Some of those guys by the way now write software for missiles. Holy shit! The Lurking Horror takes place at MIT over winter break. The game never explicitly says you're at MIT and instead uses a made up college name but the Infinite Corridor, Great Dome are there and the campus in general is laid like MIT is. Anyways, you're a student who paper gets mysteriously deleted when your file system gets mixed with the alchemy department's file system. The game mixes text adventure with college urban exploration and Lovecraftian horror. For me, the game went three for three.
This review actually starts off about four years ago at UMASS. While waiting to meet a friend at the Du Bois library in the fall of 2011 I was looking up old BBS posts trying to find the best way to get into the steam tunnel system under the college. There were posts from college alumni all over the country talking about the tunnels and how they used to get down into them as well as other secret and spots on campus. Students talked about an underground waterfall and access to the top of the facilities buildings from under the campus. They warned that campus police would come after you if they knew you were down there. Many of the ways at the time of me doing this research were not as accessible as they were in the 80s and 90s. For example, there is an entrance in the basement of the old campus newspaper building near Worcester dining hall. Other students from colleges across the country talked about access to their steam tunnel systems too. In one of the posts a user asked if anyone else had played the Lurking Horror and that it was a lot like the urban exploration everyone in the threads were talking about; the game took you down into the steam tunnels under a college.
Text adventure games have a lot of components that were important to
early exploration and offer a level of involvement and interaction that
contemporary games do not. Map making and note taking are essential to
keep track of what is going on. Even the original Zelda and Metriod on
NES required rudimentary cartography and note taking, it really is a lost art in gameplay. Today every game has a map, but having to articulate the space around you in a meaningful way is a challenge in itself. What challenge would a Rubiks Cube offer for example if spacial reasoning was not part of the puzzle? Having to make your own
maps is another layer of immersion to the game and it draws you in
further to the world you are exploring. Before widespread use of the internet it could take months to get past a certain puzzle; solutions were spread by hint books and word of mouth. The late night silence, and the
glow of the monochrome green text on a black screen at night while you try to wrap
your head around getting into a new room or finding a new item to
advance the story is a rewarding and engaging experience not found in contemporary gaming. If you're interested more in this aspect, the documentary Get Lamp chronicles the history of text adventures and the role they have played, and continue to play, in society.
So when I wasn't trying to get into the steam tunnels at UMASS I stayed up on the nights where I didn't have morning classes in my college apartment eating cold pizza and playing The Lurking Horror in my quiet room at one in the morning. One specific version of the game came with creepy sound effects that played at key points in the game but I could not find it. At the snow covered made up MIT main campus late at night You start off in the computer lab and will have to use your user ID and password to log in. This was the game's form of DRM. The game was packed with "feelies"; extra items included with the game which could help with puzzles, offered immersion, and could provide clues to the game. In this case you find your student ID card and your password scribbled down in your student handbook. Without either of these you're not getting very far in the game.
After your paper gets taken by the computer, a helpful hacker comes over
and after trying to recover your paper, recommends seeing if the
alchemy department can help you. On my first play through I made it all the way to
the alchemy department after solving a puzzle that required getting by a
maintenance man. The alchemy professor ended up sacrificing me to a
monster in another dimension and that kind of situation pulled me into the game. That puzzle drove me a little nuts for a while too, As soon as you enter his lab he draws you
inside of a chalk pentagram on the ground, and once inside you're unable to
escape without using a certain item in a certain way. I tried pouring a two liter bottle of Coke that I found on the pentagram in a last ditch effort to escape, buuutt the
Coke just boiled away as soon as it got near the chalk. Even though you might get frustrated trying to get past certain parts of them game, it is nice that the developers added a lot of flavor text for all of the things you'd think to do but don't necessarily work out. These situations end up making the most funny and entertaining parts of the game.
For an ending there's no real payoff. Once the monster in the steam tunnel system is destroyed you're given your score and then brought to the same save/load/quit prompt you're given when you die. Besides the sense of accomplishment you get from completing the game, there's no real entertainment, and the flavor text from all the different ways you die end up being more entertaining than the ending of what is supposed to be a horror game. This game isn't a survival horror and you'll rarely fell pursued or chased, though there are times where you will have to act fast. It's an adventure game.
