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DEFA Film Library Newsletter, Spring 2002, Issue #2

DEFA Film Library and ICESTORM Join Forces for Non-Commercial Distribution
Shadows to Sojourners: Representations of Jews and Germans in East German Film
Acquire the East German Video & DVD collection!
News & Notes: Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes NYC gains former West Glen films
ZZF/DEFA Film Library Partnership
Summer Film Institute, June 2001
AATG Film Immersion Workshops
DEFA in U.S. Schools
Distinguished Guests
New Publications
Our Crew

DEFA Film Library and ICESTORM Join Forces for Non-Commercial Distribution

As of October 1, 2001, the DEFA Film Library has taken on exclusive non-commercial distribution of the ICESTORM collection of videos and DVDs related to Eastern Germany for the U.S., Canada and Japan. The new arrangement brings together all efforts devoted to educational and non-commercial outreach so that clients will have access to all formats as well as programming, teaching and research support through a single distributor at the University.

The focus of all educational and non-commercial efforts in one enterprise builds on the already close cooperation between UMass and ICESTORM, and will allow more efficient development of projects in conjunction with PROGRESS Film-Verleih, the DEFA-Stiftung, Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes and the wide international constituency of the DEFA Film Library.

In addition to reaching new viewers for the 61 video titles presently in the catalog, the DEFA Film Library will seek outside funding to restore, subtitle and release additional titles for educational use on a non-profit basis--along with the necessary materials to provide a context for their use.

To complement its cooperative arrangement for educational distribution through UMass, ICESTORM relies on First Run Features, a leading independent video distributor in New York for commercial and home-video marketing of its videos and DVDs.

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Shadows to Sojourners: Representations of Jews and Germans in East German Film

The DEFA Film Library announces a new, touring film series, Shadows to Sojourners: Representations of Germans and Jews in East German Film. It is accompanied by an educational catalogue, featuring an introductory essay by Professor Frank Stern of Ben Gurion University in Israel, as well as annotations on featured films and directors, and suggestions for further viewing and reading.

The Shadows to Sojourners film series, currently available for booking, represents the DEFA Film Library’s first step into the exploration of how German/Jewish relations and the Holocaust were conceived of in GDR film culture. In contrast to a stance which highlights the uniqueness of the Nazi persecution of Jews, communist ideology required that anti-Semitic persecution usually be seen a merely a part of the Nazi persecution of communists and the Left. Yet the films series includes a number of the most important films on these topics ever made in Germany – East or West. In addition to the Oscar-nominated Jacob the Liar, on which the recent American re-make was based, we are including a selection of less well-known, but powerful DEFA titles spanning four decades. We are also planning to present two non-GDR films on related themes: Bronstein’s Children (1987) based on Jurek Becker’s novel, and Thomas Brasch’s Welcome to Germany (1988).

The titles featured in the film series should find immediate resonance with American audiences.  Marriage in the Shadows (1947) is based on the story of the Gottschalk couple, actors who chose suicide rather than renounce their mixed marriage in response to the tightening Nazi noose. The Blum Affair (1948) explores German anti-Semitism during the Weimar Republic by telling the story of a famous court case. Stars, a GDR/Bulgarian co-production honored in Cannes in 1959, explores the ambiguities of persecution in a love story between a German prison camp guard and a Jewish inmate. The same director, Konrad Wolf, brings to the screen his father’s 1933 play Professor Mamlock (1961). Originally censored, Jacob the Liar (1974) signals a turning point when the emphasis on antifascism in East Germany moved closer to questions of Jewish identity. Levin’s Mill (1980) is a poetic treatment of anti-Semitism in the context of nineteenth century East European social relations, while The Actress (1988) clearly registers a new tone in East German portrayals of the Holocaust in an interesting reworking of the theme of Marriage in the Shadows.

Also included in the film series are four titles which refer to the Holocaust more obliquely by emphasizing the communist decline of “antifascism.” The Murderers Are Among Us (1946) has become a classic in its own right; it revives prewar German expressionist film traditions in an exploration of postwar German guilt. Rotation (1949), a portrayal of a non-Jewish, working class family in the 1930s and 1940s illustrates how apolitical Germans were drawn into collusion with Nazi policies. The Axe of Wandsbek (1951) based on Arnold Zweig’s novel, portrays collusion but also highlights popular dissent to the ruling elite, an amalgamation of Nazis, big business and politicians. Council of the Gods (1950) written by Friedrich Wolf, is based on the Nuremberg trial of the I.G. Farben chemical company. The gradual coming-to-consciousness of a company chemist provides the vehicle for the film’s indictment of international business complicity in the Nazi extermination camps.

We hope that the Shadows to Sojourners film series will promote wider examination of East German representations of German/Jewish relations, and raise interested in the production of new prints and subtitles. Several important East German films on the Holocaust and German/Jewish relations were never subtitled for international screening. Among other titles, we are anxious to make two films made for young adults available to English-language audiences, as well as the 1995 Hessian television documentary on the Auschwitz trials and the work of the state prosecutor, Fritz Bauer.

