This article details the brief collaboration between Siegfried Kracauer and Gregory Bateson in the Film Library of the Museum of Modern Art during World War II as an intriguing episode in intellectual history, touching on film and media studies, anthropology, and German studies. The article presents the Frankfurt School as part of the 1940s’ memorandum culture and thereby attempts to situate the historiography of critical theory during this formative period within a broader intellectual landscape, that is, in dialogue and competition with several other projects, to analyze the Nazi German enemy, in this case, the Culture and Personality School. The article takes Kracauer’s and Bateson’s analyses of the Nazi movie Hitlerjunge Quex as a case in point and, with the help of institutional and biographical contextualization, develops some of their most important methodical innovations and insights into Nazi German propaganda. In particular, the article points to Kracauer’s concept of hypnosis and relates it to Bateson’s media theory.
In the early 1940s the world’s biggest center for film studies was the Film Library of the New York Museum of Modern Art.1 Founded in 1935, the Film Library formed part of a large-scale initiative directed by John Marshall, a Rockefeller Foundation officer and patron of early US-American media studies,2 who distributed large sums of money to acquire film reels and employ specialized staff. By 1942, one year after Siegfried Kracauer and one year before Gregory Bateson arrived as in-house film analysts,3 the library personnel had reviewed 3.8 million feet of film not for academic purposes but as a service to government agencies.4 When hiring Kracauer, but also Bateson’s British friend Geoffrey Gorer three years earlier, Marshall pursued the ambitious plan of creating a “new sort of film research” that would “make film scholarship part of the humanities.”5
The task of this article is to analyze the encounter of Kracauer and Bateson—two unorthodox members of the Frankfurt School and the Culture and Personality School—working in 1943 at that busy Film Library, analyzing the Nazi propaganda film Hitlerjunge Quex. With a focus on Kracauer’s related writings, among others his memorandum “Propaganda and the Nazi War Film” as well as his classic study of Weimar cinema, From Caligari to Hitler, and Bateson’s 1943 memorandum “An Analysis of Hitlerjunge Quex,” I approach this collaboration within the US-American “memorandum culture” in two steps.6 First, I lay out the improvised social scientific common ground between Kracauer and Bateson to explain their interest in Hitlerjunge Quex.7 I discuss the conceptual connection between propaganda and culture, and the shared concern with phenomena related to hypnosis and trance, through a microanalysis of Kracauer’s and Bateson’s interpretation of billowing flags in Hitlerjunge Quex. Second, I situate the collaboration in Bateson’s adventurous professional path from social anthropologist to film analyst to cybernetic communication theorist. Here I identify an inconspicuous but recurring problem in Bateson’s work: his conceptualization of a specific form of rhythmic muscular tremor called “clonus.” I relate Bateson’s interpretation of clonus to all the previously mentioned aspects of culture and propaganda, as well as hypnosis and trance. This fosters a better understanding of Bateson’s curious “media theory” at work in his analysis of Hitlerjunge Quex and how it considers trance media and mass media within a single conceptual framework.
Kultur, and Propaganda
At the brink of World War II, arguably no one had a more intimate critical knowledge of Weimar cinema than Kracauer.8 During the later years of his exile in Paris, he turned to the problem of propaganda. Together with his wife, Elisabeth Kracauer,9 and with the support of Max Horkheimer’s exiled Institute for Social Research in New York, he wrote between 1936 and 1938 an extensive study on totalitarian propaganda. This work, Kracauer hoped, would open doors and secure him and his wife a transatlantic passage to the United States. To his dismay, however, the first review of the text by the thirty-four-year-old Theodor W. Adorno was extremely unfavorable. In his report on his early mentor’s text for Horkheimer and the institute,10 Adorno remarked that “the work is neither of actual theoretical value, nor is it sufficiently based on empirical material, but expresses at times in most useful literary phrases particular experiences and observations, which carry prevalence beyond the outsider [English in original] position of the author.”11 Adorno rigorously revised the text for publication in the institute’s journal Studies in Philosophy and Sociology, but Kracauer declined the publication offer, since he found his text “defaced beyond all recognition.”12 In 1940 Adorno recycled his abridged version for a project that had come to occupy the staff of the institute and would continue to do so for most of the coming year, the German Project:13 “[Leo] Löwenthal related to you my suggestion to limit the new German Project to the ‘infrastructure’ [Unterbau] and to replace the section on culture with propaganda. I would prepare the draft of the propaganda section following Kracauer’s article, which might after all prove useful for us.”14
In the introduction from February 24, 1941, the institute’s German Project makes the case for a problem-oriented group study “to provide an understanding of National Socialism by placing the movement in its cultural setting. . . . The economic problems of totalitarianism are covered by other studies now in progress, but the cultural problems have not yet been treated on the basis of an integrative method. They will form the subject matter of this project.”15 Pitting the “culture of the Thirties” against German Kultur,16 this brief outline describes large parts of wartime German studies conducted in the United States. The study of the Nazi German “cultural setting” through propaganda thus gained momentum: Kracauer’s work on totalitarian propaganda, even if it deviated from the institute’s orthodoxy, brought the German Project (which would be rejected in May–June 1941) to the Film Library. It was there that Bateson adopted the sequence Kultur into propaganda into culture.17
Translation Assistance at the Film Library
In 1942 the anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, her husband, decided to put all new projects on hold and deal exclusively with America’s enemies and especially with the threat of Nazi Germany. Within their academic circle, the Culture and Personality School sought to develop a comparative grid of culturally relativistic sociologies and psychologies, and Mead and Bateson had started in 1940 to create research projects that dealt with the impossibility of conducting fieldwork in enemy nations. In the rush of events dictated by the war, they quickly wrote up and published first articles on “morale” and improvised a research program later called “the study of culture at a distance.” They entered the memorandum culture of the 1940s: they worked in various private institutions and circles (Mead mainly operated from the Museum of Natural History in New York and commuted to Washington, DC), participated prominently in political action committees (Bateson held, among others, a position at the Council on Intercultural Relations and functioned as secretary of the Committee for National Morale), and formed panels for interdisciplinary conferences on the war. They interviewed German émigrés in New York, psychoanalysts and sociologists with expert knowledge of the current situation in Europe. Furthermore, they collected and analyzed cultural artifacts, audio recordings, photographs, and films. They designed an exhibition on Germany, created a card game for children to promote democracy, and organized film screenings.18 In 1942–43 Bateson, supported by the Film Library’s Rockefeller Foundation Funds, assumed a position as a film analyst in the MoMA Film Library.19 There he spent most of his time preparing a detailed study of the “Nazi German character” in the propaganda movie Hitlerjunge Quex (Hitler Youth Quex), a “martyr film”20 produced by the Universum-Film AG in 1933,21 one of the recent additions to the library’s European films collection.22Hitlerjunge Quex shows the conversion of a twelve-year-old boy, Heini Völker, into a Hitler Youth member and, in the terms of Eric Rentschler’s classic study of Nazi cinema, into a “political medium.”23 The film is loosely based on the 1932 murder of Herbert Norkus.24 As a martyr of the Nazi movement, he turned into the mythical “standard-bearer of the youthful Immortals, and his blood drenched the magical Blood Flag of the Hitler Youth.”25
