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Count Not the Dead

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The Popular Image of the German Submarine


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“Iron coffins”, “grey wolves” and “steel sharks” – cast in images such as these, submarines are icons of Germany’s maritime tradition. In books and films, submarines have been used to promote political goals and to justify and explain an intriguing and sometimes ambiguous past. This work explores the cult and culture surrounding one of the most mythologized weapons of war. Basing his study on some 250 German novels, memoirs, fictionalized histories, and films, Michael Hadley examines the popular image of the German submarine and weighs the values, purposes and perceptions of German writers and film makers. He considers the idea of the submarine as a war-winning weapon and the exploits of the “band of brothers” who made up the U-boat crews. He also describes perceptions of the German public about the role of the U-boat in the war effort and the hopes that it carried for a successful outcome in the war against England. The place of the U-boat weapon in Germany’s propaganda machine is also defined and explained. In this book, Hadley explores the complex relationships between fact and fiction, political reality, and cultural myth, and draws conclusions about the way in which humans interpret their past and how present concerns change these views.

“Professor Hadley’s 1995 historiography of a century of writings about the German U-Boat in history, cinema and fiction is a ground breaking account. For the first time the ordinary reader is able to see a country’s entire efforts in a popular and complex field of work. The reader is also allowed into the worlds of the veteran, the theorist, the writer, the publisher and filmmaker, and the commercial and academic scenes they inhabit. By simply using a chronological approach, Hadley covers almost all the books, documentaries, novels, and much other media about the U-Boat from 1895 to 1995. He however does more than compile a large set of book reviews. Hadley places each book in a theoretical framework, of interest to both the literary academic and the general reader. He places each work in the context of its times, the other works of its era, and the changing social, emotional and political situation. We are given in this few hundred pages a history of Germany’s relationship to the sea, to its armed forces, and above all its submarine forces and men, in a book open to all yet firmly grounded in literary theory and academic study. Apart from a few subjects not covered [such as books about other navies, and a brief equivalent discussion of other national naval genres], there is little to criticise in it. Hadley for one does not link or compare controversies in the English-speaking maritime world with those of the German scene. Hadley’s privileged position as a Canadian naval historian and professor of German literature combine in the book of a lifetime. No-one in this subject has done this before or since.”

“All images for illustrative purposes only and not necessarily representative of the actual product itself”
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