From October 2003 until December 2004 there will be a discussion on the Die Heimat and Die zweite Heimat on the mailinglist according to this schedule. Every other Friday it will start with an introduction by Ivan Mansley, followed by a discussion over the weekend and the following week, sometimes weeks. The introductions and discussions are archived as PDF-books you can print yourself. Hundreds of pages of interesting insights you can read while you watch the Heimat or Zweite Heimat series again!

Some excerpts of previous discussions on the mailinglist below:

To: ,
Subject: die zweite heimat
Date: Sun, 2 May 1999 03:06:09 +1000
X-Priority: 3

Dear Reader
I suspect that this is going to be a long piece as I want to cover several topics. So lets begin with the formalities. My name is Richard Gilzean and I am, amongst other things, a filmmaker / writer living in Sydney, Australia (does this entitle me to claim the position as the first 'Aussie' to subscribe to your site?). I am also in the final year of my university studies, and it is in this capacity that I stumbled across your merry gang of DZH-ophiles. About two weeks ago, I was fereting/searching on the web under the name 'heimat' as part of my research for a paper I am writing about a little known, but very influential German screenwriter called Thea von Harbou (more about her later). Anyway, it was then that I came across your group, subcribed, and kept an eye on what people had to say about DZH.

My introduction to the series. I remember it well. In 1993, I was living in Munich with my Bavarian girlfriend (now wife) when 'Heimat' was broadcast. I had read an article on the Series in Sight and Sound and I was had some background to the story. My knowledge of the language was attrocious then (and not much better now I'm afraid to admit). Neverless, I was transfixed by the story of the Simons and the villagers of Schwabach. More cinematic storytelling stimulation followed a few weeks later with the broadcast of DZH. I thought I was doubly blessed, actually living in 'Der Stadt von einen millioner Dorfer' and following the lives of Herman and Co.

I want to move on from my relating to you my own recollection of the series to raise, what I feel, is the point of Edgar Reitz's masterpiece-in-progess. I would like to propose to the reader the question. Just what does 'heimat' means to you in your homeland? What are the stories that are told in your village/tribe/gang/community that seek to explain who you are and what makes you unique. Heimat is a German word, but its meaning is universal and still relevant today. I offer two cases:

1. In my own country we have a long-running television program called 'Neighbours'. (those of you in the UK should be familiar with it). 'Neighbours', tells the ongoing story of a group of people/families who live in the white middle class world of Ramsay Street. You know the deal ö relationships blosom and die, melodramatic crises are played out and resolved. Nothing REALLY terrible ever really happens. You might see a token Asian for a couple of weeks (but never an indigenous Australian).

2. The tragedy of Kosovo. One could easily read the history of the Balkans (and Europe) as a land in which the notion of heimat is one which has far reaching consequences.

I hope the points I am raising do not fall to far outside the interests of the group. What Edgar Reitz has given to the world is a work of personal cinema and storytelling. I know that his initial motivation was a reaction against the American version of WWII given to Germany in the form of the 'Holocaust' series. What I would like to engage in and encourage is a similar opening up of the cultural imaginary, an unlocking of people's memories.

As I mentioned earlier, I am researching and writing a paper on the screenwriter, Thea von Harbou. I plan to use the paper as the foundation for some later post-graduate research work and a film-script. What follows are the fruits of those labours. The paper is, for all intents and purposes, in a form that I am happy for people to read and comment on.

But before my paper, I would like to put out a commercial. As I mentioned at the beginning, I am a filmmaker and part of this game is the raising of finance to make the films that I want to make. A new internet company has been formed called AllAdvantagecom and, in short, what they aim to do is pay people (in other words you) to surf the Web. pays its own members referral fees to increase the size of the group instead of spending millions of dollars on advertising on the Yahoo!, Excite, television or the radio. So if your thinking that this is pyramid selling, well yes it is except that you are not expected to buy or sell anything. For further info please go to (the BMX103 is my referral code Number).


No place like Heimat : The Life and Times of Thea von Harbou

'It is a question of recognising the role of the stories we tell ourselves about our past in constructing our identities in the present.'(Morley:6)

In this paper, I want to consider the on-going line of questioning regarding issues of identity, memory and nostalgia in the construction of definitions of 'Europe' and 'European Culture'. It is in this context that I want to speculate on the centrality of the metaphor of Heimat through the life and work of the German novelist, actor, screenwriter and film director, Thea von Harbou.

