Fighting Fascism through Theater: Defining a Socialist Humanist Aesthetic in Willi Bredel’s Die Enkel (1953)

Holly A. Yanacek


This article examines the important role of the theater in early East German cultural politics as illustrated in Willi Bredel’s Die Enkel (1953), the third novel in his socialist realist trilogy, Verwandte und Bekannte (1941–1953). By focusing on the novel’s use of the ‘play within a story’ device to depict two stage performances, Verdi’s opera Il trovatore and Lessing’s drama Nathan der Weise, I show how Bredel implicitly defines a fascist aesthetics and a socialist aesthetics, similar to Walter Benjamin’s distinction between fascist and socialist art in his essay “Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzier-barkeit” (1935). Taken together, these scenes serve as didactic moments for Bredel’s ideal readers and call for art that is closely aligned with the political and cultural goals of socialist humanism. (HY)

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