German Culture

Before discussing German culture it is necessary to define the term culture. In Essays on Culture and Society in Modern Germany culture is described as "both intellectual production and the milieu, or climate of opinion, in which it takes place."

Germany has a rich culture which is unsurprising because of its geographic position located in the heart of Western Europe. At various times in its history Germany has benefited from an influx of cultural ideas from other countries including France, Austria and Italy. Over the centuries Germany has been the breeding ground for many notable philosophers, composers, writers and scientists such as Martin Luther, Ludwig van Beethoven, Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Nietzsche. German philosophy was particularly based on relationships between religion and state, knowledge and faith, and reason and emotion.

Germany was the birthplace of many of history's most famous and important composers including Ludwig van Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach. The work of these composers, among others, was integral to the transition of music from the classical period to the romantic period. In 2006 Germany was the world's fifth largest musical market. Dance, rock and trance music were especially popular. Germany is also the host to many large annual rock music festivals including the Rock am Ring which is the country's largest music festival with over 80,000 attendees.

Germans also have a keen interest in sport. Soccer is clearly the most popular sport in Germany with the German national league having perhaps the best-attended professional soccer matches in Europe. Hundreds of thousands attend the games, with millions more watching on television at home. Marksmanship and tennis are two other popular sporting pastimes in Germany. Germany is also usually one of the main medal contenders at both the summer and winter Olympics.

German national dishes are also shared by Austria due to their geographic proximity and close historic ties. The most popular German meat is pork and is traditionally served cooked in a pot. Germany is also known for its sausage making with the country being renowned for its 1,500 different types of sausage.

German cinema also has a long and proud history. The German film industry can be traced back to the year after the cinema was invented. On November 1, 1895 Max Skladanowsky and his brother Emil demonstrated their new invention, the Bioscope film projector at the Wintergarten music hall in Berlin. Although cinema was originally the purview of the upper classes, the middle and lower classes were able to watch the new medium of cinema at fairgrounds. The hyperinflation of the Weimer Republic allowed film makers to take out loans from the bank for the production of their films. By the time the loans came to be repaid the currency had devalued so much that the repayment was worth only a minute amount of the original loan. At this time German cinema focused on crime and horror due to the grim mood of the populace after German defeat in World War I and the crippling toll of reparations on the German economy.

The rise of the Nazi regime in 1933 saw film being used as a tool for Hitler's propaganda. Many German film makers fled to America; the ones that stayed were co-opted to produce pro-Aryan and anti-Jewish propaganda. After World War II German cinema began to open up and foreign films such as Charlie Chaplain and other American productions began to become popular. By the 1960s increased prosperity was being felt by the West German population and cinema reached a turning point. Other leisure activities had been opened up to people who previously could not afford to participate in them. This led to cinema attendances dropping and a crisis developing in the German film industry. To solve this problem, the number of films made in Germany was cut back. The types of film produced in the 1960s included westerns, crime films and sex films.

More recently German cinema experienced somewhat of a resurgence especially in the last decade of the twentieth century. Films like ‘Run Lola Run' and ‘Goodbye Lenin' achieved international critical acclaim. Foreign films are often shown at the Berlin Film Festival, which is one of the world's foremost film festivals with film makers competing to win a prestigious Golden Bear award.

German Culture: Selected full-text books and articles

German Cultural Studies: An Introduction
Rob Burns.
Oxford University Press, 1995
Gender and Germanness: Cultural Productions of Nation
Patricia Herminghouse; Magda Mueller.
Berghahn Books, 1997
Infinite Boundaries: Order, Disorder, and Reorder in Early Modern German Culture
Max Reinhart.
Sixteenth Century Journal Publishers, 1998
Essays on Culture and Society in Modern Germany
David L. Gross; Charles E. McClelland; David B. King; Gordon A. Craig; Gary D. Stark; Vernon L. Lidtke; Leonard Krieger; Bede K. Lackner.
Texas A&M University Press, 1982
The German Question: A Cultural, Historical, and Geopolitical Exploration
Dirk Verheyen.
Westview Press, 1999 (2nd edition)
After Unity: Reconfiguring German Identities
Konrad H. Jarausch.
Berghahn Books, 1997
Culture and Inflation in Weimar Germany
Bernd Widdig.
University of California Press, 2001
Evolving Jewish Identities in German Culture: Borders and Crossings
Linda E. Feldman; Diana Orendi.
Praeger Publishers, 2000
All Power to the Imagination! The West German Counterculture from the Student Movement to the Greens
Sabine Von Dirke.
University of Nebraska Press, 1997
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