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Reviews329 Glen W. Gadberry, ed. Theatre in the Third Reich, the Prewar Years: Essays on Theatre in Nazi Germany. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1995. Pp. viii + 187. $55.00. There is no dearth of studies of German theater and drama during the period of National Socialism, extending from Hubert Vonden's 1945 Hamburg dissertation (Die weltanschaulichen Grundlagen des ernsten Dramas unserer Zeit) to the recent extensive analysis by Hans Daiber (Schaufenster der Diktatur: Theater im Machtbereich Hitlers [Stuttgart, 1995]). The editor of the present volume has also contributed to the subject , e.g., with a study on E. W. Möller's "Thingspiel," Das Frankenburger Würfelspiel (in Henning Eichberg, ed., Massenspiele [Stuttgart, 1977], 235-51). Faced with such a large number of scholarly studies, it is at present difficult to offer a fundamentally new perspective on the subject without proffering a fundamentally different assessment of the Third Reich or attempting a new theoretical approach. Gadberry declines to do either, and so the picture he paints of the Third Reich borrows its colors primarily from the palette of the well-known "theory of totalitarianism " and its way of thinking. Thus almost all the contributors display a lively interest in state cultural policy, especially during the first years of National Socialist rule, and view artistic events in the light of that policy. This leads to a certain monotony and also to some repetitiousness . Only one of the papers stands out as an exception: Rebecca Rovit's study of the Jüdischer Kulturbund. She doesn't "reconstruct" her subject from the perspective of the 1930s, but rather takes as her point of departure a 1992 conference of people who had been involved at the time. Thus she is able to view the past events from a position which allows the earlier views of the participants to be juxtaposed to later historical experiences. She is understandably less concerned with official state policies than with the ideas and problems of the people who made art in the Kulturbund. She outlines the intentions and feelings that moved the participants and the difficulties with which they had to contend in representing "Jewishness," the cultural-political aims pursued by the organizers, and the (controversial) opinions obtained among the political and cultural representatives of German Jews as well as among the audience . Rovit emphasizes that in the attempts at self-determination brought forth by the fantastic idea of a "racially" grounded German culture central arguments of "Aryan" and Jewish participants in the discussion continually mirrored each other (not to speak of official pressures). This obviously has triggered hefty discussions. The other contributions in the volume tend rather to evade such difficult questions. They mainly aim to present facts: "The focus is the functioning theatre during the Third Reich, not contemporary critical or historiographie discourse" (2), and the volume is above all an introduction to American research on the "culture" of the Third Reich. The editor has gathered together a group of American specialists who present 330Comparative Drama detailed, specialized studies in their respective fields of interest. Thus the essays as a whole yield no systematic picture of German theater in the 1930s; rather, the book is a collection of ten separate discussions of individual stages, theater directors, and dramatists of the years in question which, from the thematic point of view, makes a rather confusing impression. In order to unify the contributions under a single rubric, Gadberry has written an introduction which is a general but unfortunately very brief outline of the German theater landscape during the years from 1933 to 1939. (According to Gadberry, the situation changed fundamentally with the beginning of the war). He regards the theater as an institution for implementing a minimally structured cultural ideology of National Socialism, which he derives from Hitler's notions about art. In Gadberry's view, an apparatus based on laws, ordinances, and administrative regulations in 1933 implemented this concept. That is all quite correct but a bit black on white, for it ignores important phenomena which have disturbed scholars for decades: for instance, the fact that the years 1933 and 1945 do not represent absolute breaks in German theater practice; that the National Socialists' notions of art were...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1936-1637
Print ISSN
0010-4078
Pages
pp. 329-332
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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