Post-1990 Screen Memories: How East and West German Cinema Remembers the Third Reich and the Holocaust

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The article examines the contribution of German feature films about the Third Reich and the Holocaust to memory discourse in the wake of German reunification. A comparison between East and West German films made since the 1990s reveals some startling asymmetries and polarities. While East German filmmakers, if they continued to work in Germany's reunified film industry at all, made very few films about the Third Reich, West German directors took advantage of the recent memory boom. Whereas films made by East German directors, such as Erster Verlust and Der Fall Ö, suggest, in liberating contradictions to the anti-fascist interpretation of history, that East Germany shared the burden of guilt, West German productions subscribe to the normalisation discourse that had gained ideological hegemony in the East-West-German memory contest since unification. Film such as Aimée & Jaguar and Rosentrasse construct a memory of the past that is no longer encumbered by guilt, principally because the relationship between Germans and Jews is re-imagined as one of solidarity. As post-memory films, they take liberties with the traumatic memory of the past and, by following the generic conventions of melodrama, family saga and European heritage cinema, lend it popular appeal.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-308
Number of pages14
JournalGerman Life and Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2006


  • post-memory film; memory discourse, German cinema, cinematic representation of the Third Reich and the Holocaust

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