The Hero’s Wife: The Depiction of Female Holocaust Survivors in Israeli Cinema Prior to the Eichmann Trial and in its Aftermath
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Israeli culture in the 1940s and 1950s was dominated by ideological considerations. Zionist films, as other aspects of Eretz-Israel and Israeli culture, distinctively propagated Zionist ideas. As a consequence of their sociopolitical focus, these films neglected the complexities of the relationship between Holocaust survivors and the native Jews in Eretz Israel. Instead, Holocaust survivors were reduced to a homogeneous entity that bore distinct negative connotations. Films depicted female Holocaust survivors as mentally unstable, unfit mothers, and often played up negative sexual stereotypes. In these films, the women were “cured” or went through a process of “purification” thanks to the Zionist establishment. Historical research often cites the trial of Adolf Eichmann (1961) as being a turning point in the Israeli public’s perception of the Holocaust, and its representation in Israeli culture. This article will focus on an analysis of the film The Hero’s Wife (Peter Frye, 1963) that was produced in the aftermath of the trial. It will discuss the innovative representations of this unresearched film and will seek to answer the questions of why, and in what way, its narrative comprises a subversive antithesis to the narrative shaped by Zionist fiction films made prior to the Eichmann trial.
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