Morley argues that questions of identity, memory and nostalgia are inextricably linked with patterns and flows of communication. That the 'memory banks' of this century are, in part, built out of the materials supplied by the film industry.'

Heimat is an untranslatable word with a multitude of meanings including, amongst others, "home," "homeland," "native soil," "motherland," and "place of origin and belonging,"

My own introduction to Thea von Harbou came about by chance. During the summer of 1998, I was in Munich visiting my in-laws. One evening, I attended a gathering of my extended family and their friends in one of those traditional restaurants in which Lederhosen clad waiters serve large portions of meat and potatoes, in order to celebrate the eightyfifth birthday of one of my aunts. My limited German more or less excluded me from participating in the conversations around the long wooden table. That was until I was introduced to one of the guests, Karen-Maria Kane, another octogenarian and one of the birthday aunt's neighbours. Frau Kane's last husband was an English solicitor, and she was keen to keep her level of conversational English up to par with this Australian in Bavaria. I learnt that Frau Kane was the niece of Fritz Lang's wife, Thea von Harbou. And that her aunt had been responsible for writing the screenplays for most of Lang's German films before he immigrated to the United States.

Thea Gabriele von Harbou was born December 27, 1888, in Tauperlitz bei Hof/Saale in the province of Bavaria. Ott refers to an autobiographical piece, published in Filmkunstler, Wir Ÿber uns selbst, in which she described herself as a Landpomeranze, or country person. She came from an impoverished family of the landed aristocracy. Her father, Theodore von Harbou, a former Prussian officer, was a forester and gamekeeper. Despite limited financial means they had been able to educate her with governesses and tutors, which goes some way to accounting for her limited view of the world and of human nature- as so often occurred with daughters of the aristocracy and haute bourgeoisie in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Later educated at the Luisen Convent near Dresden, von Harbou learned several languages, possessed an ear for music and played both violin and piano. Indeed, according to relatives, she was something of a child prodigy. At eleven, she could recite from Goethe's Faust; at twelve, Schiller's Don Carlos. As a young girl, von Harbou sold her first short story to a magazine, and on her thirteenth birthday had a volume of poems privately published.

In adolescence she studied acting and made her stage debut at the Dusseldorfer Playhouse in 1906, and thereafter acted in Weimar, Chemnitz, and Aachen before World War I. It was in Aachen that she came under the direction of her future husband, Rudolf Klein-Rogge. She played sentimental roles at first, but graduated to more complex characterisations, appearing as Lady MacBeth and as Judith and Krimhild in dramas by Fredrich Hebbel.

While touring as an actress, she began to publish short stories, animal tales, fairy tales, and full-length novels. Drawn to epic subjects, myths and legends, her literary efforts mirrored the popular taste taking a nationalistic turn with the onset of the war. Her novels became patriotic and morale boosting, urging women to sacrifice and duty while promoting the eternal glory of the fatherland. The titles of these works include Die nach uns Kommen (Those Who Come After Us), 1910; Der Krieg und die Frauen (War and the Women), 1913; Deutsche Frauen: Bilder stillen Heldentums (German Women: Portraits of Quiet Determinism), 1914; Du junge Wacht am Rhine! Ein Kriegsbuch fur die deutsche Jugend (You Young Guardians on the Rhine! A War Book for German Youth), 1915. Her fiction was strongly melodramatic, and as precursors to the Nibelungs novels later on, mixed in both their motifs and images her 'special blend of maudlin sentimentality and bloodthirsty inhumanity'. [Kreimeier p141]

Von Harbou married Klein-Rogge during the war, and switched to full-time writing, applying what she had learned of dramatic art to the construction of her novels and film scenarios. They moved to Berlin in 1917, where she launched a series of popular novels, while he looked for work as a screen actor.

During the 1920s and 1930s, von Harbou emerged as one of the most accomplished scenarists to come out of Ufa, recognised for her ability to effectively adapt works of literature. In addition to her work with May and Lang, she collaborated with directors F.W. Murnau, Carl Dreyer, E.A.Dupont, and other German luminaries.

