Tin Drum(1980)




Director: Volker Schlndorff.

Starring:  Mario Adorf (Alfred Matzerath), Angela Winkler (Agnes Matzerath), David Bennent (Oskar Matzerath), Katharina Thalbach (Maria Matzerath), Daniel Olbrychski (Jan Bronski).

From the novel by Gunter Grass, a Nobel Prize-winning Kashubian-German author.  


This is a post-World War II German movie commenting on the insane era of Fascism and Hitler in Germany.  The story is set in Danzig (Gdańsk), Poland, divided by German-speaking and Polish-speaking ethnic groups.  The early scenes trace the family history of a young boy with the emphasis on the brutal side of the history of Prussia/Germany.

During the period of increasing ethnic division in post-World War I Danzig, a young boy of 3 concludes that the adults around him are crazy or stupid or both.  In disgust, he makes the decision to stop growing.  This is his form of protest against the on-rushing madness.  Another sign of his rebellion is that he continually beats on his tin drum (even disturbing Nazi rallies in Danzig).   

Although the boy remains the same height, he sexually matures with a normal size penis.  This enables him to have sexual relations with three different adult women.  (The movie ran afoul of the censors in Oklahoma, where the movie was accused of being child pornography.   But given that the character is in his teens and he seeks out the women, I do not think the charge is true.  Also, in true life, the boy is not three but actually a twelve year old with a growth disorder, with stage effects that make it appear as if he were being involved in sex while being sheltered from this in actuality.)

The key questions is:  will the rebellious boy, Oskar Matzerath (played by David Bennent), survive the rise of the Nazi party in Danzig and then the German invasion and occupation of Poland? 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


Danzig (Gdańsk) was on the delta of the Vistula River, by the Gulf of Danzig, on the Baltic Sea. 

c. 500  --  East Germanic and Baltic tribes controlled the area.

after 600  --  The Kashubians moved into the area.  These people are a Slavic ethnic group (now living in today's northwestern Poland. 

980  --  Duke Mieszko I of Poland dedicated a fortress at the settlement.

997  --  Danzig was founded.

1000  --  Gdańsk belonged to the territory later called Pomerania (populated by Slavic tribes). 

1138-1294/1308  --  Gdańsk was the capital of the Pomeranian Duchy.

1296  --  the city was temporary ruled by Bohemia and Poland.  The city and surrounding areas were already heavily Germanized.

beginning of 14th century  --  war between Poland and the German principality of Brandenburg for the area.  Poland brought in the Teutonic Knights from Prussia.  When Poland did not pay the price asked, the Teutonic Knights took over. 

1308-1454  -- monastic state of the Teutonic Knights.

1454/661793  --  Danzig was the leader of Royal Prussia in Poland.

1566  --  the official language of Danzig became standard German. 

17931806, 18151919  --  Danzig was part of  the Kingdom of Prussia.

1772  --  the majority of Royal Prussia fell to the Kingdom of Prussia. 

1793  --  Danzig became part of the province of West Prussia. 

1807-1814  -- for a brief period, Danzig was a Free City (created by Napoleon).

1824-1878  --  East and West Prussia combined into one province of Prussia.

1871  -- Danzig was part of the newly created German Empire. 

1920-1939   --  in the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I, the Allied powers created the Free City of Danzig. 

after World War I --  a massive influx of Poles into the area.

The Germans of Danzig (400,000 in number) wanted to become part of Germany.

1933 (May)   --  the election of a Nazi government in Danzig.

1934  --  Germany had the Danzig government stage a military incident, but backed down when Poland resolved to resist.

1938 (October)  --  Germany urged the Danzig territory's cession to it. 

1939  --  the Jews of the whole region around Danzig leave once they fully realized that the Nazis would come to power.

1939 (September 1)  -- invasion of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union; beginning of World War II. The Nazis began their series of war crimes with the murder of the Polish postmen defending the Polish Post Office in Danzig. 

1945 (beginning of the year)  --  Germany started evacuating German-speaking civilians from Danzig. Most Germans fled the city.  Many Polish civilians return to Danzig. 

1945-1950  --  many Germans expelled from Danzig. 



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