Scoring the Holocaust: a Comparative, Theoretical Analysis of the function of Film Music in german Holocaust Cinema.

  • Matthew Lawson

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Holocaust representation in film has received much academic attention, with a focus on how cinematography and the narrative may assist our memorialisation process. One aspect of film which has received little academic attention, however, is the issue surrounding the musical accompaniments of such films. The musical score often goes unnoticed, but may also contain emotional qualities. It can make an audience laugh, cry or alter their perception of the narrative. The three countries of East, West and reunified Germany have each attempted to engage with the Holocaust, including through the medium of film. They have done so in contrasting ways and to varying degrees of effectiveness. The opposing political, social and cultural environments of East and West Germany outweighed their geographical proximity. Likewise, reunified Germany developed a third, divergent approach to Holocaust engagement. This thesis combines three key existing fields of academia: film music theory, Holocaust representation in film, and German politics, history and culture. Through comparative textual analyses of six film case studies, two each from East, West and reunified Germany, this thesis examines whether there are examples of similarities or inherent, reoccurring musical characteristics which define the Holocaust on screen. Furthermore, the six analyses will be supported by contextual examinations of the respective countries, directors and composers in order to ascertain whether there were political, cultural and/or social considerations which impacted upon the film scores. The original contribution to knowledge to which this thesis lays claim is that it forms the first significant scholarly engagement with not only the film music of German Holocaust cinema specifically, but, on a broader scale, the ongoing theoretical discourse surrounding film music and representation. This new contribution to Holocaust knowledge also extends to a continued development of the understanding of and engagement with the event and its audio-visual representations.
Date of Award11 Jan 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorRICHARD WITTS (Director of Studies) & OWEN EVANS (Supervisor)


  • Film Music
  • Music Score
  • Emotion
  • Holocaust

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