Weimar Cinema: A national cinema. 'Just as nationhood is not a given but 'always something to be gained' so 'cinema needs to be understood as one of the means by which it is 'gained' (Morley: 6). In contrast with Hollywood, German film production during the 1920's, apart from Ufa, was largely made up of independent producers who, on their varying levels, gave individual attention to their products, while the United States was standardising her films as the entertainments policies of the great corporations hardened under the dominant, showmen's personalities of the industries leading producers.'

The abortive social upheavals manifest during the immediate post-war years in Germany found more permanent outlet in the arts than in politics·Expressionism ö it was essentially a movement designed to get away from actuality and to satisfy the desire to probe seemingly fundamental truths of human nature and society by expressing them through fantasy and dramatised mysticism'. This definition offers an insight into how expressionism's basic tenants lent themselves to von Harbou's writings and, in particular, how she used her material to exploit a widespread enthusiasm for nationalistic, romanticised images of the Middle Ages, and for bigoted, sweetly sentimental religious fervour.

To quote Morley, 'Modern man has suffered from a deepening condition of homelessness: The correlate of the migratory character of his experience of society and of self has been what might be called a metaphysical loss of "home". The project of modernity is then 'to make oneself somehow at home in the maelstrom' (Morley p2). Fritz Lang typified the notion of such a 'modern man'. The eighteen-year-old Lang, suffering from what Ott referred to as Lebungshunger ö a hunger for life, chose to reject the confines of his middle-class life in Vienna and rambled across Europe, principally through Germany. About 1910 Lang embarked on a sea voyage. Little is known of this Wanderjahr, but his travels took him to Asia Minor, North Africa, China, Japan and Bali. At the conclusion of this period, Lang returned to Europe and settled in Paris, living the Bohemian life of an artist in a rented studio. He fought in the First World War as a cavalryman for the Austrians, and it was around 1916, while recuperating in a Vienese hospital that he began to write his first screenplays.

The producer Joe May introduced von Harbou to the young Lang in early 1919. At the time, according to McGilligan, von Harbou happened to read a newspaper item announcing that one of her stories had been bought by May. Her publisher put her in contact with May, who was preparing to direct Die heilige Simpliza (St. Simplicia), the first of several features the producer-director would adapt from von Harbou's work.

'Thea von Harbou was blond and blue-eyed, a stately German type. People remember her as "tall" because of her commanding air, although she was only five feet six. Her hair in those days was usually smoothed down, pageboy style. She dressed simply but with individuality-silk or lace dresses, fur coat, cloche hat.
"Her photographs show her as a handsome 'Germanic' type and suggest an Ibsen character, oscillating between Hedda Gabler, Hilde Wangel, and Solveig," notes Keiner. "Feminine and emancipated at the same time; domestic and maternal and yet sophisticated; sensitive and psychologically orientated."(McGilligan p62)

Lang and Thea von Harbou discovered an instant kinship. They were married in Berlin on August 22, 1922. It was the second marriage for both. Von Harbou had divorced Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Their separation was amicable, however, and Klein-Rogge subsequently appeared as a principle player in all of the films which von Harbou wrote for Lang. Lang was married to Lisa Rosenthal, a Russian Jew from Vilna, but she apparently shot herself with Lang's pistol after arriving home and discovering Lang and von Harbou making love. According to McGilligan, several of Lang's associates would continue to maintain that he himself shot her and, together with von Harbou, influential persons at Ufa, and the local authorities, conspired to quickly cover the matter up.

Few collaborations in the history of film were more productive than that of Lang and von Harbou. In the ten years of their marriage, leading up to their divorce in 1933, von Harbou authored or co-scripted all of her husband's films. Kreimeier [1996] observes that, by integrating, as she did, her novels and screenplays, she was the first person to realise modern media linkage. This was possible partly because of her unprejudiced view of the literary metier and her excellent working arrangements between Ufa and Scherl, her publisher. It is also fair to say that they were both equally responsible for the stylistic and ideological confusion in their joint films.

