“Britain’s secret Schindler”: the impact of Schindler’s List on British media perceptions of civilian heroes

Bell, Erin (2017) “Britain’s secret Schindler”: the impact of Schindler’s List on British media perceptions of civilian heroes. In: A companion to Steven Spielberg. Wiley Blackwell Companions to Film Directors . Wiley, pp. 320-335. ISBN 9781118726914

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In Afterimage, his analysis of cinema as a “transmitter of historical trauma and a form of posttraumatic historical memory”, Joshua Hirsch noted the ongoing production of documentaries considering the Holocaust even in the wake of – or perhaps because of – the massive success of Schindler’s List a decade earlier (2004, 3, 140). This chapter aims to contemplate the impact of the same film by focusing on the representation of one man in particular, British banker and philanthropist Nicholas Winton. For, whilst in 1995 Thomas Fensch’s edited collection on Oscar (sic) Schindler unsurprisingly included the then-recently released film, and Yoshefa Loshitsky’s two years later considered critical responses from a number of national perspectives, this contribution aims to take a less critical approach to the film as text, and will instead focus upon its effects in Britain in the two decades after its release, using Winton as a case study. It will consider media acknowledgement of the achievements of Winton and his colleagues in organizing the deliverance of Jewish and non-Jewish Czech and Slovakian children from Czechoslovakia in 1939, in response to the German invasion. It will also discuss the initial British commemoration of his deeds a half-century later, drawing on material in the British Library’s oral history holdings, specifically the “Living Memory of the Jewish Community” project. Finally, it will move on to determine the extent to which the success of Steven Spielberg’s film in the early 1990s led in the following decades both to a refocusing upon Winton’s achievements but also to a remodeling of the man into an ersatz Schindler, when his life and background were significantly different from those of the German businessman.

Keywords:Holocaust, Film, British press, Hollywood, Spielberg, History documentaries
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V147 Modern History 1950-1999
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V146 Modern History 1920-1949
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V210 British History
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V148 Modern History 2000-2099
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P500 Journalism
Divisions:College of Arts > School of History & Heritage > School of History & Heritage (History)
Relation typeTarget identifier
ID Code:25926
Deposited On:01 Feb 2017 17:47

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