jeudi 17 avril 2008

Holocauste et pornographie

Le festival newyorkais Film Forum a mis Stalags à l'affiche jusqu'au 22 avril.

Avec le passage des années, l'horrible expérience qu'ont subie les Juifs dans les camps allemands a progressivement quitté le champ de l'expérience humaine pour acquérir une dimension religieuse déconnectée de l'histoire au sens strict.

Certes, les historiens poursuivent leurs travaux, mais principalement sur la périphérie du phénomène. Le cœur de cet instant tragique de l'histoire humaine est en passe de devenir une terra sancta hors d'atteinte.

Ce ne fut pas toujours ainsi. Quand les rescapés de cette catastrophe étaient assez nombreux, dans la force de l'âge, ils ne considéraient pas leur martyre avec les mêmes yeux que nos contemporains.

Une des manifestations les plus spectaculaires, et les plus dérangeantes pour les générations actuelles, fut la floraison dans le jeune Etat d'Israël de ce qu'on appelle la « pornographie nazie ».

Connue des spécialistes, elle vient de faire l'objet en 2007 de l'excellent documentaire israélien Stalags, écrit et dirigé par Ari Libsker, produit par Barak Heymann

Comme bien souvent, les Israéliens nous donnent des leçons d'objectivité et de liberté d'esprit quand il s'agit d'aborder des sujets délicats. Voici quelques articles qui explorent le sujet :

Par le quotidien Haaretz .

Par le quotidien Haaretz en anglais.

Par le FrankfurterRundschau.

Par le New York Times.

Voici ce qu'écrit le magazine américain Slate :

Un aviateur allié, rarement juif, est capturé et torturé par des gardes « SS » dénudées.

Israel's Nazi-porn problem

Taking their name from the Nazi prison camps in which they were set, Stalags were Israeli pornographic paperbacks featuring Nazi themes.

How do you make a movie about a disreputable and totally defunct literary genre? That question never quite gets answered by Ari Libsker's hour-long documentary "Stalags," but the questions Libsker raises about truth, fiction, sexuality and post-Holocaust Jewish identity are so interesting the film's lack of cinematic sensibility may not matter. For some reason Libsker shot most of "Stalags" on black-and-white video, a distracting and perverse choice given that the Nazi-themed pulp novels of his title sported titillating covers in lurid color. Maybe he wants to dampen the sensationalistic aspect of his subject matter, but there's really no way to do that.

As many older Israelis evidently remember, the then-new nation was afflicted by a perverse pop-culture craze in the early '60s, at a time when nearly half the population consisted of Holocaust survivors, nationalist sentiment ran high and moral codes were extremely puritanical. Yet the newsstands in the Tel Aviv bus station sold racks of semi-pornographic pulp novels known as "Stalags," whose utterly implausible, Penthouse Forum-meets-Marquis de Sade plots ventured into the most forbidden terrain imaginable. Stalags all followed essentially the same formula: An American or British World War II pilot (generally not Jewish) is shot down behind enemy lines, where he is imprisoned, tortured and raped by an entire phalanx of sadistic, voluptuous female SS officers. His body violated but his spirit unbroken, the plucky Yank or Brit escapes in the end to rape and murder his captors.

Une iconographie qui s'inspire des modèles en vigueur
aux Etats-Unis à la même époque.

Stalags thrived for a few years and then disappeared, banished to the memory hole as a massive cultural embarrassment. Libsker meets a couple of the dubious characters who collect them; one insists that his face be obscured on camera (like a corporate whistleblower or a child molester on "60 Minutes"), and also appears to believe that the scenarios depicted actually occurred during World War II, or at least could have. (Just in case you're wondering, there were no female SS officers, nor any other women assigned to guard Allied POWs.) Israel's national library appears to contain a trove of them, buried deep in the catalog software and hidden from public view. Yet as some Israelis who were children and teenagers at the time testify, the Stalags provided sexual titillation in a society that repressed it, and also the illicit thrill of accessing a dark, secret recent past their European-born parents never discussed. They offered a Stockholm-syndrome equation of evil with eros and a juvenile revenge fantasy, all rolled into one.

As an outsider to both Judaism and Israeli society, I don't find the existence of the Stalags mysterious in the least. Given the scale of trauma that brought the State of Israel into being, and brought so many of its inhabitants over the sea, some kind of twisted and perverse fantasy reaction was inevitable. As Libsker's film further explains, the televised trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann transfixed Israelis in the early '60s, providing many younger people their first look at the horrific and dramatic events many of their parents had witnessed first hand. The Stalags may be understood as a dream-world, midnight version of the Eichmann revelations.

Libsker tracks down a former Stalags author, who still seems injured that the phenomenon did not bring him massive literary fame, along with a publisher who cheerfully shrugs the whole thing off: We gave the public what they wanted, and who am I to judge? But "Stalags" is most interesting when Libsker explores the deeper significance of this craze, as it reflects Israel's pseudo-pornographic relationship to the past. Many Jews and non-Jews remain fixated on salacious details of the Holocaust, such as the "Night Porter" idea that female camp inmates ensured their survival by sleeping with German officers, or that the Nazis maintained brothels of Jewish women at Auschwitz and other camps. Such things may have happened here and there, but they are not clearly attested, and in any case fade into total insignificance against the scale of the tragedy.

"Stalags" comes with a perfect companion piece, a short film called "Two Women and a Man" by avant-garde Israeli artist Roee Rosen, who has offended audiences worldwide with his interactive exhibition "Live and Die as Eva Braun." I can't tell you much about "Two Women and a Man" without giving Rosen's gambit away, but it purports to be a film about Justine Frank, a rediscovered Belgian Jewish surrealist of the 1930s and '40s whose pornographic and scatological art outraged even her artistic peers by repurposing Jewish themes and images in many distasteful directions. Not to be missed if you're fond of intellectual parlor games.

"Stalags" and "Two Women and a Man" are now playing at Film Forum in New York. Other engagements will follow.

Pour contacter l'équipe du film :

Berak Heymann
Heymann Brothers Films
2 Barzilai St
Tel Aviv 65113
+972 3 560 2701
Fax: +972 3 560 4082
Courriel :

Le phénomène Stalag.

L'éditeur de Stalag raconte son expérience.

Stalag et l'expérience israélienne.

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