Das Wandernde Bild (The Wandering Image) (1920) Filmed on location in the Bavarian Alps, von Harbou screenplay was one of several based on medieval legends in which she 'recounted in prose as precious as it was flowery the lives of pious women in the Middle Ages.' [Kreimeier p86]

Kampfende Herzen (Fighting Hearts) aka Die Vier um die Frau (Four Around a Woman) (1921) Starring Rudolf Klein-Rogge-still married to Thea at the time 'Von Harbou's over-elaborate storytelling techniques sometimes compounded Lang's: Both liked to use Rahmenhandlungen (framing devices), flashbacks within flashbacks, digressive asides, jarring transitions, and symbolistic cutaways. Usually several subplots vied with each other before weaving into resolution.' [McGilligan p68]

Der mŸde Tod (The Weary Death aka Destiny) (1921). We do not look at Lang's silent films for any profound social meaning. Kracauer views them as symptoms of Germany's malaise; influenced by Spengler's The Decline of the West' artists turned to stories which foreshadowed the inevitable doom of civilised man, overcome either by magically-endowed tyrants or the upheavals of anarchy. Destiny, which only enjoyed a succes d'estime in Germany after its success abroad as a 'typically Germanic' work, is a legend-like fable in which Death, or Fate, takes possession of a young girl and her lover; when she challenges him in a dream to spare their lives she passes through a series of experiences in the past in which her attempts to save her life and that of her lover fail. The film ends with her own voluntary death in order to share Elysium with her dead lover. 'Destiny, Kracauer claims, becomes one with victorious tyranny, even though Death, a sympathetic figure, would have it otherwise. Man cannot win once Fate is against him.' [Manvell p23]

Das indische Grabmal (The Indian Tomb) (1921). The screenplay was co-written by Lang and von Harbou. McGilligan notes 'Among their common interests was a restless curiosity about foreign cultures. Von Harbou was, like Lang, fascinated with India, where she hoped to journey one day.' [p64]. The screenplay, which was directed by Joe May, differed from von Harbou's earlier, more sentimental works in that the theme was distinctly tropical and monumental. This contradiction was only one of subject matter, and von Harbou reconciled it thanks to a talent for what she considered as commercialism of a high cultural order.

Doktor Mabuse, der Spieler Dr Mabuse, the Gambler (1922) is a thriller in two parts, which Lang was to claim as a 'documentary' or 'document' reflecting the current world situation. Mabuse, whose identity is concealed behind a miscellany of disguises, uses hypnosis to control his victims and opponents. He is finally overcome, and is discovered to be mad. He inhabits an anarchic, amoral and expressionist world of stylised sets; Kracauer sees in him a symbol of the crazed, anti-social power, uniting tyranny with chaos. [Manvell p23]

Die Nibelungen Part I:Siegfried & Part II Kriemhilds Rache (Kriemhild's Revenge). (1924) This was intended to be a projection of Germanic culture as well as a great pictorial epic; it weaves together the traditional stories in such a way as to emphasise, in von Harbou's words, 'the inexorability with which the first guilt entails the last atonement'. [Manvell p23]

Metropolis (1927) Kreimeier (p.142) notes that von Harbou had a distinctly German affinity to modern technology, which tended to both glorify and demonise it. 'She later observed that she had always been attracted by "the soul of the machine, the living, the vital element in the works of technology. The popular myth (propagated by Lang) is that it was his first sight of New York from the Atlantic which had given him the visual idea for this project and was to reach the naive conclusion in which the workers' representative shakes hands with the dictator, symbolising thereby the union of the brain and labour through the supremacy of the heart.

Spione (Spies) (1928)

Die Frau im Mond (The Woman in the Moon) (1929)

M (1931). Lang told Kracauer that when the story of the DŸsseldorf child-murders was first launched as an idea under the title Murderers Amongst Us, the studios he had hired were suddenly withdrawn by a studio manager whom Lang saw wearing the badge of the National Socialist Party. He had not realised what the film was about, and, unprompted, had thought it might be some form of attack upon Hitler. [Manvell p54]. Lang was to claim that this incident was to bring about the birth of his political awareness.

Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The Last Will of Dr. Mabuse) (1933)

The extent to which von Harbou contributed to the success of Fritz Lang has only recently begun to be put in proper perspective. Since World War II some French critics, including Lotte H. Eisner, acting on impulses more emotional than scholarly, downgraded her collaborative influence on Lang.

