conflict & communication online, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2013
ISSN 1618-0747




Johannes Kopf-Beck, Felix Gaisbauer & Susanne Dengler
Engaging with German history: Reactions of the third post-war generation to cinematic representations of the Holocaust

Because the number of surviving contemporary witnesses of the Holocaust  is rapidly declining, media reports are increasingly important for transmitting history to the “Third Generation.” The focus of this quasi-experimental study is on the recipient-side effects for school pupils of viewing TV documentaries that use different strategies to represent the Holocaust. For this purpose, 12 school classes (N = 184) were asked by questionnaire about their national identification and previous engagement with the Holocaust. Three weeks later,  the study participants were shown one of six different film excerpts, whereby each film excerpt was viewed by respectively one group from Baden-Württemberg and one from Thüringen. The different reactions to the excerpts were sampled using standardized items and open-response essay questions. The results point to the conditions under which TV documentaries elicit contra-indexed effects and how enlightenment on past injustice can be achieved using cinematic material, without eliciting defensive reactions, and thereby make possible a constructive engagement with history.



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On the authors:
Johannes Kopf-Beck, Certified Psychologist, studied psychology, political science and theology at the University of Bamberg and Trinity College Dublin. He is a member of the Project Group Peace Research at the University of Konstanz. His areas of interest include collective identity concepts and political attitudes in their relationship to social and personality psychology.

Felix Gaisbauer (b. 1985), Certified Psychologist, studied psychology and political science at the University of Konstanz, as well as in the frame of a semester abroad in Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv University. He was a member of the Project Group Peace Research at the University of Konstanz, where he worked on the German Research Society (DFG) Project “Criticism of Israel: Dealing with German History and the Differentiation of Modern Anti-Semitism” under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Kempf. Presently he is working at the German Institute for Development Evaluation (Deutsches Evaluierungsinstitut der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit), DEval.

Susanne Dengler, Ethnologist (MA), studied ethnology, psychology and recent German literature. She is currently active in the field of integration and is simultaneously working on her dissertation.