Horrors of the Second World War
: Nazi Monsters on 21st Century Screens

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

This thesis identifies a previously neglected corpus of horror films, those which feature an explicitly Nazi or Nazi-created monster, and establishes Nazi horror as a prolific and persistent subgenre. In particular, it considers that more examples of the Nazi horror subgenre have been released in the 21st century than ever before, prompting two central research questions: why does the Nazi monster still occupy our screens and why does it continue to horrify us in the 21st century? In order to answer these questions, the thesis develops a psychoanalytic methodology which draws together the uncanny, the abject and trauma theory in order to understand the meaning of these monsters and connect them to their socio-political contexts. Such an approach thus considers whether these films are indeed a product of trauma, and if so whether they relate to historical events, the current political and cultural landscape, or both.

Three types of Nazi monster emerge, though these are not always easy to separate due to slippages and connections between them. Firstly, in the 21st century Nazi horror film the Nazi monster is often a product of the Nazis’ interest in the occult, be this their interest in cults and god-men, in demonology, or in necromancy. The thesis therefore argues that there remains an interest in Nazism and the occult because it represents a literal unease about the Nazis’ possible connections with the supernatural, but more importantly presents a way to explore humanity’s potential to be monstrous, particularly within domestic spaces. The second chapter considers the ‘Nazified movie monster’, a term which refers to three central types of monster which have been hybridised with the Nazi: the zombie, werewolf and vampire. These demonstrate both differences and similarities to their non-Nazi counterparts and to each other, subverting previous archetypes of these monsters in a way which evokes both horror and terror and connects these responses to crimes committed by soldiers during times of conflict. The final chapter examines the Nazi scientist by identifying recurring images of technology and machinery, eugenics and human experimentation, and the specific spectre of Josef Mengele. These themes and images demonstrate a persistent unease about the dangerous potential of new scientific enquiries, especially when abused or weaponised by the State.

The thesis concludes by bringing these different types of monster together. It argues that the Nazi monster has come to represent both specific, historical traumas such as the Second World War, but has also been amalgamated with a number of conflicts and traumas which have occurred since that period, and continues to resonate within a current context in which the fear of Nazism has come to the fore, once again, in public discourse.
Date of Award10 Jun 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorLaura Hubner (Supervisor) & Francis Mason (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Horror
  • Psychoanalysis
  • Trauma

Cite this

Horrors of the Second World War: Nazi Monsters on 21st Century Screens
Whittall, A. (Author). 10 Jun 2020

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis