"The Fundamental Truths of the Film Remain": Researching Individual Reception of Holocaust Films

  • Stefanie Rauch University College London
Keywords: Holocaust, film reception, grounded theory methodology, hermeneutic dialogue analysis, qualitative content analysis, NVivo, cultural studies, memory studies, history, media studies, Britain, education


In this article I will discuss empirical approaches to viewers' reception of films about the Holocaust. Existing studies tend to focus on the effects of, or responses to, one film or to one type of film, which results in skewed ideas about "Holocaust films" and their audiences. I will present a qualitative study of individual reception of feature films about the Holocaust I conducted in Britain, and demonstrate how a comparison of the reception of different films and genres can add to our understanding of their interpretation and impact. Differences and similarities in responses to feature films based on fictional narratives on the one hand and on "true stories" on the other hand, will be highlighted, while also taking into account viewers' interpretative communities. I will show that films based on true stories, especially if shot in a realist style, added more measurably to historical knowledge and understanding than those based on fiction, with the latter tending to be judged to different standards of authenticity. While viewers appeared to be able to recognise if a film is not primarily based on fact, they still expected a Holocaust film to be "true" in other ways.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1702140


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Author Biography

Stefanie Rauch, University College London

Dr. Stefanie Rauch is a Junior Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London. Her research interests include Holocaust studies, German history, media studies, and cultural and public history. Using interdisciplinary approaches, her focus is on how people in the past and present make sense of history and heritage as represented through ego-documents, or on film and television, and the wider socio-political context informing the ways in which people relate to and negotiate the past.

How to Cite
Rauch, S. (2017). "The Fundamental Truths of the Film Remain": Researching Individual Reception of Holocaust Films. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 18(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-18.2.2721
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