Before leaving the United States to conduct intelligence work and create “black propaganda” for the Office of Strategic Services,26 Bateson circulated versions of the resulting text as a mimeographed memorandum in 1943 and again in 1945, but it remained, in its entirety, unpublished until 1980 and has gone—with few exceptions—largely unnoticed.27 Instead, shorter versions of his analysis have been much more influential in the critical reception of Hitlerjunge Quex. It would be wrong to speak of mere prepublications, as each of them has its own emphasis and reception history. The first publication originating from Bateson’s analysis of Hitlerjunge Quex, “Cultural and Thematic Analysis of Fictional Films,” published in 1943, had the most immediate impact on the analysis of Nazi Germany during World War II. Its main takeaway was that a Jekyll-and-Hyde-style split constitutes the Nazi personality: “In fact the problem of Germany is in part a problem of preventing a pendulum from swinging too far into aggressive purity in good times and into degenerate self-contempt in bad.”28 Further parts of the analysis were published in 1953 as “An Analysis of the Nazi Film Hitlerjunge Quex,” a composite text edited from elements of the 1943 publication and the unpublished memorandum. The 1953 summary, brilliantly reworked by Mead in The Study of Culture at a Distance and in the context of the Cold War, recapitulates the memorandum’s most important aspects, however, with a strong bias toward an analysis of totalitarianism. It focuses on how in Hitlerjunge Quex communism appears as the “systematic opposite” of Nazism. Indeed, in representing the communists, “the Nazis are merely describing the worst side of their own nature”29—Bateson’s lasting contribution to film studies.30 A third, rather unusual, and rarely quoted but extremely influential mode of publication was a didactic version of the film Hitlerjunge Quex with analytic title links, including short summaries and translations, prepared for the Museum of Modern Art. Most US film scholars of the second half of the twentieth century viewed Hitlerjunge Quex interrupted during the film’s first forty minutes time and again by Bateson’s comments, an idiosyncratic but suggestive mix of political and psychological analysis of German family life, starting with a new title sequence:
In its heyday, in 1933, Nazism offered the glamor of Perpetual Youth and/or Heroic Death. And these two themes were played up to the full. The first chapter of “Mein Kampf” tells us how Hitler won the struggle against his father and became a leader of Youth, instead of growing up into a responsible bureaucrat and father of a family. If we want to know what makes a fanatical Nazi tick, we must look at how the Nazi propagandists represented the German family—how they made it appear that Youth was infinitely desirable, and what sort of “love” they took as their model when they set out to build a population of boys in love with Death. The film represents the conversion to Nazism of Heini, a 12-year-old boy. Partly he is converted by an idealized picture of “Nazism,” set against a caricature of “Communism”—but, more significantly, his conversion is woven into a stock picture of German family life. Our analysis will deal with this question: How are the loves and hates in the stereotyped German family invoked and rearranged by the propagandist to make them support Nazism?
Bateson’s didactic title links are structured toward his diagrammatic analysis of the film’s plot, with special attention to family and sexual relations, including Quex’s and National Socialism’s homoerotic inclinations. Taken together, these three publications contain several of the main ideas relevant for the following analysis.
Bateson’s full memorandum, however, first published in 1980, is the most comprehensive and nuanced account of his film-analytic work. “An Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex’” attempts a cultural analysis through propaganda analysis. In a virtuoso composition, Bateson sees two major “cycles” toward the protagonist’s death, “first his incomplete death when his mother turns on the gas and second, his final death at the hands of the Communist.”31 He scrutinizes the film’s family structure, its representation of political affiliation, and its quasi-religious motives, interweaving these themes into one of the great intellectual achievements of the memorandum culture. It should therefore serve as the most important source for further studies of Bateson’s analysis of the culture of Nazi Germany in Hitlerjunge Quex and, as this article intends to show, his collaboration with Kracauer at the Film Library.
When Bateson arrived at the library, Kracauer had already established himself as the institution’s spiritus rector, even if he lacked a steady position due to his legal status as friendly enemy alien.32 Especially his publication of “Propaganda and the Nazi War Film” in 1942 distinguished Kracauer within the library and beyond. The collaboration between Kracauer and Bateson during their overlapping tenure in the first months of 1943, as far as one can reconstruct it, was based on translation assistance. Bateson, who rated his German-language skills in a CV of the early 1940s as “read with difficulty,” asked Kracauer for help in translating German idiomatic expressions like Schinkenkloppen (a game of spanking in Hitlerjunge Quex). It is likely that these discussions of cultural concepts led Kracauer to lecture the eager ad hoc film analyst Bateson about German film history—From Caligari to Hitler in 1943—as one must assume from Bateson’s confident references to Weimar and Nazi cinema at the time he wrote his study later that year.33 Kracauer’s historical claim that Weimar cinema prefigured the monstrous characters and events that then became real clearly informs Bateson’s argument.34 Beyond that, Bateson’s notes leading to “An Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex’” show that he adopted and developed Kracauer’s vocabulary and method of “Structural Analysis,”35 as presented in appendix 1 of “Propaganda and the Nazi War Film.” In particular, Bateson’s analysis is inspired by the interpretation of one of Kracauer’s observations that associates the advancement of German soldiers with the waving of flags.36
The soldiers eat on the march and sleep in airplanes, on travelling tanks, guns and trucks. . . . This eternal restlessness is synonymous with impetuous advance, as the Nazi films never fail to point out through moving maps and marching infantry columns. . . . Their appearance on the screen is particularly well suited to conveying the idea of advance, and that is obviously the effect strived for. It is obtained, too, by repeated closeups of waving Swastika banners, which, by the way, serve the additional purpose of hypnotizing audiences.37
Bateson’s influence on Kracauer, on the other hand, surfaces in a single detail, an inconspicuous question of translation. This detail, however, is crucial and warrants more careful attention, namely, the rendering of the word flattern in the Hitler Youth song “Vorwärts! Vorwärts! Schmettern die hellen Fanfaren” (Forward! Forward! Blare the bright fanfares), written by Youth leader Baldur von Schirach on the occasion of the film production of Hitlerjunge Quex (fig. 1).
