In 1983, both East and West Germany celebrated Martin Luther’s 500th birthday with great fanfare. Nowhere was this competition more provocative and visually arresting, however, than in two multi-part television plays which depicted Luther’s life: the West German Martin Luther, broadcast by the public station ZDF in April, and the East German title of the same name, aired in October. In this essay, I argue that the East German version constituted an appropriative strategy of memory formation – one that depicted Luther’s positive qualities and grafted them into the Marxist canon of heroes. In contrast, the ZDF Martin Luther, which featured a highly rational Luther, projected what Jan Assmann has termed a normative strategy of harnessing Luther’s memory, focusing on Luther’s intellectual arguments and anti-radicalism.

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Sound & Vision
VIEW Journal

Anderson, Stewart. (2013). Martin Luther in Primetime: Television Fiction and Cultural Memory Construction in Cold War Germany. VIEW Journal, (. 3), 22–26. doi:10.18146/2213-0969.2013.jethc028