As for the steam tunnels back at UMASS, I never got in. A few months later while waiting for the bus to campus a car pulled up and offered me a ride. It was a woman driving a Subaru and she told me that there was an accident on the road and the the bus probably wouldn't be coming. We started talking and she told me that she was a project manager doing construction on campus. At the time the whole campus was a construction site, and for all I know, probably still is. A little too excitedly, I asked her about the steam tunnel system, and told here about the BBS posts. She seemed confused as to why I would be interested in them, but she told me that they're probably not as scary or interesting as I might think. New lights had been installed so that the tunnels were not as dark. There would be a lot of construction workers down there at all times of day too, so you wouldn't get very far either. She told me the biggest cockroaches she had ever seen were in those tunnels, bigger than the ones she saw back home in Arizona. We both agreed that UMASS has a roach problem, but I do think she was trying to discourage my curiosity, she did admit that there is a waterfall and access to the weird facilities buildings on the east side of campus down in the tunnels.
If you want to try The Lurking Horror and emulators aren't your bag, you can purchase The Lost Treasures of Infocom Collection from the App Store and play the game on your phone as well as other Infocom classics like Zork and ridiculously unforgiving Hitchhiker's Guide.
Monday, October 23, 2017
The following paper was written for my undergraduate thesis, a graduation requirement for German majors at UMASS Amherst. This paper was a waste of time and was fluff between me and finally being able to achieve my degree. I'm sharing it under fair use. Do whatever you want to it, outright plagiarize it if you can get away with that, and go do something you love with your time instead.
During the Cold War divided Germany served as the front line between the West and East. From 1945 to 1989 while no shots were fired, various forms of mass-media were pumped into West and East Germany by both the Americans and Russians. Along with the media came the ingrained cultural values of each respective side. This struggle of values played a central role in the Cold War. From early Russian-backed East German rubble films to musical performances on top of the destroyed Berlin Wall, these commodities differed in meaning and significance not only in what side was broadcasting them, but also in the context of which time period which they were being broadcast and what the Americans or Soviets were trying to say changed with time. What these values were, the purpose they had to serve in terms of the Cold War and Germany, how they were conveyed through media, and the long term impact they had on the county of Germany all deserve examination. This paper intends to present an assessment of the media produced by the Soviets for German audiences and the history of the American and Soviet policies in regards to media, specifically film, during the Cold War.
Part of winning the Cold War included battles of and for culture. Immediately after the Second World War German society was turned on its head. The whole physical and emotional landscape of the country had shifted. Cities demolished into rubble would be used not only as a background for the first films to come out of the country, but would also be used as a metaphorical representation of the destruction of Germany (Shandly 2001, 2). DEFA, the East German film studio was founded in 1946 and was the first film company established in postwar Germany. While in existence DEFA would produced over 800 motion pictures and made for TV films (Kohlhaase 1987, 2). In a time where what was left of industry in East Germany was dismantled and shipped back to the Soviet Union in the form of war reparations, the fact that the Soviets were eager to give German film makers the materials for making films almost immediately after the war reflects how important German film making was outside of the country; that already before 1945 German cinema was considered a world treasure. DEFA’s first films were a response to Nazism, and would contribute to a new German consciousness and identity being developed in post-war Germany.
Originally titled The Man I Am Going to Kill, The Murderers Are Among Us, 1948 was originally going to end with the main character shooting his former captain, Brueckner, at the end of the film as repayment for the captain's decision to murder Polish civilians during the war. The ending of the film was shifted in order to not encourage vigilantism. One of the last scenes in the movie, the film is almost lacking without the closure one would expect from a thriller or drama. Earlier in the film, the doctor seemingly fails to kill Brueckner, and right when we think that the doctor finally has him, we are instead given what is equivalent to a civics lesson. The whole end shootout scene is an expressionist work. The shadow of the doctor grows as he approaches his old captain with the gun, who in turn, shrinks with his shadow as he back against the far wall. This is an obvious reflection of not only a shift in power in that moment, but also a manifestation of the what the real shootout scene would have been. Right before the shot should ring out, Brueckner and his shadow are completely enveloped by the doctor's shadow as they both move away from the camera and towards the back wall. The interjection of Susanna, a woman who returned to the city and earlier in the film finds the main character Hans living in her apartment, stops the action of firing the gun, and the shadow of the factory gate is cast over Brueckner who approaches and grasps it while wailing “I am innocent”! The gate is eventually replaced with actual prison bars. Regardless of this scene, the vision cast on the back wall tells us that Bruekner might as well have been shot! (Shandley 2001, 41) Instead the characters of the film decide to put Bruckner on trial.
