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The Holocaust in Czechoslovak and Czech Film

Class at Faculty of Arts |



Pioneers: Long Journey (Alfréd Radok, 1948)

New Wave: Transport from Paradise (Zbyněk Brynych, 1962); Diamonds of the Night (Jan Němec, 1964); The Prayer for Catherine Horovitz (Antonín Moskalyk, 1965); The Shop on Main Street (Ján Kadár, Elmar Klos, 1965); Dita Saxová (Antonín Moskalyk, 1967); The Cremator (Juraj Herz, 1968)

Non-representation of Jews: I survived my own death (Vojtěch Jasný, 1960); The Night caught me (Juraj Herz, 1985)

New depiction of the topic: Colette (Milan Cieslar, 2013)

Sentiment and stereotypes: The Last Butterfly (Karel Kachyňa, 1990); The King of the Colonnades (Zeno Dostál, 1990); All my beloved (Matej Mináč, 1999)

World context: The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin, 1940); Ostatni etap (Wanda Jakubowska, 1948); The Pawnbroker (Sidney Lumet, 1964); Holocaust (Marvin J. Chomsky, 1978); Sophie´s Choice (Alan J. Pakula, 1982); Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985); Au revoir les enfants (Louis Malle, 1987); Schindler´s list (Steven Spielberg, 1993); A boy in the stripped pajamas (Mark Herman, 2008)  


In Czechoslovakia, first film about the Holocaust was made in 1948, only three years after the Second World War. Over the last sixty years, more than thirty feature films and TV films have been made about the Holocaust in the Czech Republic and former Czechoslovakia. Films on this topic emerged in two waves. The first wave came in the 1960s as a part of European “New Wave”. Over ten films were made during this decade, and till these days they remain one of the first-rate films of Czechoslovak cinematography. The second wave of Holocaust films arrived after the Velvet revolution and continues till present.

The depiction of the Holocaust in the film evolved since 1948. Due to political reasons, the topic of Jewishness was suppressed during the Communist era (post-war anti-Semitism). On the contrary, films made after 1989 emphasize this aspect. In fact, Jewishness and Holocaust become necessary scenery in a film portraying the topic of World War Two. Film directors also changed the focus of their films from presenting raw reality to playing with the spectator´s feelings. Films made in 1960s are psychological and they present historical truth more accurate. On the other hand, specificity of many “new” films is accentuation of violence, eroticism, and trivialization. When looking closely at all films with this topic, we will find also significant similarities. For instance, many of these films present Jews, Jewishness and Holocaust in the form of a stereotype.

The aim of this course is to present key Czechoslovak and Czech films narrating the topic of the Holocaust and to show the evolution of the narration and the depiction in the context of world´s cinematography.