Bearing witness to the Holocaust in the courtroom of American fictive film
From the first post-war trials to the recent libel trial in the London High Court brought by Holocaust denier David Irving against Penguin Books and American academic Deborah Lipstadt the real-life courtroom has provided more than a legal judgment in respect of the Holocaust. As legal scholar Lawrence Douglas has shown in The Memory of Judgment: Making Law and History in the Trials of the Holocaust (2001), this formal, institutionalised and controlled setting has also been the forum for an increasingly nuanced, often intentionally pedagogic, examination of the Holocaust. After nearly sixty years of trials there is a corpus of judicial proceedings that chronicles not only society's desire for justice but also the changing understanding of the Holocaust, how it is remembered and how that memory is to be safeguarded. Analogous to this sequence of trials, American film has consistently utilised the law and the dialectic of the courtroom in its own attempts to represent, understand and explain the horror of the Holocaust, hi this thesis I provide a cultural history of these films (a generic term that encompasses both cinema releases and television movies/miniseries) to examine how the depiction, pertinence and understanding of the Holocaust in American life have altered since the 1940s. It is a thesis grounded in the tension between film and history as it explores how the fictive courtroom has represented the real-life trials as well as the Holocaust. This explores how the cinema has used different strategies of representation to bear witness in the cinematic courtroom to an event which is said to defy representation. In conclusion it argues that the courtroom is a setting with its limitations in respect of Holocaust representation, but it is these very limitations which are the reason for the courtroom genre's continued appeal.