Holocaust Cinema Complete

A History and Analysis of 400 Films, with a Teaching Guide


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About the Book

Holocaust movies have become an important segment of world cinema and the de-facto Holocaust education for many. One quarter of all American-produced Holocaust-related feature films have won or been nominated for at least one Oscar. In fact, from 1945 through 1991, half of all American Holocaust features were nominated. Yet most Holocaust movies have fallen through the cracks and few have been commercially successful. This book explores these trends—and many others—with a comprehensive guide to hundreds of films and made-for-television movies.
From Anne Frank to Schindler’s List to Jojo Rabbit, more than 400 films are examined from a range of perspectives—historical, chronological, thematic, sociological, geographical and individual. The filmmakers are contextualized, including Charlie Chaplin, Sidney Lumet, Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and Roman Polanski. Recommendations and reviews of the 50 best Holocaust films are included, along with an educational guide, a detailed listing of all films covered and a four-part index-glossary.

About the Author(s)

After a career in Hollywood, Rich Brownstein has become a leading international expert concerning the history and use of Holocaust films. He has lectured for Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies in Jerusalem, Israel, since 2014.

Bibliographic Details

Rich Brownstein
Forewords by Tim Blake Nelson; Michael Berenbaum and Edward Jacobs; Walter Reich; and David Zucker
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 488
Bibliographic Info: 23 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8416-1
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4192-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Foreword by Tim Blake Nelson 1
Foreword by Walter Reich 3
Foreword by Michael Berenbaum and Edward Jacobs 5
Foreword by David Zucker 8
Author’s Preface and Introduction 9
1. Narrative Holocaust Film Basics 13
Defining Narrative Film  13
Defining Holocaust Film  15
Creating a Definitive Holocaust Film List  16
Grouping Holocaust Films: The “4+1 Genre” System  19
­Non-Holocaust Films: Shorts, Television Episodes, Documentaries and Miniseries  28
2. Stats and Eras 32
Holocaust Film Stats  32
Four Eras of Holocaust Film  43
3. Surprising Holocaust Film Traits 55
Fiction vs. ­Non-Fiction  55
­Non-American Holocaust Film Production  60
American Guilt  70
God, the Holocaust and Holocaust Exploitation  73
4. The Unavoidables: Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank, Oskar Schindler and Oscar Bait 79
Elie Wiesel: The Elephant in the Room  79
Anne Frank: A Microcosm of Holocaust Film  83
The Black Hole of Holocaust Films: Schindler’s List (1993) & Friends  96
Oscar Bait  107
5. A Practical History of Holocaust Filmmaking in Hollywood 115
6. The Greatest Narrative Holocaust Film Ever Made 134
7. Roman Polanski and The Pianist (2002) 146
8. Holocaust Film Curriculum Planning: The “SOFTA” System 155
Students  158
Objectives  165
­Follow-Up  168
Time  173
Administrative  175
Summary  176
9. Recommended Holocaust Films 177
The 52 Best Holocaust Films  181
The Very Best Holocaust Films  275
Epilogue: Eva.Stories and Holocaust Film Trends 276
Appendix I: List of Holocaust Films 282
Appendix II: ­Non-Holocaust Films Often Miscategorized as Holocaust Films 414
Chapter Notes 429
Bibliography 445
Index 447

Book Reviews & Awards

Choice Outstanding Academic Title

“More than a reference book, Brownstein’s tome is a work of Holocaust film criticism and a guide for educators teaching the Holocaust through film. Brownstein [is] an international expert concerning the history and use of Holocaust films… This book is an invaluable source on Holocaust films and deserves a wide readership. …highly recommended”—Choice

• “Rich Brownstein’s Holocaust Cinema Complete is an asset to every educator and to anyone trying to understand the history of Holocaust films. His research is extensive and impressive, listing every Holocaust film ever produced worldwide. His classification of these films into different genres and topics is invaluable. Teachers are always asking us, ‘what is the best Holocaust film we can use in our classroom?’ Rich has provided a ‘guide for the perplexed and specific answers to this and many other questions with which educators grapple. I highly recommend this book for any teacher wishing to use a Holocaust film as part of their classroom experience.”—Ephraim Kaye, Yad Vashem Director of the Jewish World and International Seminars for Educators at Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies, from 1994 through 2020

• “Rich Brownstein’s Holocaust Cinema Complete is wonderful and special. His specific examination of the Anne Frank Diary’s complicated print history, as well as his deep dive into the entire Anne Frank cinema sub-genre since the 1950s is extraordinary. As with all other Holocaust cinema, Brownstein recommends the best Anne Frank films, based equally on both their educational and entertainment value. His unique and well documented overview of this sub-genre of Holocaust movies is essential for educators and Anne Frank aficionados alike, as well as for film buffs generally.”—Tom Brink, head of publications and presentations at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and the producer of the Anne Frank Video Diary

• “The proliferation of films whose subject is the Holocaust, whether in its preliminaries, enactments, or aftermath, whether in Europe or the United States, is a continuing phenomenon, worthy of deeper study. Rich Brownstein’s achievement in identifying, analyzing, and critiquing the wide-ranging genre will be of immense utility to a variety of readers, whether educators, film critics, historians, or those drawn almost irresistibly to the topic of how to represent the unrepresentable. In an informed and singular voice, Brownstein’s exhaustive lists, numerous classifications, and cogent discussions, have provided us with an invaluable service and considerable material for further thought.”—Froma I. Zeitlin, Ewing Professor of Greek Language and Literature and professor of comparative literature, emeritus, Princeton University

