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[The sleeping disease drug Germanine as an instrument for propaganda: reception in literature and film during National Socialism].

[Article in German]

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As European colonization spread widely over the African continent the health and physical welfare of the African population gained more and more importance to European colonists who concentrated on capitalizing on African human resources for an improved financial and economic outcome of their colonies. This brought tropical medicine to the top of the European colonial agenda and raised the awareness of the threat of infectious diseases, such as the African Trypanosomiasis or so-called sleeping disease. In 1916 a group of scientists from the pharmaceutical company Bayer AG discovered a substance on the base of dye rather than arsenic. The drug was called Bayer 205 and showed outstanding therapeutic effects. It also reduced adverse reactions in people infected with sleeping disease. As Germany had already lost its colonies, the Bayer company--supported by the German government--negotiated with the English and Belgian governments and was allowed to send an expedition to East Africa. During 1921 and 1923 the new drug was tested in English Rhodesia and Belgian Congo and proved revolutionary, especially in comparison with conventional substances. In due course, the drug Bayer 205 was named Germanin and it was subsequently proposed to use it for political leverage: knowledge and use of the new drug was to be given only in exchange for parts of the former German colonies. However, the reactions of the international media put an end to Germany's neo-colonial-dreams, even before the proposal had reached governmental level. Even so, the incident never disappeared from the mind of those who wished to revive German colonialism. Thus, it is no surprise, that the tale of the discovery and perceived "injustice" of a thwarted scientific success regained an important place in National Socialist propaganda. This article will examine two sources to exemplify the role Germanin attained in National Socialist propaganda: Hellmuth Unger's popular science novel Germanin. Geschichte einer deutschen Grosstat and Max Kimmich's movie Germanin. Geschichte einer kolonialen Tat, a film adaption of Unger's book which mainly treats the expedition Friedrich Karl Kleine, a real-life German professor, once lead into Africa. The film mixes political and ideological propaganda with entertaining adventure, lined by an exotic and--when it came to women--rather erotic presentation of the African population.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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