In the concluding chapter of From Caligari to Hitler, “National Epic,” Kracauer tries to capture the Nazi tendencies of “mountain films” produced in the early 1930s, especially in their relation to more explicitly political “national films.” In particular, Kracauer characterizes Luis Trenker, a South Tyrolean alpinist, filmmaker, and actor, as a “rebel” and argues that the use of a “flag” serves as proof for the proto–Nazi character of Trenker’s movies. To establish a strict connection between rebel and flag, he first makes a reference to Erik Homburger Erikson’s psychoanalysis of Adolf Hitler.38 The paraphrase,39 however, is so obscure that Kracauer must have assumed a general knowledge that no longer exists. Erikson, affiliated to the academic circle around Mead and Bateson, interpreted the Nazi appeal to the German people based on his analysis of Hitler as a figure that “asks both fathers and sons to identify with the Führer; an adolescent who never gave in.”40 Kracauer then moves from the Nazi adolescent rebel to the flag: “To enhance national passion, elaborate use is made of close-ups of flags, a device common with the Nazis.”41 He explains the role of the flag in the final scene of Trenker’s Rebel and then describes a similar use of the flag in Hitlerjunge Quex, one of the first propaganda movies to employ adolescents as its protagonists: “This apotheosis of rebellious ardor is all but duplicated in Hitlerjunge Quex.”42 Kracauer refers to the Hitler Youth song “Vorwärts! Vorwärts!” and its chorus, which pervades Hitlerjunge Quex. At this point Kracauer might be expected to quote his own translation of the first line of the chorus “Uns’re Fahne flattert uns voran,” etymologically close to the original, “Our banner flutters before us.”43 Instead, he chose Bateson’s version: “‘Our flag billows before . . . ’”44 This changes everything. The wavelike quality of “to billow” that is lost in “to flutter” (and, arguably, in the German flattert) guided Bateson’s seminal analysis of Hitlerjunge Quex, I argue, “for the light which [it throws . . . ] on what makes Nazis tick.”45 And apparently, by giving preference to the verb to billow, Kracauer adopted Bateson’s line of interpretation.46
In a footnote, Bateson adds to his text a lengthy explanation about why he preferred billow instead of flutter to describe the flag’s waving. This choice seems to have resulted from extensive discussions about the term with several people, most likely including Kracauer:
In translating the “Nazi Youth Song,” the word flattern has been rendered as “billow.” The dictionary meaning of this word is “flutter,” and the German word is certainly sometimes used in this sense (e.g. in referring to birds.) A small experiment shows, however, that Americans, when asked to visualize a flag fluttering, usually see a small flag moving rapidly or a large flag rather far away, whereas the image called up in Germans by the words Fahne and flattern is of a large flag close up. In Nazi films, the flags are usually photographed to fill the frame, so that the emphasis falls not to the changing outline of the flag, but rather on the wave motion in the middle of the fabric. This billowing motion is clearly intended to have a fascination similar to that of waves in water.47
To understand the impact of this minor difference in word choice, flattern—“
to flutter”—“to billow”48—Bateson’s work in the Film Library on Nazi Germany needs to be situated within several of the many spheres of his work before and after, that is, as the “missing link” in Bateson’s biography between his fieldwork as a British social anthropologist studying the Iatmul of the Sepik River region of New Guinea, as well as the people of Bajoeng Gede in Bali,49 and his later work as a communication theorist within the cybernetic circles established through the conferences organized by the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. In short, the hypnotic quality of the billowing flag, its endless waving, connects Bateson’s and Mead’s anthropological analysis of schizophrenia in primitive people, particularly expressed in Balinese trance rituals, to what Bateson later called “psychology,” contemporary neurophysiological research conducted on clonus, a specific form of rhythmic muscular tremor.50 Or even shorter, expressed in a scheme: clonus (trance)—to billow (propaganda)—clonus (cybernetics).
Media Education in
To reevaluate Bateson’s work on cybernetics, propaganda, and trance, it proves helpful to put Bateson’s work into perspective from the moment of his own retrospective, during which his full memorandum “An Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex’” was first published in 1980, the year of his death. Only in 1977, more than three decades after his work in the Film Library, in an address delivered to a conference in New York, did Bateson refer explicitly to the connection between clonus and cybernetics:
To this “law” [of sensory perception] Norbert Wiener added a second part which I think he never published fully, though I consider it to be the most important item in “psychology” after the original Weber-Fechner-Law [emphasis added]. Wiener was working on the formal structure of that cybernetic oscillation of muscle called clonus [emphasis added] and found that the tension of an isometric muscle is proportional to the logarithm of the frequency of neural impulses reaching the muscle. A most elegant finding, which shows that (expectably, though it took one hundred years to get there) the efferent side of the brain works by the same epistemological limits as the afferent.51
The rhythmic muscular tremor called clonus came to be one of the classical examples that contributed to the shaping of cybernetics.52 However, Bateson’s offhand remark about “the formal structure of that cybernetic oscillation of muscle called clonus” was more than a footnote to Wiener’s research. It came about two years after a more thorough reinterpretation of his own early work in his essay “Some Components of Socialization for Trance,” without directly quoting Wiener’s research but specifically discussing muscular clonus. Clonus is central to Bateson’s work, I argue, because it helps us to understand the relationship between his studies of “mind” and body,53 as well as between his studies of Balinese and German culture, that is, in the terms of his intellectual circle between culture and personality.
In 1975 Bateson looked at his and Mead’s book of 1942, Balinese Character, which includes a photographic analysis of Balinese culture and personality, a work completed at the same time that they analyzed the “German Character.” The volume was the first major publication of materials from their fieldwork in Bali in the late 1930s, which was funded by a grant from the “Committee for Research in Dementia Praecox.”54 Bateson had employed photography and film to document a foreign culture, taking stills and film at the same time, with one camera in his hand and the other around his neck.55 In Balinese Character the photographic representations of Balinese culture were Bateson and Mead’s main analytic tool, while writing was reserved for the introduction and the descriptive notes to the book’s hundred plates. Already in 1942 and contemporaneously with their New Yorker “Cerebral Inhibition Meeting” discussing “hypnosis” and “conditioned reflex,”56 clonus had caught his and Mead’s attention in “plate 18,” as they had used psychological terminology to characterize “dementia praecox,” or schizophrenia. The plate depicts the arrangement created for the purpose of transitioning two young girls into a trance state while four men are holding strings to which dolls are attached. These men’s arms perform involuntary jerking movements and therefore appear to turn into independent limbs. Mead and Bateson interpret this phenomenon in relation to dementia praecox, as a disintegration of the men’s psychological and bodily coherence.57 “After a few minutes, trembling or changes in tension of the string set up clonic contractions [emphasis added] in the arms of the two men, and the dolls begin to ‘dance.’ . . . Rhythmic clonic contraction is an example of a part of the body taking its own independent integration.”58 In his 1975 reinterpretation Bateson commented on the same phenomenon, replacing the cultural specificity of the Balinese case with the universalizing terms of cybernetics. “This oscillation is called clonus in neurophysiology and is a recurrent series of patellar reflexes, generated in a feedback circuit. The effect of each contraction is fed back as a modification of tension to the calf muscle. This change of tension triggers the next patellar reflex.”59 The same sequential paradox, Bateson argues, is generated “in, for example, a buzzer circuit.”60 Although the brain has no direct control over the involuntary contractions of antagonizing muscles, it may serve, according to Bateson, as a higher authority that can regulate or stop the oscillations with “meta-injunctions.”61
Bateson’s essay “Some Components of Socialization for Trance” (1975) could be understood as such a “meta-injunction.” It exposed the poor interpretative work that the photo book on Bali had received since its publication, despite its status as founding document for what would become visual anthropology. Taking the task into his own hands and with the help of clonus, Bateson reconsidered a Balinese model of trance and used it as a basis for a theory of socialization.62 This theory of socialization has three key components or “teleologies.”63 These procedural patterns describe modes of experiencing alterity in Balinese trance: an inner force, leaving the body, Outwards; an outer force, entering the body, Inwards; a transformative force that creates a remotely controlled body, New Self. Bateson’s modelization of trance in Bali deserves further analysis, all the more since his interpretation of Nazi Germany, especially in regard to trance states, is directly linked to his work on Balinese culture. Accordingly, Bateson’s work on Balinese trance is crucial to a full appreciation of his collaboration with Kracauer on Nazi film propaganda. As shown in the following, Bateson’s film analysis relates to his own use of media as research tools, and both relate to his media theory. A conception of media exists in Bateson’s work that continues a legacy of the nineteenth century in which technical means of communication were theorized according to religious and quasi-religious modes of communication with other worlds and higher beings, for instance, grasped in the term spiritist medium.64 Only with this tradition in mind does it become possible to comprehend the close connection between trance and media in Bateson’s work, one so close that it is fair to assume that he asked himself: What sort of trance medium is Hitlerjunge Quex?65 To assess Bateson’s media theory, one should employ a descriptive use of the term media rather than a normative one. A common misunderstanding of this method originates from the suspicion that in this way everything turns into media and that such an approach reduces the term media to a catchall and thus renders it meaningless. Instead, the limitation proposed here functions differently and arguably methodically even more soundly: only those few things and people that the actors in question take to be media are considered media. In the case of Bateson, then, this means the media of a certain, Balinese or Nazi German, culture.
