(E) I had the pleasure to see Katzelmacher yesterday night, a play from Rainer Werner Fassbinder, produced by the Stanford Theater and Performance Studies. In German, Katzelmacher is a derogatory epithet from an immigrant worker (usually Greek, Italian, or Turkish) implying aggression and sexual promiscuity. Katzelmacher was Fassbinder’s second film.

The play “features a group of rootless and bored young couples in 1968 who spend much of their time in idle chatter, empty boasting, drinking, playing cards, intriguing or simply sitting around. The arrival of Jorgos, a guest worker from Greece, leads to a growing curiosity on the part of the women and the antagonism among the men living in a suburban block of apartments in Munich.”

After World War II, West Germany enjoyed rapid development and reconstruction known as Wirtschaftswunder. This prosperity drove demand for new labor. But after 1961, labor was in shortage due to the closure of the Iron Curtain between Eastern and Western Europe. As a result, foreign workers came from Italy, Greece, and Turkey, countries where unemployment was high. These foreign workers were met with hostility. They did not belong to the German society. Finally, in 1973, West Germany stopped welcoming foreign workers.

Following is a short video of Fassbinder’s movie:

Interesting to note how xenophobia has not changed since 1968!

Note: The picture above is from Fassbinder’s movie.

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Categories: Arts