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Strange Fascination

Strange Fascination

Many Americans have never heard about the Stalag fiction phenomenon; Ari Libsker’s short but valuable documentary, simply titled Stalags, makes for a troubling, though thoughtful, introduction. Stalags constituted a genre of cheap exploitation novels that briefly thrived in Israel in the early Sixties during the period of the Adolf Eichmann trial, when the atrocities of the Holocaust were initially and tentatively broached in the public sphere. Stalags usually stuck to the same tried and true formula, pawning themselves off as translations of memoirs by American or British soldiers who had been imprisoned during World War II by the Nazis and subjected to sexual humiliation and violence by SS she-devils. In the end the soldier gets to turn the tables by raping and killing his inhuman torturers.

With only minor variations on this theme, and nestled beneath lurid, kitschy covers illustrating highlights of stories with titles like “I Was Colonel Schultz’s Private Bitch”—to name the most notorious, extreme example of the genre—Stalags formed a collective fantasy narrative that struck a nerve with young adults, many the children of Holocaust survivors. Click here to read Michael Joshua Rowin’s review of Stalags.

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