Interview with Dr. Lea Wohl von Haselberg about her research project about Jewish filmmakers in Germany

Dr. Lea Wohl von Haselberg conducts research and writes on German-Jewish topics and commemorative culture. Since October 2017, she has been working on a research project about Jewish filmmakers in Germany at the Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF. Her project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) programme “Small Disciplines – Great Potential”.

Portraitfoto Lea Wohl von Haselberg; © Wohl von Haselberg

Dr. Lea Wohl von Haselberg

Wohl von Haselberg

Ms Wohl von Haselberg, with your work you deal intensively with the 'cinematic' posthistory of National Socialism and the Shoah. What is your motivation ?

I am interested in the audiovisual memory of the Shoah, in the images we make of what has rightly been described as "unrepresentable", and how the present with all its issues is reflected in this. Overall, I find social self-understanding via the "detour" of history and memory very interesting. My current research project revolves around Jewish filmmakers who have worked in the Federal Republic of Germany. They do not make "Jewish" films per se, and yet their experience is shaped by their being Jewish. That influence leaves its mark on their films.

In your research project, you analyse 40 years of film history on the basis of exemplary biographies. What is your most important finding so far?

History is always written from the point of view of the present. It is always exciting to see how many aspects of history, in this case, film history, have not yet been written. Jewish film history is unjustly restricted mainly to the Shoah. But it is also interesting that these questions can now come into focus and receive more attention.

For your research, you largely used previously unpublished sources, and spoke to descendants. What surprised you?

My strongest impression is of the breaks and contradictions that all (working) biographies display. This shows how strongly biographies and public perception tend to define people. Perhaps what surprised me most was how little you can judge the work of a filmmaker without considering the unrealized film projects that failed due to the most varied obstacles.

How do you see recent developments?

If you mean the increasingly uninhibited and openly nationalistic, racist and anti-Semitic discourse and right-wing violence, then with great concern, but also in the context of their historical continuities.

What are you planning next?

Since we were just talking about the political situation, I see a great necessity to become involved as an academic in socio-political debates, to make academic results and perspectives socially connectable, but also to make increasingly polarized debates (again) more complex.

From the academic point of view, I would like to deal in the future with the distribution and reception of Jewish films within the framework of festivals. The question of what is actually seen and understood as "Jewish" seems quite topical.

Ms Wohl von Haselberg, thank you very much for the interview!