GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW: Volume XXXI, Number 3 (October 2008)
    Instrumentalization of Volksdeutschen in German Propaganda in 1939:
    Replacing/Erasing Poles, Jews, and Other Victims

    Doris L. Bergen
    University of Toronto

    The German invasion of Poland in 1939 was accompanied by a propaganda offensive depicting the Polish assault of Volksdeutschen (ethnic Germans). The German Foreign Office published documents and photographs that used familiar methods to portray the Volksdeutschen as innocent victims and the attack on Poland as defensive. Tactics included infantilizing and feminizing Volksdeutsche, using Christian imagery, and appropriating the suffering of Germany’s victims. This analysis underscores the importance of patterns set in 1939 and reveals the centrality of the Volksdeutschen to definitions of Germanness, relations between National Socialism and Communism, and the nexus in Nazi policy and practice between Volksdeutschen and Jews.
    The Trials of Herschel Grynszpan:
    Anti-Jewish Policy and German Propaganda, 1938–1942

    Alan E. Steinweis
    University of Nebraska-Lincoln

    On 7 November 1938, the Jewish teenager Herschel Grynszpan shot a German diplomat in Paris, providing the pretext for the nationwide anti-Jewish violence known as Kristallnacht. Although Grynszpan had acted on his own, the Nazi regime portrayed him as an instrument of “World Jewry.” During the war, the regime prepared a show trial of Grynszpan to underscore alleged Jewish responsibility for the conflict. By spring 1942, the planned trial had taken on the additional purpose of providing propagandistic cover for the “Final Solution.” Although ultimately scrapped for fear that the anti-Jewish message might be overshadowed by rumors of a homosexual liaison between assassin and victim, the trial preparations provide insight into Nazi methods and mentalities.
    Holocaust and Resistance in Vilnius: Rescuers in Wehrmacht Uniforms

    Karl-Heinz Schoeps
    University of Illinois

    The Holocaust began in Lithuania shortly after Germany attacked the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 with pogroms in Kaunas and Ponary near Vilnius committed by Einsatzkommandos and Sonderkommandos of Einsatzgruppe A and local units. Jews were forced into ghettos and some of them formed an organized resistance movement. German soldiers were largely indifferent to the fate of Jews but a few of them attempted to help them as much as they could. Among them were Major Karl Plagge and Sergeant Anton Schmid, both of them stationed in Vilnius.
    Gegen den Bürger, für das (Er-)Leben:
    Raoul Hausmann und der Berliner Dadaismus gegen die „Weimarische Lebensauffassung“

    Riccardo Bavaj
    University of St. Andrews

    Strikingly, Raoul Hausmann’s political thought has not been closely analyzed yet. To be sure, numerous studies have shed light on the versatile "Dadasoph" from the perspective of literary and art history. What is missing, however, is a thorough examination, and intellectual contextualization, of the political dimension in Hausmann’s written and visual work that he created in the early years of the Weimar Republic. Constructing an anarcho-communist Utopia of vibrant (Er-)Leben, the Berlin Dadaist was a prime example of anti-bourgeois life-ideology that can be considered the decisive intellectual challenge for Germany’s first democracy, from both left- and right-wing radicals.
    Returning to America: German Prisoners of War and the American Experience

    Barbara Schmitter Heisler
    Gettysburg College

    Among the over half million Germans who immigrated to the United States between 1947 and 1960 were several thousand men who had spent between one and three-and-a-half years as prisoners of war on American soil. During captivity these men had considerable opportunities to interact with Americans and to observe “the American way of life.” Their largely positive experiences fostered in them a desire to return to America after the war. In-depth interviews and more detailed accounts of some of their experiences reveal the variety of connections between their two migrations, as captive soldiers and as voluntary immigrants and future citizens.
    Stasiploitation—Why Not?
    The Scriptwriter’s Historical Creativity in The Lives of Others

    Thomas Lindenberger
    Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam

    The Lives of Others can be seen as a classical case of an “exploitation film”, both artistically and commercially. While this does not mar its merits as a moving drama about love, guilt, and redemption, it comes at the price of a historical “creativity” of a peculiar kind, informed by unreconstructed masculinity and a proverbial German yearning for reconciliation.
    Stasi with a Human Face? Ambiguity in Das Leben der Anderen

    Mary Beth Stein
    George Washington University

    Das Leben der Anderen garnered critical acclaim for its artistry and superb acting, but its greatest achievement is the creation of an ambiguously sympathetic protagonist, a victim-perpetrator who reflects the contradictions of life in the GDR as well as the limitations of public debates about the East German past mired in the fundamental oppositions of victim and perpetrator. The literature that transcends the dehumanizing effect of political repression is also the vehicle through which Dreyman and Wiesler are reconciled to one another and their separate pasts. The film’s many references to the works of Bertolt Brecht introduce important ambiguities in the characters and their actions.
    Stasi Goes to Hollywood:
    Donnersmarcks The Lives of Others und die Grenzen der Authentizität

    Jens Gieseke
    Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam

    The Stasi movie The Lives of Others has gained an immense influence over historical images of East Germany, due to the international public attention around the Academy Award in 2007. Author Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck built his story on a broad range of alleged facts, which do not, however, pass the test of historical authenticity. Like the recent films Sophie Scholl and Der Untergang with respect to Nazi Germany, The Lives of Others tells us more about recent discourses of coming to terms with the past than about living under the Stasi.
    Fiktion oder erlebte Geschichte?
    Zur Frage der Glaubwürdigkeit des Films Das Leben der Anderen

    Manfred Wilke
    Institut für Zeitgeschichte Munich/Berlin

    Since its release the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others has spawned much discussion among Germans whether the film represents fiction or history as actually experienced in communist East Germany. The author, an expert witness on the Bundestag committee investigating the nature and effects of the East German dictatorship and close historical consultant for the film, testifies here that the film director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck was determined to get the factual details right and that, in fact, the major actions and situations were patterned closely on actual events from the 1970s and 1980s.
    The Humanization of the Stasi in Das Leben der Anderen

    Cheryl Dueck
    University of Manitoba

    Das Leben der Anderen, the first popular feature film to deal seriously with activities of the State Security (Stasi) activities in East Germany, evoked intense critical discussion and ultimately, acclaim. One focal point of commentary was the humanization of the Stasi, perhaps with the concern that humanization could legitimate the actions of Stasi officers. The film employs a classical model of redemption-and humanization-through art. The story of the aesthetic education and humanization of Captain Wiesler activates in the viewer a powerful response to GDR trauma, such that the film makes a significant contribution to German collective memory.
  Table of contents for current volumes