Routine atrocities

August 27, 2015

In reviewing Debarati Sanyal’s Memory and Complicity: Migrations of Holocaust Remembrance (Books, 6 August), Robert Eaglestone summarises and endorses her argument that “the memory of the Holocaust enables other memories of oppression and violence to appear”. The clearest example of this is apparently the Alain Resnais documentary Night and Fog (1955), “the landmark film on the Nazi Genocide”, which “was about the extermination of the European Jews, but also, allegorically, about the vicious French colonial war in Algeria”. The point about the “multi-directionality” of Holocaust remembrance would have been more accurately made if it had been acknowledged that Resnais’ great film is not about the Holocaust as currently conceived. That narrative became dominant only in the 1960s after the Adolf Eichmann trial and the publication of Raul Hilberg’s The Destruction of the European Jews. There is no mention of “genocide” or “Holocaust” in Resnais’ film, and only one use of the words “Jew” or “Jewish”. This occurs in a list of future inmates of the concentration camps – “Burger, a German workman, Stern, a Jewish student from Amsterdam, Schmulski, a shopkeeper in Krakow, Annette, a schoolgirl in Bordeaux”. The emphasis falls on the many different nations represented in the camps rather than on Jews as the principal victims. This makes it easier for Resnais to imply connections between the Nazi atrocities and subsequent historical events but sets his film firmly apart from most Western narratives since the 1960s (the Soviet Union had always minimised the Jewish dimension).

Rowland Wymer
Emeritus professor of English
Anglia Ruskin University

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Viewed

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham