Even people familiar with cinema believe there is no such thing as a Soviet Holocaust film. The Phantom Holocaust tells a different story. The Soviets were actually among the first to portray these events on screens. In 1938, several films exposed Nazi anti-Semitism, and a 1945 movie depicted the mass execution of Jews in Babi Yar. Other significant pictures followed in the 1960s. But the more directly filmmakers engaged with the Holocaust, the more likely their work was to be banned by state censors. Some films were never made while others came out in such limited release that the Holocaust remained a phantom on Soviet screens.
Focusing on work by both celebrated and unknown Soviet directors and screenwriters, Olga Gershenson has written the first book about all Soviet narrative films dealing with the Holocaust from 1938 to 1991. In addition to studying the completed films, Gershenson analyzes the projects that were banned at various stages of production.
The book draws on archival research and in-depth interviews to tell the sometimes tragic and sometimes triumphant stories of filmmakers who found authentic ways to represent the Holocaust in the face of official silencing. By uncovering little known works, Gershenson makes a significant contribution to the international Holocaust filmography.
About the Author
OLGA GERSHENSON is an associate professor in the Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Department at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is the author of Gesher: Russian Theater in Israel and editor of Ladies and Gents: Public Toilets and Gender.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments — ix 1 Screening the Holocaust in the Soviet Union: Jews without the Holocaust and the Holocaust without the Jews — 1 2 Soviet Antifascist Films of the 1930s: The Earliest Images of Nazi Anti-Semitism and Concentration Camps on World Screens — 13 3 The First Phantom: I Will Live! (1942) — 29 4 How a Soviet Novel Turned into a Jewish Film: The First Depiction of the Holocaust on Soviet Screens, The Unvanquished (1945) — 40 5 The Holocaust on the Thawing Screens: From The Fate of a Man (1959) to Ordinary Fascism (1965) — 57 6 The Holocaust at the Lithuanian Film Studio: Gott mit Uns (1961) — 71 7 The Holocaust without the Jews: Steps in the Night (1962) and Other Films — 82 8 Kalik versus Goskino: Goodbye, Boys! (1964/1966) — 91 9 Stalemate (1965) between the Filmmaker and the Censors — 102 10 Kalik’s Last Phantom: King Matt and the Old Doctor (1966) — 115 11 The Film That Cost a Career: Eastern Corridor (1966) — 127 12 Muslims Instead of Musslmans: Sons of the Fatherland (1968) — 145 13 Commissar (1967/1988): The End of the Thaw — 158 14 An Alternative Track: Jewish Soldiers Fighting on Soviet Screens — 173 15 The Last Phantom—the First Film: Our Father (1966/1990) — 190 viii Contents 16 Perestroika and Beyond: Old Wine in New Bottles? — 206 17 Conclusions — 223 Abbreviations and Acronyms — 229 Notes — 231 Index — 269