Experimentation in Popular Culture

By Kaileigh La Belle

Concerning major political shifts, I had often thought of them through institutionalized (often linear) processes. However, the source material consistently used in these articles was predominately popular culture, from Trial At Nuremberg (1961), analyzed in Moller’s work, to the numerous popular autobiography and novels highlighted in Sollor’s work. As such, I found Häberlen’s argument that popular portrayals of politics were a form of experimentation intriguing and it prompted me to consider how this theory might be relevant to this week’s other readings. 

In considering the qualities of this experimentation, Häberlen drew heavily on the idea of non-temporal narratives. I saw a similarity in Fullbrook’s chapter “Discomfort Zones” that highlights how these narratives, while certainly not severed from temporal contexts, are defined by personal experimentations with moral self-distancing and composure that ebbs and flows. Throughout “Discomfort Zones” Fullbrook provides numerous examples of how individuals played with the line between guilt and ignorance and that addressing their Nazi past was not a linear path. Furthermore, in considering what makes popular culture such an attractive space for experimentation, the idea that fiction can simplify the discussion and simultaneously can have a dramatic impact on how people see themselves and the world around them seems central. In his analysis of Trial at Nuremberg, Moeller examines how the directors and producers paid particular attention to what was applicable to their (mostly American) context and perspective and highlighted certain themes that they felt needed to be digested, namely how to address and avoid Nazi violence. As such, the fictional elements allow for experimentation in conceptualizing and measuring hatred, making parallels between American state oppression and Nazi violence. 

Ultimately, Häberlen introduces a very valuable concept which highlighted the various ways in which political shifts can be studied. In placing greater emphasis on intense emotions and lack of structure, we can see how people tried to conceptualize denazification on a more personal level. In applying Häberlen’s argument to this week’s other readings, it became obvious to me that denazification was a complicated and broad process, and, perhaps, one with no definitive end. 

Work cited: 

Fulbrook, Mary. “Discomfort Zones” and “Voices of the Victims.” In Reckonings: Legacies of Nazi Persecution and the Quest for Justice, 314-336, 361-377. Oxford University Press, 2018.

Häberlen, Joachim. “(Not) Narrating the History of the Federal Republic: Reflections on the Place of the New Left in West German History and Historiography.” Central European History Vol. 52, Issue 1 (March 2019): 107-124.

Sollors, W.“Everybody Gets Fragebogened Sooner or Later’: The Denazification Questionnaire as Cultural Text.” German Life & Letters. Vol 71, Issue 2 (2018): 139-153.

One Reply to “Experimentation in Popular Culture”

  1. I find your point about how denazification could have no end very intriguing. While it is true that denazification effects still lingers on today, its appearance has changed in time. The movement evolved to somewhat remembering the stigma as the regime has been neutralized and dismissed long ago. Karl Marx once said that “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” and the world and especially Germany are trying to avoid. This is why it comes as a surprise that even today, some individuals are still willing to recall the Nazi period as something to aspire to, sympathize with, or even just use their symbols for their cause. Since we are generations that have never seen or endure something like the Third Reich, education systems around the world might have to work harder to spread awareness toward such a harsh subject.

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