The film series and catalogue are co-sponsored by the Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Program at UMass Amherst, as well as by the Hatikvah Holocaust Education Center, the National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University, and ICESTORM International. For more information contact:

Sky Arndt-Briggs

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Acquire the East German Video & DVD collection!

We would like to encourage the study of East German films in the U.S. and around the world by presenting a special offer which will help educational institutions set up their own East German film collections.

The video collection “Hollywood Behind the Wall” includes 61 East German feature films, documentaries, children’s films, and short animation films, that cover a wide range of topics that make this collection an excellent resource not only for German departments:

  • Banned Films

  • Holocaust

  • Anti-fascist Films

  • Post-War Women in East Germany

  • Comedies

  • Wirtschaftswunder

  • Berlin Wall

  • Classic German Literature

  • Cold War Music

  • Youth

  • The City of Berlin

  • History of the GDR

  • Fairy Tales

  • Operettas

  • and more...

The DEFA Film Library is offering the entire exciting video collection for $3,500 (for a savings of more than $900!).

Purchase includes:

  • All videotapes and DVDs with classroom screening rights

  • Four books about DEFA

  • Teacher’s Guides for the three subtitled fairy tales

  • “Berlin-Divided Heaven” Catalog

Please discuss the idea of setting up this collection at your institution with your colleagues and librarians.

For further information please contact: video@german.umass.edu

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News & Notes: Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes NYC gains former West Glen films

The Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes New York now maintains a diverse collection of German films, featuring 16mm prints of approx. 200 acclaimed feature films. These films cover a period from the 1910s through the 1990s including DEFA’s Naked Among Wolves and The Ascent of Chimborazo and can be rented by cultural and educational institutions for non-commercial screenings.  For more details about the films please contact:

Tel.: 212-439-8690

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ZZF/DEFA Film Library Partnership

Fall 2001 marked the beginning of an exciting partnership between the DEFA Film Library and the Center for Contemporary Historical Research (Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, or ZZF) of Potsdam, Germany. Since German reunification, the ZZF has become the premier center for research of the cultural and social history of German Democratic Republic and of East/West German relations. The cooperation between the ZZF and UMass Amherst is supported by DAAD, as well as the UMass German and History departments.

The purpose of the new partnership is to create socio-historical and other background materials to enhance general and scholarly appreciation of East German cinema in the United States and world-wide. These materials are to be incorporated into a large-scale educational website to be developed by the DEFA Film Library over the course of the next two years.

During the Fall 2001 semester we welcomed Dr. Burghard Ciesla, a historian specializing in technology, science and economics and their role in German culture. In addition to research in the U.S. and Germany, Dr. Ciesla has taught in Vienna, Austria and Osaka, Japan. He is the author of many articles, edited volumes, and film documentaries, and is currently working on a book comparing German, U.S. and Soviet technologies from 1935-1961. At UMass Amherst he taught two courses and worked closely with the DEFA Film Library on several projects, such as the DEFA Westerns and Science Fiction films.

ZZF Historian Thomas Lindenberger visited the UMass Amherst campus in September to discuss the directions in which the cooperation between the ZZF and the DEFA Film Library might most fruitfully develop. Dr. Lindenberger is one of five research team leaders at the ZZF and is currently directing a comparative research project on media and the Cold War. His most recent publication in English is “Creating State Socialist Governance,” in Konrad Jarausch’s edited volume, Dictatorship as Experience (Berghahn 1999); he has also recently co-edited a volume in German on the Berlin crisis, 1948-1958, along with Michael Lemke and Burghard Ciesla.

In the Spring 2002 semester we are pleased to welcome legal historian Dr. Annette Weinke. Like Ciesla, Weinke is teaching two courses and will work with the DEFA Film Library to develop background materials on DEFA productions. Her own work focuses on how Nazi crimes have been addressed through the legal systems of German-speaking nations, and includes numerous publications on cases tried in the Soviet Occupation Zone and East Germany.

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Summer Film Institute, June 2001

The first biannual East German Summer Film Institute “Interdisciplinary Approaches to the DEFA Film” was a great success. It helped promote and encourage the inclusion of DEFA films in education at all levels and in a variety of disciplines. The Summer Film Institute consisted of lectures by leading scholars, workshops for educators who would like to use DEFA films in their teaching and research, and film screenings and discussions with noted DEFA experts Günter Jordan, Ralf Schenk, Elke Schieber, and filmmaker Thomas Heise.  It was attended by 57 educators and scholars from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australia, Germany and Israel.

Workshop themes included genre films and cultural clichés, gender in GDR popular culture, Jewish themes in GDR film, documentary films about rebellious youth, and teaching DEFA with technology. Several screenings each day included such classics as Destinies of Women and Marriage in the Shadows, and recent films such as Sun Alley and New Town: The State of Things.

