Making Decisions: Occupied Film Industries from the Perspective of "Middle-Men"
|Year of publication||2021|
|Type||Chapter of a book|
|MU Faculty or unit|
|Description||During the Second World War, Germany’s initial military successes and the vast territories the Wehrmacht invaded and occupied, allowed the German film industry to dominate substantial parts of the European market. Many (but certainly not all) academic studies of those European film industries that were controlled or significantly re-shaped by Nazi Germany (1939-1945) tend to provide rather general, descriptive overviews that reconstruct cultural policy and cinema infrastructure. There is much to be said for such an approach, because this type of top-down analysis is often necessary to understand larger processes. Nevertheless, a bird’s eye view on film and cultural policy also has its limitations, as it leaves little room for analytical insights into the dynamics of specific changes that happened during WWII. This text argues that historians can counterbalance that perspective by analysing the evolving strategies and practices used by individuals, who had – or believed they had – a certain capacity or autonomy to influence the cinema industry in occupied territories and who mediated between the agenda of the ‘Third Reich’ cinema apparatus and the film industry of their own region or country. After the retreat of the German troops and liberation from Nazism in 1944-1945, European film sectors repaired or reorganised themselves. Although some of the measures introduced by the Germans were tacitly retained (because it was politically sensitive to recognise their value openly), many others were rescinded or undone. Investigations were launched into people who could be held ‘responsible’ for the crimes of the previous years: compatriots who had ‘collaborated’ with the Germans during the occupation and who had facilitated the implementation of German film policy. Some of them were prosecuted and punished: sometimes by the courts, sometimes also more indirectly by trade unions or similar bodies. These investigations into ‘collaborators’ and subsequent trials left behind a trail of documents. Some of these archival sources have been available for decades, others were only released or declassified more recently. Such sources are of crucial importance for research that focuses on the centre: on members of the civil society in German-occupied territories, who seized, or at least accepted the opportunity to play a significant role in a film sector that was now German-controlled (local ‘captains of industry’, cinema managers, people working for film studios, or officials authorized to navigate film policy).|