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Dr. Brad Prager

Alexander Grass Memorial Fellow
“The Silver Screen to Auschwitz: Kurt Gerron’s Stardom, Exile, and Murder”

Professional Background

Brad Prager is the Catherine Paine Middlebush Chair of Humanities at the University of Missouri, where he teaches German studies and film studies. His research areas include Holocaust film and literature, film history with an emphasis on documentary film, and contemporary German cinema. He has authored book-length studies of Christian Petzold’s films Phoenix (2019) and Yella (2021), as well as After the Fact: The Holocaust in Twenty-First-Century Documentary Film (2015), The Cinema of Werner Herzog: Aesthetic Ecstasy and Truth (2007) and Aesthetic Vision and German Romanticism: Writing Images (2007). Professor Prager is the co-editor of a volume centered on the outtakes of Claude Lanzmann’s major Holocaust documentary Shoah entitled The Construction of Testimony: Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah and Its Outtakes (2020), and he is also the co-editor of Visualizing the Holocaust: Documents, Aesthetics, Memory (2008). He held a DAAD-sponsored guest professorship at the University of Paderborn in 2011, and he currently edits, together with Erin McGlothlin, the book series Dialogue and Disjunction: Studies in Jewish German Literature, Culture, and Thought.

Fellowship Research

The actor, singer, and cabaret performer Kurt Gerron was one of the most renowned stars of stage and screen in Germany throughout the 1920s and early 1930s. Because he was Jewish, he was forced to flee Germany once the Nazis seized power, first heading to France and eventually to the Netherlands. He was deported to Westerbork in 1943 and then, in February of 1944, was sent to Theresienstadt, where he was compelled by the SS to direct a propaganda film that made the intolerable life the prisoners who were living in that ghetto seem comfortable and even idyllic. With the aim of examining the whole arc of his career, including his prolonged encounter with antisemitism during the Nazi era, Professor Prager’s current research project examines the many stages that led up to Gerron’s fateful final film project and to his eventual execution at Auschwitz.

The Alexander Grass Memorial Fellowship enables Professor Prager to use the vast resources of the USHMM library including the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive as well as the Museum’s many testimonial accounts from those who participated in cultural life at Westerbork, where Gerron was actively involved in the Cabaret, and from those who witnessed or participated in the production of the propaganda film at Theresienstadt.

Residency Period: October 1, 2022–May 31, 2023