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Culture

Publisher Drops Book on Nazi Porno

A few weeks before it was to hit the presses, a German publishing house pulled a book based on the secret porn industry of the Third Reich. The reasons remain unclear.

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Nazi porn videos enjoyed a healthy trade in the early 1940s across front lines.

Any book that attempts to shed light on the little-known Nazi porn industry in the early 1940s is not likely to arrive in bookstores without a hitch.

But when the Rowohlt publishing house completely cancelled its contract with author Thor Kunkel shortly before his new novel, "Endstufe "(Final Step), was to hit the presses, a slight sensation rippled through the industry.

Little is being said by Rowohlt and its head Alexander Fest about the reasons for the cancellation of the for-March planned release. A statement by Rowohlt mentioned something about not being able to bridge differences on questions on the "aesthetic and subject matter" in central parts of the book.

The manuscript, which landed in the hands of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, was apparently not only filled with scenes of vivid sex and brutality, but made some questionable ties between the crimes of the allied army and those of the Nazi regime.

Kunkel is reportedly devastated by the cancellation of a book he spent three years researching and writing.

"I had the impression at a certain point that (the book) was being edited on ideological, not aesthetic levels," he said in an interview with Die Welt newspaper. "And I saw that as censorship. I'm 40 years old. I know what I'm writing."

Buchcover Thor Kunkel

Kunkel, Thor: Das Schwarzlicht-Terrarium.

The Frankfurt-born Kunkel is considered a rising talent in German literary circles following his prize-winning 2000 debut, "Das Schwarzlicht-Terrarium", about the Frankfurt drug and disco scene in the late 1970s.

Porn traded for raw materials

He came upon the subject material for "Endstufe" after watching a documentary in 1991 that looked into the little-known porn industry that apparently flourished during the Third Reich. After asking around, he eventually got in contact with someone who had copies of the so-called Sachsenwald films. The films are reportedly filled with with scenes of sex, power relations and violence. They were rumored to have been part of a flourishing raw materials trade.

Kunkel, based in Amsterdam, moved to Berlin to research the book, drawing upon witness testimony at the time, including a former actress in one of the films. He forms his novel around a group of Nazi scientists who work at a Secret Service clinic and produce porn films on the side. The films are soon a major success and part of a trade network that stretches throughout the wider war zone.

The author infuses the description of the group of scientists with an end of the world attitude. The characters are apparently self-indulgent and blissfully ignorant of the horrors of the concentration camps or battlefield misery, both of which are dealt with only fleetingly, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine.

Nazi theme shouldn't be too hot for Germany

No one seems to know for sure what combination of themes scared the publisher off: whether it was because it was novel that belittled the horrors of the Nazi period, or whether Kunkel documented the scientific experimentation at the time with a bit too much fascination.

Fest, who recently cancelled a book called "I too, had to kill" by an Israeli secret service agent, in a letter referred to the fact that Kunkel's work and subject matter could reap a hefty amount of criticism. But Kunkel seems nonplussed by such arguments.

"Germany is a very normal European country," he said in the Welt interview. "I don't think we should be raised as humiliated, mentally-disturbed garden gnomes.... Endstufe is written in a very modern language. It's not a historical novel. Instead, you have the feeling that the Third Reich is just around the corner."

  • Date 05.02.2004
  • Author DW Staff (dre)
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  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4dPA
  • Date 05.02.2004
  • Author DW Staff (dre)
  • Print Print this page
  • Permalink http://p.dw.com/p/4dPA