Cover Osteuropa 4-6/2005

In Osteuropa 4-6/2005

Holokaust at full moon
Comments on a ZDF documentary from the perspective of the theory of genre

Hanno Loewy

Deutsche Fassung


The history department of ZDF (the second German public service TV station), headed by Guido Knopp, produces documentaries on the Nazi period and World War II which are very popular with viewers. The producers of the series Holokaust, on the history of the destruction of the European Jews, made unprecedented efforts in putting the programmes together. The result is a carefully researched historical documentary. But Holokaust is principally a drama, a highly syntheticized and homogenized history which follows a clearly delineated plot. Even though the historical details are correct, the material used is unconditionally subordinated to this plot. Holokaust is supposed to tell a tragic story, or at least to contain whatever “tragic” elements can be part of a horror film: stories about people caught up in events, people who are innocent and guilty at the same time, dogged by fate, seduced or traumatized by a demon who has made monsters out of human beings. The price paid for this is that the perpetrators can no longer be distinguished from their victims.

(Osteuropa 4-6/2005, pp. 308–318)