Outwards (Bali): Bateson describes the—effortlessly achievable—induction of clonus to an academic readership, supposedly bent into chairs, as follows:
While sitting, place the leg with thigh horizontal and foot supported on the floor. Move the foot inwards towards you so that the heel is off the floor and the ball of the foot supports the weight of the leg. When the weights and angles are correctly adjusted, an oscillation will start in the muscle of the calf with a frequency of about six to eight per second and an amplitude of about half an inch at the knee.66
The rhythmically shaking limb, presented as a universal experience of uncontrollable inner force, “outwards,” is then, as cited earlier, recognized in the pictures in Balinese Character. It is the same tremor, generated in the biceps of the Balinese men during the sanghyang déling dance, discussed in the following.
Inwards (Bali): Bateson describes a scene of trance induction through rhythmic clonus, referring to the aforementioned plate 18 that depicts the physical education of Balinese children—although Bateson’s photo camera actually could not capture the clonus. The clonus, in the first example experienced as an outward manifestation of an internal force, now becomes an outward force with an internal manifestation.
In plate 18, two little girls are put into the trance state in which they will dance. The procedure is a little complicated: two dolls, weighted with bells, are threaded on a string about fifteen feet long which is strung between two vertical bamboo sticks. The sticks are held by two men in such a way that clonus in their biceps will change the tension in the string causing the dolls or dedari (angels) to dance up and down, while the weighted dolls provide a feedback promoting the clonus in the men’s arms. When the dedari are dancing fast, the girl who is to go into trance takes hold of the shaking stick so that she is violently shaken by the man’s clonus. Meanwhile the crowd around is singing songs about dedari. The girl’s action in holding the stick breaks the rhythm of the clonus and she takes control of the stick beating with its end upon the wooden stand that supports it. She beats out a few bars of the song that the crowd is singing and then falls backward into trance. She is then dressed up by the crowd and will dance as dedari.67
The two Balinese girls, I Renoe and I Misi, each experience the clonus as part of a larger, in fact, “totalizing” arrangement of various media surrounding them: doll, singing, clonus.68 These media, however, take hold of their bodies, “inwards,” and lead to the induction of a trance.
New Self (Bali): Through the mimetic identification of the dedari doll, dancing up and down in a self-repeating and therefore potentially endless feedback mechanism with clonic contractions, to which the respective girl is first subjected, then breaks in, only to perpetuate this “dance,” the girl herself becomes a trance medium. This identification with a member of the Balinese cosmology, the angel, its public appearance in front of the crowd, perfectly captured in a photograph, marks the moment of socialization, of “self-evidence,”69 and, with regard to critical theory, one might add, a bodily experience of “non-identity”: even after the trance has subsided, the clonus keeps on ticking. Bateson describes this process of socialization through trance as an experience of gaining a new, socialized, remotely controlled self.
“I” see my leg move but “I” did not move it. The detachment of the object [that is, the involuntary movement of a clonus as object of perception] proposes then two lines of development: (1) the possibility of “out of body experience,” and (2) the possibility of integrating to perceive the body as an autonomous ego-alien entity. Either the detached “I” or the detached “body” can become the focus of elaboration. Of these paths, it is the second that Balinese follow so that, by a curious inversion, the word “raga,” which seems to have the primary meaning of “body” comes to mean “self.”70
Accordingly, one finds in Balinese arts representations of individual limbs and body parts with their own faces, representing their independent selves.71 The clonus has traveled outward and inward and has helped create a detached new self, the Balinese trance medium.
This, in a nutshell, is Bateson’s implicit media theory of socialization through trance in Bali; it also frames his analysis of Hitlerjunge Quex. To be sure, Bateson offers only a few hints in this direction: in a letter from January 1943, he writes that he analyzes Nazi German movies, “for the light which they throw on what makes Nazis tick [emphasis added] . . . —It’s really all the same sort of work that we used to do in New Guinea and Bali—rather more hectic—and rather less thorough—using the best hunches that we can think of instead of waiting for complete documentation—but we still hope a good deal better than lay intuition.”72 Bateson attempted in his improvised analysis of German propaganda movies to find the functional equivalent of the Balinese clonus, “what makes Nazis tick.” As such, a comparative analysis of Balinese character and Nazi German character in Bateson’s sense first needs to find a common model that, as it turns out, appears in his propaganda analysis as a variation of the Balinese teleologies of trance.
Inwards (Nazi Germany): The common ground for the comparability between Nazi German tic and Balinese clonus lies in Bateson’s media theory. It might be helpful for the reader’s understanding to preface the citation of the respective passage in his film analysis again with a reference to his postwar work. Bateson later often evoked the epistemological underpinnings of this media theory with an elliptic reference to Alfred Korzybski’s aphorism, “The map is not the territory.”73 With this reference, he highlights the distinction between different levels of abstraction in representation. The negative proposition of “the map is not the territory” needs to be emphasized because, according to Bateson, the meaning of medial presentation and representations (i.e., as explained earlier, of trance media and of technical media) tends to acquire “self-evidence” within the respective culture, thereby becoming inaccessible to immanent understanding. In both cases, Nazi Germany and Bali, Bateson attempts to work through the logical problem posed by self-evidence—and begins this process with the help of media as privileged object of inquiry.
With this in mind, one may turn now to Bateson’s propaganda analysis. For Nazi German propaganda movies, Bateson assumes that “the camera . . . can lie freely about whatever passes in front of the lens, but inasmuch as the film was made by Nazis and used to make Nazis, we believe that at a certain level of abstraction the film must tell us the truth about Nazism.”74 This introductory remark to “An Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex’” is significant both in the media theoretical context of his work on Bali and for his collaboration at the Film Library. The quote serves as the justification and methodological opening for his propaganda analysis, connecting it to his media theory. At the same time, it needs to be read as nothing less than Bateson’s inheritance of the institute’s orthodoxy for the German Project, mediated through Kracauer and his decisive impact on US propaganda studies. Propaganda analysis could be used for the anthropological study of cultures at a distance, inasmuch as Nazi ideology conveyed in propaganda was in fact an appropriate stand-in for Nazi culture. Adorno states, parallel to Bateson’s study, in 1943: “Fascist hypnotism may be characterized as being essentially self-hypnotism.”75 With Hitlerjunge Quex Bateson takes for his analysis of Nazi German culture the film that the Nazis had chosen to make their political movement appear self-evident. Modeled according to Bateson’s conception of trance, this means in analogy to the dolls dancing in front of the girls: in fact, he chose the film that was shown in ritually repeated screenings to the Hitler Youth so that its members could admire themselves, without the control of their will moving in a motion picture, an outer force entering the body, “inwards.”
