Nazi Literature Pre Oppression Subordination Essay

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Pre-Nazi Germany exhibits the kind of delicate yet poignant tension that precipitates major calamity or revolution. Contemporary art, music, and literature capture the social and political atmosphere and all its nuances, especially as it impacts the lives of individuals from various social spheres. Heinriche Heine employs the medium of poetry to subversively satirize the seeds of political and social oppression that were being planted during this critical period in German history. In “Germany: A Winter’s Tale,” Heine draws on the age-old tradition of epic poetic narrative to frame parallels with Teutonic history, all the while capitalizing on the ability of poetic devices like metaphor and imagery to deliver effective and bitter political satire. Christopher Isherwood comes at pre=Nazi Germany from a whole other perspective and point of view. As an outsider looking in, Isherwood offers a mode of inquiry from a temporary looking glass in his collection of short stories and novellas including “A Berlin Diary.” Both of these works of literature capture the highs and lows of society, albeit from the realm of the fringe to show how political oppression slowly erodes quality of life and hinders human progress and development. The protagonists of “Germany: A Winter’s Tale” and “A Berlin Diary” of course possess different voices and missions in their narratives, yet both show signs of resistance to systematic and often covert oppression.

Their different media is what most notably differentiates “Germany: A Winter’s Tale” from “A Berlin Diary.” Verse permits more leeway than prose, which is why Heine can meander into seemingly disparate, disconnected territory only to eventually veer back towards the main point of the story. In “Germany: A Winter’s Tale,” the protagonist presents the reader with an ironic, paradoxical, and even contradictory analysis of Teutonic pride and German nationalism. The protagonist—who is likely Heine in an autobiographical mode—travels both through time and space through the Fatherland. Through his journeys, he marvels at natural wonders through astonishing sentimentality but ultimately offers political commentary and critique on systems of social, political, and economic stratification and oppression. In Chapter One, the narrator lays the foundation for the political and social commentary by foreshadowing the impending doom of Nazi oppression and fascist ideology: “The maiden Europa is engaged / To the handsome genius ace / Of freedom; lying down, arm in arm, / They enjoy their first embrace.

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” Here, Heine establishes the counterpoint for right-wing political thought and culture by mentioning the burgeoning emergence of a pan-European identity and its ascription to the principles and ideals of freedom, equality, and social justice.

Rather than depending on the freedom and liberation of poetry from the conventions of prose narration, Isherwood offers a more blunt assessment of the political climate in pre-Nazi Berlin. In “A Berlin Diary,” the narrator assumes the autobiographical stance similar to that taken by Heine in “Germany: A Winter’s Tale.” Remarkably, both Isherwood and Heine use the atmosphere and ambiance of winter to anchor the reader’s focus on the chill, the desolation, and the darkness and despair looming in the public consciousness. The narrator of “Berlin Diary” describes several characters—such as Fraulines Schroeder and Bobby—from his own singular perspective as a British outsider. Knowing he is detached and can leave at any time undergirds the tension he perceives in the air when interacting with his fellow Berlin denizens. These are fringe-dwellers, counter-culture mavens who stand to lose the most from the autocracy that looms. “Everybody stole,” not because they are immoral thieves at heart but because they are victims of inequality and unfair social order, of injustice and political calamity (Isherwood 291). Although Isherwood describes the microcosm of German life and consciousness versus the macrocosmic approach offered by Heine, both of these authors showcase the means by which German xenophobia and conservatism paved the way for Nazi mentalities. This very same autocracy would presage an era….....

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Works Cited

Heine, Heinrich. “Germany: A Winter’s Tale.” Trans. Joseph Massaad. http://www.heinrich-heine.net/winter/wintereng27.htm
Isherwood, Christopher. “A Berlin Diary.” Goodbye to Berlin.

Sturge, Kate. “Censorship of Translated Fiction in Nazi Germany.” TTR : traduction, terminologie, rédaction. Jan 16, 2004, DOI: https://doi.org/10.7202/007482ar

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