Susanna’s role in the film is particularly fascinating. Despite many films dealing with the motif of men in or returning from War such as Berlin Ground Zero and When I was 18 dealing with men returning home from war, post was audiences would have been predominantly female. The first films produced after the war all dealt with coming to terms with Germany’s absolute defeat in the war. Susanna’s entrance on the train at the beginning of the film invokes the intro of the 1927 Film Berlin: The Symphony of a Great City where the audience is taken into the city aboard a train. However, this time we return to 1945 Berlin on trail full of refuges returning to the city. While not made overtly apparent as to why she was imprisoned by the Nazis, Susanna states she was imprisoned because of her father. An important fixture of the ending is that Susana is the person that calls for justice despite her past. Throughout the film, Susanna is also the person who helps “repair” the doctor, and parallels can be drawn between the doctor's mental states and the condition of their shared apartment, which she seems to constantly be fixing. The last time we visit this motif in the film, the doctor has taken it upon himself to replace the large broken window in the apartment with his old X-rays from medical school.
For the sake of the film, the doctor’s emotional recovery is still not enough for him to not attempt murder. Before the final scene, we revisit the window motif when we see the doctor looking in through the window at a Christmas celebration. We are then brought to a flashback to the Christmas where the Polish civilians are murdered. After this is revealed to us, we learn that the account of the story we are being told is Susanna reading the doctors written account back in the apartment right before she rushes to the scene of the premeditated shooting. We are told that the flashback is something that is a memory, or something that has happened in the past, because there is a haze around the edges of the film. Besides being an expressionist work, the scene is also melodramatic: Susanna runs out of the room and all on its own the diary flies open to “Brueckner still lives, the murderers are among us”! She makes it to the final scene just in time, and is able to console the suffering protagonist one last time. After Brueuckner's implied imprisonment we are shown images of civilians and crosses superimposed over one another. The faux shootout scene is not a fantasy or vision of power; it is a shift of power and submission. The movement of the shadows happens on the back wall, and is constant until the doctor moves away from the doctor and to Susanna, now in a space that did not exist before. This new space has a complete large window in the background; an object that stands out in a destroyed Berlin. This interaction leads me to argue that the shadows during the final scene do not exist, but are instead a representation of the doctor’s destruction of Brueckner.
There is very little, if any reference to the prosecution of Jews in Germany in the film, and Susanna’s own concentration camp story line instead seems to be completely subverted so that she can better assist the doctor. Independent and tough when she rolls into Berlin, because she has to be, Susanna assumes a domestic role as soon as she is able to again. Something else that rings dissonant here is that during the war, the Russians at times were guilty of war crimes in Poland just as much as the Germans were. However, there are no Russians or occupational forces in this film. The Murderers Are Among Us is focused squarely on the expressionist reconstruction of the doctor and very little else. This is an artifact of the filmmakers as Germans coming to terms with their past and gives insight into German consciousness and awareness in the immediate postwar period (Shandley 2001, 44).
The Murderers Are Among Us is a great example as to how film could be used to push certain key ideas and concepts. Early on, Allied use of film was not nearly as well thought out and immediate Allied reaction was to shame to German people for the atrocities of the Holocaust. Initially, allied officers regulated the media in their respective zones, and in contrast to the Russians, did not give the Germans resources to once again produce their own film and media. In fact, the publishing, production, distribution, and exhibition of any film or media was initially banned by the American government in their sector (Bergfelder 2002, 154). And still fearing the impact of Nazi Germany’s propaganda, Americans sized all German films (Fehrenback 1995, 54). It was apparent early on that if any films were to be produced in the American sector, it would not be coming from the Germans. Furthermore, all German cinemas were closed, and in some cases used as storage or barracks for soldiers (Shandley 2001, 10).
The United States were more concerned with having their own open channel in which to provide its cultural commodities to the German audience. It is important from here on out to clarify that the use of the title ‘United States’ is twofold and from here on out there is a need to specify the difference between the American military and Hollywood. On one hand there is Hollywood which now had a captive audience in which to provide their products to, and as a result, German film making would have been contrary to their interests. One the other hand there is the American military that immediately following the war was tasked with occupation and denazification.
The American military, like the Soviets, were also weary over exposing German audiences to the idea of vigilantism or films that would incite the populace to take up arms. Immediately following the war two American propaganda films; Air Force, 1943 and The Sullivans, 1944 were not brought over to Germany because they “extolled the martial spirit” (Fehrebach 1995, 55). Both films taking place around the events of Pearl Harbor; the former is about a squadron of American pilots who are inspired and impassioned to attack the Japanese after the attacks and subsequent death of their squadron leader while the latter is based on the true story of the Sullivan brothers, five Irish-American brothers who subsequently enlist after the attacks and are killed or maimed. The film ends with the destroyer USS: The Sullivans being christened.
