Rule 34 doesn’t even come close to this. In the 1960s, as many Israelis and Jews around the world were beginning to come to grips with the atrocities of the Holocaust, one of the ways some dealt with the trauma was through pulp pornographic Nazi-themed comic books called Stalags. These comics were never on full display, but nonetheless, they became best sellers throughout Israel.
Read under the table by a generation of pubescent Israelis, often the children of survivors, the Stalags were named for the World War II prisoner-of-war camps in which they were set. The books told perverse tales of captured American or British pilots being abused by sadistic female SS officers outfitted with whips and boots. The plot usually ended with the male protagonists taking revenge, by raping and killing their tormentors.
After decades in dusty back rooms and closets, the Stalags, a peculiar Hebrew concoction of Nazism, sex and violence, are re-emerging in the public eye. And with them comes a rekindled debate on the cultural representation here of Nazism and the Holocaust, and whether they have been unduly mixed in with a kind of sexual perversion and voyeurism that has permeated even the school curriculum.
“I realized that the first Holocaust pictures I saw, as one who grew up here, were of naked women,” said Ari Libsker, whose documentary film “Stalags: Holocaust and Pornography in Israel” had its premiere at the Jerusalem Film Festival in July and is to be broadcast in October and shown in movie theaters. “We were in elementary school,” he noted. “I remember how embarrassed we were.”
Hanna Yablonka, a professor of history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, says the film highlights what she calls the “yellow aspects of nurturing the memory of the Holocaust.”
“Are we taking it into the realm of semipornography?” she asked. “The answer is, we are.”
The Stalags were practically the only pornography available in the Israeli society of the early 1960s, which was almost puritanical. They faded out almost as suddenly as they had appeared. Two years after the first edition was snatched up from kiosks around the central bus station in Tel Aviv, an Israeli court found the publishers guilty of disseminating pornography. The most famous Stalag, “I Was Colonel Schultz’s Private Bitch,” was deemed to have crossed all the lines of acceptability, prompting the police to try to hunt every copy down.
The Stalags went out of print and underground, circulating in specialty secondhand bookstores and among furtive groups of collectors.
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