Gender and Holocaust Docudramas: Gentile Heroines in Rescue Films

This article considers the representation of women as rescuers of Jews in Holocaust docudramas from the 1970s to the late 1990s. Though based on historical fact, the cinematic productions in question tend to create good/bad polarities, adhere to the convention of individual character and middle-class feminine propriety as moral coherence, and offer optimistic resolutions which confirm the religious notion that good deeds are appropriately rewarded. The central argument is that the documentary subtext of these productions is structured by a narrative of heroism representing the Holocaust as a disturbance of a fundamentally "good" European social order. This simplistic resolution is underpinned by the androcentric endorsement of female celibacy and monogamous heterosexuality as basic ingredients in what constitutes female morality. Jewish victims in the meantime are stereotyped as helpless, in some cases effeminate embodiments of dependency, religious incoherence, and moral confusion. The result of this sort of representation is an affirmation of Christian faith and European nationalism (Dutch, French) vindicated as it were by the victory of good over evil and by the appropriate rewarding of the "correct' moral choice.