Speaker to give talk about Nazi-era films

By Glenn Battishill

A speaker coming to Ashland tomorrow, Friday, Nov. 2, will be discussing two things most people wouldn’t usually associate: Nazi’s and comedies.

And she won’t be discussing “Hogan’s Heroes.”

Dr. Valerie Weinstein will be giving a talk titled “Laughing Matters: Film comedy and the politics of race in Nazi Germany” Friday Nov. 2 at 3 p.m. in the Ridenour Room in Dauch. She is an assistant professor of German Studies at the University of Cincinnati and has publish several works on Wiemar and Nazi films and will be speaking about the role of anti-Semitism in film comedies made in the Third Reich.

“Much of the talk will focus on Nazi-era discussions of Jewish humor vs. German humor and the role of such thinking in Third Reich filmmaking, rather than a specific film,” Weinstein said, adding that many of the films being discussed would be completely unknown to Americans.

The talk is being sponsored by the English department as well as the Film Studies program, which is currently being developed at Ashland University.

Currently Ashland University only has a few film studies courses but members of the English department, including Dr. Maura Grady have been building a curriculum for a film studies major and minor. Dr. Grady hopes this talk will generate interest in a film studies major.

“I was inspired to invite her because of the new global film class we have at Ashland University,” Grady said.

“And since this year’s course is focused on German film it was the perfect way to bring in a great speaker and promote the new courses.”

Grady said the talk will focus on the ways that the Nazis tried to create a uniquely German sense of comedy films since they were opposed to other countries’ and cultures’ takes on the comedy genre.

Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda during the Third Reich, identified many typical comedy conventions such as jokes, punch lines and psychical comedy, as being foreign.

As a result many Nazi-era comedies were relied on situational comedies and mistaken identities to get laughs.

Grady said the talk will not deal exclusively with propaganda films but will deal broadly with German culture, history, and comedies during the Third Reich.

The speaker is not just for students with an interest in film but it would also be interesting to students studying history, politics, issues of race, cultures, war and peace.

“It’s a topic that has appeal to students in almost every field of study,” Grady said.

The event is free and there will be refreshments.