Pamięć lat nazizmu w niemieckim filmie fabularnym lat 1946–1965
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How did German filmmakers of the first two decades after World War II depict the recent past? Which war-related themes were most often explored in feature films and which were avoided? In what way did postwar politics influence audio-visual depictions of both authentic events and fictional narratives set in the time of Nazi Germany? These are some of the questions the author of this book is trying to answer. In the book’s introduction, apart from a discussion of the current state of research, an explanation of the volume’s composition and the analytical method applied, various theoretical considerations on the relationships between cultural memory, historical politics and feature films are given. The author emphasises the fact that we should distinguish between the functionalization of historical narratives, i.e. films in which the action is based on actual, historical facts, and the historicization of fictional narratives – tales with historical backgrounds that take place in the past, without significant reference to authentic events. The main part of the book is divided into three chapters: on the period up to 1949 (films made in occupational zones); on films produced by the German Democratic Republic until the mid-1960s (until the 11th plenary session of the SED Central Committee in the GDR), and on the cinematic output of the Federal Republic of Germany (up to the period of so-called New German Cinema). The adopted thematic criteria mean that the focus lies on the following (in no particular order): films referring to the period of the ideological crystallisation of Nazism and its political domination in the 1930s; films about World War II, including certain very important – although relatively scant – screenplays tackling the death-camps (films about the Holocaust became the central discourse of ‘the work of memory’ in the FRG only in the late 1970s), and films about the consequences of the war, including the process of denazification (or the lack of it). The empirical basis for this book consists of the study of over one hundred full-length feature films and the most important reviews of their times, published in the mainstream press in both countries. The advantage of this publication is its comparative integration of deliberations about cinema in the FRG and the GDR dealing with thematic areas such as the myth of the ‘good Wehrmacht’, the representation of the resistance movement, the image of ‘new allies’ and ‘foreign enemies’, national self-presentation from the point of view of denazification, and also the problem of anti-Semitism and the representation of the concentration camps. Some of the obvious differences resulting from the functioning of film cultures in both countries in the different institutional and economic contexts should not conceal the important similarities between the films made in the FRG and GDR. Instead, they should be considered in light of, for example, the attempts made in recent years to consider the cine matographic history of both countries as a mutual sphere of German culture – a sphere in which DEFA’s productions are an alternative view of issues important to the FRG’s society, while West Germany’s cine ma complements, adds to, and even comments on the discourses so characteristic of the GDR’s films.
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