Nuancing Gestures: Perpetrators and Victims in Reinhard Kleist's The Boxer

Laurike in 't Veld

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Reinhard Kleist’s graphic novel The Boxer tells the story of Holocaust survivor Harry Haft and his participation in forced boxing matches in Nazi concentration camps. Throughout the work, Kleist works against clear delineations of right and wrong by offering what I term ‘nuancing gestures’. Haft is a morally complex protagonist who works against the image of the heroic and sanctimonious survivor, and Kleist identifies other characters that challenge comforting notions of good and bad. The work uses visual correspondences between panels to highlight cycles of interpersonal violence, showing how issues of complicity are carried forward later in life. Furthermore, the graphic novel depicts in vivid detail how traumatic intrusions disrupt Haft’s daily life. This article explores how The Boxer’s particular stylistic rendering of moral ambiguity, complicity, and the longer lasting effects of trauma raises new insights about how the medium of comics can navigate a sensitive and complex Holocaust narrative.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-94
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Perpetrator Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2020


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