Other examples of censorship around this time include the removal of the film Das Beil von Wandsbek, 1951 after being shown in East Germany for six weeks, the film was withdrawn for portraying the executioner of anti-fascist resistance fighters in an ambiguous light (Bergfelder 2002, 153). Soon after, the East German government employed the Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle der Filmwirtschaf, (FSK) a censorship panel. Although the name suggested that the organization was made up of volunteers, the actual members of the organization were appointed by the GDR government. Many of these members worked in the film industry prior to the split of Germany (Kostetskaya 2016, 69).
Despite the Soviets and American military not having similar ideals in terms of film, it is apparent that they did nonetheless have similar goals. The American military wanted to use film as a means to reeducate the German population, denazify them, and prepare them for their reentry into public discourse and the world stage. The Soviet government also had the same idea, however, while the Soviet government did want to establish economic control in post war Germany; it was American business that primarily waned to establish economic control. Already in the autumn of 1945, film was shown in the Western sectors (Bergfelder 2002, 154). While one would think that movie going would not have been an immediate concern for average German citizen, the reality of the situation is that film not only gave audiences an escape from their impoverished conditions, it also gave them a warm place to sit for a few hours without having to use their ration card or pay black market prices.
Led by General Lucius Clay, it was The Office of Military Government of The United States (OMGUS) that was tasked with providing the “moral and cultural reeducation of the German population” (Poiger 2000, 37). While there was originally a plan of implementing the Four D’s (denazification, demilitarization, decartelization, and democratization) this ended up being impractical. First, while the Americans wanted to make sure that no former Nazis were appointed to any positions of bureaucracy or power, it soon became apparent that this was not possible in order for Germany to function as a country. Anyone in any sort of bureaucratic profession; from business owners, to professors, or train operators would have had to have been a member of the Nazi Party in order to be employed in the Third Reich. Second, despite the Allied ban on distribution of film, around 200 films produced under National Socialism were gradually released to cinemas in Western zones (Bergfelder 2002, 154). DEFA would also end up censoring and re-releasing films produced by the Third Reich, which would provide initial funding for the studio.
Once the Federal Republic of Germany was formed in 1949 OMGUS was transformed into The Civilian Office of The High Commissioner for Germany, or HICOG. This office comprised of representatives from the three allied countries and was lead by John McCloy, an American lawyer and banker who was the Assistant Secretary of War during World War II. The representatives’ position of military governor was abolished, and instead each of the Allies in the western zones named a High Commissioner. It would not be until 1994 that the Allies would fully withdraw American military staff from Berlin.
Initially, American authorities were bound by a derivative that did not allow them to fraternize with Germans as demonstrated in the military training film Your Job in Germany, 1945, which as the film puts it, was to “put an end to the cycle of war and phony peace”. The film warns that it is the German people, not their leaders that are responsible for “the wars and atrocities committed since Bismarck”. The film warns that German history is and has been written by the German people and insinuates that history will repeat itself if the Germans are left unchecked. American soldiers were instructed to observe the local laws, respect (Germans’) customs, religion, property rights, and not be friendly or make friends, not to ridicule, argue (which is mentioned twice), or change Germans’ point of view, as “other Allied representatives will concern themselves with that”. Soldiers were warned to be aloof, watchful and suspicious (Fehrenback 1995, 54). The film also warns that German youth are the most dangerous group as they are completely indoctrinated. Your Job in Germany gives a good idea of the approach the American military took in terms of the German people: media and culture came only as an afterthought of occupation, and would arise as more of a response to the Soviets.
The American military did try to curtail potential fraternization between German civilians and American soldiers. The American military built a planned community or military officers and administration in a village of Dalham; now a borough of Berlin. Americans there had their own library and a theater for example. The former is now the Outpost Theater, an Allied forces museum today, after its construction in 1953 it was the most modern American theater in Germany and played the American national anthem before every screening. Despite the military’s efforts, the initial interactions with American soldiers were the primary source of cultural contact for West Germans (Poiger 2000, 39). By 1949 over 20,000 German women married American soldiers and immigrated back to the US (Elfrieda 1988, 20).
