Shame, the Holocaust, and Dark Times

  • Michael L. Morgan


Ten years after the Third Reich was defeated and the Nazi death camps were liberated, Alain Resnais was persuaded to create a film about their horrors and atrocities. Night and Fog was the result of his subsequent collaboration with Jean Cayrol, who wrote the narration, and Hanns Eisler, who composed the film’s musical score.1 The central theme of this remarkable film is that, appearances notwithstanding, the evil of the death camps and of Nazi fascism remained alive in France in 1955. It might have seemed to the film’s audiences that the evil and the horror had been destroyed with the liberation of the camps and with the end of the ruthless empire of death, but Resnais’s and Cayrol’s message was that they had not. Time might have deposited layers of debris over the past; life might have continued and grown, hiding not only that past but also the forces and agencies of evil that existed in the present, in 1955. The lesson of Night and Fog, however, is that while time may make forgetfulness easy and memory difficult, this means that memory becomes a challenge and a task.2 Forgetfulness goes hand in hand with a terrifying threat, that today and tomorrow, again and again, we will be made to live once more as agents, victims, or bystanders of such atrocities. If those alive in 1955 did not remember the past, then the forces of degradation and inhumanity would continue to win their victories, and we will all be their victims.


Dark Time Genocide Convention Death Camp Rwandan Genocide Human Solidarity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    William Rothman, Documentary Film Classics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), pp. 39–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Jay Cantor, “Death and the Image,” in his On Giving Birth to One’s Own Mother: Essays on Art and Society (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), pp. 143–77.Google Scholar
  3. Ilan Avisar, Screening the Holocaust: Cinema’s Images of the Unimaginable (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1988), pp. 6–18.Google Scholar
  4. André Pierre Colombat, The Holocaust in French Film (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1993), pp. 121–66.Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Samantha Power, “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: HarperCollins, 2002), p. 357.Google Scholar
  6. Alain Destexhe, Rwanda and Genocide in the Twentieth Century (New York: New York University Press, 1995), p. 32.Google Scholar
  7. Michael Barnett, Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2002), pp. 1, 8, 21, 169–70.Google Scholar
  8. Gérard Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  9. Philip Gourevitch, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998), p. 170Google Scholar
  10. Linda Melvern, Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide (London: Verso, 2004), p. 9.Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    Robert C. Roberts, Emotions: An Essay in Aid of Moral Psychology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 227–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 14.
    Richard Wollheim, On the Emotions (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), pp.148–224.Google Scholar
  13. 15.
    Bernard Williams, Shame and Necessity (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 77–102 and 219–23.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    Primo Levi, The Reawakening, trans. Stuart Woolf (New York: Collier-Macmillan, 1965), p. 2.Google Scholar
  15. 19.
    Charles Taylor, “Self-interpreting Animals,” Human Agency and Language: Philosophical Papers I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 53–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Charles Taylor, “The Concept of a Person,” Human Agency and Language (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 109–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 24.
    Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz, trans. Stuart Woolf (New York: Collier Books, 1961), pp. 128–9.Google Scholar
  18. Robert S. G. Gordon, Primo Levi’s Ordinary Virtues: From Testimony to Ethics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 51–2.Google Scholar
  19. 31.
    Claude Lanzmann, Shoah: An Oral History of the Holocaust (New York: Pantheon, 1985), pp. 111–17.Google Scholar
  20. 38.
    Jean Améry, At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities, trans. Sidney Rosenfeld and Stella P. Rosenfeld (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1980).Google Scholar
  21. 39.
    Irving Greenberg, “Cloud of Smoke, Pillar of Fire: Judaism, Christianity, and Modernity after the Holocaust,” in Eva Fleischner, ed., Auschwitz: Beginning of a New Era? (New York: Ktav Publishing, 1977), pp. 7–55.Google Scholar
  22. Emil L. Fackenheim, “On the Life, Death, and Transfiguration of Martyrdom: The Jewish Testimony to the Divine Image in Our Time,” The Jewish Return into History (New York: Schocken, 1978), pp. 234–51.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Michael L. Morgan 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael L. Morgan

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations