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Owen Evans

Abstract

The explosion of cinematic memory work in Germany since the turn of the twenty-first century has been significant, seemingly inspired by the efforts of Gerhard Schröder’s Red-Green coalition after 1998 to encourage a more ‘normal’ engagement with the German past. Consequently, an array of films have emerged tackling the National Socialist past, which have received a mixed reception at home but interest and acclaim internationally. Of course, films have also been produced that explore the legacy of East Germany, as well as the impact of terrorism in West Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. What is particularly striking about this recent surge of historical films, in contrast to earlier productions by the New German Cinema, is their adoption of a more popular aesthetic for transmitting cultural memory. The present chapter will explore two films produced by the late Bernd Eichinger, the mogul of commercial cinema in Germany, namely Der Untergang (Downfall, Hirschbiegel, 2004) and The Baader Meinhof Complex (Edel, 2008). Amongst the most expensive films ever produced in Germany, these popular history films are evaluated as meaningful contributions to discussions about the country’s difficult past. This chapter explores their generic structures, professed commitment to authenticity and the ways in which their representation of cultural memory might be seen as ‘therapeutic historiographies’, mindful of the historical significance of the stories they tell.

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Mapping the Contours of Oppression

Subjectivity, Truth and Fiction in Recent German Autobiographical Treatments of Totalitarianism

Owen Evans

Despite all the assertions towards the end of the twentieth century that the literary subject had expired along with the author, the wave of autobiographies published in German after the Wende was a clear indication that, on the contrary, life stories were very much alive. In this study, Owen Evans examines the work of eight authors – Ludwig Harig, Uwe Saeger, Ruth Klüger, Günter de Bruyn, Günter Kunert, Christoph Hein, Grete Weil and Monika Maron – who all published personal texts after 1989 dealing either with life in Nazi Germany or the GDR, and in some cases both. By means of close textual analysis, Evans explores the impact these regimes had on the individuals concerned and the contrasting ways in which the authors handle the autobiographical project. They adopt varying textual strategies to render the self on the page, with some employing overt fiction, and yet in each case, the project was clearly motivated by the need to treat psychological wounds inflicted on the self by totalitarianism. In their mapping of the contours of oppression, the texts at the heart of this study combine to offer a powerful defence of literary autobiography, in Germany at least, as a valuable means of tackling the legacy of totalitarianism.