• “The excellence of Rich Brownstein’s Holocaust Cinema Complete is best found in his sense of self, his sense of community, and his sense of responsibility to history, all of which shine through in this tremendous intellectual achievement. With precision, facts and passion, he delivers an unfaltering analysis of Holocaust film history, as well as of the film industry in general. He delivers a meaningful analysis of Hollywood’s truth, its exaggerations, and its distortions, a must for all who crave historical veracity. And Brownstein’s ability to engage the reader is masterful.… Rich Brownstein’s Holocaust Cinema Complete is unsurpassed.”—Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, president of the International March of the Living, previously served as a George W. Bush Presidential Appointee to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council

• “Rich Brownstein’s monumental Holocaust Cinema Complete offers an engaging and comprehensive tribute to the genre, educating the reader with insight and wit, offering much-needed guidance to viewers of all kinds. Brownstein has created a cultural compendium that identifies, organizes, and compares a broad array of Holocaust films, guiding readers through the many narratives that constitute the most widely shared form of Holocaust memory. Unfolding in dialogue with Holocaust studies and other forms of scholarship, this book provides encyclopedic and insightful critical analyses of an expanding genre.”—Michael Polgar, Penn State University, Fellow of The Olga Lengyel Institute of Holocaust Studies and Human Rights (TOLI)

• “Rich Brownstein’s Holocaust Cinema Complete is a comprehensive and lively look at how the Holocaust has been portrayed in the movies. Brownstein’s opinionated and well-researched book will be of interest to both historians and movie buffs.”—Hannah Brown, movie and television critic for the Jerusalem Post

• “Rich Brownstein’s background in Hollywood, his many years of teaching Holocaust films to international educators and students, and his career contemplating positionality in relation to trauma and violence within the moving image makes his Holocaust Cinema Complete a noteworthy, thought-provoking, and timely contribution to pedagogy and scholarship regarding mediated representations of the Holocaust. …invaluable…a must-read”—Caroline Joan “Kay” S. Picart, editor, The Holocaust Film Sourcebook, Volumes I and II

• “There’s a long, complicated and fascinating history of representation of the Holocaust on screen which still remains largely unknown to the general viewer. Rich Brownstein’s robust and encyclopedic Holocaust Cinema Complete fills this gap in revealing the many facets of this history, from production to reception in Hollywood and beyond. Students and scholars of the genre will find here a trove of useful details while any cineaste will enjoy Brownstein’s passion for and exhaustive knowledge of this painful, yet deeply important subject.”—Marat Grinberg, associate professor of Russian and humanities, Reed College, author of Aleksandr Askoldov: The Commissar

• “Holocaust Cinema Complete by Rich Brownstein is not just comprehensive it’s also wise, thought-provoking, and surprisingly witty, considering its sobering subject. Brownstein clearly loves movies. And he clearly loves the Jewish people. The result is far more than a most-useful guide to the best and the worst Holocaust movies; the book is a meaningful look at the trauma of the Holocaust and the opportunities that result from careful, thoughtful, entertainment and education rather than cheap and vulgar attempts to exploit inhuman tragedies.”—Gil Troy, professor, Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University, author of The Zionist Ideas

• “Any educator who teaches the Holocaust must have Rich Brownstein’s Holocaust Cinema Complete on their bookshelf, hard drive, and eReaders. Because, as Brownstein rightly observes, Holocaust movies have become the “de-facto Holocaust education for many” it is imperative that Holocaust educators have a command of Holocaust cinema. Brownstein’s book is a gift to those who teach the Holocaust as he provides a careful overview of hundreds of Holocaust films and identifies the 52 best. Equipped with Brownstein’s Holocaust Cinema Complete and a Teaching Guide, the Holocaust educator can develop a sophisticated curriculum and syllabus designed for students of the 21st century.”—David A. Frank, University of Oregon, coauthor, Frames of Evil: The Holocaust as Horror in American Film

• “‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be’ is the thought that came to mind as I read Rich Brownstein’s Holocaust Cinema Complete. If you are an educator, you cannot borrow it because you will annotate it, making notes, underlining, and starring passages to which you will want to refer again; you cannot lend it because you will need it for ongoing reference throughout any course on the Holocaust you may teach. Brownstein’s breezy style makes this well researched compendium engaging and easy to read. His carefully structured nine chapters are followed by an epilogue discussing current trends in this genre and extensive appendices that list and categorize the films, a bonus for educators, parents, and students and scholars of Holocaust cinema.”—Karen Shawn, associate professor of Jewish education and administration; founding editor, PRISM: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Holocaust Educators

• “Rich Brownstein’s Holocaust Cinema Complete provides a much-needed pedagogical approach to the very best Holocaust films, and as a result will create more informed teachers and students. The book’s expansiveness will interest all readers who seek to extend their understanding of Holocaust cinema.”—Holli Levitsky, director of Jewish Studies at Loyola Marymount University, co-director of the Jewish American and Holocaust Literature Symposium