dimanche 4 juillet 2010


The Women In Prison genre evolved with different varieties such as Asylum horrors (Don’t look in the basement 1973; House of Insane women, House of the Whipcord 1974) or slave plantations (Sweet Sugar, 1972), culminating in one of the most extreme subgenres of the decade, Nazi exploitation. Because of its extremism this subgenre deserves a special attention from the cultural historian. The association of Nazism with sado-masochism was, quite surprisingly, one of the first attempts to come to terms with the horrors of the Shoa. B. D’Astorg’s 1946 article on the Marquis de Sade and the “concentration camp universe” (Introduction au monde de la Terreur)was seminal to that approach, being also one of the first texts to adress the unspeakable (B. d’Astorg, Paris, Seuil).

Against the apologetic “misreading” of the Marquis by prewar Surrealism, the comparison between Sadean dystopias –specially the Shilling Castle from 120 Days of Sodom- and the camps was hotly debated by existentialist discourse: Albert Camus and Simone de Beauvoir deconstructed sadean eugenics and misogyny in the shadow of the gaz chambers while Jean Genet was adressing Nazi eroticism in Pompes funèbres (1947), presenting a provocative and dark epiphany:

« Je note encore qu'au centre du tourbillon qui précède - et enveloppe presque - l'instant de la jouissance, tourbillon plus enivrant quelquefois que la jouissance elle-même, la plus belle image érotique, la plus grave, celle vers quoi tout tendait, préparée par une sorte de fête intérieure, m'était offerte par un beau soldat allemand en costume noir du tankiste » (Editions Gallimard, 1953, p. 134) .

Thus the second “Sadean revival” of the fifties and sixties would, despite apparent similarities, strongly differ from Surrealist enchantment.

Ilan Avisar, in Screening the Holocaust, traces the cinematic connection of Nazism and “sexual deviance” to Rossellini’s Open City that portrayed Nazis as “perverted/sadistic/homosexual”, distorted mirror of the anguished hypermasculinization of the Nietzschean Übermensch (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1988, p. 134) . Following Kristeva´s dynamics of abjection, those images soon triggered ambivalent emotional reactions of disgust and fascination, shifting identifications of spectators and refiguring Holocaust as a sexual practice in Nazi erotica of Men’s Adventure magazines of the fifties and sixties, where routine propaganda evolved towards a troublesome sado-masochist fascination –the Nazis evolving towards female dominatrix. Exploring “the fladge market” G. Freeman remarks that “there is scarcely an issue without a cover illustration with a swastika”, worn by female dominatrix or lecherous generals. “Scream for my Kisses Amerikaner Soldat!” (Men Today), “Soft Flesh for the Nazi Fanged Doom” (Men), “I blasted Hitler’s super sin and spy brothel” or “Hideous secrets of the Nazi Torture Cult” are only some of the “countless stories of young girls enduring floggings and tortures at the hands of camp commandants, illustrated with lurid drawings” (G. Freeman, op cit, p. 102) . Books like Gerda, the Bestial Wardress of Belsen cashed in the fad while the S&M subculture of the motorbike gangs started using Nazi paraphernalia as the ultimate outsider icon, as shown in Keneth Anger’s lyrical delirium Scorpio Rising.

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