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Staging the Nazi Assault on Reason: Hanns Johst's Schlageter and the ‘Theatre of Inner Experience’

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 October 2005


Hanns Johst's play Schlageter is generally regarded as the most successful piece of Nazi theatre. Following its first performance in the early months of the Third Reich, it dominated German theatrical life throughout 1933 and 1934. This has traditionally been regarded as evidence of the essential conformity of the Third Reich's stage; yet since no other play achieved a similar prominence in the period, Gerwin Strobl finds that line of argument unconvincing, arguing that the success of Schlageter was due to its clever manipulation of its audience's emotions. The play was perfectly suited to the mood of many German theatregoers in 1933, betraying in its plot and characterization considerable psychological insight and a ruthless determination to exploit that insight for Nazi purposes. As such, Schlageter was the prime example of the Third Reich's ‘theatre of inner experience’, the ultimate aim of whose practitioners was to get German audiences to abandon reason and accept the irrational vision of history underlying the Nazis' ideological project. Gerwin Strobl is Lecturer in Modern German History at Cardiff University, specializing in popular perceptions and propaganda. He is the author of Germanic Isle: Nazi Perceptions of Britain (Cambridge University Press, 2000), has published on Shakespeare in the Third Reich in History Today (May 1997) and the Journal of Contemporary History (July 1999), and is currently writing a study of Nazi theatre.

Research Article
© 2005, Cambridge University Press

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