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Hitler as our Devil? Mainstream representations of Nazi Germany in popular media
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMK).
2010 (English)In: Monsters in the Mirror: Representations of Nazism in Popular Culture / [ed] Maartje Abbenhuis-Ash & Sara Buttsworth, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio , 2010Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In my PhD dissertation (2008) I have showed how the depiction of especially Hitler and the SS in post-war popular culture contains striking elements of the mythical, both in a traditional, religiously connected sense and in the modern, secular, as described by Roland Barthes. This is not only to be found in fictional representations, but also – and perhaps surprisingly – to a large extent in documentary films. Henry Jenkins has shown how today´s media landscape is characterised by a convergence, not only between different media technologies and media forms but also regarding the narrative. He describes how transmedia storytelling has become an important part in popular knowledge building, a process for which the case of Hitler, Nazi Germany and WWII provides an excellent example. The representations in films and literature – fact as well as fiction – merges with expressions in and, when it comes to the construction of meaning within the audience, impressions from other media forms: digital games, internet home pages, blogs and discussion forums, comic books, art, music, table-top role-playing games… With an extended definition of media, this also includes such areas as subcultural fashion, Nazi memorabilia collecting, live role-playing and historical reenactment. I argue that although difficult to grasp in its entirety, this whole field must be taken into consideration when trying to understand the phenomenon of Nazi Germany in popular culture, including the construction of popular memory.

My study, dealing with both media texts and the audience through reception and ethnographic studies, clearly shows that there is a “mainstream” representation of Nazi Germany which is often explicitly building on the metaphysical. Hitler takes on the role as the Devil, with the SS as his demonic servants. This may be interpreted as a reenchantment of our Western world previously disenchanted by modernisation, secularisation etc (cf Weber). In this article I show how the concept of myth – in both senses mentioned above – is shaped within the media texts and how it is received and interpreted by the audience. While some scholars (for example Rosenfeld) have expressed fear for a banalisation and normalisation of Hitler and the Nazi era through popular media, I argue that Hitler on the contrary fills an important role as the Devil of our times.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio , 2010.
Keyword [en]
Hitler, Nazi Germany, Popular culture, Film, Digital games, Audience studies
National Category
Media and Communications
Research subject
Communication Studies
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-39009ISBN: 978-0-313-38216-1OAI: diva2:317955
Available from: 2010-05-05 Created: 2010-05-05 Last updated: 2011-04-14Bibliographically approved

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Kingsepp, Eva
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