Cinema in Hitler's Germany
This course explores the history of German cinema between 1919 and 1945. In the first half of the semester we will be examining the films produced in the era of the Weimar Republic, that decade and a half following the First World War in which democracy failed to take permanent root in Germany. Although associated with political failure, the Weimar years were a time of artistic experimentation, and the films of the 1920s and early 1930s reflect the social, political, and cultural tensions of the period. In the second half of the course we will turn our attention to the cinema created in Germany during the Nazi dictatorship. In Hitler's Germany movies were no longer simply entertainment; they also served as an important form of propaganda: glorifying the regime, creating a sense of national (and racial) unity, demonizing Germany's Jewish minority, and justifying an aggressive foreign policy of war and expansion. In the course of the semester we will be looking at horror films, thrillers, science fiction fantasies, dramas, musicals, love stories, documentaries, and action pictures. And all of them—even those intended as light entertainment at the time—convey historical lessons about how an open and democratic society could disintegrate and be overtaken by a ruthless and genocidal dictatorship.