When we think about the Third Reich, we cannot help but think of the violence and devastation inflicted upon millions by Adolf Hitler and the German people. We also recall well-known images of fanatic believers hallowing their charismatic leader in monumental demonstrations of self-surrender. To this day, Nazi Germany abides in collective memories as a site of mass murder and mass manipulation. This course focuses, however, on a third element that most of us do not so immediately associate with National Socialism, namely mass culture and its key role in history's first media dictatorship. We analyze seminal films of the Third Reich as popular commodities, ideological constructs, aesthetic artifacts, and historical entities. In so doing we seek to comprehend how the fantasy ware of the Hitler era functioned within the larger contexts of state terror, world war, and genocide. We are also concerned with the enduring afterlife of Nazi sights and sounds, especially their presence in contemporary popular culture.

Meet The Faculty

Eric Rentschler

Eric Rentschler

Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University

Eric Rentschler received his academic training in German literature and intellectual history, studying in Stuttgart, Bonn, and Prague, before taking his doctoral degree at the University of Washington in 1977. He has been awarded Guggenheim, Humboldt, ACLS, DAAD, and Fulbright grants as well as the Joseph R. Levenson Memorial Prize for best teaching by a senior faculty member at Harvard (2001) and the Walter Channing Cabot Fellowship (2003).

Rentschler's publications concentrate on film history, theory, and criticism, with particular emphasis on German cinema during the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, and the post-1945 and postwar eras. His articles have appeared in a variety of collections and periodicals; his books include West German Film in the Course of Time and The Ministry of Illusion. He was also the editor of German Film and Literature, West German Filmmakers on Film, Augenzeugen, and The Films of G. W. Pabst. Presently he is completing a book project, Haunted by Hitler: The Return of the Nazi Undead and working on a manuscript titled Courses in Time: Film in the Federal Republic of Germany, 1962-1989.

PhD, University of Washington

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