Stalag NC-17


In The New York Times, a fascinating article about what sounds like a fascinating film:

In the early 1960s, as Israelis were being exposed for the first time to the shocking testimonies of Holocaust survivors at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a series of pornographic pocket books called Stalags, based on Nazi themes, became best sellers throughout the land.

Read under the table by a generation of pubescent Israelis, often the children of survivors, the Stalags were named for the World War II prisoner-of-war camps in which they were set. The books told perverse tales of captured American or British pilots being abused by sadistic female SS officers outfitted with whips and boots. The plot usually ended with the male protagonists taking revenge, by raping and killing their tormentors….

"I realized that the first Holocaust pictures I saw, as one who grew up here, were of naked women," said Ari Libsker, whose documentary film "Stalags: Holocaust and Pornography in Israel" had its premiere at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July and is to be broadcast in October and shown in movie theaters. "We were in elementary school," he noted. "I remember how embarrassed we were."

As is often the case, the shadow literature had a counterpart in the mainstream:

More provocatively, the movie contends that Stalag pornography was but a popular extension of the writings of K. Tzetnik, the first author to tell the story of Auschwitz in Hebrew and a hero of the mainstream Holocaust literary canon. K. Tzetnik "opened the door," and "the Stalag writers learned a lot from him," [Stalag publisher Ezra] Narkis said.

K. Tzetnik was a pseudonym for Yehiel Feiner De-Nur. The alias, short for the German for concentration camper, was meant to represent all survivors, a kind of Holocaust everyman. One of K. Tzetnik's biggest literary successes, "[House of Dolls]," published in 1953, told the story of a character purporting to be the author's sister, serving the SS as a sex slave in Block 24, the notorious Pleasure Block in Auschwitz.

Though a Holocaust classic, many scholars now describe it as pornographic and likely made up.

"It was fiction," said Na'ama Shik, a researcher at Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. "There were no Jewish whores in Auschwitz."

In an interesting post about the Times piece, Debbie Nathan ponders how people "often fantasize the darkest terrains of sexuality, including, sometimes, by using their own historical tragedy as grist." If you doubt that the process Nathan describes goes on today, consider the popularity of fictional "memoirs" filled with sadistic abuse. Tim Barrus managed to move from churning out straightforward S&M porn to writing rape-filled recollections of an imaginary Navajo childhood without changing anything but the name he wrote under, and thus moved from one of the most disreputable literary genres to enormous acclaim. It's like the shift from House of Dolls to the Stalags, but in reverse.