Representation and judgement : 'privileged' Jews in Holocaust writing and film

Brown, Adam 2009, Representation and judgement : 'privileged' Jews in Holocaust writing and film, Ph.D. thesis, School of Communication and Creative Arts, Deakin University.

Title Representation and judgement : 'privileged' Jews in Holocaust writing and film
Author Brown, Adam
Institution Deakin University
School School of Communication and Creative Arts
Faculty Faculty of Arts and Education
Degree name Ph.D.
Date submitted 2009
Keyword(s) Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) - Historiography
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), in literature
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945), in motion pictures
Summary This thesis analyses the ways in which moral judgements of so-called privileged Jews are constructed in Holocaust representations. ‘Privileged’ Jews include those prisoners in the camps and ghettos who held positions which gave them access to material and other benefits. Subject to extreme levels of coercion, these victims were compelled to act in ways that have often been judged as both self-serving and harmful to fellow inmates. Such controversial figures constitute an intrinsically important, frequently misunderstood and hastily judged facet of the Holocaust. Scholars have neglected the problem of judgement in relation to ‘privileged’ Jews; nonetheless, Holocaust texts frequently portray these liminal figures.

Of crucial importance to the thesis is Primo Levi’s paradigmatic essay entitled ‘The Grey Zone,’ which directly engages with the complex and sensitive issue of ‘privileged’ Jews. Levi argues that due to the extreme ethical dilemmas that ‘privileged’ Jews confronted, any judgement of these victims needs to be suspended. However, if, as Levi suggests, judgement is at times impossible, the thesis challenges Levi’s assumption by contending that representations of ‘privileged’ Jews inevitably take a moral position. In this way, the thesis conceptualises judgement as a ‘limit’ of representation. Indeed, it is shown that Levi himself cannot abstain from judging those for whom he argues judgement should be suspended.

The thesis takes Levi’s concept of the ‘grey zone’ as a point of departure in order to examine the problems of judgement and representation in relation to ‘privileged’ Jews. Analysis focuses on Raul Hilberg’s influential historical work and examples of documentary and fiction films. The thesis examines how Hilberg and several filmmakers employ conventions as a means of conveying judgement. It is argued that self-reflexive representations of ‘privileged’ Jews in film, particularly fictional dramatisation, have the potential to provide a nuanced representation of ‘privileged’ Jews, which engages with Levi’s ideas by questioning the possibility of judgement.
Notes Degree conferred 2010.
Language eng
Field of Research 200101 Communication Studies
Socio Economic Objective 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture
Description of original x, 255 leaves ; 30 cm.
Dewey Decimal Classification 940.5318
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