The DEFA and Socialist Realism


The DEFA and Socialist Realism

The Cold War only made the Communist leaders tighten their grip on "their" films. The DEFA's production reached an absolute statistical nadir in 1952 and 1953, with only five films produced in each year. At a Party Congress of the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (SED, German Socialist Unity Party) in July 1952 and at a filmmakers' conference in September of that year a new filmmaking doctrine was called for: the Stalinist "Socialist Realist" method had to be intensified, with a focus on "positive heroes" and "issues of the German workers' movement".

Source: DIF
Kurt Maetzig

The best-known film made in this period was Kurt Maetzig's two-part "Thälmann – Sohn seiner Klasse / Führer seiner Klasse" ("Thälmann – Son of His Class / Leader of His Class", 1953-55) – a propagandistic portrait of the German Communist leader who was active in the 1920s and 1930s. "Das Lied der Matrosen" ("The Song of the Sailors"), which told the story of the mutiny of the Kaiser's navy in 1918, was filmed in 1958 by Maetzig and his assistant Günter Reisch. Subsequently Reisch himself made two films portraying the socialist leader Karl Liebknecht and gradually began to infuse more private and critical elements into the genre.