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The University of Southampton

FILM6044 The Holocaust in American Film

Module Overview

This module will explore the various ways in which the Holocaust has been represented in film and television, with specific focus on American film. Each week will focus on a particular issue and present case studies (for example, the immediate post-World War II response; film as witness; questions of gender and sex; Holocaust ‘comedy’), but the module as a whole will address three core issues: film’s ability to ‘represent the unrepresentable’, the use of film as history, and the so-called ‘Americanization’ of the Holocaust. These will be discussed through the study of the content and historical context of key films including The Diary of Anne Frank, Judgment at Nuremberg, Schindler’s List and Inglourious Basterds. You will not be restricted to writing on American film and there will be scope for comparative work on television and non-American films, for example Shoah and the miniseries Holocaust. This module is intentionally multi- and interdisciplinary and there are a number of different approaches you could use approaching the subject. You could, for example, look at the historical context of the films under discussion, explore the tension between history and film, or you may wish to examine the subject via one of its more formal filmic elements such as star appeal, narrative, lighting or cinematography.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the manner in which the Holocaust has been represented in film and utilised by the filmmaker
  • the politics of film and memory
  • the moral and representational challenges posed by the Holocaust
  • the challenges inherent in writing of film and history across disciplines
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify and draw upon a range of primary and secondary source materials
  • demonstrate effective time-management and the capacity for self-directed, independent working with library, archival and internet resources
  • communicate a coherent and convincing argument at length in written form
  • produce effective oral presentations that engage, inform and stimulate the audience
  • contribute to original and challenging discussion in a group environment based on listening and responding to the views of others
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • recognise and apply methods by which films and other representations can be analysed
  • integrate close filmic analysis and contextual research
  • demonstrate confidence and independence of thought
  • synthesise and evaluate complex material


The first week will introduce you to the range of films which deal with the subject of the Holocaust as well as grounding you in the issues of representation which have occupied much writing on the subject. In the weeks that follow we will use case studies to examine how the Holocaust has gradually become embedded into the cinematic landscape and American consciousness. This may include weeks on Hollywood’s responses to the Nazi regime and the persecution of the Jews in the period 1933-1945; the impact of liberation on the filmmaker and the public; American antisemitism and post-war silence; the emergence of Anne Frank as an emblem of the Holocaust; the Lanzmann/Spielberg debate and how to remember as well as represent the Holocaust; flashbacks, survivor guilt and trauma; the pursuit, capture and trial of war criminals; and the rise of the Holocaust comedy. We will conclude with a consideration of some of the most recent films to explore the subject, likely to include such films as Paulo Sorrentino’s This Must be the Place and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - Weekly seminars - Independent study and research - Individual tutorials to discuss essay preparation and feedback - You will be required to give presentations. Feedback on these presentations will be provided, giving constructive criticism on content and communication skills - The use of film as a primary source for historians Learning activities include - The close watching and reading of films, many of which will be available online through Blackboard and Box of Broadcasts - You will be expected to prepare for each seminar by following the recommended reading - Primary resources will be a prominent part of the seminars, with the aim of producing familiarity in handling and engaging with archive material and fostering the ability, through example and experience, of incorporating these texts into critical frameworks with original insight. Although the module is structured around specific case studies, you will be encouraged to pursue your own particular research interests and case studies.

Preparation for scheduled sessions100
Completion of assessment task26
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Judith E. Doneson (2001). The Holocaust in American Film. 

Omer Bartov, (2005). The 'Jew' in Cinema: From 'The Golem' to 'Don't Touch My Holocaust'. 

Joshua Hirsch (2004). Afterimage: Film, Trauma and the Holocaust. 

Annette Indsdorf (2003). Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust. 

Lawrence Baron (2005). Projecting the Holocaust into the Present: The Changing Focus of Contemporary Holocaust Cinema. 


Assessment Strategy

1 x Essay (4000 words) summative.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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