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Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Germanic Languages & Literatures
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Film and Media Studies | German Language and Literature
CHILDREN IN FRANK BEYER’S HOLOCAUST FILMS
DELENE CASE WHITE, B.A. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH ALABAMA
M.A. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH ALABAMA
Ph.D., UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST
Directed by: Professor Barton Byg
This dissertation is about central functions children play in the Holocaust films of (East) German director Frank Beyer: Nackt unter Wölfen (Naked among Wolves, 1963), Jakob der Lügner (Jacob the Liar, 1974), and Wenn alle Deutschen schlafen (While all Germans Sleep, 1994). Beyer’s child characters contribute to resistance and challenge oversimplified ways the Holocaust and German division have often been remembered. Beyer’s films do not elide truthful representations of the Holocaust, and they avoid clichéd representations of children, Jews and Germans.
Released over a 31-year span, characters in these films demonstrate increasing agency, drawing out universal humanity in people around them—even German soldiers—in the form of storytelling, play, and the desires to protect others and live ordinary, worthwhile lives. Over time, these films also reveal changes in Beyer’s filmmaking artistry, as well as his collaboration with the author Jurek Becker. I explore the intertwined evolution of Beyer’s child characters and his filmic approach in four central chapters. The Introduction sets the stage by outlining German and international films about the Holocaust and reviewing Beyer’s biography. Chapter One provides an overview of adaptation theory, moral philosophy, and methods for analyzing representations of war and the gaze of the child, as well as the biographies of Bruno Apitz and Jurek Becker, the authors whose novels Beyer adapted to film. Chapter Two examines how Naked among Wolves, which is ensconced in antifascist ideology and conventions of Socialist Realism, nevertheless challenges tenets of each, by decentering Communist heroes and focusing on a child. In discussing Jacob the Liar, which is set among Jews in a Polish ghetto and completely displaces Communists, Chapter Three explores how Beyer deploys the narrative devices of fantasy, flashbacks and flashforwards to depict how characters preserve their humanity in the midst of the Holocaust. Finally, Chapter Four shows how Beyer takes his abandonment of antifascist and social realist conventions a step further in While all Germans Sleep, which departs from fantasy and flashbacks in favor of a more objective narrative style, while challenging conventional views of the Holocaust through depictions of childhood autonomy and agency.
White, Delene M., "Children in Frank Beyer's Holocaust Films" (2016). Doctoral Dissertations. 815.