German Life and Letters 71:2 April 2018
0016-8777 (print); 1468–0483 (online)
INTRODUCTION: NARRATIVES OF IDENTITY AND NATIONHOOD
IN OCCUPIED GERMANY
(King’s College London)
(University of Warwick)
‘Frieden, das ist nur Schlamperei, erst der Krieg schafft Ordnung.’
words from Brecht’s Mutter Courage may not have sounded as ironic to its
first Berlin audiences in January 1949 as they do now. After four years of
Allied occupation, with the Soviets and Western Allies increasingly at odds
and West Berlin completely cut off from its surroundings and supported
by airlift, peacetime may have seemed more of a mess than the war had.
Since the beginning of the Allied occupation, those lucky enough to survive
the war had faced hunger, homelessness, clothing and fuel shortages, and
the coldest winter in living memory. The chaos following unconditional
surrender in 1945 opened up a space for competing narratives – about
Germany’s future, about its recent and more distant past, about political
systems and ideologies, and not least, about the role of art and culture in
This issue of German Life and Letters examines some of the narratives
circulating during the years immediately following the unconditional
surrender of 1945. It focuses particularly on cultural life in the American
and British zones of occupied Germany, covering film (Fay, Wolpert),
literature (Oliver, Sollors), and journalism (Knowles and Vossen). Arising
from a conference hosted by the European Research Council-funded
research project ‘Beyond Enemy Lines’ at King’s College London in 2015,
the contributions here should be read in conjunction with two other
volumes. The first is a special issue of Comparative Critical Studies, also arising
from the conference, which specifically tackles the question of culture’s
transformative power during the occupation period.
The second is Lara
Feigel’s book, The Bitter Taste of Victory, which maps the cultural landscape
of the western zones of Germany in this period by tracing the experiences of
twenty British and American figures who were involved either in witnessing
German cultural life or in making an effort to change German culture.
Bertolt Brecht, Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder: Eine Chronik aus dem Dreißigj
Brookes and C. E. Fr
ankel, London 1960, p. 21.
Comparative Critical Studies, Special Issue: ‘The Transformative Power of Culture in Occupied
Germany’, 13/2 (2016), ed. Lara Feigel and Elaine Morley.
Lara Feigel, The Bitter Taste of Victory. In the Ruins of the Reich, London 2016.
2018 The Author
German Life and Letters
2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd