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Liat Steir-Livny, Ph.D.

Senior Lecturer. Holocaust Studies, Film Studies & Cultural Studies  

ARTICLEs

The Portrayal of Holocaust Survivors in Israeli Feature Films Following the Six‑Day War

Liat Steir-Livny 2018

In the aftermath of the Second World War, approximately 450,000 Holocaust survivors immigrated to Palestine and after 1948 – to the nascent State of Israel. The complex encounters of the newcomers with the Jews who had already been living in Palestine were reduced to a series of superficial representations in Israeli feature films. The robust Zionist ideology dominated Israeli filmmaking of the 1940s and 1950s. Films made during that era presented a biased worldview, emphasising the Holocaust’s Zionist “lesson”: the importance of a Jewish state in the land of Israel. As part of this narrative, survivors were often portrayed as people broken in body and in spirit, who could be healed and transformed into strong “new Jews” only in Israel. During the 1961 Eichmann trial, Israelis were exposed – some for the first time – to numerous testimonies which made them more cognisant of the complexity of the Jewish experience during the Holocaust. Following the trial, initial attempts were made at producing feature films which depicted a more multifaceted image of survivors. The article argues that the euphoria that followed the 1967 Six‑Day War resurrected the image of the “new Jew” and cast Holocaust survivors into their former role as the antithesis of the powerful Israeli. The rupture of Israeli society following the Yom Kippur War in October 1973, which opened the door to renewed identification with the suffering of Europe’s Jews under Nazism, did not restore these first cinematic attempts of the early 1960s. The article discusses these themes through the analysis of two prominent films that were produced in the decade following the 1967 war: He Walked through the Fields (Hu halach basadot, 1967) by Yosef Millo and Operation Thunderbolt (Mivtsa Yonatan, 1977) by Menahem Golan.

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Keywords:

Israeli cinema; New Jews; Holocaust survivors; Holocaust awarness in Israel

Reference:

Steir-Livny, Liat. “The Portrayal of Holocaust Survivors in Israeli Feature Films Following the Six‍‑Day War “, Narracje o Zagładzie, 4, 2018: 96-112

© 2014 Liat Steir-Livny. Designed by Boaz Albert