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Plan II Honors

Pascale Bos

Associate ProfessorPh.D. Comparative Literature, University of Minnesota (Twin Cities)

Pascale Bos



20th-century Comparative Western European and US literature; cultural studies, gender and memory, autobiography, Holocaust (history/culture/literature)


Dr. Bos' research areas include: World War II and the Holocaust (history, culture, literature, aftermath); trauma and memory; memory and gender; sexual violence in war and armed conflict; Western European Jewry; history and culture; literature; language of the Netherlands.



UGS 302 Reel Horror: The Holocaust in Hollywood Film

UGS 302 War and Sexual Violence

EUS Intro to European Studies

TC 357 The Holocaust on Trial: Conflicts of Justice and Memory

LAH 350 Holocaust Aftereffects

GSD 323 Women and the Holocaust

GSD 323 Too Tolerant? Dutch Culture in International Perspective

GER 392 Memory and Trauma



UGS 302 • Reel Horror: Holocaust Film-W

64735 • Fall 2009
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm MAI 220C

Fall 2009


Reel Horror: The Holocaust in Film

UGS 302 (Signature Lecture Course)


Instructor: Pascale Rachel Bos                                           Office: BUR 314

Phone: 232-6373                                                                    E-mail: 

Time: TTH 12:30-2:00                                                         Classroom: Main 220C

Office Hours: T 11:00-12:15 TH 2:00-3:300 or by appointment


Hollywood Holocaust Film as Cultural Memory

More than any other form of representation, film images leave their audience with the illusion of verisimilitude, of being “real.” This makes film a particularly powerful medium in the (re)presentation of historical events, in particular those that are hard to imagine because they deviate so radically from the norm. What was impossible to picture is now made visible. As such, film as a mass medium can generate a sense of a shared cultural memory among audiences who vary greatly in ethnic, cultural, or generational background, and who do not have a personal memory of an event based on actual lived experience.

In this course, we examine the specific American cultural memory of the Holocaust as it was formed through Hollywood productions on the Holocaust. In contrast to Europe where the events of the Holocaust took place and were witnessed personally, knowledge and understanding of the events in the United States has been from its earliest inception been mediated by cinematic images, be it of a documentary nature – newsreel footage of the opening of the concentration camps in 1945 - or of a more fictionalized nature. By tracing how Hollywood has shaped a uniquely American way of viewing the Holocaust and contrasting it with several significant foreign films that have been of great importance, this course considers the complex interplay between these forces of history, representation, and memory. We consider what cultural or political considerations, sensibilities, and concerns led to the production of certain films, and not others, how certain genres and cinematic techniques work and why they became popular, and why particular movies became blockbusters while others did not. We also ask why the Holocaust has come to such prominence in U.S. culture over the past thirty years, and whether it functions as a “screen memory” (or “Deckerinnerung”), that is: as a memory that replaces (“covers up”) another memory that is deemed too unacceptable or contentious to bring out in the open. What is the narrative that Hollywood has produced about the Holocaust?

The course thus concerns itself both with an examination of the medium of film (and to a lesser extent television) and the ethical and aesthetic choices that come into play in producing film narratives about traumatic history, and with the importance and the meaning of the Holocaust in American culture.


Course Requirements



Depending on the content of the week’s assignments and student presentations (see below) most classes will either start or end with a lecture and a brief in-class assignment which aids discussion. To prepare for the assignment, you need to have read the assigned reading and bring it to class.


Film Viewings

As a film course, you are expected to see all assigned films. To facilitate introductory lectures and communal discussion, all films will be shown either in part or in their entirety during class time, (usually, but not always on Tuesdays). If you need to miss a class, you are expected to see the film on your own. A note on the graphic nature of some of the images in these films: where possible, you will get a head’s up about which films or which parts of films may contain such footage. You will not be forced to sit through such scenes: you may request to skip a session, see a film only partially, or view a film on your own. Do contact the professor about this option beforehand.


At the beginning of the semester, you sign up for a presentation on one of the week’s assigned readings. You work on these presentations in pairs. Divide up the reading, read the texts carefully, and provide a question or a topic to which the rest of the class can respond. Your presentation should be 10 minutes per person (20 total), and will be followed by questions from the class and a discussion. It may be useful to discuss the presentation beforehand with me (in office hours or by email). It is recommended that you create a hand out. The presentation is graded. At the end of the semester, you will also give a 3-5 minute presentation on your final paper in which you talk about your thesis and the progress you have made thus far.