In July 1945, twenty theaters were allowed to be opened in the American sector, and by the end of the year, 730 cinemas were open (Fehrenback 1995, 54). Hollywood was requested to donate films which were expected to convey understanding of American life and democratic institutions. In the summer of 1945 a deal fell through between the military and Hollywood due to royalties (Shandley 2001, 16). Consequently Hollywood ended up shipping fewer films over to Germany than met demand. This was when German films made before 1945 were put through a censor system and re-released back in theaters in the fall of 1945. This demonstrates that Americanization was not one single force but instead a multivalent effort between the US military and Hollywood.
By the fall of 1945, only months after the fall of the Third Reich, one could expect to find a cavalcade of films being shown in postwar Germany: Hollwood, Soviet, French, British, and censored unpolitical Nazi era film were all being shown. By September 1948, there had been 112 different American films screened in the American sector. Film companies often requested parity when it came to censoring films. If the military decided that a Universal film shouldn’t be screened in Germany, they in turn had to pull a film from each other companies’ catalog. Hollywood also expressed concern with the military and government trying to intervene in the creation of their products (Fehrenbach, p.55). The military had control over which products entered the German market, and were weary of any material that might shine light on the more unsavory aspects of American society. Grapes of Wrath, 1939 and Gone With The Wind, 1939 for example, failed to have a German release. Other films were often victims of the military’s censorship. The German release of Casablanca, 1942 removed the character Major Strasser from the film and changed the resistance fighter character into a scientist (Bergfelder 2002, 155). German audiences at the time were previously accustomed to the Nazi’s high production and quality film product, and the films from the Weimar era before that; the films from Hollywood that were available to be screened would have fared pale in comparison to what was available in the past, or what DEFA could provide, especially considering the American films at first were not dubbed or subtitled. Furthermore many actors or actresses that German audience would have recognized in American films, such as Peter Lorre, were often pigeonholed into roles as sinister characters such as in The Maltese Falcon, 1941.
Newsreels were a part of the cinema experience before broadcast television, and for German audiences in West Germany immediately after the war, the reels focused on gilt and shame in regards to the Holocaust. Special attention was given to the Nuremburg Trials, which in themselves, served as an example of the of the American justice system to the German people. Film reels would consist of American newsreels spliced together with content that was filmed in Germany and focused on the process of denazification (Fehrenback 1995, 56). Early efforts by the Americans during denazification revolved around pointing the finger of shame directly at the German people. For example, American planes would drop fliers from the air that said “You are guilty”, they walked locals through tours of concentration camps, and filmed the results for newsreels and documentaries such as KZ (Death Camp). Sometimes it was required to get your ration card stamped at a theater where such news reels were of shown. In some cases, a bait and switch would be pulled and a documentary would be played instead of the main feature. German people responded resoundingly negative toward these efforts, and also identified the films as being just as much propaganda as the documentaries produced by the Third Reich.
It was important to the US military that they demonstrate the tenants of American and democratic civics such as open competition; opposed to state control of media and industry. As a result it was inevitable that the current system of American film monopolization to have to cease. The Americans would have to eventually allow the Germans to develop their own film industries. In response to these concerns, the American military brought in outsider Erich Pommer to help revitalize German film in the American zone. Once again, this would demonstrate how the American military and Hollywood were at odds with one another. Revitalization of any sort of German film industry was in direct conflict of Hollywood’s interests, and the Motion Picture Export Association of America (MEPA), a trade association representing American film production companies, went as far as to appeal the US military to recall Erich Pommer back to the US (Fehrenbach 1995, 66). Despite their interests to maintain a monopoly in the American sector, Pommer stayed, and soon German films produced outside the Nazi era were being exported out of the country such as Anni, 1948 a Vienna film which was filmed in both Germany and Austria, and Berliner Ballade, 1948. These films would help pay for studio space, film stock, and other materials which were needed and without such were limiting the distribution of West German films. It was also Pommer’s job to fill the void of film products in Germany, and in the spirit of an open market, films were imported from other countries such as France and the UK (Fehrenbach 1995, 65).
All four of the Allied powers had established groups in which to try to distribute their media. From 1946 to 1955 American culture centers, Americahaeuser, were established in West German cities growing from one which was originally established in Frankfurt, to twenty-seven by 1951 (Poiger 2000, 39). Americahaeuser featured libraries, lectures, music and educational films. Jazz music was not performed at Americahaeuser until the 1950s as American elites at the time considered Jazz music low culture. East Germany on the other hand embraced jazz. In July 1948, during the Berlin Blocakade, Rex Stewart was the first American Jazz musician to play in front of German audiences. While his concerts were in West Berlin, the East German record company Amiga manufactured more Jazz records than all of the West German record companies combined between 1946 and 1948 (Poiger 2000, 43) In terms of the other Allied powers, the French and British hosted film clubs. Attended generally by students, these clubs mostly focused artistic qualities of film rather than political (Fehrenbach 1995, 170).
