Organizer: Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) in cooperation with the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation Österreichischer Rundfunk (ORF)
In the late 1970s, the US miniseries Holocaust shook TV audiences in the United States, in Western Europe and in Israel. The series was controversial, its reception remained ambivalent and said a lot about how the murder of the Jews was dealt with, remembered, forgotten or suppressed. In Eastern Europe, it was not possible to air Holocaust until after the fall of communism, hence it received a different reception there.
Today we can state that the trivialisation of the fate of one German-Jewish family during the years 1933-1945 caused an epochal change in the remembrance of the murder of the European Jews and significantly shaped its representation in the media. The series marked the beginning of a global culture of remembrance and opened up the possibility of having transnational, universal frames of reference. Before the miniseries, the term Holocaust had been little known and used; after the series it became the general (albeit initially still certainly controversial) descriptor for the Nazi murder of the Jews.
This year will mark the 35th anniversary of the first airing of the series on Austrian TV (ORF); the Simon Wiesenthal Conference 2014 will pick up on this occasion and look into how the Holocaust has been dealt with in US-American as well as (explicitly both East and West) European TV cultures as well as assessing the degree to which the series Holocaust influenced the way the Nazi mass murder was dealt with in national TV cultures, whether it was aired or not.
The miniseries Holocaust itself will not be the sole focus of the conference, however: the analysis of the reception or discussion of the series will merely be the starting point for a wider investigation into the TV depiction of the murder of the Jews. It is often forgotten that the murder of the Jews had already been the topic of numerous TV productions (trivial, artistic, fictional as well as documentary) before Holocaust was aired. These early TV productions were also subjects of heavy debates: these debates took on different forms that reflected the various political systems and depended on the specific cultures of remembrance in the given societies. Let us mention here only the Transmission of the Eichmann Trial on Hungarian TV in 1962, Helmut Qualtinger's legendary Herr Karl on the Austrian ORF in 1964 or Marcel Ophüls' 1969 The Sorrow and the Pity in France as well as the (not for TV) film Shoah by Claude Lanzmann.
A paradigm change eventually occurred in the 1990s, after both TV and new media offered innovative ways of addressing the Holocaust and allowed entrenched, even deadlocked paradigms of remembrance to be transformed via the media. These developments are awaiting closer analysis.
The conference will address the following questions:
- How did TV productions shape the memory of the Holocaust? What shape did the reception take in different countries and did any productions contribute to a globalization, universalization or Americanisation of the memory of the murder of the European Jews?
- Do the productions share a certain aesthetic form that can be identified as a visual telling of the Shoah? Are there new, innovative approaches that have developed as a result of or reaction against existing and established forms of the media representation of remembering the Holocaust?
- How did the TV formats develop as a result of the focus on the Holocaust? How did narrative/fictional, documentary and (where applicable) experimental productions rank over the course of the decades?
- What are the limits of the representation of the murder of the European Jews in depictions in the media?
We explicitly welcome abstracts addressing the history of the reception of relevant TV productions in the former socialist states. You are invited to enter either an individual contribution or an entire panel (no more than three contributions).
The conference languages will be German and English. The VWI will cover accommodation fees. The institute is also endeavouring to find separate funding for travel costs.
Applications should be written in German or in English and include an outline of the topic of no more than 600 words as well as a short CV and a list of publications.
Please send your application by email with the subject "SWC 2014" to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than June 22, 2014.
Wiener Wiener Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI)
Desider Friedmannplatz 1/19
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