The depiction of Germans in British films: How it changes, how far such changes reflect government policy and public opinion

Cross, Myra Lesley (2009). The depiction of Germans in British films: How it changes, how far such changes reflect government policy and public opinion. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000eb23

Abstract

This thesis examines British attitudes to the German people during and immediately after the Second World War. This is focussed on the opinions of Service personnel obtained through the examination of diaries, letters, memoirs and other papers held at the Imperial War Museum archive. These private views are contrasted with the image depicted in the mass medium of film, a very popular form of entertainment during the years discussed. Films are examined from the pre-war period, to show the image of Germans current during the 1930s, with a brief discussion of how censorship affected what could be shown. Then wartime films are considered, and finally films for the period up to 1955. 1955 was chosen as a cut-off date as that was the year Germany was admitted as a member of NATO. The conclusion suggests that Service personnel, even during the wartime period, varied considerably in their attitude to the enemy; there was admiration for Rommel, for example, and for some a feeling of comradeship in arms, although this did not extend to the S.S. and the Gestapo. Pre-war films tended to be uncritical of Germans, partly due to the censor's refusal to admit open censure of German internal politics. Once war was declared a nuanced examination of the Nazi regime, such as Pastor Hall, could be produced, although most wartime films show Germans in terms of the stereotype which evolved before the First World War, that of a militarised, faceless mass. With the war's end this image began to change to a more sympathetic portrayal which could revert to that of the honourable opponent popular before 1939, and could even refer to German suffering. This change is linked to geo-political shifts, but also to the views of troops who occupied Germany in the immediately post-war period.

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