All successful genres depend on a consistent formula, and Stalags, the paperback erotica novels briefly popular in Israel during the 1960s, are no exception. As Ari Libsker’s ambitious new documentary on these books explains, the protagonist is usually an American or British fighter pilot captured by the SS and taken to one of the titular camps, where he is systematically tortured and raped by a voluptuous female Nazi. The specifics vary from book to book — “the whips are different, the boobs are different,” suggests one Stalags author — but the outcome is always the same. The Allied pilot reverses the tables on his captor and, as one enthusiastic fan says, “fucks her on behalf of the six million.”
Stalags entertainingly explores the psychosexual appeal these stories held for Holocaust survivors and, even more so, for the generation that followed. But, like its subject, the film is more than a titillating diversion. Libsker gradually broadens his scope until the movie becomes a meditation on legitimate Holocaust literature and its claim on truth. If Stalags doesn’t stir controversy at your seder table it won’t be for lack of trying.