Kay Hoffmann

No butterflies fly here. Theresienstadt in documentaries of the postwar period

he topic of the Theresienstadt camp is a frequent one in documentary films in Germany as well as other countries such as Czechoslovakia or in international coproductions. As early as 1958 the Czech film “No butterflies fly here” (Motýli tady nežijí) by Miro Bernát showed children’s drawings from Theresienstadt. The cultural activities in the camp are a central theme of many productions. The drawings, the music and the cultural program were discussed and often shown. The search for traces of Karel Schwenk and his cabaret is the plot of “Those Days in Terezin” (1997). The children’s opera Brundibar has been several times a subject since the 1960ies. There are also some documentaries about Kurt Gerron and his life. He also started a cabaret in the ghetto and was the director of the second  propaganda film 1944.

A comparison of these propaganda images from Theresienstadt with the real life takes place in several documentaries as early as 1966, when the educational film by the German institution Film for Science and Teaching (Film für Wissenschaft und Unterricht, FWU) “The führer gives the Jews a city. Report of a propaganda film ” discussed these differences. 1997 Irmgard von zur Mühlen produced “The ghetto Theresienstadt. Deception and reality”. Often the production background and the history of propaganda recordings are explained. In many documentaries witnesses heard – both perpetrators and victims who survived Theresienstadt. They are often asked by young people as in “All Jews out!” (1992) or the current production of Douglas Wolfsperger about the children’s opera Brundibar. Theresienstadt is thus a recurring theme in the documentary film after 1945. The talk will be analysing Theresienstadt as a recurring theme in documentary film after 1945 and how the propagandistic material is used as a historical source.