In the following article, I sketch two major pressures driving this film's peculiar recuperation of traditional representations of femininity alongside the rhetoric of equal rights. The first is the development of a Cold War politics of consumption, which, as recent research has shown, was crucial for national and cultural identity formation in the period of reconstruction after World War II. If, in the 20th century, political citizenship was "recast as consumer behavior," the postwar context of divided Germany offers a particularly powerful example of the complex imbrications of ideological and material cultures. As Ina Merkel's work amply illustrates, the competitive discourse of East versus West shaped GDR consumer culture from the outset. In addition, the implicit tension between the austere ideal of a new socialist producer nation and its population's unbroken, modern drive toward consumption appears to be at least superficially resolved along gender lines. Following prewar cultural formations, consumers were gendered as female, in contrast with male-identified producers. Thus, women could be mobilized as symbolic warriors along the battlefront between two economic systems. Frauenschicksale refers us repeatedly to the precise terms of this conflict.
Franz A. Birgel
Characterized by Siegfried Kracauer as "the first and last German film that overtly expressed a Communist viewpoint," Kuhle Wampe (1932) is also noteworthy for being the only film on which Bertolt Brecht collaborated from beginning to end, as well as for its controversial censorship in the tumultuous political context of the late Weimar Republic. When set against the background of the 1920 Motion Picture Law and the censorship of two other high-profile films—Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin and Lewis Milestone's All Quiet on the Western Front—the political history of Kuhle Wampe highlights the indecisiveness, fragility, and fears of the German Left as the Nazis prepared to take power.