Liat Steir-Livny, Ph.D.

Senior Lecturer. Holocaust Studies, Film Studies & Cultural Studies  


Near and far: the representation of Holocaust survivors in Israeli feature films

Liat Steir-Livny 2011

Israeli cinema: identities in motion

The immigration to Israel of approximately 500,000 Holocaust survivors in the aftermath of World War II has found ample expression in Israeli cinema throughout the years. Scholars of Israeli cinema maintain that the cinematic Zionist narrative of the 1940s and 1950s described the encounter between Holocaust survivors and Israelis in a stereotypical manner. Survivors were often portrayed as people broken in body and in spirit, who needed to be transformed from a "diasporic Jew" to a Hebrew, "new Jew". These scholars further assert that over the years, especially since the late 1970s, the negative image of Holocaust survivors dissipated and was replaced by a more complex image. Contrary to these notions, I would like to argue that the problematic image of Holocaust survivors in Israeli fiction films has remained almost unchanged. Instead of addressing the complexity of the Holocaust trauma and the varied facets of Holocaust survivors' identities, Israeli fiction films from the late 1970s onward continue to replicate the same superficial imagery, portraying negative images of survivors who are shown as collapsing under the burden of the past and losing their grip on reality.

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Israeli culture, Holocaust commemoration, Holocaust remembrance, Holocaust representations, collective memory, Zionism, Israeli cinema, Holocaust, Holocaust survivors


Steir-Livny, Liat. "Near and far: the representation of Holocaust survivors in Israeli feature films". Miri Talmon-Bohm and Yaron Peleg (eds), Israeli cinema: identities in motion. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011, pp. 168-180.

© 2014 Liat Steir-Livny. Designed by Boaz Albert