Political factors have made an evaluation of von Harbou more complex. She was intensely nationalistic, Pan Germanic, in the years between Kaiser and FŸhrer. Ott recalls a conversation he had with Lang in which he told him that she had embroidered emblems on her coat to represent Germany's lost provinces. Lang, the son of an Austrian-Jew, saw the writing on the wall with the accession of Hitler to power in 1933. Almost immediately after being asked by Goebbels to head up the production of German films, he fled his adopted Heimat for another one in the United States. Von Harbou had no desire to follow him.

'Kaes notes that the term 'Heimat' was a synonym for race (blood) and territory (soil) ö a deadly combination that led to the exile or annihilation of anyone who did not 'belong'. Under the National Socialists 'Heimat" meant murderous exclusion of anything 'un-German'.

The marriage was foundering by this stage and ended up in divorce when, in an ironic twist, Lang arrived at his Potsdam apartment to find his wife and her Indian lover in his own bed. His name was Ari Tendulkar, a man seventeen years her junior. Von Harbou secretly married Tendulkar soon after, much to the displeasure of the National Socialist hierarchy. She continued her career during the Third Reich, principally as a scenarist, writing screenplays for prominent Nazis including the actor Emil Jannings and filmmakers such as Gustav Ucicky and Veidt Harlan, the latter the director of the infamous Jud SŸss (1940) - a film described by historian Richard Grunberger as "the cinematic curtain-raiser for the Final Solution." (McGilligan p331). She also directed two films during this time; Elisabeth and der Narr and Hanneles Himmelfahrt.

In the aftermath of the Nazi defeat, von Harbou was detained in Staumuhle, a prison camp run by the British, from July 10 through to October 10, 1945. Frau Kane insisted that she was held for so long in part because she had written a novel championing pro-India independence and thereby offended British authorities.

A nationalist she was, however, and as McGilligan notes 'the Allied interrogation papers itemise her admitted memberships and activities during the Nazi era. In her own defence von Harbou insisted that she had only joined the Nazi Party in 1941 in order to assist Indians in Germany and Indian prisoners of war, that she never worked "explicitly for the Party and "despite repeated warnings, never attended Party meetings·Von Harbou denied any anti-Semitism, denied involvement in any Aryanisation of Jewish property, noting instead several instances where she had acted as a good Samaritan-helping people out of Germany or out of trouble with Goebbels (including her Jewish secretary Hilde Guttmann and actor Alfred Abel, who played the master of Metropolis).' [p330-331]

Upon her release she was sent to Berlin to work as a TrŸmmerfrau; one of the hundreds of women who collected and recycled the rubble from the city's destroyed buildings, for a solid year from October 1945 to October 1946. Her health steadily declined during the period. She found work dubbing U.S. films for audiences in Germany and resumed her writing in the evenings.

In her later years, according to Frau Kane, she held a teaching position at a Berlin technical school; instructing a new generation of Germans in the area of film production. Invited to the Berlinale as a guest of honour in 1954, von Harbou appeared at a showing of Der mŸde Tod, answering questions from the audience. As she left the screening, von Harbou slipped and fell from the stage. She developed a hip injury and was taken to a hospital, where a few days later, on July 1, 1954, she died. Her fascination with Indian culture remained as did her faith her Fuhrer until the end. According to Frau Kane, two framed pictures, one of Ghandi and the other of Hitler, hung side by side in her apartment. The last script she ever wrote which was produced was titled 'Dein Heimat ist meine Herz'.

'Heimat is a mythical bond rooted in long past, a past that has already disintegrated: 'we yearn to grasp it, but it is baseless and elusive; we look back for something solid to lean on, only to find ourselves embracing ghosts'. It is about conserving the 'fundamentals' of culture and identity. And, as such, it is about sustaining cultural boundaries and boundedness. To belong in this way is to protect exclusive, and therefore, excluding, identities against those who are seen as alien and 'foreigners'. The 'other' is always and continuously a threat to the security and integrity of those who share a common home. Xenophobia and fundamentalism are opposite sides of the same coin. For indeed, Heimat-seeking is a form of fundamentalism. And, like all fundamentalist beliefs, it is built around what Salman Rushdie calls 'the absolutism of the Pure'. The longing for home in modern European culture is not an innocent utopia' (Morley p4).

