Taught by Susan Rubin Suleiman
Wednesdays, 5:30 PM – 7:00 PM
6 Sessions, October 14 – November 18
Registration deadline: October 12
$169 ($149 for JxJ Donors of certain levels*)

Among the most memorable films about the Holocaust have been those featuring the experiences of children: children in hiding under false identities (or just hiding), alone or with their families; children in ghettos, children in camps. Some of these films are lighthearted, or even comic, and have led to lively debates: can a work about the Holocaust be a comedy?

They all raise important questions about childhood trauma and resilience, and about the role of families and family ties in children’s lives.  Like all good films about the Holocaust, they also grapple with a question for the filmmaker: how to represent a collective historical catastrophe in fictional form, as it is lived by individuals?

We will look at six major films made between 1967 and 2011, focusing on France, Poland, Hungary and Italy. Among other things, these films show us the wide range of individual and national experiences within the larger context of collective persecution.  In additional to the film viewings, participants in the class will have the option to read a few critical or literary texts for further exploration (not required).

October 14:  The Two of Us (Le vieil homme et l’enfant), 1967; dir. Claude Berri
A hidden child in Vichy France

October 21:  The Round Up (La Rafle), 2010; dir. Roselyne Bosch
“Foreign” Jewish children and their families in the land of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité

October 28:  In Darkness, 2011; dir. Agnieszka Holland
In hiding in German-occupied Poland

November 4:  Fateless (Sorstalanság), 2005; dir. Lajos Koltai
A Hungarian teenager in Nazi camps

November 11:  Jakob the Liar (Jakob der Lügner), 1974; dir. Frank Beyer (for comparison, see Jacob the Liar, 1999; dir.Peter Kassovitz)
A tragicomic fable

November 18: Life is Beautiful (La vita è bella), 1997; dir. Roberto Benigni
Catastrophe as comedy?

Note: Additional streaming film rentals required. All the films are readily available for rental online.  Links will be included on the final version of the Syllabus.


Teacher: Susan Rubin Suleiman is Professor Emerita of French Civilization and of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, where she taught for more than 35 years. She is the author of many articles and books about modern literature and culture, including the Némirovsky Question: the Life, Death, and Legacy of a Jewish Writer in 20th-Century France and the memoir Budapest Diary: In Search of the Motherbook. Her book reviews have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Moment, The Atlantic, and other popular publications. In 2018 she was awarded France’s highest honor, the Légion d’Honneur.