Outwards (Nazi Germany): While it is his media theory that frames the problem of static self-evidence, Bateson also presumes a dynamic element in his understanding of the relationship between culture and personality—the process of socialization. “The most direct approach is that of looking at sequences of interchange between parents and other teachers and children in which the former are ‘socializing’ the latter.”76 Bateson later explained how proto- and deuterolearning,77 that is, learning and learning to learn, need to be distinguished and—like map and territory—kept in separate categories. However, in his work on national character, he arrives at an analysis of what today would be called “media education.” Here Bateson crosses the boundaries of his own theory: the process of media education is identical with the education of people as media. In the moment of socialization, the map is the territory, the medium is the represented, a case of false “abstraction” and confusion of “logical types,”78 of nonidentity. This means, however, that the represented and the representation (territory and map, Balinese trance medium and angel, Hitler Youth and Hitlerjunge Quex) are and are not identical. Socialization is a process of creating self-evidence via transformation. It is only media education that makes self-evidence appear natural; the act of trance induction is identical with the act of socialization. Assessing Hitlerjunge Quex as an educational medium for young Nazis, Bateson searched for hints to locate a transition between medial education and trance induction that functions analogously to Balinese education of trance media. Indeed—finally the riddle of “to billow” may be solved—he might have located it.
Six years after the first sound film Jazz Singer, the soundtrack of Hitlerjunge Quex provides a central device that Bateson uses as the starting point for his film analysis, namely, the aforementioned song of the Hitler Youth, “Vorwärts! Vorwärts!” The song describes the relation between a waving motion of the flag, endless marching and what Bateson calls, following émigré psychologist Kurt Lewin and social scientist Lawrence K. Frank, “time-perspective.”
Our flag billows [flattert] before us! / We advance [ziehn] into the future man for man! We march for Hitler through night and pain [Not] / With the flag of youth for freedom and bread! / Our flag billows before us! / Our flag is the new epoch [Zeit]! / And the flag loads us into eternity [Ewigkeit]! / Yes, the flag is more than death!79
Bateson finds that the Nazi time-perspective—perhaps best understood as an “applied” philosophy of history—is in parts reminiscent of the millennialism that is also present in the philosophy of history of German communists: “through chaos to Elysium.”80 The difference lies, however, in the Hitler Youth’s “cult of the dead,” its passage “through death to a millennium.”81 Interpreting the Hitler Youth song, Bateson describes this complex on that “certain level of abstraction” that allows one to see a transfer between film medium and Hitler Youth.
Particularly if we keep Kracauer and the circles of the Frankfurt School in mind, the conception of Bateson’s interpretation is less implausible than it might appear at first glance, as it constitutes a significant yet largely overlooked instance connecting photography and film to the philosophy of history and salvation history. Put differently, Bateson closely follows early Weimar film theory and practice modeled on hypnotic suggestion, somnambulism, and trance.82 He points here to the “dizziness symbols” that explicitly link Hitlerjunge Quex to the Weimar cinema, in keeping with Kracauer’s transition from Caligari to Hitler.83 Kracauer indeed revisited the same complex—with brief reference to Hitlerjunge Quex—in a coeval study of “Nazi Newsreels,” the less prominent but in the context of Bateson’s film studies highly instructive follow-up to “Propaganda and the Nazi War Film.” First, Kracauer considers Nazi marching in the history of German Youth movements, “following the idealistic conception that the world is in eternal movement toward eternal ideals, . . . the young idealists revered movement as a goal in itself, and as they wandered aimlessly they all had the gratifying feeling of expressing a metaphysical creed.”84 In those newsreels, the marchers are, according to Kracauer, dismembered: “The former long shot picturing [the marching column] as a unit has now changed into a close shot that singles out several individual soldiers or even mere fragments of them: their heads, their torsos, their marching legs. Thus the whole gives way to the puzzling movements of its parts.”85 Later, in “Nazi Newsreels” Kracauer describes, with attention to similar details as Bateson, flags, albeit unwaveringly in Frankfurt School critical terms:86 “Flags . . . are the accessories of the grandiose show. . . . The camera approaches them closely, with the result that the screen is alternately covered by waving flags and a forest of standards. . . . The spell of that forest reinforces the lulling effect of the flags’ undulations. These pictures are an opiate, making spectators submit more readily to the image of the mass.”87 Bateson, instructed by his experience with Balinese trance, inverts the interpretation of the “lulling effect of the flags’ undulations.” He observes that most of these dizziness symbols situated at a fair in Hitlerjunge Quex are connected to communism. They exhibit, however, a communality that is employed in the film’s plot of Nazi conversion.
There is clearly a rather close relationship between the hypnotic fascination that comes from staring at waves and that which comes from looking at spinning objects [noted by Bateson in the Nazi characterization of communism]. . . . There is, however, an important difference between waves and spinning objects. Waves contain an illusion of progress, of forward movements, but spinning objects evidently get nowhere. It is possible that the waves used to characterize Nazism are related to the endless marching which has such great fascination for Nazis and which appears in almost every Nazi film.88
Depicting communist German trance, the Nazis, again, “are merely describing the worst side of their own nature” and employ the representation of their enemy as a systematic opposite for their own trance induction.89 It is only in this sense that Bateson’s translation of the Hitler Youth song, and especially his preference for “to billow” becomes plausible and, indeed, striking. “Endless marching,” following a flag that billows ahead—a German practice developed during Romanticism90 and, as Bateson also points out,91 central to early Youth Movements like the “Wandervögel”—plays a central role for the socialization of Hitler Youth members, an inner force, leaving the body “outwards.” This practice of marching behind a billowing flag is potentially transformative: “Each death is represented on the screen by a sort of billowing or waving motion. In the case of the gas death, we see the fumes fill the screen and move like heaving waves. In the final death, it is the Nazi flag itself which fills the frame and billows before us.”92
New Self (Nazi Germany): But who is this new self, emerging through the billowing of the Nazi flag? While Bateson does not speak about Hitlerjunge Quex in terms of media or trance, it is finally possible to fully reconstruct “Some Components of Socialization for Trance” in German propaganda film: The “Quex Conversion Chart” is a preliminary plot scheme that underlies Bateson’s film analysis (fig. 2). Here Bateson considers Heini Völker’s conversion into a Hitler Youth member as a “rite of passage,” arguably the most influential anthropological concept of socialization.93 After mapping the protagonist’s developmental stages between communism and Nazism, Bateson comments on his own chart with a drawing pencil: “Heini dissociates [i]n events” or “Heini dissociates [in] n events.” Even though this dissociation is not made explicit as such in Bateson’s final analysis, it results in one of his central diagnoses of Nazi German culture, here presented as a lapsus (fig. 3). The pathology of “Nazism” in Hitlerjunge Quex needs to be understood as “narcissism,” expressed in the movie where the protagonist admires himself at key moments before a mirror, especially when wearing a uniform.
