Lights, Camera, Creating Heroes in Action: Claus von Stauffenberg and the July 20th Conspirators in German and American Filmic Representations of the July 20th Plot

by Baker, Kenneth Rex

Abstract (Summary)
Nearly 65 years have passed since filmic representations of the July 20th Plot began to be produced in West Germany in order to assist in the rehabilitation process of post-World War II German identity. This paper focuses on a close reading of German and American filmic representations of the July 20th Plot since 1955, within the context of the event's historiography, in order to present a new perspective from which to understand their different cultural Rezeptionsgeschichte. Additionally, special emphasis is placed on the figure of Colonel Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg as he is the main protagonist in each of the films analyzed: Es geschah am 20. Juli (1955), Der 20. Juli (1955), Stauffenberg (2004), and Valkyrie (2008). The process of establishing a positive (West) German identity independent of Hitler's Nazi legacy took place not only within the political arena, but also in popular culture productions, such as film. An integral aspect of creating this new identity lay in heroizing the July 20th conspirators, which is the main focus of each of these films, in order to help establish an honorable tradition based on German resistance to Hitler's rule. These films are, therefore, important documents from which to understand the construction of German identity over the last half century as relates to efforts of Vergangenheitsaufarbeitung, coming to terms with the legacy of the Nazi past. This is especially true as the films reflect the progression of historiographical trends over the last half century, during which portrayals of the July 20th conspirators have become more critical. Finally, this paper ends with an analysis of the 2008 American film Valkyrie, in which the notion of German identity based on the heroization of the July 20th conspirators as depicted by a non-German production is explored.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Bowling Green State University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:es geschah am 20 juli der stauffenberg valkyrie operation walkuere german resistance bryan singer tom cruise sebastian koch wolfgang preiss falk harnack g w pabst july 20th plot conspiracy


Date of Publication:05/27/2009

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