This institute builds on the successful record of the biannual Summer Institutes in German Film offered over the past two decades by Professors Anton Kaes (Berkeley) and Eric Rentschler (Harvard). These have contributed much to the successful integration of Film Studies into German Studies curricula in the United States—a tradition the DEFA Film Library’s East German Summer Film Institute hopes to follow in its focus on films from and about the GDR and new German states.

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AATG Film Immersion Workshops

Six topics were chosen for curriculum development projects at film immersion workshops of the AATG of New England (and Eastern New York). Featuring DEFA film screenings and presentations by Barton Byg, Hiltrud Schulz and DAAD Guest Professor Burghard Ciesla (Potsdam), the regional 2001 workshops were held October 12-14 in Litchfield, CT and November 2–4 in Durham, NH.

At a wrap-up workshop April 5-7, 2002, at the School for International Training in Brattleboro, NH, participants will present their work on the six project areas:  fairy tales, youth issues in film, East/West, Holocaust and resistance, and teaching with animation films.

These workshops also build on other AATG projects, such as the workshops Teaching with Film (Brattleboro, 2000) and Youth and Popular Music in DEFA Films (ACTFL/AATG 2000).

The next stage of the project is to seek funding for dissemination of these materials. The goal is to develop a new website that will direct inquiries for materials to the appropriate resources, tailored for use ranging from elementary German language instruction to advanced film studies research, programming and curatorship.

For registration information on the April workshop, please contact:

Jutta Arend, Massachusetts AATG Chapter President
Campus P.O. Box 90A
College of the Holy Cross
One College Street
Worcester, MA 01610-2395

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DEFA in U.S. Schools

A unique instructional package for American teachers of German is now available through a collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes Boston e.V., ICESTORM International, Inc. and the DEFA Film Library. This package includes a video of the beloved DEFA puppet film The Bremen Town Musicians (1988), accompanying audio cassette with children’s songs, a student handbook, and a teacher’s manual.

To order this package, please contact:
American Association of Teachers of German

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Distinguished Guests

Famed DEFA scriptwriters Wolfgang Kohlhaase, Helga Schubert, and filmmaker Rainer Simon presented examples of their oeuvre in New England last year.

Last January, Wolfgang Kohlhaase, as the honored guest of the Goethe-Institut Boston, introduced his recent film The Legend of Rita (Die Stille nach dem Schuss) at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He then spent some time in Amherst, where presented SOLO SUNNY at a special UMass screening.

Helga Schubert, also here last January, was invited to Tufts University, Boston College and Brown University to read from her new book Mörderanstalt (Institution of Murderers). She also came to Amherst to introduce and discuss the DEFA film Apprehension (Die Beunruhigung) for which she wrote the screenplay.

In April, Rainer Simon spoke with UMass students in Spanish and German over lunch, where he showed clips from his two DEFA documentaries about Ecuador, The Colors of Tigua and Talking to Fishes and Birds; later in the evening he presented his full-length feature film The Ascent of Chimborazo. He then traveled to Yale where he was the featured guest of the conference The Visual Turn.

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New Publications

Recent Publications of Interest

East German Film
Special Issue of New German Critique 82 (Winter 2001)
Barton Byg and David Bathrick, eds.
New York: Telos, 2001

Rubble Films: German Cinema in the Shadow of the Third Reich
Robert R. Shandley
Philadelphia: Temple UP, 2001

Transzendenz im populären Film
Lothar Warneke and Massimo Locatelli, eds.

Berlin: Vistas, 2001


Moving Images of East Germany: Past and Future of DEFA Film
Barton Byg and Betheny Moore, eds.
Harry & Helen Gray Humanities Program Series
Washington DC: American Institute for Contemporary German Studies, 2002

That Was the Wild East: Film Culture, Unification, and the "New" Germany
Leonie Naughton
Ann Arbor: U Michigan P, 2002

The following titles can be ordered through the DEFA-Stiftung:

apropos: Film 2001 - Das Jahrbuch der DEFA-Stiftung
Ralf Schenk and Erika Richter, eds.
Berlin: Das Neue Berlin, 2001

Der geteilte Himmel. Höhepunkte des DEFA-Kinos 1946–1992
Film Archiv Austria, ed.  Supported by the
Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv and the DEFA-Stiftung.
Vol. 1: Filme der Retrospektive
Helmut Pflügl, ed.
Vienna, 2001
Vol. 2: Essays zur Geschichte der DEFA; Filmografien zu 61 Regisseuren
Raimund Fritz, ed.
Vienna, 2001

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Our Crew

Sky Arndt-Briggs, Associate Director
Barton Byg, Director
Sophie Cilam, Office Manager
Sharyn Claffey, Staff Assistant
Detlef Helmbold, Graphics & Design
Axel Hildebrandt, Computers & Website
Sarah Lawton, Staff Assistant
Beth Moore, Archive & Research
Hiltrud Schulz, ICESTORM Collection
Anahita Varzi, Staff Assistant

We extend our gratitude to Jan Steele for all her hard work at ICESTORM and the DEFA Film Library. We wish her all the best in her future endeavors!

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For questions related to the website please contact
Jessica Hale