Both the self-alienation in the mirror and becoming somebody else in a costume are analogous to Balinese practices. In fact, Bateson describes this narcissism explicitly as a perversion of the Balinese model—the only time that Bali is mentioned in his film analysis: “Some of the most peaceful people in the world are the most narcissistic, the Balinese, for example, are among the most peaceful and the most narcissistic. Warfare and personal aggression are virtually unknown among them, and internationally speaking, they would be ideal neighbors. . . . The important factor is what is admired in the self.”94 The aspect admired in the Hitler Youth self, or better the aspect that has to be displayed by the initiated male Hitler Youth member as his “self,” is a “heel-clicking exhibitionism” of obedience and discipline,95 continuously practiced in the Hitler Youth’s physical education: “Discipline as imagined in the Nazi ideal depends upon extreme passivity—almost an impassivity—in the face of sudden, barked commands. . . . Discipline is not so much a toadying to authority as a controlled steadying in the face of sudden shock, whether this shock be a sudden command or an enemy attack [emphasis added].”96 The education of Hitler Youth members finally reveals in Bateson’s analysis a structure equivalent to the Balinese trance media education through clonus. Two contrary impulses, “sudden barked commands” and “enemy attack,” induce one and the same physical state of trance, a remotely controlled “controlled steadying,”97 that is, of being in cold blood in the face of terror.98
“There is an a priori case to be made out for the propagandic effectiveness of themes which are not explicit,” claims Bateson in his conclusion. “The audience is rewarded by enjoyment of the film for accepting these as implicit premises and is, in a sense, punished for refusing to accept them.”99 By linking Bateson’s two analyses of Bali and Germany, one may understand this distinction between implicit and explicit meaning not as opposites but as different levels of abstraction. As Bateson initially points out, it is that “certain level of abstraction” that throws light on “what makes Nazis tick.” Bateson brings to the collaboration with Kracauer on the analysis of Nazi German propaganda a highly idiosyncratic methodology that is not only abstract but intends to scrutinize abstraction itself as a problem. In keeping with the Culture and Personality School’s attempt to create a comparative grid of culturally relativistic sociologies and psychologies, and strongly influenced by behaviorist psychology, he finds a common matter of debate with Kracauer on the basis of the universal and universally transgressive experience of trance, hypnosis, awayness, somnambulism, extreme concentration, suggestion, controlled steadying.
Bateson ends his “Quex” memorandum with a rather obscure parable, comparing a finding from behaviorist learning experiments on rats with Nazi learning. One can read it as an application of his theory of media education—as well as a direct answer to Adorno’s German Project:
This case is based, however, upon the structure of simple learning experiments, and it is a very long step from these experiments—from the rat which learns that the sound of a buzzer is the precursor of an electric shock that can only be avoided by lifting the right foreleg—to the more complex learning phenomena with which we are here concerned. The Nazi convert learns to remodel his Weltanschauung, his interpretation of the universe in which he lives, and his interpretation of his own behavior. To compare him with the experimental rat, we should have to suppose that the rat learned not merely to lift his leg whenever he hears the buzzer, but also to expect future sequences to be patterned like the experimental setting: that pain would always be preceded by some warning; and that, for him, the problem of life consisted in trying to guess what magical behavior would avert these pains. Such a rat might be said to have learned not only the connection between a buzzer, lifting the leg, and pain, but also to have learned a Weltanschauung or ideology.100
Ideology (right foreleg–lifting) is experienced as the appearance of an infrastructure (electric shock), and propaganda (buzzer) sustains it. In fact, socialization into an ideology identifies infrastructure with its propaganda, to the point that the originally pain-induced trance via a buzzing sound works without reference to the infrastructure. Only when the trance is constant, that is, when it has found its media, in Bali, in Germany, and in behavioral experiments, is the permanent closing of the buzzer circuit no longer experienced as a paradox, for the socialization is complete and the ideology self-evident.
The jarring discovery of Bateson’s analysis is therefore not the Nazi trance per se but its cold-bloodedness. The cult of Nazi trance is made explicit in the last verse of the chorus: “The flag is more than death!”101 The cult of Nazi trance celebrated in Hitlerjunge Quex is a cult of the dead. In the film’s martyr death scene (which is of a piece with the earlier symbolic death by gas), as the protagonist expires in the arms of a Hitler Youth member, the boy utters the beginning of the Hitler Youth song’s chorus.102 The camera fades to a billowing flag and the superimposed marching members of the “racial corpus.”103 “Thus, in giving Heini two deaths, the propagandist has epitomized a whole social system and a time perspective that envisages repeated symbolic deaths.”104 The Nazi movement is an imagined community of the dead and the living. Regarding the plot as a whole, Bateson himself infers: “The beginning of the cycle, through suffering and effort to individual death, is comparatively common in fanatical cults, but the final goal toward which the Nazi nominally strives is a rather unusual one. It appears to be a sort of multiple reincarnation in this world.” In death, the Hitler Youth member not only arrives through death to a millennium but also becomes part of a self-multiplying collective, of a community of the dead and the living crowding the world. Indeed, Hitlerjunge Quex is a filmic variation of the death march on November 9, one of the most important rituals in the Nazi Party’s liturgical calendar:105
A similar promise of multiple reincarnation is still more explicit in another Nazi film, Fuer uns (1937). This is a documentary account of a Nazi party ceremony in which we see the dedication of sixteen concrete blocks to the memory of the sixteen martyrs of early Nazism. Each block has on it the name of a hero (Hans [sic] Schlageter, Horst Wessel, etc.) and the words “On call” (Zum Appel) [sic]. Each block supports a great urn in which flames billow. As a wreath is laid at the foot of each block, the name of the hero is called, and a thousand men somewhere in the stadium answer “HERE.” The procession goes on to the next hero, and again the answer comes back from another section of the stadium.106
Bateson finds in Hitlerjunge Quex an “applied” Nazi social science at work that engineers a new social psychology or “culture pattern.”107 He captures the design of this social engineering in five diagrams, the methodical innovation of his memorandum and, in regard to abstraction, his outstanding accomplishment. He first developed the idea for these diagrams while editing the aforementioned didactic version of Hitlerjunge Quex prior to writing the final version of his analysis, cutting up individual sequences and adding analytic title links.108 Bateson condenses the story of Hitlerjunge Quex to its artificial core, with a special effect; the “culture pattern” engineered by the propagandists in the film and the social scientific model of analysis look very much alike (fig. 4). This uncanny resemblance recalls Adorno’s observation of 1943 that “fascist propaganda is profoundly interconnected with basic trends of modern cultural anthropology.”109 Indeed, a year before writing his analysis of Hitlerjunge Quex, Bateson had remarked that “it is hardly an exaggeration to say that this war is ideologically about just this—the role of the social sciences.”110
This must well have been the impression that Kracauer gained from this exchange. For him, Bateson was a propaganda analyst, who, despite his idiosyncratic methodology, surprisingly conformed to the orthodoxy of Horkheimer’s institute. In fact, Bateson developed a hyperorthodox version of Adorno’s turn to identification of German propaganda and culture, its nonidentity. Kracauer must have appreciated that Bateson’s obsession with the effectiveness of propaganda went so far as to view it as inducing a trance state in personal media,111 and thereby challenging the theory of technical media as external tools of a mass culture.112 In that way Bateson turned the institute’s orthodoxy against itself, a move condensed in the translation of German “flattert” with “billows.”
Gary, Nervous Liberals, 116.
Culbert, “Rockefeller Foundation,” 510. For his views on Kracauer in the United States, see John Marshall’s entry in Rockefeller Foundation Records, Officers’ Diaries, RG 12, Rockefeller Archive Center, Sleepy Hollow, NY, 184 (dimes.rockarch.org/1349b524-f05c-4b33-befc-e2f3ba51e7fb).
