Power to Teach. Power to Prevent?

Exploitation and moral responsibility in Holocaust filmmaking

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Nevertheless, the impulse behind Nazism--if not the massive scale of its realization--has been shared by other peoples and nations. This has taken the form of synagogue bombings in Paris, marches in Skokie, or witch hunts in Argentina.

As long as there are people like Professor Faurisson in France who proclaim in print that the gas chambers did not exist, there must be active resistance by those who know they did exist. The luxury of forgetfulness is not possible, because the Holocaust is neither a closed chapter nor an isolated event.

As Alain Resnais explained to me about his film, Night and Fog, "The constant idea was to not make a monument to the dead, turned to the past. If this existed, it could happen again; it exists now in another form."

Films not only commemorate the dead but illuminate the price to be paid for unquestioned obedience to governmental authority. In recognizing our ability to identify with characters, whether Jewish, German, kapo, or Communist, we move one step closer to guarding against that which permitted the Holocaust to develop--indifference. Perhaps the beam cast by film projectors can pierce the continuing willed blindness.

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Annette Insdorf

Annette Insdorf is Director of Undergraduate Film Studies at Columbia University, where she holds the title of Professor as well as Chair of the Doctoral Program in Film Theatre.