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"Rommel, you magnificent bastard" : the Desert Fox and the rehabilitation of Germany in postwar media
McGinn, Matthew Edward
Beasley, EdwardBaron, LawrenceWauchope, Mary
vii, 78 pages
This paper examines the effect of film and television in shaping the image of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. The Desert Fox has been primarily examined from a military perspective, but this thesis shows that Rommel's reputation as a battlefield tactician and resistance leader helped shape other areas of society. The United States and Great Britain used Rommel's image as an archetypal 'Good German' in order to rehabilitate West Germany as a client state during the Cold War. The methods used here include examining film and television programs from the United States and Great Britain, newspaper reviews, and relevant scholarly literature. Western filmmakers crafted two Rommel narratives. The resistance narrative was focused around the attempted assassination of Hitler and it showed that not all Germans blindly followed the Nazis. This depiction of Rommel gained acceptance slowly, because many people viewed it as whitewashing Nazi atrocities in order to force rehabilitation at the expense of capturing war criminals. After the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the resistance narrative became more accepted. The desert war narrative depicted the German military as an honorable institution that was a separate entity from criminal organizations, such as the S.S. The lack of atrocities in North Africa, the good treatment of POWS and the admiration held by both sides painted the conflict in nostalgic tones. In the 1970s, the desert war proved itself useful by highlighting American patriotism during the social and political quagmire of the Vietnam War. This attempted to unite the fractured American populace by showing them a time where the United States had been powerful and the enemy was more clearly defined. Television's ability to connect with viewers in their own homes helped it overtake motion pictures as a form of entertainment by the 1970s. Television writers used the desert narrative to exploit ratings, but viewers perceived it as an unrealistic representation of war due to its nostalgic tones. After the United States' involvement in Vietnam, television companies used the resistance narrative coupled with Holocaust imagery in order to depict war as a traumatic event. This helped the United States overcome internal divisions and rehabilitate Germany in order to combat communism. By the late 1980s, the Soviet Union began its decline. The resistance narrative transferred the mantle of the 'Good German' to the 'Good European' in order to shape a post-Cold War world.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 74-78).
Arts and Letters
Master of Arts (M.A.) San Diego State University, 2013
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