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The Holocaust was a genocide of six million Jews that was initiated by the German dictator Adolf Hitler in World War II. The cold blood murder in the Holocaust cannot be reversed; however, past mistakes can be learned by future generations thus preventing the possibility of a future repeat. In order to ensure posterity, education of the public has been done through various avenues including concentration camps’ tours, survivor testimonials, Museums and films. These have exposed the horrific torture and deaths that occurred in Europe. Some directors have explored the potential of the media to reach a global public and ensure that this sad event is retold. For instance, Roberto Benigni and Steven Spielberg directed the production of the films known as Life is Beautiful and Schindlers List respectively.
Storytelling and the Holocaust Truth
The truth of the Holocaust is contingent on the ability of the traumatized victims to visually re-construct the horrifying events of the Holocaust. This visual culture may be limited as a result of the different vintage points that the narrators give as to their experience in the Holocaust. Storytelling has been very instrumental in the narration of the Holocaust massacre.
According to one non-governmental organization, Healing Through Remembering (2002, p.24), there are several avenues for remembering the past conflicts like the Holocaust. They include memorialization, a truth commission and story telling. However, the truthfulness of the Holocaust has been pegged on the accuracy of the stories told about it. Story telling is imperative since it re-humanizes the victims of the holocaust and helps in enfranchising them in the society. This is essential for the victims to be at liberty to share accurate experiences with the concerned personalities like the media persons.
The type of audience to which the film is directed will determine the plot of the whole story. For instance, a Holocaust movie that targets an audience made up of children will eliminate most of the sadistic scenes thus compromising on the truthfulness of the film. On the other hand, a film targeting the adult audience will incorporate much of the torture, gas chamber murders and other brutal treatment experienced in the Holocaust.
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Other inhibitions like fear and trauma may compromise the truthfulness of the stories related by the victims. In addition, lack of a platform for the victims to be listened to discourages the victims from relating their experience. According to Del Zotto (2002), victimization is one of the key inhibitor of a dialogue that would ensure truthfulness in the recounting of the Holocaust bizarre. Storytelling can either be individualized or be a collective procedure that aims to transform not only the individual but also include the whole society. Individualizing storytelling is detrimental since the truthfulness of the story is dependent on the narratives from different victims who had an experience from different vintages.
Moreover, for the storytelling to be truthful enough, a liberal political atmosphere should be in operation to reassure the victims of their safety. However, the truthfulness of the story is not dependent on a safe environment per se but also hangs on the determination and commitment of the Holocaust survivors.
Some of the audience participates directly by involving themselves as casts of the films in order to communicate the message of the Holocaust. The audience also criticizes the films as to their authenticity by looking at the way they portray realism. According to Grobman, Landes and Milton (1983, p.8),
The visual impact of film footage showing Nazi atrocities raises a number of sensitive issues for the viewing pubic. Confronted by piles of naked corpses, the onlookers must consciously come to terms with the personal attitudes to violence and horror. The unpleasant immediacy of newsreel film showing women being herded naked into pits by the Eisatzgruppen (SS mobile killing units) [raise] issues which any audience must confront.