All 14 entries tagged Nazi Cinema

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December 15, 2006

Open Studies in European Cinema. The Cultural Hurdles Controlling UFA's Potential


Throughout the Weimar period the company that eventually became UFA was under continuous pressure from a range of different political sources. The criticisms which UFA faced came from both Leftwing and Liberal sources as well as from those such as religious quarters which saw the cinema as a potential basis for moral debasement.

Why the Criticism?

Many critics whose political persuasion was either socialist / communist or just plain Liberal saw UFA as a tool of the Nationalist right. The arts pages of the liberal left newspapers (the Weimar equivalent of the Guardian in Britain today) tended to denounce artistic films as ‘kitsch’ (in other words not genuine Art with a capital ‘A’. The genre films – of which there were many – became denounced as ‘Shund’ (trash). See Elsaesser (2000, p 127).

Part of the cause of this liberal critique was generated by the fact that the original organisation of UFA was strongly associated with the military leadership of 1917 didn’t help. These elites had been persuaded that the Reich needed a more organised propaganda outlet, however Germany had been defeated by the time UFA had started up. Elsaesser argues that there was a certain commercial logic which:

...belonged to the political culture of Wilhelmine society, making UFA an expression not so much of the war as a new way of thinking, on the one hand about corporate capitalism, and on the other about public opinion and the (technological) media. (Elsaesser, 2000 p 113).

The Moralist Critiique of UFA

Whilst the Liberal critics saw murky links with the military elites of Wilhelmine Germany the professional classes from both Protestant and Catholic backgrounds tended to see the cinema as a potential space for moral debasement. As a result they campaigned strongly for the creation of ‘cultural films’. They had in mind educational and documentary films, which was an outlet that UFA catered for.

The Left-wing attitude to cinema

Those in the more organised and radical left such as the KPD (German Communist Party) tended to be uniformly hostile towards cinema in general. UFA was frequntly attacked for poisoning the minds of the masses with reactionary celebrations of Prussia’s glory (Elsaesser p 128). After 1925 Willi Munzenberg successfully persuaded the KPD to try and counter bourgeois cinema by establishing thier own distribution company. This was done and the comnpany was called Prometheus Films. It was Prometheus who were to sponsor Kuhle Wampe (1930) for instance.

Pommer’s Response

As the producer of UFA in overall control of the cinematic output Erich Pommer ignored these criticisms and the demands for ‘realism’ from the various quarters of the critical establishment which accompanied these demands.

A turn to realism was entirely contrary to Pommer’s ambitions to establish strong export led growth. From the outset Pommer had understood that Hollywood was the main source of competition that German cinema was having to compete with.

Realist output in the years immedaiately following the war would have been disastrous for the export market . A fact that Pommer was keenly aware of. This stemmed from the fact that Germany was very closely associated with causing the First World War. The promotion of contemporary German settings would have spelt the kiss of death to cinema.

As a result UFA output was split into films for the domestic market and export oriented films. The former largely consisted of comedies and social dramas which used realist settings. By comparison, the sort of films available to the English market today were the films which Pommer had wanted to be available in the 1920s. Films from the Neue Sachlichkeit period, for example, by directors such as Pabst and Joe May were strongly associated with what became known as the “UFA look”. This look meant high production values. The emphasis was on strong sets and the best craftsworkers that UFA had avalibale in terms of camerawork, lighting, sets, and costumes to create an excellent mise en scene.

UFA’s Problems with America

Right from the outset UFA had problems breaking into the American market place. The developing Hollywood system manage to gain control over distribution and exhibition which helped to exclude potential competition from Europe.

But at the end of the day UFA wasn’t producing the sort of films that appealed to American audiences. By comparison the Americans – especially after 1924 – were winning significant market share of the German audience. One key element in this failure was the lack of internationally renowned stars. Most actors who started to become famous in the Weimar republic were quickly wooed by the razzle dazzle and serious cash offered by Hollywood. The establishing of the star system was a central feature of Hollywood success then as it is now.

As a response Pommer tried hiring American actresses such as Louise Brooks, Anna May Wong and Betty Amman. Louise Brooks worked with Pabst and Betty Amman worked with May. None of the actors who worked with Fritz Lang ever gained international stardom.

It was only after the coming of sound and the strategy of hiring American directors such as von Sternberg as well did UFA manage to develop some significant stars with genuinely international successes. Marlene Dietrich and Lilian Harvey modelled upon contemporary Hollywood stars to name but two.


Although UFA became a very successful film company being the only European film company to offer serious competition at all to Hollywood there were many hurdles which were culturally based which it faced. These hurdles reduced its chances of success both at home and abroad. It was only after its restructuring under the control of Klitsch that UFA began to make consistent profits in a fully competitive environment. To do this it had to develop a Hollywood business model.

December 12, 2006

Using the Sidebar

Introduction to using the sidebar

As the sidebar is now very busy it might be helpful for you to have an idea of the lay out until you are familiar with it. also many of you may only have an interest in certain parts.

