Images with Consequences – An Archaeology of Iconic Film Footage from the Nazi Era

The German Research Foundation (DFG) is funding a joint research project between the Film University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on the indexing and analysis of historical film material and its use.

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Photo by Alexander Zöller

On May 1, 2021, the DFG long-term project ‘Images with Consequences – An Archaeology of Iconic Film Footage from the Nazi Era’, headed by Prof. Dr. Chris Wahl and Dr. Tobias Ebbrecht-Hartmann, started as a cooperation between the Film University Babelsberg and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

The common perception of the Nazi era and the Holocaust is largely based on a certain pool of heterogeneous materials, such as the last moving images of Adolf Hitler from the German newsreel, footage from the transition camp Westerbork and the Warsaw Ghetto, Reinhard Wiener's amateur film of shootings in Liepaja, Eva Braun's home movies from the Berghof and Leni Riefenstahl's TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. However, little is known about the exact history of the transmission of these materials and their various versions. This is about to change.

The research project aims to reconstruct and analyze the material and usage history of a large number of iconic film sequences created during the Nazi era using an archaeological approach to make statements about the function and significance of audiovisual sources in the culture of remembrance based on empirical data collection.

"We want to learn more about their creation and function from the materials themselves, as well as with the help of contextualizing documents," says project director Wahl from the Film University in Potsdam-Babelsberg. In addition to provenance, however, the focus is also on the subsequent use of the films under investigation. "The process of iconization of such film footage, that is, its constant appropriation and recontextualization in other films from the 1940s until today, has not been explored at all," Ebbrecht-Hartmann from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem explains the project's approach.

The results of the research will be published in various formats in the coming years, as an online database, in academic essays and books, as video essays, in accompanying materials for DVD editions, and as concepts for educational work.

For more information, see the project website