New course on Holocaust aims to 'represent the unimaginable' through film, theater

The course, Holocaust in Theater and Film, was created through the combined efforts of the Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies, the Department of English and the Department of Dramatic Arts. It will be taught by adjunct faculty member Grae Sibelman. (Courtesy/Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies)

A new course will be available to students at the University of Connecticut in the coming spring semester, offered in part by the Hebrew and Judaic Studies department (HEJS). 

The course, Holocaust in Theater and Film, was created through the combined efforts of HEJS, the English department and the Dramatic Arts department, according to HEJS adjunct faculty member Grae Sibelman, who will teach the course.

“How do your represent the unimaginable? As daunting of a task as this is, the Holocaust is one of the most dramatized and written about events in history for the amount of time since its passing,” reads the Judaic Studies website under the new course’s announcement.

Sibelman said she focused on the dramatic representation of the Holocaust in her work as a graduate student at the University of Toronto in Canada. Given her background, she asked HEJS if they would be interested in having her teach a course in this field at UConn.

“The Judaic Studies department was interested and they reached out to English and drama as well to get them on board with co-listing the course,” Sibelman said.

The course will examine how the Holocaust has been represented, and the difficulties associated with trying to portray the event successfully, Sibelman said. Students will look at written and filmed works, such as first-hand accounts, dramatic works and documentaries that successfully capture elements of the Holocaust.

“There have been an abundant number of attempts to represent the Holocaust, but many of them are riddled with problems for a myriad of reasons,” Sibelman said.

In her viewpoint, Sibelman feels the most successful representations are those that display the real effects of the Holocaust on European societies and humanity in general.

“I was really fortunate at the University of Toronto to have a thesis advisor…who introduced me to a treasure chest of amazing Polish Holocaust representations which manage to successfully show how the Holocaust is the death of society and humanity as we believed it,” Sibelman said.

Because this course is making its debut, Sibelman said she cannot confirm whether future semesters will offer the class, but she is hopeful that the class will be made available again if student interest is high this spring.

The course is open to all students and has no pre-requisites. The class number is listed under HEJS 3298, ENGL 3623 or DRAM 3138, with each section concurrently covering the topic of the Holocaust in Theater and Film. Students can enroll in any three of these class sections, and will meet with the remaining two sections.

“I am really looking forward to sharing these representations with the class and for giving the students the opportunity to ponder the questions raised by the Holocaust,” Sibelman said.


Molly Stadnicki is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at molly.stadnicki@uconn.edu. She tweets @molly_stadnicki.