After the Wall: Cinema and the Memory of Communist Repression in the Reunified Germany Public Deposited

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  • February 26, 2019
  • John, Rachuba
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • As German reunification continues into its third decade, ever-­‐fewer Germans can claim direct historical memory of life under the dictatorship that once ruled the country’s east. German society’s understanding of this painful segment of its past is increasingly second-­‐hand; and the cultural work of portraying and remembering the shadowy regime of the German Democratic Republic is beginning to fall on mass media and entertainment. Film, literature, and popular culture, rather than personal memory, inform how modern Germans perceive the old regime in the east: which elements are most important and memorable, and whose stories are told. Film, by providing a direct visual rendering of the lost world of German communism, affords a crucial glimpse into modern Germany’s understanding of the Stasi tyranny that once ruled much of the country. The messages, tropes, and stories told in cinema mold the image younger generations hold of the former East Germany. The cosmopolitan, diverse, and socially conscious but market-­‐capitalist Federal Republic stands in stark contrast to the repressive and secretive Soviet-­‐bloc regime that once stood in the east. Understanding the image modern Germans hold of the defunct Stasi state is enlightening not just for the purposes of exploring modern German society and culture, but in learning how human beings cope through art with immense oppression and terror after-­‐the-­‐fact. By examining three separate pieces of film art from the post-­‐Wende era, this thesis will endeavor to glean how Germany in the 21st century remembers the struggle(s) against, and perpetration of, the repressive regime of the former East Germany. As with any artistic work, the particulars of various films about the subject will differ with the director—but the presence of overarching, common themes in the post-­‐reunification cinema of East Germany helps reveal modern German understandings of the country’s Cold War past. How and why were individuals targeted by state violence? How did individuals survive and resist tyrant? How is guilt assigned for the regime’s crimes against its targets? The issue of complicity—the overlap between victim and perpetrator, and the grey area surrounding those who were both tacitly involved in state repression but also victimized thereby—is another key element of post-­‐reunification GDR cinema. In such an authoritarian and conformist society, some individuals inevitably were caught in the regime’s crosshairs. What forms of resistance did they undertake, and how did they persevere in the face of sometimes crushing oppression?
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  • In Copyright
  • Funding: None
  • Wegel, Christina
  • Bachelor of Arts
Honors level
  • Honors
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 52 p.

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