'Yet Heimat is an ominous utopia. Whether 'home' is imagined as the community of Europe or of the national state or of the region, it is drenched in the longing for wholeness, unity, and integrity. It is about community centred on shared traditions and memories'. As the German film director Edgar Reitz puts it:

'The word is always linked to strong feelings, mostly remembrances and longing. Heimat always evokes in me the feeling of something lost or very far away, something which one cannot easily find or find again·. It seems to me that one has a more precise idea of Heimat the further one is away from it'.

Parallels can be made between the von Harbou - Lang's trajectories and Reitz's sixteen hour television epic Heimat that first screened on West German television in 1984. Reitz's story centred on the life of a rural community in the western part of Germany in the years between the fall of the Kaiser and the aftermath of World War II. He conceived Heimat as the German 'answer' to the American series Holocaust. An attempt to reclaim German history from the Americans.

Reitz's film follows the contrast pattern between the stable world of the Heimat and the threatening assault of the Fremde (foreign). The central contrast between those (principally women) who stay in the village and those (men) who represent a culture of emigrants who left home. According to Morley, In Reitz's own production notes for the series, one of the central characters, Paul, is described as having 'become a real American · a man without a home, without roots, a sentimental globetrotter' (Morley, p10)

The New German Cinema filmmakers, such as Edgar Reitz, Wim Wenders and Alexander Kluge, arose during the 1960's as a reaction against "Papas Kino," the German cinema which produced Lang and von Harbou. And yet there is one filmmaker from this group who, in my mind, is both distinguished from his peers and acts as a bridge between the stories of von Harbou and the present. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, that most prolific, controversial and celebrated of the New German filmmakers was also a Bavarian who, through the strongly melodramatic stories he told, showed himself to be an instinctual filmmaker rather than a thinker. While the lives of both von Harbou and Fassbinder were, in their own ways, minor tragedies, the real strength of feeling to be found in their stories would produce a triumphant art.

Through the novels and screenplays of Thea von Harbou, it is possible to see how the idea of Heimat became a malleable concept into which many meanings became ascribed. A homage to traditional values and myths of bygone eras as told in her early works and in the later Nibelung sagas. Das indische Grabmal offered an adventure in colonialism and wanderlust for the German explorer before they return home. M warns of the threat to the security and integrity of heimatvolk posed by an excluded 'other'. Whilst in the face of the threat posed by the future, Metropolis with its illusion of the ultimate benevolence of the master-race, was to become one of Hitler's favourite films.


Applegate, Celia. The Question of Heimat in the Weimar Republic. 1992. New Formations No 17.

Ardagh, John. Germany and the Germans. 1995. Penguin. London.

Coates, Paul. The Gorgon's Gaze : German Cinema, Expressionism, and the Image of Horror. 1991. University of Cambridge Press. Cambridge.

Eisner, Lotte.H. Fritz Lang 1976 Da Capo Press. New York.

Fraenkel, Heinrich. The German Cinema. 1971 Aldine Press. London.

Hull, David.S. Film in the Third Reich 1969. University of California Press. Los Angeles.

Jensen, Paul.M. The Cinema of Fritz Lang. 1969 A.S.Barnes & Co., New York.

Keiner, Reinhold. Thea von Harbou und der deutsche Film bis 1933. 1991. New York. Olms.

Kracauer, Siegfried. From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film 1974. Princeton University Press. USA.

Kreimeier, Klaus. The UFA Story. 1996. Hill and Yang, New York.

McGilligan, Patrick. Fritz Lang ö The Nature of the Beast. 1997. Faber and Faber. London.

Morley, David. 'No Place Like Heimat: Images of Home(land) in European Culture' 1990. New Formations Issue 10-12.

Ott, Frederick W. The Films of Fritz Lang. 1979. Citadel Press, New Jersey.

Santner, Eric.L. Stranded Objects : Mourning , Memory, and Film in Postwar Germany 1990. Cornell University Press. New York.

Tudor, A. Conflict and Control in the Cinema. 1977. MacMillan. Sydney.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ RICHARD GILZEAN

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