hyperlinks, and captions added by this
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
New York, September 6, 2007
Unexpected Spinoff From a Holocaust
By ISABEL KERSHNER
JERUSALEM, Sept. 5 -- It was
of Israel's dirty little
secrets. In the early 1960s, as Israelis were being
exposed for the first time to the shocking
testimonies of Holocaust survivors at the trial of
Eichmann, a series
of pornographic pocket books called Stalags, based
on Nazi themes, became best sellers throughout the
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
After decades in dusty
back rooms and closets, the Stalags, a peculiar
Hebrew concoction of Nazism, sex and violence,
are re-emerging in the public eye. And with them
comes a rekindled debate on the cultural
representation here of Nazism and the Holocaust,
and whether they have been unduly mixed in with
a kind of sexual perversion and voyeurism that
has permeated even the school curriculum.
"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."
Hanna Yablonka, a professor of history at
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, says the film
highlights what she calls the "yellow aspects of
nurturing the memory of the Holocaust."
"Are we taking it into the realm of
semipornography?" she asked. "The answer is, we
The Stalags were practically the only
pornography available in the Israeli society of the
early 1960s, which was
They faded out almost as suddenly as they had
appeared. Two years after the first edition was
snatched up from kiosks around the central bus
station in Tel Aviv, an Israeli court found the
publishers guilty of disseminating pornography. The
most famous Stalag, "I Was Colonel Schultz's
Private Bitch," was deemed to have crossed all
the lines of acceptability, prompting the police to
try to hunt every copy down.
The Stalags went out of print and underground,
circulating in specialty secondhand bookstores and
among furtive groups of collectors.
Mr. Libsker's 60-minute
documentary puts the Stalags under a spotlight
for the first time and exposes some
uncomfortable truths. One is that the Stalags
were a distinctly Israeli genre, created by
Israeli publishers and penned by Israeli
authors, although they had
as translations from
English and were written
in the first person as if they were genuine
Until the Eichmann trial began in 1961, the
voices of the Holocaust had hardly been heard in
Israel. The survivors sensed the ambivalence of the
old-timers who blamed them for not having emigrated
in time, and questioned what immoral deeds they
might have done in order to stay alive.
In the movie, the publisher of the first Stalag,
Ezra Narkis, acknowledges that it was the
trial, in all its sensational and often gory
detail, that gave momentum to the genre.
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," Mr.
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, "Doll's
House," 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
"It was fiction," said Na'ama Shik, a researcher
at Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes'
Remembrance Authority. "There were no Jewish whores
Yet "Doll's House" and other writings of
K. Tzetnik, who died in 2001, are treated as
historical fact by many in Israel, and are
included in the high school
curriculum. Mr. Libsker's movie shows the
vice principal of an Israeli school guiding a group
of teenagers through Auschwitz, pointing out Block
24 and quoting from K. Tzetnik.
This approach to Holocaust education is being
eschewed by an increasing number of Israeli
academics. "The Holocaust was bad enough, without
making things up," Dr. Yablonka said.
Sidra Ezrahi, a professor of comparative
Jewish literature at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, said, "His books were so graphic and so
barbaric." Maybe at first they had an important
impact, she said. "But over time," she added, "if
this is what they have chosen to leave in the
Israeli curriculum, it's a scandal."
For many Israelis, the most dramatic part of the
Eichmann trial was the
testimony of K. Tzetnik. His true identity
was revealed for the first time on the witness
stand, where he passed
out. Simultaneously, the Stalags were
reaching the peak of their commercial success.
Yechiel Szeintuch, a professor of Yiddish
literature at the Hebrew University, rejects any
link between the smutty Stalags and the writings of
K. Tzetnik as "an original sin." He insists K.
Tzetnik's work was based on reality.
But Mr. Libsker, 35, himself the grandson of
Holocaust survivors, contends that it is the same
mixture of "horror, sadism and pornography" that
serves to perpetuate the memory of the Holocaust in
the Israeli consciousness to this day.
New York Times Correction:
September 7, 2007
Journal article yesterday, about the
pornographic pocket books with Nazi themes that
were circulated in Israel in the 1960s,
misquoted Na'ama Shik, a researcher at Yad
Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes'
Remembrance Authority, regarding the pocket book
"Doll's House," about a Jewish woman serving in
a notorious brothel called Block 24 in
Auschwitz. She said the book -- not Block 24
dossier on Elie
lucrative pornographic pictures of "survivor"
David Olère, used as evidence by Deborah
say Israeli surfers havr used the site to upload
and share pornographic material in large
numbers, "forcing" them to place a blanket ban
on Israeli web users
Deborah Barnhardt is appalled that some people
do not believe Elie Wiesel's memoirs are
Slepokura reminds us that the book is designated
as a novel