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Screening War

Screening War: Perspectives on German Suffering

Paul Cooke
Marc Silberman
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Screening War
    Book Description:

    The recent "discovery" of German wartime suffering has had a particularly profound impact in German visual culture. Films from Margarethe von Trotta's Rosenstrasse (2003) to Oliver Hirschbiegel's Oscar-nominated Downfall (2004) and the two-part television mini-series Dresden (2006) have shown how ordinary Germans suffered during and after the war. Such films have been presented by critics as treating a topic that had been taboo for German filmmakers. However, the representation of wartime suffering has a long tradition on the German screen. For decades, filmmakers have recontextualized images of Germans as victims to engage shifting social and ideological discourses. By focusing on this process, the present volume explores how the changing representation of Germans as victims has shaped the ways in which both of the postwar German states and the now-unified nation have attempted to face the trauma of the past and to construct a contemporary place for themselves in the world. Contributors: Seán Allan, Tim Bergfelder, Daniela Berghahn, Erica Carter, David Clarke, John E. Davidson, Sabine Hake, Jennifer Kapczynski, Manuel Köppen, Rachel Palfreyman, Brad Prager, Johannes von Moltke. Paul Cooke is Professor of German Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds and Marc Silberman is Professor of German at the University of Wisconsin.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-714-2
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: German Suffering?
    (pp. 1-14)
    Paul Cooke and Marc Silberman

    The mere mention of the Third Reich and the Second World War is sufficient to conjure up thoughts about the Holocaust and crimes against humanity. The stories that have filtered into public memory depict racial genocide, civilian and military losses in the Soviet Union, resistance and partisan movements throughout Europe, and heroic Allied battles at Stalingrad and Normandy. However, in the late 1990s the focus on the victims and heroes in Germany began to shift from these internationally recognizable points of reference to examine how Germans “suffered,” or how they might be presented as “victims” during and in the aftermath...

  5. I. Hidden Screens:: Soldiers, Martyrs, Innocent German Victims

    • 1: Armchair Warriors: Heroic Postures in the West German War Film
      (pp. 17-35)
      Jennifer M. Kapczynski

      On 11 August 1950 a carefully selected commission composed of former German Wehrmacht officers convened at the behest of West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. They were charged with drafting a position paper on the possibilities for German rearmament — a subject that had been discussed in political circles since the earliest days of the Federal Republic but had gained new international support through the events of the Korean War. What emerged from the meeting was the so-called “Himmeroder Memorandum,” a top-secret document that outlined in roughly forty pages a series of political and psychological rationales for the restoration of the German...

    • 2: German Martyrs: Images of Christianity and Resistance to National Socialism in German Cinema
      (pp. 36-55)
      David Clarke

      This chapter explores the representation of Christians as victims of National Socialism in the cinema of the Federal Republic, and particularly the representation of Christian resisters who fell victim to Hitler’s regime. Such representations have not been a consistent feature of the Federal Republic of Germany’s film culture; rather, we can observe clusters of films that examine the predicament of Christians, whether as resisters or as more passive victims, emerging at different points in time with often very different emphases. The discussion below will provide a survey of these representations and locate them within the development of German memory culture,...

    • 3: The Rhetoric of Victim Narratives in West German Films of the 1950s
      (pp. 56-78)
      Manuel Köppen

      In his 1959 lecture “Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit” (The Meaning of Working Through the Past) Theodor W. Adorno observed suspiciously: “Panegyrics to Jews that isolate them as a group already give anti-Semitism a running start.” Someone had told him the story of a woman who, “upset after seeing a dramatization of theThe Diary of Anne Frank,said: yes, butthatgirl at least should have been allowed to live.”¹ According to Adorno, this kind of empathy is ambivalent precisely because it allows the individual case to become an alibi for forgetting the “terrifying totality.”

      That was during the...

  6. II. Projection Screens:: Disavowing Loss, Transforming Antifascism, Contesting Memories

    • 4: Sissi the Terrible: Melodrama, Victimhood, and Imperial Nostalgia in the Sissi Trilogy
      (pp. 81-101)
      Erica Carter

      On 9 January 1957 Innsbruck’sTiroler Tageszeitungreported a trade dispute that had been brewing for some months over Austrian films in Germany. Under the headline “Sissias ‘German film’!” the newspaper cited criticism from Austria’s governing party, the Austrian People’s Party (Österreichische Volkspartei, ÖVP), of the common practice among West German distributors of marketing Austrian titles both in the FRG and internationally as German.¹ This long-running Austro-German dispute had intensified with the release in December 1955 of the Vienna-based Erma-Film’s Sissi, the first title in a trilogy, directed by Ernst Marischka, which charted the life of the Austrian Empress...

    • 5: Political Affects: Antifascism and the Second World War in Frank Beyer and Konrad Wolf
      (pp. 102-122)
      Sabine Hake

      Looking at the many films and television series on the Third Reich and Second World War produced since German unification, we might easily arrive at two conclusions. First, the Second World War has joined, if not replaced, the Third Reich as the unifying myth of German postwar identity. Second, German unification has created the political conditions necessary for the recognition of Germans as victims rather than only as perpetrators. The resultant preoccupation with German wartime suffering can be found across the entire range of cultural practices, from historical exhibitions, book publishing, and scholarly debates to the audiovisual practices discussed in...

