While America watches : television and the Holocaust in the United States, from 1945 to the present / Jeffrey Alan Schandler
- Variant Title
- Television and the Holocaust in the United States
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 601-657)
This dissertation examines presentations of the Holocaust on television as an important phenomenon of post-World War II American culture. The study adopts an openended approach to what might be considered within the embrace of "Holocaust television": all of the medium's genres are examined, including dramas, documentaries, news reports, public affairs programming, advertising. While focusing on how television's characteristics (small scale, intimacy, programming flow, dramatic mode, domestic setting, etc.) shape its mediations of the Holocaust, related phenomena, such as newsreels and the use of media in Holocaust museums, are also discussed. The dissertation critiques the notion that there is in "Holocaust television" an inherent incompatibility between a disturbing, ineffable subject and a popular, "low" medium--which gained wide currency following the premiere of the Holocaust miniseries (1978). Rather, "Holocaust television" is distinguished as an emerging concept in a nascent medium. Moreover, the respective developments of Holocaust memory culture and television broadcasting in America reach thresholds at similar times (e.g., telecasts of the war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann (1961)). Throughout the past half-century, "Holocaust television" also reflects the dynamics of the Jewish community within the United States. Holocaust dramas, beginning with those aired on prime-time anthology series and Sunday religious programs, offer revealing examples of American Jewish self-portraiture. In America, where mediations have always provided primary encounters with the Holocaust, television has helped establish watching vintage footage of liberated Nazi concentration camps as a morally transformative act of "witnessing" the Holocaust. In more recent years, the privileging of this mediated encounter with the Holocaust has been extended to watching testimonies by Holocaust survivors. Television figures strategically in debates over the Holocaust as "cultural property" in controversies surrounding recent dramas and documentaries, and it has also played a strategic role in elevating the Holocaust to the status of a master moral paradigm in American culture, evinced most recently by news reports on "ethnic cleansing" operations in Bosnia.
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