Tourists as post-witnesses in documentary film

Sergei Loznitsa’s "Austerlitz" (2016) and Rex Bloomstein’s "KZ" (2006)


  • David Clarke University of Cardiff



Documentary, dark tourism, post-witnessing, Sergei Loznitsa, Rex Bloomstein


This article compares two documentary films that address an apparent crisis of post-witnessing at memorials that commemorate the victims of National Socialism. In the context of contemporary debates about appropriate behaviour for tourists at sites of “dark” or “difficult” heritage, Sergei Loznitsa’s Austerlitz (2016) and Rex Bloomstein’s KZ (2006) take very different approaches to observing the act of visiting concentration camp memorials. Whereas Loznitsa adopts an observational documentary mode, constructing a cultural hierarchy between the touristic observer and the cinematic observer at memorials in Germany, Bloomstein’s film uses a participatory mode to prompt the viewer to consider the complexities of the affective-discursive practice of tourists engaging with the suffering of victims at the Mauthausen memorial in Austria. The article argues that Bloomstein’s decision to adopt a participatory approach is more productive in allowing us to think about the significance of responses to victims’ suffering at such sites.


Download data is not yet available.


Views 265
PDF 334


Augé, M., 2009. Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. London: Verso.

Biran, A., Poria, Y., and Oren, G., 2011. Sought experiences at (dark) heritage sites. Annals of Tourism Research [online], 38(3), 820–841. Available from: [Accessed 11 March 2019].

Bradshaw, P., 2016. Austerlitz review: a thoughtful look at Holocaust tourism. The Guardian [online], 21 November. Available from: [Accessed 3 April 2018].

Cento Bull, A.C., and Lauge Hansen, H.L., 2016. On agonistic memory. Memory Studies [online], 9(4), 390-404. Available from: [Accessed 11 March 2019].

Cole, T., 1999. Selling the Holocaust: from Auschwitz to Schindler: How History Is Bought, Packaged, and Sold. New York: Routledge.

Cremer, R., 2008. Auschwitz Tourist Behaviour [online] Available from: [Accessed 30 March 2018].

Daily Mail Reporter, 2013. Curse of the grossly insensitive selfies. The Daily Mail [online], 29 August. Available from: [Accessed 30 March 2018].

Dalziel, I., 2016. “Romantic Auschwitz”: Examples and perceptions of contemporary visitor photography at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Holocaust Studies [online], 22(2-3), 185-207. Available from: [Accessed 11 March 2019].

Dillet, B., and Puri, T., 2016. The Political Space of Art: the Dardenne Brothers, Arundhati Roy, Ai Weiwei and Burial. London/New York: Rowan and Littlefield.

Douglas, K., 2017. Youth, trauma and memorialisation: the selfie as witnessing. Memory Studies [online]. Available from: [Accessed 8 August 2018].

Dunthorne, J., 2014. Sestina for my friends. Notes from the Higher Ground [online], 28 January. Blog post. Available from: [Accessed 29 March 2018].

Edensor, T., 2000. Staging tourism: tourists as performers. Annals of Tourism Research, 27(2), 322-344.

Feldman, J., 2008. Above the Death Pits, Beneath the Flag: Youth Voyages and the Performance of Israeli National Identity. New York/Oxford: Berghahn.

Goffman, E., 1966. Behaviour in Public Places: Notes on the Social Organization of Gatherings. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Hilmar, T., 2016. Storyboards of remembrance: Representations of the past in visitors’ photography at Auschwitz. Memory Studies [online], 9(4), 455-470. [Accessed 11 March 2019]

Hirsch, J., 2004. Afterimage: Film, Trauma and the Holocaust. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Hodgkinson, S., 2013. The concentration camp as a site of “dark tourism”. Témoigner : Entre histoire et mémoire [online], 116, 22-32. Available from: [Accessed 11 March 2019].

Hodgkinson, S., 2015. Rethinking Holocaust Representation: Reflections on Rex Bloomstein’s “KZ”. The Howard Journal [online], 54(5), 451-468. Available from: [Accessed 11 March 2019].

Jacobs, J., 2008. Gender and collective memory: women and representation at Auschwitz. Memory Studies [online], 1(2), 211-225. Available from: [Accessed 11 March 2019].

Landsberg, A., 2004. Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York/Chichester: Columbia University Press.