Back in the Eastern Sector, by 1946 twelve German produced films were being filmed under the watchful eyes of the Soviets. Filmmakers who would have wanted to work with the Americans or in the American zone initially were unable to due to bureaucracy, stemming primarily from background checks. Staudte, for example, originally wanted to film The Murderers Are Among Us in the American sector but was unable to attain the authorization to do so. American interest in German film making would only end up coming as a response to the Soviets.
What we see today is that by letting the German people produce their own content allowed them a way to discuss and come to terms with their own history rather than having their own history imposed on them by someone else (Shandley 2001, 17). Early DEFA did little to interfere with film production as long as production moved along. While being an Italian film maker, Roberto Rossellini who directed Germania, Anno Zero, 1948 commented on the ease of film production. He stated that DEFA was willing to work with him and did not interfere with his work (Shandley 2001, 117) Furthermore, Germania Anno Zero is also an example of how open the Eastern Zone was at this time. The film was directed by an Italian, funded by a French company called Union Générale Cinématographique, and received equipment trough DEFA. It seemed that early on the Eastern sector would stand as a hub of European filmmaking.
By 1949 the GDR would start grooming their own directors and hand selecting directors based on political backgrounds. The first example of this is the film Razza, 1947 (Police Raid). Directed by Werner Klinger, the film is a detective story about the black market in Berlin and has a very pedagogical narrative. Klinger was selected in order to not create a classic film per se, but instead have a set piece that has a discourse over the black markets in Germany (Shandley 2001, 146). The film is about the police in Berlin trying to bust a black market smuggling ring. The film sets a precedent for punishment for those that participate in the black market and why (Shandley 2001, 127). Everyday people struggling to get by are treated to a slap on a wrist while those that profit in the black market are roughed up. Citizens, such as an old lady purchasing an overpriced bottle of brandy as an anniversary gift, or physicians trying to get medicine for children, participating in the black market are given the slap on the wrist while it is the suppliers who are pursued and punished by the police. The message is that those who profit from black market trade are the criminals, not the consumers caught up in the circumstances of the situation. The black market was a reality to Berliners and Germans in 1947, people were taken advantage of especially in the years immediately following the end of the war. As Marlene Dietrich sang in the song Black Market from the film A Foreign Affair, 1948 “You take art, I take spam, to you for your K ration: my passion”. Preciously and valuable heirlooms, or even one’s own body might be traded for basic necessities.
By the 1950s American films made up the majority of films in all of West Germany. In East Germany by comparison only six American movies were shown in the 1950s, and none were shown in the 1940s. Nevertheless, thousands of Germans still crossed the border into the Western zones to watch American films (Poiger 2000, 32). Americans purposely set up radio and television towers to broadcast into Eastern Germany. Specifically Voice of America, Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Europe were meant to play the same material as the stations back home in the United States. These stations would not just penetrate East Germany, but also some of the Soviet satellite states as well. Certain regions, however, were unable to receive television transmissions from the west. Dresden, for example, was referred to as Das Tal der Ahnungslosen, although they still could receive some Western radio broadcasts. Dresden gives an interesting insight into the role Western television played in East Germany because people there were actually less satisfied with conditions in East Germany than the rest of the country. The majority of appeals to leave East Germany came from Dresden (Gleye 1991, 12).
From the 1940s to the construction of the Wall in August of 1961, East Germans flocked to Western theaters, purchased bootleg western records, and watched Western Television shows despite efforts of the GRD (Gleye 1990, 150; Poiger 2000, 32). Before construction of the Wall, there was a constant stream of people and goods between both East and West Berlin and Germany. People from all over the GDR would cross over into West Germany to specifically to purchase clothes and records, and go to border theaters; which projected American, British and French films usually at a lower rate for customers with ostmarks. By 1947 and 1948 Cold War tensions had started to rise, the West had started the formation of the deutsche mark, a new currency for West Germany. The Berlin blockade had also started by this time. East Germany in turn began to ramp up anti-west propaganda. The East German newspaper Taegliche Rundschau published stories about alleged rapes caused by American soldiers (Poiger 2000, 44). Neues Deutschland, the official newspaper of the East German SED reported in 1948 that the cultural values of the West were sinking rapidly. Broadcast television and radio permeated and extended through the border between East and West Germany. While consumption of Western broadcasts would eventually be outright banned in Eastern Germany, this of course did not stop people from listening to them in the privacy of their own homes.
