CMU School of Drama

Thursday, April 06, 2017

"Luft Gangster" Dramatizes World War II Hell

Clyde Fitch Report: In 1944, Columbia, SC native Lou Fowler (Lowell Byers), a gunner in the US Army Air Corps, is shot down in Europe. He’s apprehended by Nazi troops and sent to a detention camp, Stalag Luft VI — also called the “sixth circle of hell” by its inhabitants. Fowler’s leg injury might progress to gangrene, but the Commandant (Ralph Byers — Lowell’s father in real-life) refuses to give Fowler medical treatment unless he gives up information on military targets. Meantime, the Third Reich is promoting propaganda that the US has a “Luft Gangster” program that puts convicts into the military.


Helena Hewitt said...

It is very interesting how large of a shadow the Holocaust and World War II casts over western storytelling. I think that because it affected such a huge percentage of the world’s population in some way because so many westerners have family stories that run through the events of 1933-45, we have a much more personal understanding that this happened to real people than we do with other massive tragedies. With that personal understanding of WWII, we can create narratives that highlight individuals, that have heroes and villains. Recently in my history class, we were comparing the personal testimonies, historical records, and collective memory of WWII and the British camps in Kenya in the 1950s. The events of the Mau Mau and the British occupation are much less present in our collective minds because these events feature the conflict between two large, faceless groups: the British Empire and the Kikuyu people. We struggle to find an individual story that we can relate to and ground our understanding of the events in. Therefore, there is no easy narrative to tell and that part of our history remains silent.

Simone Schneeberg said...

I find that when World War II and Holocaust stories are told they largely focus on war hero or on the Jews in camps. Those are the huge parts of the war so this naturally make sense. There is the overwhelming suffering from eh slaughter of millions of people and there is the huge surge of nationalism that comes with romanticizing any war, but especially with the biggest wars we've ever had (the world wars). I haven't heard of many prisoner of war stories so it is an interesting viewpoint to see. There isn't the romanticism of battlefield heroes and there isn't the heart wrenching suffering and gruesome dehumanization, there is this somewhat middle ground that is very real. Particularly coming from a real life story, this level of realness I think is very important. We are in the post Holocaust era, people now have grandparents born after the war. We need to keep these stories alive to keep us far far away from reaching again the atrocities of that war, in this political climate especially. The romanticism, heroism, and horror is almost too extreme to do this. It seems so unreal that it is almost disregarded as fiction that we could ever head that way again. We need stories that are more individual, more grounded, more relatable to reveal where we are now and where we should never go again.