Fabian Schmidt: The Westerbork Film in the Context of Holocaust Remembrances - Provenance and Use

Media studies investigation of the cinematic representation of the internment and deportation of Dutch Jews in the so-called "Judendurchgangslager Westerbork" (Holland) and its use in other films.

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Scan provided by Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, (c) public domain, shot in camp Westerbork 1944


    The subject of the study is the so-called Westerborkfilm, which was made in 1944 on behalf of the SS camp commandant of Westerbork and has been part of the UNESCO "Memory of the World" since 2017. Due to their uniqueness, the footage of the deportation train of 19 May 1944 from the Westerborkfilm has been an integral part of the iconography of theHolocaust since its use in Alain Resnais' Nuit et brouillard/ Night and Fog (1956). 

    The study builds on reflections on the formation of remembrances and „Historical images“ (Geschichtsbilder) and is situated in the borderland of memory studies, historiography and media studies. The status of the images suggests a pragmatic connection between film and history that goes beyond a relationship of representation and becomes manifest in a culture of use.

    In order to make this relationship tangible, the uses will be analysed in terms of their appropriation, in terms of their relation to the historical event and in the context of the master narrative of Holocaust memory (such as forms of victimisation and heroisation). The aim of the study is to better understand the emergence, significance and impact of audiovisual image icons and archival material in general for the creation and transformation of historical images (Geschichtsbilder) and the formation of collective memories

    • Project lead: Fabian Schmidt
    • CV: Fabian Schmidt, born 1972 in Lübeck, holds a degree in Sociology and an MA in Film Cultural Heritage. He is currently a team member of the DFG research project “(Con)sequential Images – An archaeology of iconic film footage from the Nazi era“ at the Konrad Wolf Film University. Since January 2021, he has been working as a research assistant in the HUJI team of the Horizon 2020 project "Visual History of the Holocaust: Rethinking Curation in the Digital Age". As a sound designer, Fabian Schmidt has worked on more than 50 feature films and film art installations. His work includes sound design on feature films such as "Toni Erdmann" (2016), "Victoria" (2015) and "Oh Boy" (2012), as well as art films such as "Manifesto" (2015) and "Deep Gold" (2014) by Julian Rosefeld or "Alipato" (2016) and "Ruined Heart" (2014) by Khavn de la Cruz. He is a member of the German and European Film Academies and was nominated for the German Film Award for Best Sound Design for the fourth time in 2021 ("Enfant Terrible" by Oskar Röhler). 
    • Contact: Fabian Schmidt
    • PhD Advisors: Prof. Chris Wahl, Tobias Ebrrecht-Hartmann
    • Scientific PhD in the discipline: Media Studies