Writing Assignments

There are three different writing assignments: response papers, film précis, and a final paper which is broken up into several components. You will receive precise instructions for each assignment.

Response papers

Write two 1-page response papers. These response papers should be formally structured, and need to be about 250-300 words long. One is based on the University Lecture Series. Due dates: T Sept 29 and Th Oct 13.

Film Précis

Write two brief (2-3 pages) film précis, due on TH Sept 17 and T Oct 27. You will receive a writing prompt with directions. (Write an intro with a simple thesis, a short summary of the film, and an analysis of the text (your own), an end in a concrete conclusion). Use this paper to practice your formal writing skills for your final paper.

Final Paper

A final research paper, discussing a choice of the readings and/or one or more of the issues raised during this course, ranging 6-8 pages. You will receive elaborate hand outs on this assignment. We have an important session scheduled with a university librarian on how to use the university library catalogue, on how to find books, articles and other sources on October 27th. A one-page proposal is due T Nov 3rd. A short bibliography is due Th Nov 12th. We have a working thesis workshop in class on TH the 12th (bring a draft to work on!) and final thesis is due on T Nov 17th.  A one-page outline with thesis and opening paragraph, is due T Nov 24th (send in electronically). The final paper is due on Dec 10th (during Final’s week).



You are expected to attend all sessions, do the reading, and participate in discussions, many of which will be based on the readings. Because much of the class consists of small group work, attendance is mandatory, is reflected in your grade, and if you need to miss a class, I need to be notified. (E-mail will do just fine). Unexcused tardiness is counted as a ½ absence.


University Lecture Series

Signature Course students are required to attend at least one of the two large lectures (or watch them online). Fitting with the subject matter of this class is the September 22nd lecture, see below on the schedule. For a schedule of all the lectures, go to: There is an assignment associated with the lecture, see above (1 page response paper).







You are required to purchase Judith Doneson The Holocaust in American Life (2nd edition) Syracuse UP (2002), available new and second hand from Amazon. In addition, you need to get the course packet, available from Speedway Copies in the Dobie mall (PH: 478-3334).



We will watch the following films in class. If for some reason you are unable to attend that particular class session, you will need to view the films on your own time: Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust, Death Mills, Nuit et Brouillard, The Diary of Anne Frank, Judgment at Nuremberg, The PawnbrokerHolocaust, Sophie’s Choice, Shoah, Schindler’s List.



The University of Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 471-6259, 471-6441 TTY.


Writing Center

The Undergraduate Writing Center offers free, individualized, expert help with writing for any UT undergraduate, by appointment or on a drop-in basis. Their services are not just for writing with “problems.” Getting feedback from an informed audience is a normal part of a successful writing project. FAC 211,



A note on scholastic dishonesty

While doing research on the internet, it is tempting to copy and paste when you find a text that suits your need. However, this constitutes plagiarism, a form of scholastic dishonesty that UT takes very seriously. See: Make sure you quote properly, or paraphrase (while disclosing your original source). Plagiarism tutorial:



Use of cell phones and computers

Cell phones must be put away during class, and computers may be used only for note-taking. Students who use gadgets for non-class related activities will be marked absent and asked to leave for the remainder of that class.



Attendance/participation                       15%                       

Response papers (2)                                20%

Class presentation                                   10%                       

Film Precis (2)                                           20%

Final research paper                                35%

(proposal, bibliography, outline + 1st ¶, 5% each, paper: 15%)

I grade on an absolute scale, not a curve: 100-90 A, 89-80 B, 79-70 C, 69-60 D, < 59 F. I grade +/-


Grading criteria

An A student:

Always comes to class, on time, and has their materials with them

Has done the reading and is prepared to have an informed discussion about it in class

Works well with other students in small groups

Asks questions when s/he does not understand something

Volunteers to answer open questions in class

Has prepared (writing) assignments on time

Has followed the directions of the writing assignments carefully and has prepared accordingly

Adds significant new information to the class presentation

Spends just as much time on the form of the writing (revise, revise!) as on the content

Displays significant original and critical thought in the content of their writing

Visits office hours a few times during the semester


A B student:

Is almost always on time, almost always present, and has their materials with them

Is mostly prepared for class

Works well with other students in small groups

Does their best in working with other students in small groups

Sometimes volunteers to answer open questions in class

Has prepared almost all (writing) assignments on time

Follows most directions of the writing assignments and tests and prepares accordingly

