The Atmosphere in the ‘Führerbunker.’ How to Represent the Last Days of World War II

Stephan Jaeger


In the context of the recent boom of World War II representations and German remembrance culture, this essay investigates different narrative ways to represent the last days in the Führerbunker in literature, historiography, and film by analyzing Joachim Fest’s popular history book Der Untergang (2002), Oliver Hirschbiegel’s movie Der Untergang (2004), Michael Kloft’s documentary film Tod im Führerbunker (2004), Walter Kempowski’s collage Echolot: Abgesang ’45 (2005), and Marcel Beyer’s novel Flughunde (1995). History that seems to be often incomprehensible in its moral dimensions poses the challenge whether a historical representation can reconstruct or must restage the past. This article demonstrates that representational choices are grounded less in questions of genre, media, and the dichotomy between history and fiction, than in the tension between open and closed history, in the involvement of reader and viewer, and in the relationship between a realistic scenic representation and the meta-reflection of historical representation. (SJ)

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