Berghahn Books turns 25! Get 25% off all books!
Berghahn Books Logo

berghahn New York · Oxford

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Youtube
Comrades in Arms: Military Masculinities in East German Culture

View Table of Contents

See Related
Cultural studies Journals

Email Newsletters

Sign up for our email newsletters to get customized updates on new Berghahn publications.

Click here to select your preferences

Comrades in Arms

Military Masculinities in East German Culture

Tom Smith

Made available under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license with support from Knowledge Unlatched.

25th Anniversary Sale, 25% off all books! Add coupon code BB25

316 pages, 10 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-555-8 25% OFF! $130.00/£92.00 $97.50/£69.00 Hb Not Yet Published (February 2020)

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“Smith's study is a detailed and interesting analysis of East German masculinities and of the East German military through literature and film, focusing on soldiers’ bodies, retro masculinity, same-sex desire, hierarchies, and more. Comrades in Arms investigates popular and obscure texts to provide an original and useful perspective on the NVA and masculinity in the GDR.” • Nick Hodgin, Cardiff University

“With impressively thorough research and a solid theoretical framework, this book presents significant new insights into the topic of East German masculinity with a focus on the military. Smith impressively engages cinematic and literary primary sources to expand on, revise, or challenge theoretical assertions. He makes a compelling argument for the importance of the sources for broader discussions of East German politics, society, masculinity, and gender.” • Gary Schmidt, Coastal Carolina University


Without question, the East German National People’s Army was a profoundly masculine institution that emphasized traditional ideals of stoicism, sacrifice, and physical courage. Nonetheless, as this innovative study demonstrates, depictions of the military in the film and literature of the GDR were far more nuanced and ambivalent. Departing from past studies that have found in such portrayals an unchanging, idealized masculinity, Comrades in Arms shows how cultural works both before and after reunification place violence, physical vulnerability, and military theatricality, as well as conscripts’ powerful emotions and desires, at the center of soldiers’ lives and the military institution itself.

Tom Smith is a Lecturer in the School of Modern Languages at the University of St Andrews.

Subject: General Cultural Studies Gender Studies Postwar History
Area: Germany

Comrades in Arms by Tom Smith is available open access under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) with support from Knowledge Unlatched.

OA ISBN: 978-1-78920-672-2




Part I: Military Masculine Ideals and their Limits

Chapter 1. Pluralizing the GDR’s Socialist Soldier Personality
Chapter 2. Screen Violence and the Limits of Masculine Ideals

Part II: Challenging Performances

Chapter 3. The Vulnerable Body in Uniform
Chapter 4. Retro Masculinity and Military Theatricality

Part III: Challenging Feelings

Chapter 5. Shame, Emotions and Military Masculinities
Chapter 6. Same-Sex Desire, Archival Narration and the NVA’s Closet


Glossary: Selected Ranks in the Nationale Volksarmee with British and US Equivalents


Back to Top