Levy, D., and Sznaider, N., 2006. The Holocaust and Memory in the Global Age. Trans.: A. Oksiloff. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Loznitsa, S., 2016. Director’s note. [online]. Available from: [Accessed 29 March 2018].

MacCannell, D. 1999. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class. Berkeley/Los Angeles/London: University of California Press.

Macdonald, S., 2009. Difficult Heritage: Negotiating the Nazi Past in Nuremberg and Beyond. London: Routledge.

Macdonald, S., 2013. Memorylands: Heritage and Identity in Europe Today. London: Routledge.

Munroe, L., 2017. Constructing affective narratives in transatlantic slavery museums. In: D.P. Tokia-Kelly, E. Waterton and S. Watson, eds., Heritage, Affect and Emotions: Politics, Practices and Infrastructures. London/New York: Routledge, 114-132.

Nawijn, J., et al., 2018. Holocaust concentration camp memorial sites: an exploratory study into expected emotional response. Current Issues in Tourism [online], 21(2), 175-190. Available from: [Accessed 11 March 2019].

Nicols, B., 1991. Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Popescu, D.I., 2016. Post-witnessing the concentration camps: Paul Auster’s and Angela Morgan Cutler’s investigative and imaginative encounters with sites of mass murder. Holocaust Studies [online], 22(2-3), 274-288. Available from: [Accessed 11 March 2019].

Prager, B., 2015. After the Fact: The Holocaust in Twenty-First Century Documentary Film. New York/London/New Delhi/Sydney: Bloomsbury.

Price, R.H., and Kerr, M.M., 2018. Child’s play at war memorials: insights from a social media debate. Journal of Heritage Tourism [online], 13(2), 167-180. Available from: [Accessed 11 March 2019].

Reynolds, D., 2016. Consumers or witnesses? Holocaust tourists and the problem of authenticity. Journal of Consumer Culture [online], 16(2), 334-353. Available from: [Accessed 11 March 2019].

Sandomirskaja, I., 2018. Ahasuerus on an Excursion. Austerlitz, 2016. Directed by Sergei Loznitsa. Mémoires en jeu [online], 20 April. Available from: [Accessed 30 April 2018].

Saxton, L., 2008. Haunted Images: Film, Ethics, Testimony and the Holocaust. London/New York: Wallflower.

Sebald, W.G., 2001. Austerlitz. Trans.: A. Bell. London: Penguin.

Shapira, S., 2017. Yolocaust [online]. Website. Available from: [Accessed 29 March 2018].

Sicinski, M., 2016. Austerlitz (Sergei Loznitsa, Germany) – Wavelengths. Cinema Scope [online]. Available from: [Accessed 29 March 2018].

Smith, L., 2006. Uses of Heritage. London/New York: Routledge.

Smith, L., 2014. Visitor emotion, affect and registers of engagement at museums and heritage sites. Conservation Science in Cultural Heritage [online], 14(2), 125-131. Available from: [Accessed 11 March 2019].

Smith, L., and Campbell, G., 2015. The elephant in the room: heritage, affect and emotion. In: W. Logan, M. Nic Craith and U. Kockel, eds., A Companion to Heritage Studies. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 443-460.

Stone, P., 2013. Dark tourism scholarship: a critical review. International Journal of Culture, Tourism and Hospitality Research [online], 7(3), 307-318. Available from: [Accessed 11 March 2019].

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, no date. Mauthausen: Prisoners. Holocaust Encyclopedia [online]. Available from: [Accessed 3 April 2018].

Urry, J., 1990. The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies. London/Newbury Park/New Delhi: Sage.

Violi, P., 2017. Landscapes of Memory: Trauma, Space and History. Oxford: Peter Lang.

Weissman, G., 2004. Fantasies of Witnessing: Postwar Efforts to Experience the Holocaust. Ithaca/London: Cornell University Press.

Wetherell, M., 2012. Affect and Emotion: A New Social Science Understanding. Los Angeles/London: Sage.




How to Cite

Clarke, D. (2018) “Tourists as post-witnesses in documentary film: Sergei Loznitsa’s "Austerlitz" (2016) and Rex Bloomstein’s "KZ" (2006)”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 10(3), pp. 642–663. doi: 10.35295/osls.iisl/0000-0000-0000-1045.