Spring 2021

Nazi Cinema

Listed in: Film and Media Studies, as FAMS-325  |  German, as GERM-348


Christian Rogowski (Section 01)


(Offered as GERM 348 and FAMS 325) This course examines the vital role cinema played in sustaining the totalitarian Nazi system. From the visually stunning “documentaries” of Leni Riefenstahl to the tearful melodramas starring Swedish diva Zarah Leander, from the vicious anti-Semitic diatribes of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels to the ostensibly apolitical “revue films” featuring Hungarian dancer-chanteuse Marika Rökk, the cinema of the Third Reich (1933-45) is fraught with contradiction and complexity. How did the German film industry cope with the exodus of Jewish (or politically suspect) talent after Hitler came to power? What tensions arose between a centralized bureaucracy pursuing an ideological agenda and an industry geared toward profit maximization? How do genre films of the period negotiate the conflict between official notions of a “racially homogeneous” body politic on the one hand and audiences’ pervasive fascination with the exotic on the other? What does the popularity of stars such as Hans Albers, Heinz Rühmann, Lilian Harvey, and Kristina Söderbaum tell us about the private dreams and aspirations of German audiences at the time? Were there pockets of resistance to censorship? Can there be artistic freedom under a totalitarian regime? To answer questions such as these, we will examine films from a wide range of directors, including Willi Forst, Veit Harlan, Helmut Käutner, Wolfgang Liebeneiner, Leni Riefenstahl, Reinhold Schünzel, Detlef Sierck/Douglas Sirk, and Hans Steinhoff.

Conducted in English via synchronous Zoom sessions, with German majors required to do a substantial portion of the reading in German. Supplemental meetings and advising for individuals or small groups on campus, circumstances permitting.

Spring semester. Professor Rogowski.


Attention to Issues of Gender and Sexuality, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Writing, Online Only, Transnational or World Cultures Taught in English


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2016, Spring 2021