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Women who showed the way: Arbeiterinnen in DEFA feature film, 1946–1966

Jennifer L Good, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Until German unification in 1990 the study of post-1945 German film focused on the films of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), and largely ignored the film culture of DEFA in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). This dissertation addresses selected DEFA films of the immediate post-war period to 1966 under Soviet and German socialism. A striking attribute of many of these films is their reliance upon strong-willed and persistent female protagonists, who successfully raise issues of consequence while providing a model for the ideal worker (Arbeiterin or Arbeiter ) under socialism. The prominent female figures featured in the films of this study represent women under socialism as they interface with paid labor (Erwerbsarbeit ). The filmic characters of these films evolve from idealized figures leading a way out of the ruins of war to complex worker-individuals interacting with the accepted model of work and career (for both sexes) in the GDR. Filmmakers were not content to merely provide examples of the GDR's constitutional commitment to equality for women in the workplace and in society; they made films about women in their workplaces in order to amplify the worker experience of emancipation they believed was possible. This study contains film and cultural analysis for several films that have not received significant treatment including Bürgermeister Anna (Mayor Anna) directed by Hans Müller, Frauenschicksale (Destinies of Women) directed by Statan Dudow, and Sonnensucher (Sun Seekers) directed by Konrad Wolf. It also illuminates women's entry into the workplace in better-known films such as Wolfgang Staudte's Die Mörder sind unter uns (The Murderers are Among Us), Konrad Wolf's Der geteilte Himmel (Divided Heaven), and Spur der Steine (Trace of Stones) directed by Frank Beyer. The importance of the female figures of DEFA film, especially in this early period, represents a contribution to the study of DEFA film, representation of working women in GDR, and the discussion of gender in the context of the Cold War.

Subject Area

Germanic literature|Motion pictures

Recommended Citation

Good, Jennifer L, "Women who showed the way: Arbeiterinnen in DEFA feature film, 1946–1966" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3152701.