Later in the cold war, in 1953 the author Karl Bednarik published the book The Young Worker of Today, A New Type. He says that these new (male) workers where characterized by their love of westerns and jazz. Later that same year the East German government would try to pin the same characteristic type of men for the East German uprising of that year. In the days after the uprising the East German media also accused “American imperialists” of recruiting “SS-Kommandeusen”, “Tangojuenglinge”, prostitutes, and the aforementioned new types as agent provocateurs. The GDR would republish the same image of a young man slumped against the wall with a cowboy t-shirt on, bad haircut, and a tie with a nude woman on it draped over his shoulder. He was described as having a Texas shirt, Texas tie, and Texas haircut (Poiger 2000, 63). This picture demonstrated the end result of consuming Western media
The US government did fund programs in the west to help 'improve moral' in the East, which is to also say cause dissidence and dissatisfaction among East Germans. These efforts however were nothing like the East German media was claiming. Between 1953 and 1958 the US government spent 30 million dollars on food relief (food packages which could be picked up in West Berlin), and reimbursement for East German adolescents’ travel expenses to West Berlin, as well as a par diem for their escorts. Part of these par diems included an allotment for theater visits, and within one year of the program, under eight thousand adolescents had visited West Berlin (Poiger 2000, 131). In May of 1957 the GDR banned student travel to West Germany and NATO countries, and also restricted distribution of jazz and rock and roll music, a stark change from just a few years ago when East Germany was producing more jazz records than the west! After these measures, travel to West Germany dropped by 80 percent (Poiger 2000, 130).
In response to the travel ban, for the Christmas of 1958 the American government set up a program where West German children in youth groups would send gifts to East German children. Deutsche marks were provided to youth groups to collectively purchase and then individually mail out Christmas gifts to children they knew in the East. The idea of the program was not to provide charitable necessities, but to offer contact with East German youths and provide something that was a high-quality consumer good (in comparison to an East German counterpart) of substantial value that would remind the recipient of friends in the West. Recommended gifts included clothes, sports equipment, leather bags, and fountain pens (Poiger 2000, 132). Ironically, despite the military’s claim ten years earlier in Your Job in Germany that German youth were most dangerous group of Germans because they are “completely indoctrinated”, the Americans chose to reach East German youth because they though them to be less “immune” to communist indoctrination. Nevertheless the American Embassy dispatch from Bonn on December 1948 recommended youth organizations to select recipients that were ”open-minded to Western ideology… whose attitudes leave them open to influence of this kind of contact”.
By the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961, there were risks and disadvantages to consuming Western media in East Germany. Though before the wall, in the 1950s, the GDR took an interest in the quality of film being produced by DEFA; for example in 1951 the GDR and DEFA organized a conference to discuss “the artistic difficulty of transferring socialist realism in films featuring convincing positive heroes”. And after the worker’s uprising of 1957 DEFA announced that more entertainment films would be made. After the wall was built, the GDR took a more restrictive approach. In 1965 twelve films were outright banned from being shown on the grounds of being critical of the GDR (Bergfelder 2002, 153).
All this talk of censorship in the GDR does not mean that the BRD was censorship free. By 1950 federal and local government in the BRD were able to excise control over what films were shown. The Allied powers also had their own review board. A committee was established to inspect scripts from a political, economic, and dramatic standpoint (Bergfelder 2002, 154). For the first wave of applications 44 our off 126 applications were rejected. Films that were approved would have 30 percent of their production budget subsidized by the government with the stipulation that that the loan would have to be repaid if the finished film could “offend moral or religious sensibilities or contravene the constitution or any other law”. It seemed that even at this point sensationalizing the German people was a main concern of the West German government as it was for the American military immediately after the war.
Both the Protestant and Catholic churches were able to influence cultural policies within West Germany. At the time, it seemed that authorities were of the opinion that consumption of media was responsible for oversexualisation and violence. (Poiger 2000, 46). Since the Soviets were ideologically opposed to religious institutions, the church had no influence in the East. The West German Parliament passed two youth protection laws in 1951 and 1953. The first law regulated youth access to dances, movies and alcohol. The second restricted printed matter; specifically pornography and pulp fiction (Poiger 2000, 47). Events against pulp fiction were sponsored by West German states where children could turn in their dime novels for “better literature”. Dime novels did not receive a favorable reception in East Germany either.
