German Studies Association Conference:

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Prof. Peter Beicken attended the 41st GSA (German Studies Association) meeting in Atlanta, GA, and presented at the Anna Seghers Panel his talk: "Novel and Film: Anna Seghers' The Seventh Cross and Fred Zinnemann's Adaptation."  

The novel The Seventh Cross was written by Seghers during her exile in France covering events in the fall of 1937. Seven inmates escape from a concentration camp near Mainz and all but the seventh fugitive are recaptured, killed, and hung from crossboards nailed to capped trees. However, with the help of ordinary citizens and members of the antifascist underground, Georg Heisler, the seventh prisoner, manages to escape clandestinely by ship to Holland. To the inmates in the camp, the empty seventh cross becomes a symbol of a triumph proving that Nazi power is not almighty. While Seghers escaped German-occupied France and took exile in Mexico in 1941, her book appeared in English translation first in the U.S. and then in a German edition by Libro Libre in Mexico City in 1942. (See illus. 1)  The Seventh Cross became a bestseller in the U.S. and Austrian-born Fred Zinnemann adapted the novel in his 1944 feature with Spencer Tracy in the lead. (See illus. 2) While the novel presents a fascinating panoramic view of German society under Nazi rule, the film focuses on the main character whose escapes the manhunt and succeeds on his persevering strength and with the help of many in the collective. A long-time Seghers scholar and editor of her early narratives (1924-1932), Beicken discussed crucial medial differences and issues of significant intermedial affinities between the novel and film.

Illus.1. Cover of the 1st ed. of "Das Siebte Kreuz." Mexico, 1942

Illus. 2. Cover of "The Seventh Cross" video cassette, 1991, featuring Spencer Tracy and Signe Hasso.