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Tape Work and Memory Work in Post-War Germany


Sonic traces of the Third Reich have held significant memorial power in post-war Germany. This article traces three works that sample one of the most well-known recordings from the Nazi period: Joseph Goebbels's declaration of Total War, delivered on 18 February 1943, and broadcast on newsreel and radio the following week. In both message and material, this recording epitomizes Friedrich Kittler's claim that tape is a military technology. The works examined span different memory debates in post-war Germany: Bernd Alois Zimmermann realized Requiem für einen jungen Dichter (1967–9) as West Germans were engaging in the first public discussions of the Holocaust, Georg Katzer's Mein 1989 (1990) is an East German composer's early response to the fall of the Berlin Wall, while Marcel Beyer's novel Flughunde (The Karnau Tapes, 1995) reveals the continued attempt to address the legacy of the Third Reich after German Reunification. Analysed together, these works create new configurations of discourse about wartime memory, moving away from geopolitical contours. Each of these artists transforms tape's wartime uses – namely dissemination and encryption – into forms of memorial labour. Through their physical and conceptual manipulations of tape, these artists create less deterministic readings of the Nazi past.

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Twentieth-Century Music
  • ISSN: 1478-5722
  • EISSN: 1478-5730
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