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History of Communism in Europe

Volume 5, 2014

Narratives of Legitimation in Totalitarian Regimes – Heroes, Villains, Intrigues and Outcomes

Sebastian Haller
Pages 72-105

“Diesem Film liegen Tatsachen zugrunde ...” The Narrative of Antifascism and Its Appropriation in the East German Espionage Series Das unsichtbare Visier (1973-1979)

Since narratives of legitimation have to adapt to shifting discursive environments, they cannot be regarded as static phenomena. To present a sound understanding of their embedment in a specific context, narratives have to be approached from a variety of perspectives – they necessitate, in other words, a “thick description”. This paper addresses the narrative of antifascism as a central element of public discourse throughout the history of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and contextualizes it specifically in East German television culture. In addition to providing an understanding of antifascism as an ideological signifier exclusively for historical phenomena, such as National Socialism (NS) or Italian fascism, this paper proposes to conceptualize the narrative of antifascism – as it was officially defined in the GDR/SBZ – as a discursive formation that encompasses various political narratives such as militarism and imperialism, as well as past and present political events. Based on this assumption, the highly successful espionage series Das unsichtbare Visier (1973-1979), which was produced by the DEFA and broadcasted by the East German state television (DFF/DDR-F), will be discussed in relation to its exploitation of the narrative of antifascism. By approaching these issues, it is the objective of this paper to examine the practices of the appropriation of the narrative of antifascism in an era that was marked by the development of popular (socialist) television culture and, moreover, to contribute to the discussion of the dialectic between stability and flexibility that is inherent to narratives.

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