Review - The Holocaust on film

18th January 2013 at 00:00
A DVD resource helps pupils to sort fact from fiction

How the Holocaust should be represented is hotly debated. Should we re-enact scenes of trauma on film? Is it ethical to show people dying inside gas chambers when the only people who witnessed this were the victims? Should it be depicted at all?

Thinking Film, Thinking History: The Holocaust, a new DVD from Film Education and the Holocaust Educational Trust, aims to use such films as an educational resource while teaching pupils about their limitations as historical sources.

A wealth of films have portrayed the Holocaust in recent years, from Hollywood productions such as The Pianist and Defiance to award-winning German films Downfall and The Counterfeiters. The DVD encourages pupils to consider what they can and can't learn from films that may be historically inaccurate or based on fiction, such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, based on the novel by John Boyne about the son of a Nazi commandant striking up a friendship with a boy in a concentration camp.

Thinking Film: Thinking History contains clips from Cabaret, Judgement at Nuremberg and 10 other films, and comes with a CD-ROM packed with lesson activities. The resources include an introduction to film language; worksheets on topics from anti-Semitism to life in the ghetto; a historical overview of the Holocaust; and a worksheet highlighting the importance of watching films critically.

It is 68 years since Auschwitz was liberated, but Holocaust education is still necessary. Just two months ago, Hungarian politician Martin Gyongyosi, leader of the right-wing Jobbik party, called for the country's government to compile a list of Jewish citizens - just as Hungarian Jews were registered during the Second World War - because, he claimed, they could pose a security threat. A week before, Ashley Mills, a fan of Tottenham Hotspur FC - sometimes known as the "Yid Army" because of its historical association with a Jewish area - was subject to an anti-Semitic attack by a Fascist group in Rome.

Thinking Film, Thinking History helps young people to be critical of the way films depict events rather than take everything they see as the truth. Perhaps if they learn from the past, history will not repeat itself.

Holocaust Memorial Day is on 27 January. Thinking Film: Thinking History is available at bit.lyVIxPkv. For supporting material, visit bit.lyThinkingFilm.

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