See Ponten, “Introduction.” It was difficult to translate their wartime work in collaborative projects into steady positions; see Kracauer to Bateson, “Letter, November 16, 1947,” Siegfried Kracauer Nachlass, Deutsches Literaturarchiv, Marbach am Neckar.
See the assessment of the “Marseiller Entwurf” that Kracauer had pondered since 1937–38 in Später, Siegfried Kracauer, 369–70, 476.
Elisabeth Kracauer, who used to work as a librarian, closely collaborated with Kracauer from 1930 on. She notes in an undated CV from the late 1940s that “from 1930 to 1945 I did extensive research for my husband” (Zinfert, “Digression,” 81).
At different stages of the application process, this was referred to as “German Economy, Politics, and Culture 1900–1933” and “Cultural Aspects of National Socialism.” For a description of the project’s development, see Stackelberg, “Cultural Aspects.” See also, for a brief mention, Jay, Dialectical Imagination, 169–70; and Wiggershaus, Frankfurt School, 275. Many of the archival materials are available in the Nachlass Max Horkheimer, Universitätsbibliothek der Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main, shelf marks Na 1, 693–Na 1, 699 (sammlungen.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/horkheimer/nav/index/all).
Adorno to Horkheimer, “Letter, July 29, 1940,” 76–77.
All these initiatives are documented in the Margaret Mead Papers and South Pacific Ethnographic Archives, 1838–1996, Library of Congress, esp. boxes F1–6, M3–4, M29–35, O5–7, O9–10, O14–15. See also Mandler, Return from the Natives.
For details on Bateson’s work at the Film Library and especially his analysis of Hitlerjunge Quex as a pilot study for the (failed) establishment of a “Wartime Regional Materials Unit,” see Brennan, “Cinema Intelligence Apparatus.”
Faletti, “Reflections of Weimar Cinema,” 11. Martin Loiperdinger describes Hitlerjunge Quex as part of a 1933 “Party film-trilogy,” Hans Westmar, Hitlerjunge Quex, and SA-Mann Fritz Brand, all creating fascist martyr legends during the first year of the Nazi Party’s rule in Germany (Märtyrerlegenden im NS-Film, 159–72).
Hitlerjunge Quex (dir. Hans Steinhoff, 1933). In 1936 and 1937 the pioneering curator of the Film Library, Iris Barry, had traveled to Europe and the Soviet Union to obtain film reels from, among other institutions, the Reichsfilmkammer. See Sitton, Lady in the Dark, 215–16. See also Decherney, Hollywood and the Culture Elite, 138.
The film’s script was written by Karl Aloys Schenzinger, who the previous year had authored the novel Der Hitlerjunge Quex, loosely based on the stabbing death of Hitler Youth member Herbert Norkus in 1932. See Kater, Hitler Youth, 18–19; 33; see also Baird, To Die for Germany, 108–29. After Der Hitlerjunge Quex, Schenzinger published a far less successful novel, Der Herrgottsbacher Schülermarsch (1934), in which he sets up the conversion of Catholic boys into Hitler Youth members, identifying the “Leader” with the Christian god. See Stahl, “Literature and Propaganda,” 138.
Baird, To Die for Germany, 109. Baird mimics here, without quotation marks, historical Nazi jargon according to his method of shifting focalization.
However, for a close reading of the memorandum from which this article greatly benefited, see Schüttpelz, “Vor der Re-Education (1943).” For a recent example of a prominent publication that does not consider the 1980 publication, see Baker, “18 January 1943.”
After a twenty- or, respectively, thirty-year gap, in 1974 “Bateson’s analysis is used in Leiser, Nazi Cinema . . . ; it has reappeared in almost every subsequent discussion of the film” (Rentschler, Ministry of Illusion, 326n64).
Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 27. The identical quote appears also in Bateson, “Analysis of the Nazi Film,” 306. In the following, I quote from Bateson’s 1980 publication, even if identical passages also appear in the 1953 composite text, edited by Margaret Mead.
After a long and dramatic to and fro, Kracauer arrived with his wife in New York on April 25, 1941. See Später, Siegfried Kracauer, 384–409; see also Sitton, Lady in the Dark, 217–18.
After some years of consideration, Kracauer started writing his history of Weimar cinema in 1943 and finished the first manuscript, with the help of a two-year Guggenheim fellowship, in 1945–46. Kracauer finally published his groundbreaking book in 1947. See Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler.
“Irretrievably sunk into retrogression, the bulk of the German people could not help submitting to Hitler. Since Germany thus carried out what had been anticipated by her cinema from its very beginning, conspicuous screen characters now came true in life itself” (Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler, 272).
The pad with Bateson’s notes on Hitlerjunge Quex is preserved in the Margaret Mead Papers, box O6.
For the flag as a symbol in the National Socialist movement, see Behrenbeck, Der Kult um die toten Helden, 422–24. Behrenbeck relies on the study of flags in Nazi propaganda written by a former Hitler Youth member, Hoffmann, Triumph of Propaganda; regarding Hitlerjunge Quex, see esp. 49–55.
Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler, 262n17.
See Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler, 262.
Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler, 262.
Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler, 262.
See the typescript of Kracauer’s English synopsis to “Hitlerjunge Quex, 30 September to 8 October, 1941, Library of Congress,” reproduced in Culbert, “Rockefeller Foundation,” 506–9. Both translations avoid the alliteration of the German “Fahne flattert . . . voran” (e.g., “flag flutters” or, with less onomatopoetic effect, “banner billows before”). It is really about the “flag” that “billows.”
Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler, 262. At the time, Bateson had published only his first brief article on Hitlerjunge Quex. As far as one can tell from the archived work preliminary to From Caligari to Hitler, Kracauer did not see the manuscript of Bateson’s full analysis.
Bateson “Letter,” quoted in the pioneering study of the Culture and Personality School’s war efforts by Yans-McLaughlin, “Science, Democracy, and Ethics,” 202.
In his “Lay-out I” for From Caligari to Hitler from May 19–20, 1946, however, Kracauer distances himself from the Culture and Personality School: “This implies I am not stipulating a National Character. Against Anthropologists” (“Layout I,” in Von Caligari bis Hitler [Vorarbeiten], Ma 1, Siegfried Kracauer Nachlass). For a reading of the preliminary work to From Caligari to Hitler in general, and to this point in particular, see Quaresima, “Introduction to the 2004 Edition,” xxvii.
Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 54n6.
Bateson probably worked initially with Kracauer’s synopsis and deliberately changed the translation (“Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 27).
The standard biographical account of Bateson’s life does not consider the importance of the “several short-term projects during the first years of the war” (Lipset, Gregory Bateson, 166).
“Clonus,” derived from Greek klonos, turmoil, is a medical concept originating in the early nineteenth century denoting a “muscular spasm involving repeated, often rhythmic, contractions” (Stevenson and Lindberg, New Oxford American Dictionary, 327, lemma “clonus”).
Mead originally intended to use the photographs for a book titled On the Karma Family (Sullivan, Margaret Mead, 18).
See Bateson and Mead, “For God’s Sake, Margaret,” 42. See also Jacknis, “Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson in Bali.”