Adds some new information to the class presentation

Spends nearly as much time on the form of the writing (revise, revise!) as on the content

Displays some original and critical thought in the content of their writing

Visits office hours at least once during the semester


A C student:

Is generally on time, misses no more than five classes, and usually has their materials with them

Is usually or sometimes prepared for class

Works okay with other students in small groups

Sometimes spends their time chatting with students instead of doing group work

Rarely volunteers to answer open questions in class

Has prepared some (writing) assignments on time

Minimally follows directions of the writing assignments and tests and prepares briefly

Just summarizes the assigned text for the class presentation

Uses little library resources, or uses them improperly

Spends little time on writing form and reproduces basic content from research





Readings are listed on the day they will be discussed so read them before you come to your next class. Always bring assigned texts to class on days we discuss it. If a film is listed, it means we will watch it in class. R denotes that a text can be found in the class reader. Doneson refers to The Holocaust in American Film, the text you are required to buy for this course.


Note on graphic content: while it is not the intent of the course to in any way make you uncomfortable,  you will likely be exposed to some graphic material. The syllabus below contains a note when the material we will watch is GRAPHIC. You have the option of skipping a particular viewing, leaving during a viewing if the material is too upsetting, or to view the material on your own (which means you can fast forward etc.) Contact me about any of these options.




Week 1                  Introduction

Th 27 Aug             Introduction to the course structure of class, syllabus, survey and bios


                                Assignment: write survey and bio and think of which presentation you would like to do.


Week 2                  Brief Introduction to the History of WW II and the Holocaust

T 1 Sept                 Bio due! Survey due! Sign up for presentations!


                                We will review the survey that you got to complete over the weekend and discuss the

following questions: What do we (think) we already know about the Holocaust, and how

did we acquire this knowledge? How great of a role did film and television images play in shaping our understanding of the Holocaust? Which films or television programs stand out? How much of what we thought turns out to be correct or incorrect?


We discuss: “Chronology of the Holocaust and WW II“ #1 in R and “Maps” #2 in R


Th 3                        Hollywood and German Nazism until 1941

                                Watch part I of Daniel Anker Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust (2004)

in class, lecture, and discussion:


                                Who ran the early Hollywood film industry, and what were their concerns? Why was the

U.S. so intent on not criticizing the new Nazi regime? What did the U.S. know of the

 violence that the regime committed and what explains their response (or lack of)?


                                OPTIONAL: read Doneson CH 1 “Reflections of…”




Week 3                  Film as Evidence: The Holocaust in Movie Newsreels

T 8                          Watch parts of Nazi Death Mills (1945) NOTE: GRAPHIC FOOTAGE


                                We discuss why these images were shot, how they were used and why (in the U.S. and in

occupied Germany), and what their impact was on American and German audiences. Did

 the material succeed in serving as evidence of Nazi brutality?


We discuss the reading: Kay Gladstone “Separate Intentions…” #3 in R


Th 10                     A “Conspiracy of Silence”? Hollywood’s silence in the 1950s

                                Watch part of Imaginary Witness

                                Watch part of George Stevens The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)


                                We discuss what political and cultural factors led to a silencing of the Holocaust in the

 immediate postwar years How did (Jewish) fears of antisemitism, Cold War rehabilitation

 of West Germany and fear of Communism play a role?


We discuss: Doneson CH 2 “The Diary of Anne Frank in the Context of…”


                                Presentation:                        and



Week 4                  Realism and Holocaust Documentary: Night and Fog (1955)

T 15                        Watch Alain Resnais Nuit en Brouillard (1955), NOTE: SOME GRAPHIC FOOTAGE


                                Think about the use of images, sound, music, narration in this film: how do they

                                complement each other? What seems to be the film’s overall message? How does this film

                                seem to differ from the newsreel footage shown in 1945, and the early postwar Hollywood

 treatment of the Holocaust? (Among others The Diary of Anne Frank of 1957).  Is the

Holocaust understood as an event specifically affecting European Jews?


Discuss the reading: Text of Night and Fog (translated) #4 in R

Elizabeth Cowie “Seeing and Hearing for ourselves...” #5 in R

Jean-Marc Dreyfuss “Censorship and Approval: the Reception of…” #6 in R


                                Presentation:                        and


Th 17                     Film Precis # 1 due!

Judgment at Nuremberg: Re-introducing the Holocaust a Generation Later

                                Watch (parts of) Stanley Kramer Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)


                                Assignment: work on questions for response paper #1


Week 5                  Discussion session Judgment at Nuremberg

T 22                        Response Paper 1 due!


