Think of each question as a mini-essay: try to pull together into a coherent whole film terminology you have
learned, in-depth discussion of concrete film scenes that could help you make your point, theory and criticism
discussed over the course of the class, and major debates that may have arisen around the film(s) you are
Please adhere to the following formatting requirements:
• Document name: LastName.StudentNumber.GERM357.
• Top of first page must include your name, course, student number.
• One-inch margins all around, double-spaced.
• You are encouraged to cite from sources to support your arguments, and a bibliography in MLA, APA
or Chicago Style is required. Effective use of the course readings and lectures, and/or one or two
external sources per essay could support the development of your argument.
• Please submit in Microsoft Word or Pages (not as a linked Google doc).
Please refer to the syllabus information on academic honesty and plagiarism: this is important. If you have
questions about how to make sure that you are adhering to standards, please contact Jennifer Heidebrecht,
All films discussed in the course are available ON 3-HOUR RESERVE at the TFDL library. You can ask
for them at the circulation desk by course number, professor, and DVD title. You are encouraged to rewatch
parts of the film to incorporate details into your paper. You can sign into a viewing station at the library
to do this – just ask at the circulation desk about this when you get the DVD.
As with the Reflective Writing Paper, it is your LAST exam submission to the Dropbox that will be graded (in
the event that you discover a mistake that needs correcting). The finals will be graded by the end of the Fall
German 357.04 – The Holocaust on Film
Take-Home Exam 2018
Choose three (3) questions, equally weighted. Answer each the form of an essay: 3 essays in total, in one
1. Claude Lanzmann, the director of Shoah, has said that his film “defies and eludes the categories of
documentary or fiction.” (Quoted in The New Yorker, 19 March 2012)
László Nemes has said something similar:
You have to approach it as a documentary,” Nemes says, and returns to his idea of the fragmented
experience of camp inmates to account for Son of Saul’s wrenching effect. “Classical storytelling in the
camp doesn’t make sense,” he says. (The Guardian, 14 April 2016)
What do they mean? Analyze where the lines blur between documentary and fiction in Son of Saul, and how
blurring these lines serves to provide an answer to the question of how to represent stories that strain the limits
of our understanding.
2. Discuss the advantages and limits of the comic mode in addressing the Holocaust. Analyze specific film
scenes from Life is Beautiful in depth to advance your arguments. Refer to:
Gilman, Sander L. “Is Life Beautiful? Can the Shoah Be Funny? Some Thoughts on Recent and Older
Films.” Critical Inquiry Vol. 26, No. 2 (Winter, 2000): 279-308. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1344124
3. Landscapes of Memory is the English title of the documentary about the survivor, Ruth Klüger, but it could
equally be applied to many scenes from other films in the course. How is landscape connected to memory in
two films in the course? Consider the power of the landscape, both metaphorical and literal, to convey the
varied memories of the Holocaust. Examples could include the colour images from Night and Fog, the long
takes of the landscape in Shoah, the face as a landscape whose topography can be studied in the Ruth Klüger
documentary or in Son of Saul.
4. Gender and sexuality take on important functions in a number of Holocaust films. Referring to the comments
of Ruth (Angress) Klüger, and/or the reflections of Marianne Hirsch, comment on the representation of gender
in scenes from two of the films in the course.
The following are possible questions to get you started. You are not required to answer these particular
questions. How are the female and male characters depicted in particular scenes? How is the erotic expression
of power enacted on screen? There are diverse examples here, from The Great Dictator (not a Holocaust film,
but includes statements on the erotics of power) to various scenes in Schindler’s List. To what extent is
Shoshana in Inglourious Basterds a response to female characters in other films? What is the function of the
character Dora in Life is Beautiful? How is masculinity enacted by Amon Goeth and Oskar Schindler? or by
Hans Landa and Aldo Raine in Inglourious Basterds?
5. Choose A. or B.
A. In Schindler’s List the shower scene is probably the most discussed scene in any Holocaust film of the past
20 years. It has been denounced as “Holocaust pornography,” pushing the “limits of representation” by
imagining what cannot be known, and playing into the hands of Holocaust deniers by turning gas chambers into
mere showers. With reference to this scene, discuss how the goal of some Holocaust feature films may conflict
with the conventions of film drama such as the sexualization and eroticization of characters for entertainment
value. To get started, you may review Dr. Dueck’s lecture on Schindler’s List, and read:
Loshitzky, Yosefa. “Holocaust Others: Spielberg’s Schindler’s List versus Lanzmann’s Shoah.” Spielberg’s
Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler’s List. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997. (available
on reserve at TFDL)
B. According to Elihu and Ruth Katz, Holocaust film “specializes in exceptions . . . To understand these films
one has to know what they aren’t showing” (164). Consider the example that is always cited: Schindler’s List.
What are the implications of this focus on the exceptional cases? Refer to:
Katz, Elihu and Ruth Katz. “Life and Death Among the Binaries: Notes on Jeffrey Alexander’s
Constructionism.” Remembering the Holocaust: A Debate. With Commentaries by Martin Jay et. al.
New York: Oxford UP, 2009. (on reserve at TFDL)
Weissberg, Lilianne. “The tale of a good German: reflections on the German reception of Schindler’s List.”
Spielberg’s Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on ‘Schindler’s List’. Ed. Y. Loshitzky. Bloomington:
Indiana UP, 1997. 171-192.
6. How does Tarantino’s film, Inglourious Basterds, address the preoccupation of filmmakers with the subject
matter of the Holocaust? Consider the metacinematic elements, and analyze how the film manipulates its
audience to root for, and then potentially critique, the fiery conclusion. A book edited by Robert Dassanovsky
on this topic is on reserve at TFDL:
Dassanowsky, Robert, Ed. Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds: a Manipulation of Metacinema. New
York: Continuum, 2012.
7. In Dr. Süselbeck’s lecture on the use of empathy and emotion in film, he addressed some of the potential
pitfalls in audience responses to Holocaust films. Considering the categories of “cognitive empathy,” “empathic
unsettlement” (Dominick LaCapra), compare how empathic response is developed differently in two of the
films in the course. There are two additional readings on film emotion provided in the D2L readings page.
8. In the documentary Landscapes of Memory, Ruth Klüger talks about her Auschwitz survival, her university
career and her family life. Her sons are interviewed as well, and Klüger’s younger son Dan is shown visiting his
mother in Vienna, together with his wife and children. Discuss the concept of postmemory as explained by
Marianne Hirsch (see readings provided on D2L), and analyze the film by using her findings. How is
postmemory as an effect of remembering the Shoah within the second generation of survivor’s families made
visible in Renata Schmidtkunz’ documentary? Which filmic features are used to highlight the psychological and
Please remember to be specific. Make reference to specific scenes and the socio-historic context when you
build your argument.
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