SECTION: Close Up WWII
75th Anniversary of Liberation – The End of World War II
The Second World War ended 75 years ago with the German surrender in May 1945. Since then the world, especially Europe and especially eastern Europe, have been busy licking wounds, coming to terms with war crimes and questioning history. War atrocities, carpet bombing, the Holocaust and expulsions were followed by further displacement, the Cold War and the division of the world into “East” and “West”. With the implosion of the "Eastern Bloc" the ways in which we view the history of the War have also changed. A World War II film series cannot possibly be large enough in scope to discuss all aspects of this historical chapter. We have therefore put together a selection of films that represent as many facets as possible. The selection shows how contradictorily the history of the war has been interpreted to this day, how differently memory functions and how emotionally charged the latter is against the backdrop of current political conflicts.
Heroism and Trauma
Old and new war film classics from THE CRANES ARE FLYING to INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, the latter partly filmed in the state of Brandenburg, illustrate the contradiction between officially celebrated heroism and losses that have been left for the individual to mourn. Physical and mental damage that went undiscussed for a long time, since the war was patriotic and every death an act of martyrdom. And the fight was also a fair one, against fascism and violence. And yet scars remain, everywhere. Often the participants later changed sides. Taking the example of an accomplice in the anti-Jewish massacre in Kaunas, the Lithuanian film ISAAC investigates the complex entanglement between guilt and atonement, repression and opportunism. The Czech SHADOW COUNTRY speaks of the cycle of violence and revenge, whilst the short film BLACK & WHITE pertinently raises the question as to why war history always focuses on men.
Dramatising History - Old Battles, New Narratives
After the fall of the Iron Curtain the world was reorganised geopolitically. With the collapse of the Soviet Union numerous states in eastern Europe regained their independence. Historical processes, such as the deportations of the Baltic elite by the Stalin administration, were no longer taboo, thus creating new narratives on the Second World War. Against the backdrop of current political fears of the powerful Russian neighbour, historical epics such as the Estonian-Finnish 1944 or the Latvian CHRONICLES OF MELANIE are to be understood as both a form of self-assurance and a warning. At the same time, as regards questions of guilt, the pendulum swings to the left, bringing with it the threat that the immense German war crimes threaten to be pushed to the edges of our historical consciousness. Meanwhile, in contemporary war action films from Russia, the achievement of liberation from fascism slowly but surely evolves into a purely Russian accomplishment, thus passing over the fact that the Red Army defined itself as the army of the USSR, a multi-ethnic state. Films like TOWN OF GLORY go one step further and question the function of commemoration of the Great Patriotic War in today's political culture in Russia, whilst the Polish TV series PEOPLE AND GODS discusses moral issues related to the underground war of the Polish Home Army.
The DRAMATISING HISTORY series was generously funded by the Federal Agency for Civic Education. The film discussions on TOWN OF GLORY and PEOPLE AND GODS are to be conducted with the support of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.
A new Home?! - Expulsion and Resettlement
For millions of Poles and Germans the Second World War ended with the expulsion from their respective homelands. Poles from the former eastern territories of their country, which were subsequently added to the Ukrainian, Lithuanian and Belarusian Soviet Republics, fled to the former eastern territories of Germany, which in turn had fallen to Poland. The Germans there were evacuated and fled to the west, to what would later become the GDR and, even later the Federal Republic of Germany. On both sides of the Oder-Neisse border, town and village communities were reformed, as people already suffering from the twin traumata of war and expulsion were forced to construct new communities under the conditions of totalitarianism. The German refugees met with rejection and mistrust, the Polish with almost abandoned cities. Film classics and contemporary witness documentary works show the transition from the last hours of the war to the first days of the new home in the Lubusz Land and Brandenburg.
The NEUE HEIMAT series was organised by the Verein für Film- und Medienpädagogik Cottbus, generously funded by Kulturland Brandenburg and supported by the German Culture Forum for Central and Eastern Europe.