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Holocaust and the Moving Image: Representations in Film and Television Since 1933

The article talks about how the German army used film to deceive the whole world about the human injustices that they were carrying out on Jews. The films were mainly shot in the town of Theresienstadt. Theresienstadt was the first town where Jews were brought to as prisoners of the Nazis. The city is located about 60 km. The Jews were picked from the neighboring nations such as Czechoslovakia (Haggith, Toby& Joanna, 92). According to the article, the small town was a transitional camp for the German soldiers before the Jews were taken to the Auschwitz extermination camp. The camp authorities tried to hide what was happening at the camp by bringing retired political intelligence officers from Austria. The camp was occupied by close to 50,000 people who had to fight for the limited space and resources available. The number increased gradually over time, and most of the people died from infectious diseases or starvation. The commanding officer (SS) of the camp left everyone to fend for themselves before they were taken to an extermination camp to be killed.

In their sickening way, the commanding officers saw it fit to film the condition of the people and the city. The film was meant to show the favorable state of the ghetto, as it had attracted the attention of the International Red Cross society. The first film was shown in Prague but soon disappeared because it only created further international interest in the plight of the town’s occupants. The new SS embarked on making a new film with the help of a Czech film writer to create a more charming film. The Red Cross petitioned the authorities to be allowed to visit the town to assess the situation. The SS embarked on a deception process by beautification of the city (Haggith, Toby& Joanna, 94). It was completely transformed into a habitable place, and all the prisoners were sent to Auschwitz. The Red Cross visit proved to be crucial to the SS and even encouraged him to shoot another film to further lie about the dismal situation.

The second film was completed in March 1945 and was shown to the Red Cross delegation in Prague. All the acts of deception came crumbling after Auschwitz was invaded entirely and run over by the Red Army. The move exposed the camp for what it was: a human death camp that had been running under the eye of all international watchdogs. Traces of the films exist today in museums in Prague. The Germans spread of propaganda was the main reason millions of Jews died, an event often referred to as the Holocaust. Their leader, Adolf Hitler, had managed to convince his army that Jews were unholy and needed to be wiped from the face of the earth. An ordinary man viewing the film for the first time without prior knowledge of the event would have easily been fooled (Haggith, Toby& Joanna, 101). For example, when they beautified the town by building industries and sports centers, the Red Cross officials thought of the camp as a leisure retreat and hence paid little attention.

In conclusion, the Theresienstadt film showed the lengths that humans are willing to go to cover up their evil deeds. The injustices done to the Jews continue to haunt its survivors and their generations. The film teaches us the power of motion pictures in influencing our thoughts and behavior and why we should not believe anything that we see.

Works Cited

Haggith, Toby, and Joanna Newman, eds. Holocaust and the moving image: representations in film and television since 1933. Wallflower Press, 2005.93-102



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