DIS Faculty Member Shares Insight as Historical Consultant in New Film

DIS DIS Copenhagen Semester

DIS hosted a film screening of Germans & Jews and panel session as a part of this semester’s Academic Seminar Night series. Germans & Jews focuses on the theme of Jewish life in Germany following World War II, and creating dialogue between non-Jewish Germans and Jews in Germany.

DIS faculty member and Historical Consultant for the film, Thorsten Wagner, facilitated a panel discussion with guests Lasse Rodewald from the Germany Embassy in Copenhagen and Anne Boukris, Director of the Copenhagen Jewish Film Festival. The panel and audience discussed the film from international perspectives, including several students and participants from the International Educators Workshop (IEW) who brought American viewpoints into play.

Video was included in the documentary footage of Thorsten Wagner on our History program’s study tour with DIS students in Berlin visiting monuments of historical importance (footage taken by DIS alumnus, David Gwynn from Elon University).

In following up with Thorsten after the event, he shared background on the project, saying:

“A few years ago, I made friends with Tal Recanati, who is an American-Jewish entrepreneur and philanthropist, and introduced her to the new Germany that has emerged in the course of the last few decades. The idea of a movie to trace this transformation and to have non-Jewish and Jewish Germans articulate their experiences with these changes was born. We wanted Germans and Jews to be a movie about responsibility for the past and hope for the future.”

When asked about the significance of the film, Thorsten continued by saying:

“Germany, the nation that committed some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century and murdered the majority of European Jews, has – after decades of self-pity, reluctance, and willful forgetfulness – integrated the voice of the victims into its national narrative. In a series of interviews, the movie documents how being German today means facing the crimes of our grandparents. This self-critical national identity has facilitated the revival of a flourishing Jewish community in Germany today, and it has contributed to building a stable democracy and an open civil society that is strong enough to help refugees and promote human rights. While Jews in Germany for a long time described themselves as “sitting on packed suitcases,” a younger generation of Jews proudly identify as German citizens and express a certain sense of security and comfort. Who would have expected Germany to become the beacon of democracy in a world of xenophobic, autocratic, and populist movements on both sides of the Atlantic?”

Thorsten teaches the Competing Narratives: Modern European History course where students go on a Week-Long Study Tour to Berlin and Warsaw. The goal of the core course is to understand the interplay between Europe’s past and current European identities, using Berlin and Warsaw as powerful case studies.

Watch a trailer of Germans & Jews, and check out the list of film screenings – you may be able to view it in your city!

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