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German Department hosts Maine premiere of Marriage in the Shadows

Story posted November 11, 2013

The Bowdoin German Department was invited by the DEFA/East German Film Library at UMass in Amherst as one of 20 college departments to participate in its fall 20@20 tour celebrating the twentieth anniversary of its founding in 1993. The mission of the DEFA Film Library is to make accessible to English-speaking students, scholars and viewers the vast number of East German films that were largely unknown and unavailable in the West during the cold war. 

Marriage in the Shadows was directed by Kurt Maetzig in the Soviet zone of occupation two years after the war in 1947 and is the first German film, East or West, to deal exclusively with the persecution of the Jews under the Nazis and to make visible in a feature film what had happened in human terms during the Third Reich. Shown in all four sectors of occupied Berlin and across Germany, the initial release of the film reached 10 million viewers.

Maetzig’s debut film is based on the true story of an acclaimed German theater couple, Meta Wolff and Joachim Gottschalk. The film depicts the marriage of an up and coming German film and theater actor and a German Jewish actress who is the darling of the theater world in 1933. As Nazi anti-Semitic policies increasingly infringe on their lives, they are shown struggling to survive from 1933 to 1943. When the noose tightens and no way out remains they end their lives together rather than be separated by deportation.

 The newly re-mastered digital restoration of the film shown in Smith Auditorium on October 21 was warmly received by a large audience of students, faculty, and community members and inspired a lively discussion with Professors Helen Cafferty, Steven Cerf, Birgit Tautz and Tricia Welsch.