Post-Holocaust Heritage of Trauma: The Identity Crisis of Jewish Immigrants From Germany to Eretz-Israel in the 1930s, and the Transgenerational Transfer of the Trauma in the Israeli Documentary Film The Flat

Post-Holocaust Heritage of Trauma: The Identity Crisis of Jewish Immigrants From Germany to Eretz-Israel in the 1930s, and the Transgenerational Transfer of the Trauma in the Israeli Documentary Film The Flat

Liat Steir-Livny (Sapir Academic College, Israel & The Open University, Israel)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 15
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6258-0.ch004

Abstract

In the 1930s, after the Nazis came to power in Germany, tens of thousands of Jews immigrated to Eretz-Israel. Many of them kept on missing their former homeland and culture, while simultaneously despising Germany. This chapter analyzes the complex identity of these Jews, who had to leave Germany, but could not really detach themselves from the homeland that betrayed them, as reflected in the film The Flat (2011). In the film, Director Arnon Goldfinger reveals a family secret: his grandparents, Kurt and Gerda Tuchler, maintained close contacts with a Nazi couple, the Von Mildensteins, before and after the Holocaust. In a world of post-Holocaust, the analysis of the film tells the story of a transgenerational transfer of the trauma, and its different effect on three generations.
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Introduction

In the 1930s, after the Nazis came to power in Germany, tens of thousands of Jews immigrated to the Jewish Yishuv in Palestine (pre-state Israel). The hybrid identity, which is an integral part of many immigrants' life, was much more tangled for them: many of them kept on missing their former homeland and culture, while simultaneously despising Germany, the country that murdered six million Jews all over Europe. This study will analyze the complex identity of these Jews, who had to emigrate from Germany, but could not really detach themselves from the homeland that betrayed them, as reflected in the film The Flat (2011).

In the film, Director Arnon Goldfinger reveals a family secret: his grandparents, Kurt and Gerda Tuchler, maintained close contacts with a Nazi couple, the Von Mildensteins, before and after the Holocaust. The Tuchlers immigrated to Palestine in 1936 and moved into an apartment on Gordon Street in Tel Aviv, where they lived for the rest of their lives. The Flat begins after they passed away, and the family needs to empty their apartment. The plot of The Flat is like a detective narrative in which various items that are found in the apartment gradually reveal the hidden truth. Goldfinger travels to Germany to better understand the taboos surrounding the relationship between his grandparents and the Nazi couple. His exploration of the events sheds new light on the complex identity of Jews who fled Germany after the Nazis came to power. In the post-Holocaust world, the analysis of the film tells the story of a transgenerational transfer of the trauma, and its different effect on three generations.

The film came about unexpectedly. As a boy, the vanished German world of his grandparents fascinated Goldfinger. When he grew up, he wanted to make a film about the European codes of the Jewish immigrants from Germany: “the very cultured and very narrow world in which I had been living all my life in a game of longing and revulsion” (Shavit, 2011). After his grandparents passed away, he and photographers Talia (Tulic) Galon and Philip Belish shot the clearing out of the apartment but did not know what direction the film would take. In Goldfinger's own words:

One day, Tulic said to me: “Listen, this is a film about nothing. This is Seinfeld; that is what is happening here.” We did not understand whether we were advancing anywhere. I remember telling her that I felt like a fisherman, waiting and waiting with my fishing pole for something to happen. We just waited. (Anderman, 2011)

Like in any other good detective film, the discovery finally took place. Among the artefacts found in the apartment were stacks of the old German newspaper Der Angriff. Hannah, Goldfinger’s mother began to translate for him. They discovered a series of articles describing the Nazi von Mildenstein’s visit to Palestine and the couple that accompanied them – Goldfinger's grandparents. “It took me a while to realize that this was the turning point in the film,” Goldfinger says. “Only then, I started to ask, read, explore and get involved, and suddenly everything became very interesting.” (Anderman, 2011).

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A German Bubble In Tel-Aviv

Jews began to leave Germany in the 1920s, primarily because of the economic crisis in Germany that occurred after World War I. Another factor was the rising anti-Semitism. In the 1920s, most Jewish-Germans emigrated to the United States, and only a few thousand settled in Eretz-Israel. Following Hitler's rise to power, emigration rose dramatically. This time most of the Jews headed towards Israel. Immigration to the United States was restricted as of 1924. In contrast, Palestine under the British Mandate prospered in the first half of the 1930s and became a desirable destination for Jewish immigrants. Israel as a desirable destination also benefited from the “Transfer Agreement” between the Jewish Agency and the Nazi government that enabled immigrants to transfer their capital from Germany (Lavsky, 2017).

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