Towards a Forensic Cinema
Presentation by Fabian Schmidt and Alexander Zöller
In the sixth session of CERCEC's H2020 "Visual History of the Holocaust" Research Seminar, Fabian Schmidt and Alexander Zöller (both Film University Babelsberg) speak about film practices during the Holocaust.
What if the SS as the main Nazi organisation responsible for the Holocaust produced a secret film about the persecution and murder of the European Jews during World War 2? What are the implications of searching for this and similar films, and regarding them as highly problematic sources about the genocide? In doing so, we challenge a set of pre-existing assumptions that revolve around the prevalence of filming during the Holocaust, and the deliberate production of evidence on the side of the perpetrators. By examining the various activities of private and official photographers and cameramen, we argue that the gaze of the perpetrators has long been part of our collective visual memory of the Holocaust, and advocate for a forensic approach to critically assess this body of film footage, both existing and lost. A tabulation which encompasses lost films, if indeed there is considerable evidence for them, is bound to upend the prevailing notion that filming during the genocide was highly exceptional and mostly carried out in the handful of instances surviving as archival material today.
H2020 “Visual History of the Holocaust”. Research Seminar 2021–2022:
As part of the Horizon 2020 project “Visual History of the Holocaust”, this seminar focuses on film documents created by Soviet filmmakers during the liberation of Nazi-occupied territories. The history of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, the literature on mass violence, and the history of still and moving images serve to contextualize this little-known corpus of Soviet film images documenting Nazi crimes. Participants are invited to examine the period from 1941 to 1947, and thus to consider the different phases in which the identity of the victims was explicitly discussed or ignored. The seminar aims to engage in a dialog about the visual traces of Nazi atrocities in Central and Eastern Europe and the USSR. The Research Seminar 2021–2022 is hosted by CERCEC and coordinated by Sarah Gruszka, Valérie Pozner, and Irina Tcherneva.
LBIDH project: VHH
LBIDH team: Fabian Schmidt, Ingo Zechner