Record of Murder: Shepherd Express reviews Through Amateur Eyes

By David Luhrssen
Shepherd Express/Milwaukee

Guerin_through coverBits and pieces of Eva Braun's home movies have shown up in documentaries on the Third Reich, notably in Philippe Mora's recent Swastika, but Hitler's mistress wasn't the only German during the period with a camera. The existence of such amateur motion and still photography, even (and especially) when shot by Germans far from the center of power, provides the basis for Frances Guerin's Through Amateur Eyes: Film and Photography in Nazi Germany (published by University of Minnesota Press).

A film studies lecturer at the University of Kent, Guerin begins with a correct assumption: many of the photographers whose work she unearthed didn't necessarily share the perspective of those ordering mass murder. She goes on to insist that the very existence of this footage ran contrary to the demands of Germany's higher authorities, which sought to conceal their deeds under cover of night and fog. The importance of the survival of these images is in their power to refute the Holocaust deniers.

Guerin crosses into postmodern culture studies by arguing that images do not have a “fixed and singular meaning.” Perhaps more to the point, they help us to remember what happened and can remind us to be on guard against the danger of fanaticism directed against any group.

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