Kracauer, Siegfried

born Krakauer (1889-1966)
   writer and sociologist; best known for a study posing German film* as a mirror of German society. Born in Frankfurt, he studied broadly before taking an engineering doc-torate in 1915 at Berlin.* Although the philosopher Georg Simmel encouraged him to complete his Habilitation, finances forced him to abandon his studies. While working as an architect, he began his literary and philosophical writings. In 1921 the Frankfurter Zeitung hired him as a film and literary critic, a position he retained until 1933. His reviews introduced a sociological approach to film criticism. From about 1925 he began applying Marxism to his various analyses.
   Kracauer's erudite essays, published in 1922 as Soziologie als Wissenschaft (Sociology as science) and in 1930 as Die Angestellten (The employees), are among the earliest criticism of modern mass culture. Despite connections with Theodor Adorno* and Walter Benjamin,* he was never part of the Frankfurt School.* His famous book From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, which appeared in 1947, contended that German film mirrored society's fantasies and gave evidence of Nazism's antecedents.
   From 1930 Kracauer's analyses began finding less echo with fellow editors. He was assigned to Berlin, and his situation grew bleak as contributions were increasingly rejected. Finally, in January 1933 the Frankfurter Zeitung sent him to Paris; he was fired in February. Of Jewish ancestry, he never returned to Germany. He remained in Paris eight years, publishing little. With help from friends at the Frankfurt School (relocated to New York), he was rescued in 1941. After arriving in New York, he worked as a film researcher at the Museum of Modern Art.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 10; NDB, vol. 12.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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