The image of the officer in postwar West German prose fiction / by Craig W. Nickisch.
Seldom have traditional values, particularly those of duty and honorable service to one's country, been so severely tested as during Germany's period of National Socialism. The German literature following the Second World War offers extraordinary models for investigating conflict between established values and the demands of dictatorship. This dissertation outlines the situation of the officer in German literature and examines characterizations of the officer in the war novels written by Andersch, Boll, Gaiser, Grass, Junger, Kirst, Plievier, Remarque, Richter and others. The role of the warrior-hero, whom Homer introduced as a literary figure, seems to undergo significant diminution and reappraisal, if not utter rejection, in West German prose after 1945. For different reasons, National Socialism and the Weimar Republic had a negative impact on the character of the officer. In the latter it was the enlisted soldier, not the officer, who was the subject of greater interest. Ultimately, the German officer of World War II emerged in imaginative, sensitive and distinctly individualized portrayals. The novels written after 1960 are quite different from those which appeared earlier. The war and National Socialism are perceived in other ways, although the officers are similarly characterized as to intellect, leadership, training and responsibility. The officer's success or failure is measured not by victories, but by reactions which are appropriate to experience, and by his courage in the face of tragedy. A strongly defined, ethical and very human officer emerges in this literature, re-establishing his validity as a literary figure against whom societal and individual values can be tested.
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