See Heims, Cybernetics Group, 14. Bateson’s concern dates back at least to the meetings of Mead, Bateson, and Milton Erickson between November 1940 and January 1941. After a discussion of Balinese trance in November 1940, Mead writes in a follow-up letter to Erickson with reference to Bateson’s ideas on trance posture in its relation to the contraction of individual muscles. See Mead to Erickson, “Letter, November 9, 1940,” Margaret Mead Papers.
Bateson and Mead, Balinese Character, 91. It is vital to the ritual that the men holding the stick do not go into trance themselves.
Bateson, “Some Components,” 152.
Bateson, “Some Components,” 153.
For a characterization of Bateson’s trance model in the context of trance media research as one of the few attempts to give a systematic scientific understanding of the exceedingly incoherent states of trance often induced through shaking, see Schüttpelz, “TranceMedien / Personale Medien,” 228–29.
I use the term gc7908420C62teleology here with reference to the historical cybernetic notion describing feedback processes. Bateson’s article on trance may be read as a challenge to one of the proudest philosophical achievements of cybernetics, first discussed during the aforementioned “Cerebral Inhibition Meeting”: Rosenblueth, Wiener, and Bigelow, “Behavior, Purpose, and Teleology.”
See for photography, Chéroux, Perfect Medium; for the telegraph, Stolow, “Techno-religious Imaginaries”; and for the radio, Rowlands and Wilson, gc7908420C64Oliver Lodge and the Invention of Radio.
Bateson could rely on the fact that to think of Nazi Germany as entranced was a trope introduced by the gc7908420C74New York Times already in an article of 1933. Its subheading reads, “By a Vast Propaganda Aimed at Emotions, Germany’s Trance Is Maintained” (Stone, “Hitler’s Showmen Weave a Magic Spell,” 8).
Bateson, “Some Components,” 152.
Bateson, “Some Components,” 154.
See again Turner, Democratic Surround, 63–76. Turner takes this aspect of the trance ritual, the media surround, as the starting point of his book “From Culture to Counterculture.”
Bateson, “Some Components,” 149. “In sum, the business of explanation and the business of socialization turn out to be the same. To make a premise ‘self-evident’ is the simplest way to make action based upon that premise seem ‘natural’” (154–55).
Bateson, “Some Components,” 153.
See Bateson, “Some Components,” plate 20, unpaginated, between pages 154 and 155.
Bateson, “Letter,” quoted in Yans-McLaughlin, “Science, Democracy, and Ethics,” 202. See also again the use of tick in Bateson’s didactic version of Hitlerjunge Quex.
The first prominent reference appears in precisely the text that codifies Bateson’s theory of mass media: Ruesch and Bateson, Communication.
Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 21.
Bateson, “Some Components,” 150.
Respectively learning 1, learning 2, and learning 3.
Bateson, “Some Components,” 147, 145.
Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 27.
Bateson, “Age Conflicts and Radical Youth,” 13. This twenty-two-page draft written in 1941 for the Committee for National Morale is preserved in the Margaret Mead Papers.
Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 27. See also Gregor Ziehen’s influential report based on his early tour through Nazi German educational institutions. Ziehen both provides the model for interpreting songs and gives one of the earliest translations of the Hitler Youth song: “Our banners precede us, fluttering in the breeze” (Education for Death, 136). Bateson seems to have ignored this rather free translation.
Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 33. See Faletti, “Reflections of Weimar Cinema,” 18.
Kracauer, “Conquest of Europe,” 350–51. This passage echoes some motifs of Kracauer’s essay on the “mass ornament,” such as his remark on the “legs of the Tiller girls” (“Mass Ornament,” 79, 84).
The Frankfurt School’s conception of mass hypnosis (as well as the Nazis’, represented in Hitler’s Mein Kampf) goes back to Gustave Le Bon’s “Crowd Psychology,” as rendered in his highly influential 1895 best seller Psychologie des foules. See, for the discursive context of the rise of crowd or mass psychology in France, Van Ginneken, Crowds, Psychology, and Politics.
Kracauer, “Conquest of Europe,” 354. See also Kracauer, “Propaganda and the Nazi War Film,” 20.
Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 33.
Bateson, “Analysis of the Nazi Film,” 344.
See Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 43.
See Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 28.
The chart represents the result of a structural analysis of the film and indicates Bateson’s original comparative effort: his notes show that he attempted to interpret Völker’s becoming a Hitler Youth member as a process following Arnold van Gennep’s model of rites of passage. (In Balinese Character Bateson and Mead title a whole section of photographs, plates 84–100, “Rites de Passage.”) In the final version of his text, Bateson shrinks this initial intuition into a passing remark: “His [Heini’s] first death by gas tells us that the entry into the age grade system is itself a passage rite, differing only from other passage rites and initiations in that Heini’s mother, instead of mourning the loss of her boy when he leaves the family, is herself killed” (“Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 29).
Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 52.
Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 50. Plate 7 in Balinese Character (after the plates “Crowds” and “Industrialization” and before the plates “Official Trance” and “Sharing and Social Organization”) depicts a state called “awayness” that Mead describes in the introduction as an inverted trance, a sort of inner emigration. See Bateson and Mead, Balinese Character, 4–5.
Bateson remarks about a difference from the novel on which the film is based: “First there is a conversation between Stoppel [a communist] and the mother, in which the mother is described as hypnotized with fear in Stoppel’s presence” (“Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 54n26).
See Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 53.
See Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 53.
See Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 27.
It is this truncated version of the verse, spoken by the dying Heini, that Kracauer quotes from Bateson: “‘The flag billows ahead . . . ’”
Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 29.
See Behrenbeck, Der Kult um die toten Helden, 299–325.
Bateson, “Analysis of ‘Hitlerjunge Quex,’” 28. The Nazis appropriated the ritual structure from the Italian military, calling on fallen soldiers during World War I—a central context also in Germany—and answering for them “presente” (Faust, “Trance und Trauma,” 115). Behrenbeck further notices in her description of the November 9 rite that the thousand men were indeed Hitler Youth members who had been initiated in an “imitatio heroica” into the party (Der Kult um die toten Helden, 311).
The notes documenting the drafting of these title links are preserved in the Margaret Mead Papers, box O6. During an interview with a former Hitler Youth member about his experience watching and rewatching Hitlerjunge Quex, Bateson comments on his work: “I have been working on this film in detail, picking it to pieces” (Typescript, “Prediscussion and Discussion Following Showing ‘Hitlerjunge Quex’ May 12, 1943,” 24, Margaret Mead Papers). This work of “picking it to pieces” and then creating a new version of the film needs to be understood as the most “engaged” aspect of Bateson’s work on Nazi trance media.
Adorno, “Psychological Technique,” 55.
Bateson, “Social Planning,” 162. One may conclude from Bateson’s diagrams that there is a direct, symmetrical, and therefore antagonistic relationship between Nazi media education and US reeducation. For the role of Bateson’s memorandum in the discussion of reeducation policy proposals, see Füssl, “Fine-Tuning Utopia,” 285–86.
In Bateson’s notes on Hitlerjunge Quex, the only mention of trance is attributed to Kracauer, in a comparison with the film Fährmann Maria (1936): “F. Maria does not deceive death—walks? with her eyes shut, certainly not looking where she is walking—Kracauer thinks ‘in trance’” (Margaret Mead Papers, box O6).
See the second draft of the famous “Culture Industry” chapter titled “Das Schema der Massenkultur,” preserved in Nachlass Max Horkheimer, sammlungen.ub.uni-frankfurt.de/horkheimer/content/pageview/7316438.