In this paper, I look at two recent documentaries made by Radu Jude, one of the most celebrated contemporary filmmakers from Romania: The Dead Nation (2017) and The Exit of the Trains (2020, co-directed with Andrei Cioflâncă). These documentaries reuse audio-visual archival materials selected from the recently digitised Costică Acsinte collection (1933-1946), the Romanian National Television Archives and the Romanian Information Service (Romania’s Second World War Secret Service) archive in order to reflect on the official politics of persecution, expropriation and extermination of Romania’s Jewish population in the interwar period and during the Second World War.
I use Dagmar Brunow’s (2015) theorising on documentary filmmaking as archival intervention in order to show how these documentaries rework the audio-visual archive of the Holocaust in Romania. I argue that Jude’s archival films employ a self-reflexive aesthetics to evoke a sense of responsibility for the atrocities committed in the past. In this context, I propose that Jude’s documentaries add to how local and global viewers reflect on and remember the Holocaust not only by revealing lesser-known aspects of it, such as a confrontation with the perpetrator past of Romania, but also by foregrounding the notion of “symbolic responsibility” as a new way of thinking about issues of responsibility for historic violence in the present.