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Through Amateur Eyes

Film and Photography in Nazi Germany

Frances Guerin

Publication Year: 2011

We have seen the films of professionals and propagandists celebrate Adolf Hitler, his SS henchmen, and the Nazi Party. But what of the documentary films and photographs of amateurs, soldiers, and others involved in the war effort who were simply going about their lives amid death and destruction? And what of the films and photographs that want us to believe there was no death and destruction? This book asks how such images have shaped our memories and our memorialization of World War II and the Holocaust. Frances Guerin considers the implications of amateur films and photographs taken by soldiers, bystanders, resistance workers, and others in Nazi Germany.

Her book explores how photographs taken by soldiers and bystanders on the Eastern Front, depictions of everyday life in the Lódz ghetto, and home movies and family albums of Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun, among others, can challenge the conventional idea that such images reflect Nazi ideology because they are taken by perpetrators and sympathizers. Through Amateur Eyes upsets our expectations and demonstrates how these images can be understood as chillingly unrehearsed images of war, trauma, and loss.

Many of these images have been reused—often unacknowledged—in contemporary narratives memorializing World War II: museum exhibitions, made-for-television documentaries, documentary films, and the Internet. Guerin shows how modern uses of these images often reinforce well-rehearsed narratives of cultural memory. She offers a critical new perspective on how we can incorporate such still and moving images into processes of witnessing the traumas of the past in the present moment.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

Writing Through Amateur Eyes: Film and Photography in Nazi Germany involved many people in archives and libraries, many of whom gave assistance with access to images and written material that did not always make it into the final manuscript. ...

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Introduction: Alternate Perspectives from Nazi Germany

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pp. xiii-xxiv

In his bold intervention into the controversy surrounding the “War of Extermination” on the Eastern Front, and particularly the participation of the Wehrmacht and its soldiers in this war, Bernd Hüppauf calls for new ways of looking at the photographs taken by soldiers and officers present to the crimes committed in the name of Nazism. ...

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1. Witnessing from a Distance, Remembering from Afar: How to See Amateur Images

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pp. 1-36

Until the past ten years, the films and photographs I discuss in these pages have been more or less ignored—forgotten or rendered inconsequential or invalid—in the ongoing urge to write the history of World War II and the Holocaust. Not only were they taken by “German perpetrators”; more important, many were not known to exist until recently. ...

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2. On the Eastern Front with the German Army

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pp. 37-92

The hundreds of thousands of photographs taken on the Eastern Front include some of the most difficult of the World War II visual documents for the historian to reckon with. They are difficult for a number of reasons, most significantly for the disturbing nature of what is photographed. ...

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3. The Privilege and Possibility of Color: The Case of Walter Genewein’s Photographs

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pp. 93-158

Some of the most extraordinary photographs from World War II were those taken in color. These images are remarkable because the technology used to produce and process color-transparency film stock was in its infancy in the late 1930s. ...

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4. Europe at War in Color and Motion

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pp. 159-216

The camera pans across a snow-topped mountain range in central Europe, a man rows his boat with a child on a lake, there are mountains in the distance, and a doubles tennis match is being played on a glorious summer’s day. These images depict a picture-perfect scene. ...

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5. At Home, at Play, on Vacation with Eva Braun: From the Berghof to YouTube and the Imperative to Remember

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pp. 217-286

Of all the photographs and films discussed in Through Amateur Eyes, those attributed to Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, come closest to traditional notions of family photos and home movies. The films are conventionally conceived home movies that depict the daily life of Braun and her family and friends, at home in Munich; ...


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pp. 287-328


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pp. 329-342

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About the Author

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p. 368-368

Frances Guerin is senior lecturer of film studies at the University of Kent, England. She is the author of A Culture of Light: Cinema and Technology in 1920s Germany (Minneapolis, 2005) and coeditor with Roger Hallas of The Image and the Witness: Trauma Memory and Visual Culture. ...

Image Plates

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pp. 369-384

E-ISBN-13: 9780816678532
E-ISBN-10: 0816678537
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816670079

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 2011