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Apologia in German and Japanese Post-War Film: A Comparative Analysis of Exculpatory Discourses on the German and Japanese Military in World War II.

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In the sixty-seven years following the end of World War II, West Germany and Japan underwent a remarkable series of economic and social changes that irrevocably altered their respective ways of life. Formerly xenophobic, militaristic and highly socially stratified societies,

In the sixty-seven years following the end of World War II, West Germany and Japan underwent a remarkable series of economic and social changes that irrevocably altered their respective ways of life. Formerly xenophobic, militaristic and highly socially stratified societies, both emerged from the 20th Century as liberal, prosperous and free. Both made great strides well beyond the expectations of their occupiers, and rebounded from the overwhelming destruction of their national economies within a few short decades. While these changes have yielded dramatic results, the wartime period still looms large in their respective collective memories. Therefore, an ongoing and diverse dialectical process would engage the considerable popular, official, and intellectual energy of their post-war generations. In West Germany, the term Vergangenheitsbewältigung (VGB) emerged to describe a process of coming to terms with the past, while the Japanese chose kako no kokufuku to describe their similar historical sojourns. Although intellectuals of widely varying backgrounds in both nations made great strides toward making Japanese and German citizens cognizant of the roles that their militaries played in gruesome atrocities, popular cinematic productions served to reiterate older, discredited assertions of the fundamental honor and innocence of the average soldier, thereby nurturing a historically revisionist line of reasoning that continues to compete for public attention. All forms of media would play an important role in sustaining this “apologetic narrative,” and cinema, among the most popular and visible of these mediums, was not excluded from this. Indeed, films would play a unique recurring role, like rhetorical time capsules, in offering a sanitized historical image of Japanese and German soldiers that continues to endure in modern times. Nevertheless, even as West Germany and Japan regained their sovereignty and re-examined their pasts with ever greater resolution and insight, their respective film industries continued to “reset” the clock, and accentuated the visibility and relevancy of apologetic forces still in existence within both societies. However, it is important to note that, when speaking of “Germans” and “Japanese,” that they are not meant to be thought of as being uniformly of one mind or another. Rather, the use of these words is meant as convenient shorthand to refer to the dominant forces in Japanese and German civil society at any given time over the course of their respective post- war histories. Furthermore, references to “Germany” during the Cold War period are to be understood to mean the Federal Republic of Germany, rather than their socialist counterpart, the German Democratic Republic, a nation that undertook its own coming to terms with the past in an entirely distinct fashion.

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2012-12

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Working upon the DDR and Stasi past: the role of humor in Thomas Brussig's Helden wie wir and paralanguage in Eyal Sivan's Aus Liebe zum Volk and Sebastian Dehnhardt's Das Wunder von Leipzig

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ABSTRACT

German history during the 20th century was extremely complex—containing numerous events that can be labelled horrific and traumatic. The horrors and traumas of WWII forced Germans to actively address their country’s National Socialist pasts by taking responsibility for their

ABSTRACT

German history during the 20th century was extremely complex—containing numerous events that can be labelled horrific and traumatic. The horrors and traumas of WWII forced Germans to actively address their country’s National Socialist pasts by taking responsibility for their roles, creating a national memory about the Nazi atrocities and implementing the reparations program, the Wiedergutmachungsabkommen, with the newly formed nation of Israel. The social theorist Theodor Adorno wrote in his 1959 essay “Was bedeutet: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit?” about three subtly nuanced terms: Aufarbeitung der Vergangenheit, Verarbeitung der Vergangenheit and Vergangensheitbewältigung, in which he addresses the various ways that Germany was dealing with traumatic events from this National Socialist past. Adorno specifically demanded a constant renegotiation of the past or Verarbeitung der Vergangenheit because it is the only way forward, through which people remember the horrors and atrocities of the past and work towards not allowing those events to occur again.

This thesis applies the theoretical framework set forth by Adorno to explore efforts to engage the DDR and Stasi past after the Fall of the Wall and reunification. Specifically, it examines the concept of Verarbeitung der Vergangenheit and demonstrates how Thomas Brussig’s satirical novel Helden wie wir, and two documentary films Aus Liebe zum Volk and Das Wunder von Leipzig are examples of working upon this DDR and Stasi past. More specifically, the utilization of humor in the novel and the paralanguage modifications in the films provide insight to the feelings and emotions that individuals had about their pasts in the DDR. It is through this expression of emotion and feelings while writing and speaking about the past, which serves as the immediate moment when individuals actively working upon their pasts.

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2016