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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


In the culture of official commemoration honoring the many victims of Nazi persecution there arose an older way of thinking about the National Socialist past following Germany’s reunification, one that identified Germans themselves not only as perpetrators and collaborators but also victims. Popular film constituted an important medium contributing to this way of thinking during the first decade of the twenty-first century. Looking at six German films made between 2001 and 2008, this project focuses on several questions: How did these German films reflect and shape public discourse about the National Socialist past, both inside and outside of Germany? To what degree did they portray Germans themselves as victims of National Socialism? How did these interpretations fit into ongoing discussions about the Nazi past within Germany? And, how did audiences, critics, historians, and public officials react to the films and further affect the discourse of German suffering? By presenting audiences with portrayals of the German wartime experience, the six films depicted German suffering in a number of ways. The theme of German victimhood mirrored and contributed to wider discursive trends that had reemerged and gained acceptance within German society in the second decade after reunification. The discourse showed that the Nazi past remained a point of contention within Germany and among the country’s neighbors and allies. Yet, foregrounding German suffering in narratives of the National Socialist past at the expense of the persecuted victims sparked impassioned response and debate, highlighting the complexities of coming to terms with the National Socialist era in reunified Germany.

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