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The “Day of Remembrance”: Giacomo Lichtner, “We’re free! Where are they all?’. Holocaust cinema and the liberation of the camps”

What is “Day of Remembrance“? January 27, 1945 marked the demolition of the gates of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Thus, as stated in Article 1 of the Law of July 20th 2000, n. 211, “The Italian Republic recognizes the 27th day of January, date of the gates of Auschwitz,” Day of Remembrance “in order to remember the Holocaust (extermination of the Jewish people), the racial laws, the persecution of Italian Jewish citizens , Italians who suffered deportation, imprisonment, death, and those who, even in different fields and camps, have opposed the project of extermination, and risked their lives to save more lives as well as protected the persecuted. “

On the occasion of the “Day of Remembrance 2020“, the Italian Cultural Institute and the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures-Italian Studies di McGill University are pleased to present “We’re free! Where are they all?’. Holocaust cinema and the liberation of the camps”, conference by Giacomo Lichtner.

Friday January 31st 2020 – 4:30pm
McGill University
Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures-Italian Studies, BRONFMAN Building, Room 410
688 Sherbrooke St. West, Montreal
The conference will be held in English

Władislaw Szpilman’s memoir, Smierc Miasta (Death of a City), ends with Władek looking at himself in the mirror, alive but unrecognisable and utterly alone. It is an ending devoid of any joy, like most recollections of liberation. From Primo Levi to Isabella Leitner, to countless less-well known individuals, survivors share the same emotional ambivalence: exhaustion, incredulity, elation, hope, mourning, guilt, shame, anxiety… The liberation represents simultaneously the first attempts to rationalise and the consistent refusal to do so. This lecture examines cinematic attempts to capture, sanitise, negotiate this crucial and contradictory moment in the history of the Holocaust, and argues that Holocaust cinema has almost struggled to acknowledge the legacies of loss and liberation that accompany Holocaust survival.

Giacomo Lichtner is Associate Professor of “History and Film” at Victoria University of Wellington. He is Associate Editor of the journal Modern Italy and serves on the board of the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand. His research focuses on the long Second World War and on the politics of its commemoration and representation in film. He is the author of Film and the Shoah in France and Italy (2008, 2015) and Fascism in Italian Cinema Since 1945: the Politics and Aesthetics of Memory (2013). His latest project is entitled The Search for Meaning in Holocaust Cinema (Bloomsbury, forthcoming).

  • Organized by: Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Montréal
  • In collaboration with: Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures