This collection of essays was selected from those presented in October 1988 at a conference sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, "Concepts of History in German Cinema." The contributors include notable historians, film scholars, and German studies specialists who explore the complex network of social, political, and religious institutions that have influenced the historiography of German cinema and television.
Before the turn of the century, Germans began to employ the medium of film to represent the past when they attempted to document their Prussian heritage. Since then, German cinema and television have promoted history as a component of personal, cultural, and national identity by consistently providing prominent treatment of historical subjects.
Although it is relatively easy to document changes in the selection and handling of these subjects, it is more difficult to determine precisely which factors have motivated those changes.
In attempting to define these factors, the link between German cinema, television, and history has developed around three interrelated issues: (1) the reception of Weimar cinema, which for most film scholars continues to be mediated to one extent or another by Siegfried Kracauer’s work; (2) the inscribing of fascism in cinema and television; and (3) the nature of, and potential for, alternatives to mainstream cinema and television.