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Category Archives: Science Fiction

Still from Patterns of Force, episode of the science fiction television program Star Trek: The Original Series, broadcast on February 16, 1968. The crew of the Enterprise tracks down a Federation observer on the planet Ekos, dominated by a Nazi-inspired regime. Kirk and Spock learn that the Ekosians are planning “a final solution” — the extinction of all Zeons who reside on their planet, and the destruction of the neighboring planet Zeon. The Zeons are a clear reference to the Jewish people, and they carry names like Isak and Abrom.

Spock’s physical appearance plays a focal role in a (…) scene that more directly evokes Nazi racial policies. When Kirk, Spock, and the resistance fighters infiltrate Nazi party headquarters in search of Gill [the Führer], Kirk creates a momentary diversion by pretending to be a Zeon officer who has discovered an “alien” spy masquerading as a Nazi. He turns Spock over to Melakon [the Deputy Führer] who, as an expert on the “genetics of racial purity,” analyzes the specimen: “Note the sinister eyes and the malformed ears—definitely an inferior race. Note the low forehead, denoting stupidity—the dull look of a trapped animal”. Melakon orders Spock executed, explaining that he wants “the body saved for the cultural museum. He’ll make an interesting display”.
Jeffrey Shandler, While America Watches. Televising the Holocaust (p. 149).

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Still from Tribunal, episode of the science fiction tv-series The Outer Limits (aired on 14 May 1999, during the fifth season). The time-traveller Nicholas Prentice goes back to 1944 at Auschwitz-Birkenau and takes note of the Nazi crimes he witnesses on his palm computer. The episode was written by author and producer Sam Egan, son of a Holocaust survivor.

Still from The Terminator (James Cameron, 1984). In 2029, artificial intelligent machines dominate the world and seek to exterminate the human race. The machines send back in time to 1984 a cyborg assassin, the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), with the mission of killing Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and preventing her from giving birth to John Connor, the future leader of human resistance. Kyle Reese (Michael Biene), resistance fighter sent from the future to protect Sarah from the Terminator, shows her the bar code tattooed by the machines on his arm and describes the post-apocalyptic world with clear references to the Holocaust and the deeds of the Sonderkommandos. From the original script (fourth draft):

REESE

Hunter Killers.  Patrol machines.
Build in automated factories.
Most of us were rounded up, put in
camps… for orderly disposal.

He pushes up the sleeve of his jacket and shows
her a ten digit number etches on the skin of his forearm.

Beneath the numbers is a pattern of lines like the automatic-
pricing marks on product packages.

REESE

(continuing)
Burned in by laser scan.
(pause)
Some of us were kept alive…
to work.  Loading bodies.  The
disposal units ran night and day.
We were that close to going out
forever…

The tattooed number functions as a synecdoche for the Holocaust in many films – e.g. Marathon Man (1976), Harold and Maude (1971), etc. The same is true for other elements of the fragmented Holocaust iconography. As Annette Insdorf puts it, “films about the Holocaust have provided images – of smoke, of barbed wire, of sealed train cars, of skeletal bodies – that now function as synecdoches, the visual part representing the unimaginable whole” (Indelible Shadows. Film and the Holocaust, Third Edition, p. 248).

Below, Bar Code to Concentration Camp Morph (Digitally Morphed Photographs, 1991-1993), by English Jewish artist Alan Schechner. “As numbers morph into human faces and the mark of merchandise becomes the dress of affliction, the troubling association of commodification, concentration camps, and digital imaging emerges. The larger message speaks of the bar-coding of human life, the transformation of beings into numbers. But the upper part of the screen – the metamorphosis of numbers to faces – alludes in reverse to a specific condition of digital technology, which transforms images constituted in reality into bytes of information, rhyming with the death camps as it transforms life into a sequence of numbers” (Noam Milgrom-Elcott). Other works by Schechner are available at the artist’s website.

Source: What If…Captain America Had Led An Army Of Super Soldiers In World War II (What If…?, Vol. 2, No. 28, August 1991). What if is the title of several comic book series published by Marvel Comics which explore “alternate” (and in some way “counter-factual”) histories of characters from the Marvel Universe. In Auschwitz, Captain America meets the young Erik Magnus Lehnsherr and speaks to him. His wise words prevent the arousal in Magnus of those feelings of revenge that would eventually lead to his transformation in Magneto, super-villain of the X-Men.