The Invention of the German National Landscape by Jewish Filmmakers, 1918-1968
Both during the Weimar years and in the early decades of the Cold War, in the wake of national catastrophes,Heimat imagery had played a vital role in the German identity discourse. While the significance of Heimat-films within this trend is well documented, the fundamental contribution of Jewish artists to the formation of the Heimatfilm genre has been surprisingly overlooked. My talk analyzes the ways Jewish filmmakers in Germany appropriated conventional Heimat imagery in order to participate in and influence the constitution of the German nationality. In manipulating and de-contextualizing Heimat iconography, prominent Jewish filmmakers were able to introduce the aspirations and fears of integration-seeking outsiders—i.e., of German-Jews—into mainstream perceptions of German identity. I will demonstrate the various ways Jewish filmmakers utilizedHeimat imagery, from Ernst Lubitsch and E.A. Dupont's early parodies of the Heimat idyll to the somber portrayals of the German landscape in the Cold War films of John Brahm and Konrad Wolf. I argue that, regardless of the different settings, these filmmakers used similar means to advocate an alternative notion of a German national community, which thrives in an alternative Heimat, devoid of its blood and soil connotations.
Ofer Ashkenazi is a Senior Lecturer and the Director of the Koebner-Minerva Center for German History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of the books Weimar Film and Modern Jewish Identity (2012) and Reason and Subjectivity in Weimar Film (2010, Hebrew).
Co-sponsored by: Department of Screen Arts&Culture ~ Department of History ~ Jean & Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies