Film adaptations invariably yield insights into their written source material, at least to the extent that they elect to translate or omit what may be deemed the literature’s essential components. This is certainly the case for director Agnieszka Holland’s 1990 film, Europa Europa
, which adapts Solomon Perel’s account of surviving the Shoah. By drawing on discourse in Holocaust studies and adaptation studies, and by examining the film adaptation’s points of alignment with what Perel records in his memoir, I argue that Europa Europa
resists the dominant trend of de-Judaizing the Shoah in artistic representation. Europa Europa
privileges explicitly Jewish content and an unmistakably Jewish point of view by focusing on the theme of circumcision. In doing so, the film succeeds in highlighting how the Shoah was, at its core, a campaign to annihilate not just the Jewish people, but also the longstanding principle of the Jewish covenant with the Eternal, as embodied by circumcision. Through its cutting and reshaping of the memoir’s details, Holland’s film seeks to establish a covenant with the viewer to bear witness to the Jewish spirit of the survivor’s testimony. The film presents a model for representing the Holocaust in art, a model that masterfully defies the de-Judaization of society that the Nazis envisioned and tried to make real.
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