                                The first major Hollywood production to present the Nazi crimes to a broad audience, it

 uses documentary footage of the liberation of the concentration camps. We discuss the

 major themes of the movie and its particular importance in U.S. culture.


We discuss: Doneson CH 3 “Chaos and Social Upheaval…” (87-112 only)

Alan Mintz “The Holocaust at the Movies: Three Studies in Reception” (part 1) #7 in R


Presentation:                        and



7 PM Bass Concert Hall University Lecture series

“How to Know a Tyrant When You See One: Models of Tyranny and Leadership from Classical Drama” Dean Paul Woodruff, School of Undergraduate Studies. REQUIRED attendance or viewing, the lecture can be viewed online within 72 hours after the event.

Assignment: Write a brief (1 page) response paper discussing the lecture’s main content, relevance to the course’s topic, and what you thought about it. Due on Tuesday the 29th.



Th 24                     Holocaust Memory: Exploring the Event’s After-Effects

The Impact of the televising of the Eichmann Trial in the U.S. in 1961:

Survivors take the stand


                                We discuss: Tim Coleman “Adolf Eichmann” #8 in R                               

Jeffrey Shandler “The Man in the Glass Box: Watching …” #9 in R 


                                Presentation:                        and        



Week 6                  The Memory of the Holocaust and American Politics of the 1960s

T 29                        1 page response paper in “How to Know a Tyrant” due!

                                Watch (parts) of Sidney Lumet The Pawn Broker (1965)


Th 1 Oct                                How does the film discuss the intolerance of the Nazis in the context of U.S. racial tensions

of the period? Does it make sense to (re)view the Holocaust through this lens?


Alan Mintz “The Holocaust at the Movies: Three Studies in Reception” (part 2) #10 in R


                                Presentation:                        and



Week 7                  The Holocaust is Televised

T 6                          The Television series The Holocaust Watch excerpts in class

Start reading Doneson CH 4 “Television and the Effects of Holocaust


Th 8                        Discussion of The Holocaust miniseries

How does the medium of television differ from that of film? What adjustments had to be

                                made to the story for  it to work as a miniseries? What do we make of the extremely

divergent responses to the film in the U.S., and again in West Germany? What ethical and

aesthetic arguments were leveled against the film? Do those still hold up, thirty years later?


We discuss:

Marianne Singerman “Holocaust reviewed” #11 in R

Anton Kaes “1979: The American television series ‘Holocaust’… ” #12 in R

Doneson CH 4 “Television and the Effects of Holocaust


                                Presentation:                        and        



Week 8                  Is Any Representation Better than No Representation?

T13                         Response Paper 2 due!

Watch Alan J. Pakula Sophie’s Choice (1982)                                             


Th 15                     The ethics of Holocaust representation

                                Discussion of Sophie’s Choice: what does it mean to tell the story of the Holocaust through

a non-Jewish protagonist? Does it displace the memory of the Holocaust? Is memory

always premised on rivalry? Is it acceptable to have a sexual/romantic sub-plot in a

Holocaust movie? What do we make of the American framing of the story?


Ilan Avisar “The Hollywood Film and …” (excerpt ) #13 in R


                                Presentation:                        and



Week 9                 The Witnesses Speak

T 20                        Watch excerpts of Claude Lanzmann Shoah (1985)                 


Th 22                     Discussion of Shoah


What were some of the unusual choices Lanzmann made for this film? How does the absence of documentary footage function? How does the (lack) of explicit structure in the film work, and its length? What do we make of Lanzmann’s interviewing style? What issues of staging and representation does this film bring up?


                                Joshua Hirsch “Shoah and the posttraumatic…” #14 in R


Presentation:                        and



Week 10                Library/Research Session

T 27                       Film Precis # 2 due!

Meet at the entrance of  PCL today is a library information session (attendance required)


                                Assignment: formulate possible topic(s) for final paper in 1-page proposal.


Th 29                     Hollywood’s Answer: the Holocaust Blockbuster

                                Watch Steven Spielberg Schindler’s List (1993)



Week 11                Discussion of Schindler’s List

T 3 Nov                 1-page proposal for final paper due!


                                Spielberg’s intent to make the “definitive” movie about the Holocaust, the dispute between

Spielberg and Lanzmann, ethical choices (what should/should not be represented), aesthetic choices (use of b/w instead of color, musical score) and narrative choices (why the focus on the “good” German, the happy ending, the actual survivors and their descendants appearing at the end of the film?)