In the 1960s the GRD released a documentary film justifying the construction of the wall called Schaut auf diese Stadt, 1962. Dime novels were blamed for inciting a young boy to commit murder. The film also accused the American sector radio station RIAS of being a spy organization that had committed acts of arson and espionage. No other present day sources support this claim. Western objects and currency were almost always more-so desired than any of their counterparts due to their scarcity and value. West German marks by the early 1960s were often five times more valuable than the East German marks, and visitors to the country often had to abide by forced exchange laws. As a result of the black markets which had still carried over from the Second World War, checkpoints still existed between the two sides of Germany. There were some East German goods of value, which were shipped outside of the country for foreign currency. It was possible that an East German could actually run into trouble trying to procure certain East German goods if the state found it more beneficial to send these goods abroad. Therefore, western commercials created an avenue for East Germans to compare their standard of living with Americans and their West German counterparts. All the same, Western objects in the East, were means of depicting or reflecting the status of the individuals. Gleye notes of a certain woman made a point of prominently displaying here shampoo products in here bathroom; questioning if she even used the products (Gleye 1990, 176).
The documentary goes on to condemn western media, criticizing American policies, specifically that of Operation Paperclip; bringing over Nazis to America for research secrets. They also criticized the fact that the Americans utilized members of the Nazi party after the war, refusing to try them for War Crimes. While this was true, for example judge Hans Globke who had drafted laws during the Third Reich which allowed the Nazi Party to take control of Germany, and later revoke the citizenship of German Jews, went on the become an aide to the Chancellor of West Germany. On the other hand, there is no mention of the Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression pact. It was not until the fall of the Soviet Bloc that they soviets would even acknowledge a secret provision in the pact that would split up Eastern European regions between the two powers.
By the time that television had become a fixture in homes in the mid-sixties, the Members of The Free German Youth in East Germany would climb roofs and turn around antennas pointed towards the west; clever homeowners would go as far as to hide their antennas, placing them in an attic. Children at school might be asked at school which clock they saw on the evening news. This created an interesting social dynamic, where one would have to decide carefully in which social spheres to discuss Western television shows and news. Being caught could result in disadvantage; not receiving any of the many things that the party provided the people with the the communist GDR (Gleye 1990, 2).
In closing, there are many avenues film development, production, and distribution took on both sides of the iron curtain in the years following the end of World War II. In epilogue, by the late eighties an American Fulbright teacher in Weimar noted just how steeped the East Germans were in American culture: “Springsteen’s Born in the USA, and The Doors, were both incredibly popular, most people he encountered in East Germany exclusively watched western television, and that school teachers in Weimar were required to see the Nick Nolte film Teachers, 1984 as a sort of documentary on the American school system. Gleye says that they audience took such a presentation of the film in stride, although it perked interest and questions about American suburban life. Few if any actual restrictions were left; he documents children wearing Alf t-shirts in public. (Gleye 1990, 152). It was obvious that even before the fall of The Wall it was apparent which side had won.
Bergfelder, Tim. Carter, Erica. And Goektuerk, Deniz, The German Cinema Book. Suffolk: St Edmundsbury Press, 2002.
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Eisner Lotte H, trans., The Haunted Screen. (Berkley, University of California Berkley, 1965)
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Hale, Sabine, German National Cinema. (New York: Routledge, 2002)
Kohlhaasse, Wolfgang. 1987. “Some Remarks About GDR Cinema.” In Studies in GDR Culture and Society 7, edited by Margy Gerber, 1 – 14. Maryland: University Press of America.
Kostetskaya, Anastasia "East Or West, Rodina is Best: Shaping a Socialist 'Heimat' In German and Soviet Film Of the Occupation Period.". German Life and Letters. 69. 2016
Kracauer, Siegried, From Caligari to Hitler: A psychological history of the German film. 2ed (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004)
Poiger, Uta G, Jazz, Rock, and Rebels: cold war politics and American culture in a divided Germany. 2ed (Berkley: University of California Press, 2000)
Gleye, Paul. Behind The Wall: an American in East Germany, 1988 – 89. Southern Illinois University Press, 1990.
Shandley, Robert R. Rubble Films: German Cinema in the shadow of the Third Reich. Philidalphia: Temple University Press, 2001.
Shukert, Elfrieda and Scibetta Barbara. War Brides of World War II. Presidio Press, 1988.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
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