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Representing the "Good German" in Literature and Culture after 1945

Representing the "Good German" in Literature and Culture after 1945: Altruism and Moral Ambiguity

Pól Ó Dochartaigh
Christiane Schönfeld
Volume: 132
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Representing the "Good German" in Literature and Culture after 1945
    Book Description:

    In the aftermath of the Second World War, both the allied occupying powers and the nascent German authorities sought Germans whose record during the war and the Nazi period could serve as a counterpoint to the notion of Germans as evil. That search has never really stopped. In the past few years, we have witnessed a burgeoning of cultural representations of this "other" kind of Third Reich citizen - the "good German" - as opposed to the committed Nazi or genocidal maniac. Such representations have highlighted individuals' choices in favor of dissenting behavior, moral truth, or at the very least civil disobedience. The "good German's" counterhegemonic practice cannot negate or contradict the barbaric reality of Hitler's Germany, but reflects a value system based on humanity and an "other" ideal community. This volume of new essays explores postwar and recent representations of "good Germans" during the Third Reich, analyzing the logic of moral behavior, cultural and moral relativism, and social conformity found in them. It thus draws together discussions of the function and reception of "Good Germans" in Germany and abroad. Contributors: Eoin Bourke, Manuel Bragança, Maeve Cooke, Kevin De Ornellas, Sabine Egger, Joachim Fischer, Coman Hamilton, Jon Hughes, Karina von Lindeiner-Strásky, Alexandra Ludewig, Pól O Dochartaigh, Christiane Schönfeld, Matthias Uecker. Pól O Dochartaigh is Professor of German and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ulster, Northern Ireland. Christiane Schönfeld is Senior Lecturer in German and Head of the Department of German Studies at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-787-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Christiane Schönfeld and Pól Ó Dochartaigh
  5. Introduction: Finding the “Good German”
    (pp. 1-15)
    Pól Ó Dochartaigh and Christiane Schönfeld

    In the aftermath of the Second World War and the Nazi period, both the Allied occupying powers and the nascent German authorities in the political and cultural spheres sought Germans whose record during the war and the Nazi period could serve as a counterpoint to the notion of all Germans being evil. After the division of Germany in 1949, finding “good Germans” whose record helped legitimize each of the new German states became a core aspect of building a new nation in Germany and of the propaganda battle in this respect between the two German states. In eastern Germany, the...

  6. 1: Re-Presenting the Good German: Philosophical Reflections
    (pp. 16-28)
    Maeve Cooke

    Shining a light on the ethical depravity of the Third Reich and the ethical disorientation of its aftermath, the figure of the “good German” invites us to imagine alternative, genuinely ethical forms of individual and collective life. As such it has a utopian moment, pointing towards a society in which people would live their lives in truly ethical ways.¹ Moreover, it has exemplary force. By the power of example, it opens up an imaginative space in which the possibility of an ethical life is momentarily present.

    The ethical rightness manifested by the figure of the “good German” should be understood...

  7. 2: “Görings glorreichste Günstlinge”: The Portrayal of Wilhelm Furtwängler and Gustaf Gründgens as Good Germans in the West German Media since 1945
    (pp. 29-49)
    Karina von Lindeiner-Stráský

    Amongst the objects of German efforts to come to terms with the Nazi past (Vergangenheitsbewältigung) the memory of fellow travelers in the arts is one of the most controversial.¹ These artists, who often disagreed with most or all of the regime’s ideology, decided not to emigrate as many of their fellow artists did. Instead, they continued to perform in Germany, and in many cases accepted that the Nazis used them as cultural icons, for example to promote the regime abroad or to convey ideological messages through the medium of art. Their decision to stay and perform has stimulated ongoing debates...

  8. 3: From Hitler’s Champion to German of the Century: On the Representation and Reinvention of Max Schmeling
    (pp. 50-65)
    Jon Hughes

    Modern sport, as an area of intense popular interest, commercial investment, and, on occasion, political resonance, has produced innumerable “legendary” figures, personalities whose achievements are invested with what Joyce Carol Oates refers to as “mythopoetic” status: “To be a great champion, like Muhammad Ali, one must transcend the perimeters of sport itself to become a model (in some cases a sacrificial model) for the general populace, image-bearer for an era.”¹ Muhammad Ali is certainly one of the best examples of this phenomenon; this article will scrutinize another. The former boxer Max Schmeling (1905–2005), though he was at his athletic...

  9. 4: Wilhelm Krützfeld and Other “Good” Constables in Police Station 16 in Hackescher Markt, Berlin
    (pp. 66-84)
    Eoin Bourke

    The main protagonist in the following narrative is the man in the photograph, Wilhelm Krützfeld, seen here sitting at his desk in his capacity as chief of police station 16 in Hackescher Markt in Berlin-Mitte. Behind him is a map of the precinct for which he was responsible. He has gone down in history, if in more hidden history than general, not as much as the rescuer of a person or group (although he is known to have done that as well by informing the Jewish community of impending SS raids), but rather as rescuer of a building, and indeed...

  10. 5: The “Good German” between Silence and Artistic Deconstruction of an Inhumane World: Johannes Bobrowski’s “Mäusefest” and “Der Tänzer Malige”
    (pp. 85-97)
    Sabine Egger

    It could be argued that the poetry of Johannes Bobrowski (1917–1965) tends towards absolute moral polarities, with Germans generally bad, and their Jewish, Polish, and other victims equally good, rather than exploring the complexities of individuals, ethnic communities, and their relations. This does not apply in the same way to the prose fiction he increasingly turned to in the 1960s. Several of his narrative texts show a German soldier with positive character traits, partly representing the author’s own experience, while pointing to the insufficiency of these traits in the historical context. This essay will explore the representation of such...

