matt holocaust

A Holocaust specialist at Edge Hill University has been awarded an important fellowship to enable him to travel to Germany to explore the darkest periods of human history.

PhD student and musicologist Matt Lawson has been given a European Holocaust Research Infrastructure placement which will enable him to access archived material that he wouldn’t be able to see in the UK.

Matt is currently investigating the type of music used in films depicting the mass murder or genocide of approximately six million European Jews during Hitler’s dictatorship during World War II. He believes that music played an integral role in daily life under Nazism wants to investigate its use in Holocaust films for his study.

As part of the fellowship, Matt will benefit from a four-week research stay in Munich at the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, which will allow him to search through hundreds of journals and films. He will also be able to network with other academics interested in the Holocaust.

He said: “This EHRI Fellowship will enable me to access German resources related to Holocaust reaction and reception, as well as filmic and musicological literature unavailable in the UK. By visiting the institute and the concentration camp archives at Dachau, as well as embracing the local universities, I will be considering a rich German language resource network for use in my thesis. This will both strengthen and add an essential German perspective to my studies.

“There are hundreds of films, documentaries and television programmes which visually represent one of the darkest periods of human history – the Holocaust. Many of these have been well covered academically, with consideration given to the background, direction, camerawork, editing and content of each particular representation. However, the majority of these visual representations include music, and this is an area which has been omitted from almost all of the existing academic literature on this topic. It is from this omission in the academic literature that my current doctoral thesis based upon German Holocaust film music emerged.”

While in Munich, Matt will be able to interview a German composer whose work features heavily in one of the films he is including in his PhD. “I’ve already got British and American views so to speak to a German composer will provide me with another fascinating perspective to my research,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to immersing myself in their culture and exploring in more detail why Germans use music the way that they do in films about the Holocaust.”

As it’s a relatively new area of research, Scarborough-born Matt is questioning whether the music chosen is appropriate for the films it is used in, taking into account ethical, moral and political obligations of the composers.

There will be several themes in his research, including German, British, American and Eastern European films to see how they differ in their use of music. Propaganda and documentaries will also be examined.

He added: “I hope that at the end of my PhD I will be able to move film and music studies to a new level and keep the Holocaust at the forefront of people’s minds from both an academic and personal point of view.”