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Theaters of Occupation

Theaters of Occupation: Hollywood and the Reeducation of Postwar Germany

Jennifer Fay
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Theaters of Occupation
    Book Description:

    In a rigorous analysis of the American occupation of postwar Germany and the military’s use of “soft power,” Jennifer Fay considers how Hollywood films, including Ninotchka, Gaslight, and Stagecoach, influenced German culture and cinema. Theaters of Occupation reveals how Germans responded to these education efforts and offers new insights about American exceptionalism and virtual democracy at the dawn of the Cold War.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5650-9
    Subjects: Film Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction: Theaters of Occupation
    (pp. ix-xxx)

    The German language is uniquely poised to reflect the militarization of entertainment and the theatricality of occupation that became evident in the days following Germany’s unconditional surrender to World War II Allies in 1945. For example, the noun for military occupation,Besetzung, has another definition: the casting of actors for a film or show.¹ The verbbesetzen, to occupy militarily, also means to take on a role in a play or to adorn or decorate. ABesitzeris an occupier; aTheaterbesitzeris a theater owner or exhibitor. To occupy a country means not only to assume sovereignty over the...

  4. 1. Germany Is a Boy in Trouble
    (pp. 1-38)

    In 1944, in anticipation of the American occupation of Germany, Leslie Fenton’s star-studdedTomorrow—the World!dramatized for U.S. audiences the urgent proposition of reeducating Nazi youth in the wake of Allied victory. Based on the successful Broadway show that earned the New York Theater Club’s medal for the best American play of the year,Tomorrow—the World!was namedRedbook’s“Film of the Month” and granted theSenior ScholasticBlue Ribbon. It also won the first Hollywood Writers Mobilization Award for distinctive film entertainment for its politically trenchant, reasoned, and timely depiction of the psychological effects of Nazi education...

  5. 2. Hollywood’s Democratic Unconscious
    (pp. 39-82)

    The well-known statistical record can only numerically capture the bleakness of Germany in 1945. In the wake of Allied bombing, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, and Berlin were more than 70 percent destroyed.¹ Three and a half million German soldiers were killed in battle and approximately 780,000 German civilians were lost in fire bombings and air raids, while countless more were wounded, rendered homeless, and psychologically scarred.² Once the centers of European culture, German cities were now populated by charred corpses and millions of refugees. In the words of W. G. Sebald, these ruins were the new “necropolis,” where the stench of...

  6. 3. Garbo Laughs and Germans Eat
    (pp. 83-113)

    The benchmarks of America’s occupation policy in post–World War II Germany are well known. In the first years, its directives were to strip Germans of their war-making capacity by demilitarizing the culture, deindustrializing the economy, and de-Nazifying the population. By ferreting out and, through the war-crimes tribunal, bringing to justice high-ranking Nazis, the Americans hoped to discredit Hitler’s regime and minimize Nazi influence over postwar reconstruction. But the breakdown of the Soviet–American alliance, the spectacular Berlin airlift, and the ensuing cold war brought about a significant policy shift that manifested itself in the occupation’s filmic rhetoric. This chapter...

  7. 4. That’s Jazz Made in Germany
    (pp. 114-141)

    Rudolf Jugert’s occupation -era musicalHallo, Fräulein!(1949) is a curious cultural artifact made during the transition to West German sovereignty. The film anxiously, and to some degree ironically, enacts the cultural stakes of political rehabilitation and provides a German twist on the culture of American democracy and its “melting pot” sociality. IfDer Apfel ist abimplicitly satirizes the limits of political choice under occupation,Hallo, Fräulein!uses the genre of the musical to refigure the terms of these choices. And this film realizes the imitative logic of reeducation by foregrounding the politics of performance. Fittingly, Jugert’s film marks...

  8. 5. A Gothic Occupation
    (pp. 142-172)

    We repeatedly return in this book to the failure of America’s cinematic culture to produce a democratic pedagogy in occupied Germany. On one hand, these films may have offered a pleasant distraction from the realities of occupied life, in which case they functioned mostly as entertainment. On the other, however, because many of the Hollywood features encrypted the history of American racism, xenophobia, militarism, and anticommunism, not to mention America’s genocidal beginnings, the injunction that Germans imitate Americans and reproduce their popular culture could be interpreted as a terrifying call to reenact the very kinds of violence that prompted the...

  9. Epilogue: Berlin Fifty Years Later
    (pp. 173-184)

    As a technology of political pedagogy, cinema in occupied Germany was also an instrument of historical reckoning. By watching Hollywood films, occupied spectators were supposed to come to an understanding of their own past misdeeds, to renounce their collective superiority, and to disassociate themselves from the structures of national feeling upon which territorial expansion, war, and genocide are founded. Though many of the Hollywood films screened in Germany fostered precisely these sentiments in their American viewers, German audiences were themselves conditioned by the experience of occupation to reread American history on and through film for its negative and positive examples....

  10. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 185-188)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 189-222)
  12. Index
    (pp. 223-228)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 229-229)