Are the Germans fed up with the films of World War II

German film history (4): The post-war film

Despite hunger and housing shortages, a modest film culture developed in Germany after the end of World War II. But the cultural euphoria of the first hour quickly waned. German post-war films were considered superficial and not very innovative until the early 1960s. Making films in the immediate post-war period involved enormous efforts. Almost everything was missing: the studios had been destroyed, film material was in short supply and cameras were few. Actors, outfitters, musicians, screenwriters and directors had emigrated, died or scattered to the wind.

The murderers are among us

Nevertheless, the film was an important medium to educate about war and Nazi crimes. German post-war productions, so-called debris films, raised the question of one's own guilt. They discussed the fate of returnees or the living conditions in everyday rubble. "The Murderers Are Among Us" was not just a film title, but also a reality in post-war Germany.

"Because you are poor, you have to die earlier"

The debris films were soon followed by a popular mix of homeland, vacation and hit strips. The euphoria of the first hour quickly waned. The search for the "new Adam" proved difficult. Time-related films fell through with the audience: For example, 1954 "The Golden Plague" by John Brahm about the US occupation forces. Or in 1956 Paul May's critical examination of the health system "Because you are poor, you have to die sooner". Instead, "Grün ist die Heide" was born in 1951, the West German film genre that was a nightmare for discerning moviegoers: Heimatfilm.

Conservative values

The longing for nature and prosperity, marital happiness and great love were among the most popular themes in Heimatfilms. Characteristic of this German film genre of the 1950s was a melodramatic plot, which mostly included a love story. There were also funny or tragic mix-ups. There were often musical interludes. The action took place in remote but spectacular landscapes such as the Black Forest, the Alps and the Lüneburg Heath, which were undestroyed by the Second World War. Natural idyll instead of city rubble.

Heimatkitsch "Green is the heather"

Particular emphasis was placed on conservative values ​​such as marriage and family. Women as identification figures were mostly only portrayed positively as housewives or mothers. The authorities could not be questioned. In the 1950s and 1960s, film critics believed that German cinema production was primarily conservative, even reactionary. Amusement with no real depth.

Mass cash register

But at the box office, the entertainment films were a great success: "Grün ist die Heide" attracted 19 million viewers to the cinemas, "Sissi" 10 million and "Schwarzwaldmädel" attracted 16 million viewers. Taboos were seldom broken in cinema in those years. With regard to National Socialism, a defense mechanism emerges in the Heimatfilm of the 1950s, which leads to the painless reconciliation of the children with the guilt-laden generation of fathers. What is more, the films do not find any open form of discussion.

Celebrations to distract: "Call of the Forests"

You drag the past with you without bringing it up. What is unbearable about it and cannot be banished from the collective memory remains latent: the juxtaposition of verbal approval and fascination, of giving in, "looking to the side" and intimidation towards the Nazi terror.

The devil's generals

With the introduction of compulsory military service in 1957, the wave of war films rolled in and conquered the big screen. Above all Paul May's first part of the trilogy "08/15". The film tells the story of young recruits in 1938 who received their training in a small German town and had to fight off daily harassment and brutalities. Questions about the goals of the National Socialist Wehrmacht, their crimes and their victims remained hidden.

One of the few artistically committed directors: Wolfgang Staudte

What was noticeable about German post-war cinema was the lack of cinematic daring - also in the youth or so-called youthful films. Instead, there were solidly produced ready-made goods. The big cinema was not produced in Germany, but in Japan, France, the USA and Italy.

Artistic exceptions

Time-critical counter-images were achieved above all by Wolfgang Staudte with "Roses for the Public Prosecutor", a satire about the German judiciary in the Adenauer era, Bernhard Wicki's anti-war drama "Die Brücke" and in the comedy "Wir Wunderkinder". With television in the early 1960s, the cinema crisis developed at the same time; in terms of film aesthetics, it had already begun in Germany.

Author: Michael Marek
Editor: Jochen Kürten