The Unvanquished

Ch. 4 How a Soviet Novel Turned into Jewish Film: The First Depiction of the Holocaust on Soviet Screens, The Unvanquished (1945)

The Unvanquished, made in 1945 by the famous Soviet director, Marc Donskoi (ethnically Jewish), was one of the first Holocaust films worldwide. Set in an unnamed Ukrainian town under the Nazi occupation, the film weaves together the stories of a Ukrainian factory worker (Taras), a Jewish doctor (Fishman), and their families. In this scene, Dr. Fishman (played by the Soviet-Yiddish actor, Veniamin Zuskin) is executed along with all Jews in the town. Significantly, this scene was filmed in Babi Yar in Kiev, a place which came to symbolize the Holocaust in the Soviet Union.

  1. The film is based on a popular Soviet novel. How is the film different from the original?
  2. How is Dr. Fishman portrayed? How is his character different from Taras?
  3. How is the mass execution portrayed in the film? What does it remind you of? Why did the director choose to stray from a historically accurate depiction of the execution?
  4. This film was made in 1945. Why did the Soviets allow, at that time, the depiction of what we would later term the Holocaust?