develop students’ understanding of theoretical approaches to and genre conventions of Holocaust film
  • To develop students’ grasp of key concepts in cinema studies with particular focus on aspects of Classical and Postclassical film
  • To develop students’ understanding of the historical and political contexts of Holocaust film internationally

Learning outcomes

  • A broad understanding of the key themes and theoretical debates around Holocaust film
  • Knowledge of important Holocaust films and issues of genre
  • A good grasp of key concepts in cinema studies



Representative examples include:


WEEK 1: Course Introduction

WEEK 2: Allied Liberation Films

WEEK 3: Victims, Perpetrators, Bystanders in Early Postwar Feature Film

WEEK 4: Resisters and Jews: Socialist Cinema

WEEK 5: Fascinating Fascism

WEEK 6: Hidden Holocaust? The Nazi Persecution of ‘Homosexuals’

WEEK 7: The Shoah in Close-up I

WEEK 8: The Shoah in Close-up II

WEEK 9: The Survivors

WEEK 10: The Holocaust in Three Generations

WEEK 11: Course review

Teaching and learning methods

  • 3 hours per week of lectures / seminars
  • 1 weekly screening generally of two hours


Knowledge and understanding

  • Define the Holocaust and discuss how it can be expressed visually
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the key periods and historio-cultural contexts of Holocaust film
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the audio-visual styles of Holocaust film
  • Demonstrate an awareness of relevant political and historical factors reflected in Holocaust film

Intellectual skills

  • Critically analyse and build sophisticated arguments about films and related sources (posters, trailers, reviews and industry documents)
  • Contextualise historically films and practitioners, and to draw on contextualisation to develop understanding
  • Critically evaluate a series of films, practitioners and genres in relation to key moments of socio-political change in relevant territories
  • Synthesise theoretical terms and concepts and apply these to analysis, argument and creative practice

Practical skills

  •  Research academic and non-academic materials, and evaluate the effectiveness of these materials as supporting evidence for individual essays, seminar presentations and creative projects
  • Plan, undertake and evaluate independent critical and creative work
  • Use relevant software to collect, compile and present audio-visual material for presentations
  • Communicate research material both verbally, audio-visually and in writing

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Work independently
  • Argue critically and coherently
  • Present information in a convincing and accessible manner
  • Develop an understanding of national cinemas in world contexts

Employability skills

¿ Advanced critical thinking, problem-solving and planning skills ¿ Advanced ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility ¿ Productive team and independent working skills in learning environments that present complex and unpredictable challenges ¿ Ability to effectively adapt self-presentation to different audiences/contexts, especially when communicating complex topics ¿ Ability to manage, complete and evaluate a project effectively

Assessment methods

Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)

Group Sequence Analysis developed over the course of Semester 1


1,500 words


Written Exam at the end of Sem2; 2 questions from a choice of essay questions


2 hours




Assessment task



2,000 – 2,500 words


Feedback methods


Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Seminar presentation

Formative (oral)

Group wiki

Summative (written)

Analytical diary

Summative (written)


Recommended reading


Avisar, Ilan. Screening the Holocaust: Cinema's Images of the Unimaginable. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988

Bartov, Omer. The "Jew" in Cinema. From The Golem to Don't Touch My Holocaust. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 2005

Bathrick, David, Brad Prager, and Michael D Richardson, eds. Visualizing the Holocaust: Documents, Aesthetics, Memory. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2008.

Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson, eds. Film Art: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1993

Haggith, Toby, and Joanna Newman, eds. Holocaust and the Moving Image. Representations in Film and Television since 1933. London: Wallflower Press, 2005

Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. New York: Holmes&Meier Publications Inc., 1985

Hollows, Joanne, ed. The Film Studies Reader. New York: Arnold, 2000.

Levi, Neil, and Michael Rothberg, eds. The Holocaust. Theoretical Readings. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Demonstration 22
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 145

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Cathy Gelbin Unit coordinator

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