Alan Mintz “The Holocaust at the Movies: Three Studies in Reception” (part 3) #15 in R

Miriam Bratu Hansen Schindler’s List is not Shoah…” # 16 in R

Mary Ellen Mark “Using Light and dark as Paint” #17 in R

                                Doneson Ch 5 Whose History Is It?”


Presentation:                        and


Th 5                        The Americanization of the Holocaust

                                Ilan Avisar “Holocaust Movies and the Politics of Collective Memory” #18 in R

                                Alan Mintz “From Silence to Salience” # 19 in R        


                                Assignment: create bibliography for final paper.



Week 12                Divergent Representations I: Comedy

 T 10                       Watch excerpts of

Mel Brooks The Producers (1968, excerpts)

Roberto Begnigni Life is Beautiful (1998, excerpts)

                                Peter Kassovits  Jacob the Liar (1999, excerpts)


Discuss the reading Lawrence Baron “Serious Humor: Laughter as Lamentation” # 20 in R


Th 12                     Hand in bibliography for final paper!

                                Working thesis workshop in class. Bring your ROUGH draft of a working thesis


                                Assignment: prepare working thesis



Week 13                Divergent Representations II: The Holocaust beyond Heroes and Victims

T 17                        Working thesis due!

                                Watch Tim Blake Nelson The Grey Zone (2001)         


Th 19                     The Grey Zone is a very different movie from earlier Holocaust movies, and one can argue

that it could only be made after other aspects of the Holocaust had already been highlighted. Dealing with the exceptional Sonderkommando – concentration camp inmates who had been selected to do all the work leading up to, and following extermination in the gas chambers – it focuses on the moral dilemmas camp inmates faced, and the cost of survival. Lauded by some, considered deeply controversial by others, the film will lead us to discussion about what can and should (not) be represented in Holocaust film.


Discuss the reading: Lawrence Baron “Projecting the Holocaust into...” # 21 in R


                                Presentation:                        and


                                Assignment: read texts for week 14, + write first ¶ with thesis and outline for final paper.



Week 14                Research Week

T 24                        One-page outline with thesis and opening paragraph is due! (send in electronically)

No class, read and write on your final research project


Th 26                     NO CLASS Thanksgiving


                                Assignment: work on your final paper, prepare BRIEF presentation.



Week 15                Final Class Discussion: Film as Memory

T 1 Dec                  Doneson “Conclusion”

Dora Apel “The Aftermath of the Holocaust” #22 in R

                                Rosenfeld “The Americanization of the Holocaust” # 23 in R



Th 3                        Final presentations

                                Presentations (2-3 minutes) of research findings/final paper in class.


                                Continue work on final paper or hand in your final paper today!



Finals' week         Final paper due DEC 10th electronic copies need to be in by email by 5 PM




Last day to drop without penalty

Last day to drop with a given grade


Week 2                 

T 1 Sept                 Bio due! Survey due! Sign up for presentations


Week  3                

F 11 Sept               Twelfth class day, last day to drop a class for a possible refund


Week 4

Th 17 Sept            Film Precis # 1 due


Week 5

T 22 Sept               7 PM Bass Concert Hall University Lecture series

“How to Know a Tyrant When You See One: Models of Tyranny and Leadership from Classical Drama” REQUIRED


W 23 Sept             Last day to drop a class without a possible academic penalty


Week 6                 

T 29 Sept               1 page response paper in “How to Know a Tyrant” due


Week 8                 

T13 Oct                 Response Paper 2 due


Week 9

W Oct 21               Last day an undergraduate student may, with the dean’s approval, withdraw from the

University or drop a class except for urgent and substantiated, nonacademic reasons

Last day a student may change registration to or from the pass/fail or credit/no credit basis


Week 10               

T 27 Oct                                Meet at the entrance of  PCL today is a library information session


T 27 Oct                                Film Precis # 2 due


Week 11               

T 3 Nov                 1-page proposal for final paper due


Week 12

Th 12 Nov             Hand in bibliography for final paper


Week 13               

T 17 Nov               Working thesis due


Week 14               

T 24 Nov               One-page outline with thesis and opening paragraph is due (send in electronically)


Week 15

Th 3 Dec                Presentations (2-3 minutes) of research findings/final paper in class.


Finals' week        

Th 10                     Final paper due, electronic copies may reach me by email UNTIL 5 PM.


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