    • 6: Shadowlands: The Memory of the Ostgebiete in Contemporary German Film and Television
      (pp. 123-142)
      Tim Bergfelder

      In the literary, cinematic, and televisual retellings of German suffering during the Second World War that have been proliferating over the past years, some narratives recur frequently: the bombing of German cities in Allied air raids, the killing and rape of civilians by invading soldiers in the last days of the war, and the expulsion before and after the end of the war of ethnic Germans from territories east of the rivers Oder and Neisse. This last narrative constitutes as much a traumatic memory as any of the other privileged sites of German wartime suffering; even by conservative estimates the...

  7. III. Display Screens:: Generational Traumas, Untimely Passions, Open Wounds

    • 7: Links and Chains: Trauma between the Generations in the Heimat Mode
      (pp. 145-164)
      Rachel Palfreyman

      The popular Heimat films of the 1950s, characterized by formulaic happy endings, beautiful peaceful landscapes, romance, sing-along moments, and comedic confusion, range from lightly pastoral treatments to downright kitsch. They appear to stand as an emblem of popular escape and so to fit neatly into the twin narratives that have been applied retrospectively to the postwar period — German suffering as taboo, and repression of guilt.¹ Scholarship on the recent explosion in the cultural representation of German wartime suffering has, however, acknowledged that discussion of the traumatic experiences of German soldiers and civilians in the Second World War was in fact...

    • 8: Resistance of the Heart: Female Suffering and Victimhood in DEFA’s Antifascist Films
      (pp. 165-186)
      Daniela Berghahn

      Long before Nathan Stoltzfus coined the phrase “resistance of the heart,” making reference to the successful protest of the women of the Rosentrasse in Berlin’s Jewish quarter in 1943, whose intervention may have saved their interned Jewish husbands from deportation, and more than twenty years before the West German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta paid tribute to these courageous women in her filmDie Frauen von der Rosentraße(The Women of Rosenstrasse, 2003), East German cinema emotionalized the representation of resistance by focusing on women in two antifascist films of the 1980s:Die Verlobte(The Fiancée, Günter Reisch 1980) andDie...

    • 9: Suffering and Sympathy in Volker Schlöndorff’s Der neunte Tag and Dennis Gansel’s NaPolA
      (pp. 187-206)
      Brad Prager

      Whether wittingly or unwittingly, films that depict history play a part in constructing national narratives. Films typically referred to as “heritage films” or “costume dramas” generally rely on presumptions about their audience and therefore about the audience’s collective or national past. The memories created by such films — memories that frequently come to stand in place of experience for audience members who were not witnesses, and even for some who were — tend to overwhelm eyewitness accounts. Most viewers, particularly ones born after 1944, recall events such as D-Day through the lens of war films like Steven Spielberg’sSaving Private Ryan(1998)...

  8. IV. Split Screens:: Ambiguous Authorities, Decentered Emotions, Performed Identities

    • 10: Eberhard Fechner’s History of Suffering: TV Talk, Temporal Distance, Spatial Displacement
      (pp. 209-229)
      John E. Davidson

      This essay has two general aims: to reintroduce Eberhard Fechner as an important filmmaker and oral historian from the era that roughly corresponds to the New German Cinema and to think about the problem of “identification” in new ways. Guido Knopp claims that depictions of the suffering inflicted and experienced by Germans in the middle of the twentieth century have led to a standoff between the two extremes of “ Trauerarbeit” (work of mourning) and “Identitätsfindung” (search for identity) that mark the history of television practice and theory in the Federal Republic.¹ Rather than a decisionist choice between more “aestheticist”...

    • 11: The Politics of Feeling: Alexander Kluge on War, Film, and Emotion
      (pp. 230-250)
      Johannes von Moltke

      An entry in Theodor W. Adorno’sMinima Moraliabears the title “Out of the Firing Line.”¹ From the tenuous safety of the position described by that title, Adorno reflects on the ongoing war in the fall of 1944: its industrial nature, its human consequences, its reification in the newsreel. What ties these concerns together, though, are questions about the stakes for experience and representation “after Doomsday,” as Adorno puts it. Noting that the Great War had already destroyed the very possibility of experience because of the incongruity of human bodies and the energy of machines, he locates one of the...

    • 12: Post-unification German-Jewish Relations and the Discourse of Victimhood in Dani Levy’s Films
      (pp. 251-266)
      Seán Allan

      In a letter toDie Weltpublished on 20 January 2007 — just one week after the release ofMein Führer: Die wirklich wahrste Wahrheit über Adolf Hitler(Mein Führer: The Truly Truest Truth about Adolf Hitler) — the film’s director Dani Levy emphatically threw down the gauntlet to his detractors: “Lachen ist ein Politikum,” he wrote. “Das lachende Kino ist Ausdruck einer Haltung . . . Über Hitler zu lachen klärt unser Verhältnis zu ihm” (Laughter is a political act. Laughter in the cinema expresses an attitude . . . and laughing at Hitler clarifies our relationship to him).¹ Levy’s statement...

  9. Works Cited
    (pp. 267-286)
  10. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 287-292)
  11. Index of Film Titles
    (pp. 293-296)
  12. Index of Names and Subjects
    (pp. 297-304)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-305)