  11. 6: Saints and Sinners: The Good German and Her Others in Heinrich Böll’s Gruppenbild mit Dame
    (pp. 98-110)
    Matthias Uecker

    The inclusion of a novel by Heinrich Böll in a volume on the topic of the “good German” should come as no surprise — indeed, the author himself could have been proposed as a worthy topic for this volume, as he acquired during his lifetime a reputation as the “conscience of the nation” and representative of an alternative, better Germany. Böll’s friend, the critic Heinrich Vormweg, chose the label “der andere Deutsche” (the other German) as the title of his biography of Böll — sidestepping the notion of the “good German,” but still suggesting a particular moral quality that distinguished the author...

  12. 7: Being Human: Good Germans in Postwar German Film
    (pp. 111-137)
    Christiane Schönfeld

    The focus of this chapter is on the cinematic representation of the “good German” in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, and the reorientation of defeated, isolated, and morally devastated Germans, not only by addressing the country’s all-too-recent genocidal past, but especially by highlighting the possibility of moral truth, autonomous agency, and ethical action, and thereby, the possibility of a better future. Representations of humanity, decency, and the courage to disobey or change were projected during this early postwar period onto often makeshift cinema screens as seeds lying dormant under thousands of cubic feet of rubble. Provided with...

  13. 8: “The Banality of Good”? Good Nazis in Contemporary German Film
    (pp. 138-150)
    Alexandra Ludewig

    The fascination with fascism, whether in Germany or abroad, continues as strongly as ever, and — as Jewish historian Yaffa Eliach mordantly commented with reference to the Holocaust industry — “There’s no business like Shoah business.”¹ An analysis of recent representations of Nazism and its aftermath in contemporary film will uncover a shift towards the depiction of Nazis as victims as well as heroes. As many of these films are used in educational settings, with the intention of enlightening students about the Nazi period and contributing to the teaching of values (Werteerziehung), their showcasing of exemplary conduct by both victims and perpetrators...

  14. 9: Memories of Good and Evil in Sophie Scholl — Die letzten Tage
    (pp. 151-169)
    Coman Hamilton

    In the past six decades of German cultural memory, the figure of Sophie Scholl has undergone a series of metamorphoses. She has developed from being a traitor and a suicidal failure into a distant, legendary heroine. Today, her story of resistance against the Nazi regime and her iconic and tragically fatal act of scattering seditious leaflets in the University of Munich atrium is heroically retold in classrooms throughout Germany. Placing Scholl in the context of historiographical development since her execution in 1943, this essay intends to look at how director Marc Rothemund has further modified the shape of Sophie Scholl...

  15. 10: Deconstructing the “Good German” in French Best Sellers Published in the Aftermath of the Second World War
    (pp. 170-183)
    Manuel Bragança

    In the aftermath of the Second World War, it was through fiction that many French writers decided to reflect on the conflict. Unsurprisingly, the relationship between “occupiers” and “occupied” was often depicted quite simplistically: German soldiers were either robots or barbarians. Yet, many texts — including the best sellers Education européenne by Romain Gary (Prix des Critiques winner 1945); Mon Village à l’heure allemande by Jean-Louis Bory (Goncourt winner 1945); and Les Forêts de la nuit by Jean-Louis Curtis (Goncourt winner 1947),¹ on which this article will focus — contain a “good German” character. I have suggested elsewhere² that the inclusion of...

  16. 11: Macbeth, Not Henry V: Shakespearean Allegory in the Construction of Vercors’s “Good German”
    (pp. 184-196)
    Kevin De Ornellas

    Le Silence de la mer (The silence of the sea), the Resistance novella by Jean Bruller (1902–91) — then writing under the pseudonym of Vercors — was published in occupied Paris by the clandestine publishing house Les Éditions de Minuit in 1942; it had been written between July and October, 1941.¹ It is an ostensibly naturalistic story, one with a simple plot. It is the contention of this essay that the apparent naturalism of the prose is complicated by its investment in a clear Shakespearean allegory: the German believes he represents a “good” Shakespearean regime like that of Henry V but,...

  17. 12: A Good Irish German: In Praise of Hugo Hamilton’s Mother
    (pp. 197-211)
    Joachim Fischer

    Over the last ten years Hugo Hamilton (born 1953) has emerged as one of the major contemporary Irish novelists; for Bernard O’Donoghue in a review of his recent novel Disguise he is even “one of the most important writers of our time.”¹ Hamilton’s success is, at least in part, due to the new and unique perspective he has added to Irish writing in English: born into an Irish-German family and an enforced German-and Irish-speaking home environment he has made this rather unusual upbringing the starting point for his extensive creative reflections about issues of identity and belonging. His work also...

  18. 13: Shades of Gray: The Beginnings of the Postwar Moral Compromise in Joseph Kanon’s The Good German
    (pp. 212-226)
    Pól Ó Dochartaigh

    Though there is little evidence that it was used in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, the term “Stunde Null,” or “Zero Hour,” was often at the core of later West German narratives about 1945.¹ As a concept it has been a much disputed one. For some, Germany’s destruction, misery, and shame was so complete that a tabula rasa situation existed in the aftermath of the Third Reich, one in which a completely new set of institutions and values that could not in any way be rooted in the Nazi past had to be developed for German society....

  19. Works Cited
    (pp. 227-246)
  20. Filmography
    (pp. 247-248)
  21. Notes on the Contributors
    (pp. 249-252)
  22. Index
    (pp. 253-262)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 263-263)