Competing Germanies: The Freie Deutsche Buehne and the Deutsches Theater in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1938-1965
Kelz, Robert Vincent
COMPETING GERMANIES: THE FREIE DEUTSCHE BUEHNE AND THE DEUTSCHES THEATER IN BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA, 1938-1965 ROBERT VINCENT KELZ Dissertation under the direction of Professor Meike G. Werner Based on extensive archival research and interviews conducted in Germany, Argentina, and Brazil, this project focuses on two of the most influential German language theaters abroad in the 20th century. Founded in 1940 by antifascist and Jewish refugees, the Freie Deutsche Buehne was the only Exiltheater worldwide to stage regular productions throughout World War II. Funded by Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda, from 1938-45 the Deutsches Theater performed völkisch comedies and the German Classics both to German farming communities in rural Argentina as well as sold-out audiences at the most prestigious venues in Buenos Aires. No other major metropolitan city saw immediate, fully open competition between nationalist and antifascist German theaters during this period. The Freie Deutsche Bühne and the Deutsches Theater played prominent roles in Nazi Kulturpolitik in the Southern Cone, integrated with the national theater scene, and introduced new staging and acting techniques (such as pedagogical theater, open air performances, and Stanislavski’s system) to Argentina. Informed by the ongoing discourses on performance theory, cultural transfer, and migration studies by Erika Fischer-Lichte, Ottmar Ette, and James Clifford, respectively, I analyze the Freie Deutsche Bühne and the Deutsches Theater as community-building institutions; explore how their performances expressed the clashing cultural values of antifascist and nationalist German populations; and assess how these stages’ divergent, evolving identities and community-building strategies conditioned their relationships with the Argentine host society during WWII, Peronism, and the outset of the Cold War. Drawing from local German, Yiddish, Spanish, and English language sources, my transnational approach to German theater illuminates host and expatriate populations from within, and traces German-speaking Jewish, antifascist, and nationalist thespians as they transition from emigrants to immigrants in South America.