Section 1

  • Calendar – Self expalanatory
  • Radio 3 Link – This will get you into BBC Radio Player. I like catching up with things like Mixing it and Late Junction
  • Search this blog – self explantory
  • TagsVERY IMPORTANT: Just click on one and it will aggregate all tagged articles with this tag. The tags are the best way to navigate around the articles and call up ones written early on. Please drop a comment in the relevant box if you think a tag needs adding anywhere.
  • Latest Comments – this allows myslf and others to monitor comments and discussions quickly
  • Most Recent Entries – Self explanatory

Section 2: European Cinema

The next section from the BFI film Glossary goes through a range of:
  • Image galleries which are always being developed
  • Podcasts
  • Feeds
  • Useful links
  • There are also 2 links to good film message boards

There are various levels of knowledge required for different entries however it is the intention to aim for a broader readership encouraging those of a more theoretical bent to follow up with various films books and websites. Many of the links are to sophisticated articles that are available on line. If you find them hard don’t worry we all did once. Stick with what you are comfortable with. There is something for everybody here from A level to postgrad.

The entries on British cinema shouold be helpful for OCR A Level Students doing British cinema post 1990. It is also likely to help AS Film Studies students. The work on German Cinema and French and Italian cinema as it gets transferred onto the blog will help A2 Film Studies students doing FS 5.

Section 3: New Media Technologies

This subject is endlessly fascinating and there is little doubt as Web 2 progresses with developments such as the Second Life phenomenon will start to deeply change our social ontology or beingness in the world partially constructed through media.

This selection of feeds and stories even includes the news organisation Reuters who conduct virtual interviews with important people in Second Life. making ‘Virtually Real News!’ This is an important resource area for all OCR AS Media Studies students doing the ‘Audiences and Institutions’ New Media option.

Section 4: News Feeds and Podcasts

This is both a service to visitors providing up to date news as it breaks while you are onsite. It is of particular use to OCR A2 students doing the News option as it affords easy chances to compare the news strategies of different news organisations and functions as a practical case study of how news is being distributed in a Web 2 era.

Section 5:

this features what I consider as good quality blogs linked to the categories above. There is a folder of New Media based blogs and also one for European Cinema or Blogs which have a very high content of European cinema.

Methods for choosing links

There are many many websites and blogs etc on the above subjects. A key objective of this site is to try and filter out weakly researched and written sites. There is a premium on quality and there is a life beyond IMDB. Life is too short to keep filtering out spam. If you find that any sites you have visited from embedded links on this site please leave a comment. The site in question will be reviewed.

December 07, 2006

Nazi Cinema: The SA ‘Movement’ films of 1933


This article argues that the rapidly changing fortunes of the Nazi party through its runaway successes and methods of following up its election victory led to problems with its intended propaganda output. The popular SA films overemphasised the role of the SA and promoted their confidence and ambitions which were at complete odds with the new priorites of the Nazi leadership. This provides a partial explanation of Goebbels’ attempts to distance the Nazi leadership from the heroic martyr SA films of 1933.

Political Background

Hitler takes full power in the middle of March 1933. Approximately 8 million were unemployed. Many firms bankrupted. Schacht is soon appointed to run the economy. Mass employment through infrastructure projects started.

Process of Gleichschaltung or ‘co-ordination’ starts. This fairly mild sounding word is a euphemism for a wave of physical attacks combined with changing laws which ousted potential enemies from work and led to the establishment of concentration camps. All political parties banned and unions taken over which is achieved by August.

The aptly named Storm-troopers of the SA were commanded by Erich Roehm. The SA was the essential front-line weapon for taking on the KPD in particular and also the SPD. They were extensively used for intimidation of elected deputies in the immediate aftermath of the March 1933 election. For several years they had been physically combating the KPD and the SPD on the ground. All three of these mass parties had armed wings. Many people in all of these parties had been injured and some killed in street fighting brawls attacks on political meetings. This had been developing since 1930 as the depression deepened and social polarisations became deeper.

Hans Westmar

One of the main tasks Hitler needed to achieve in 1933 was to physically eliminate any danger from the political left. The Nazis had gained power because the left was divided. Should they finally agree to unite against the NSDAP rule then Hitler would probably not have remained in power for long. The country would have been ungovernable. The SA were thus used immediately to totally repress what was seen as the most dangerous opposition first.

The Nazis were very pragmatic, apart from an organised boycott of Jewish shops at the beginning of April the anti-Semitism came second to neutralising the threat of the KPD and SPD. It did proceed at a legislative level as Jews were gradually forced out of work. This happened most quickly in the cultural sphere. (See Evans, 2003 for a good synopsis of this). As spring wore into summer the Nazis had made significant gains against their enemies in the process of Gleichschaltung.

The SA Films

Hitler Youth Quex

Given that the SA were playing such an important role at this time it was to be expected that they would require some representation within the cinema. The films produced helped to justify the current SA actions and to publicly develop an institutional mythology around them. Out of the three films which fall into this category Hans Westmar is based upon a real character – Horst Wessel. He was then mythologized into the Nazi canon with the ‘Horst Wessel song’ becoming a symbolic message through being turned into an anthem. Hitler Youth Quex is also based upon a true story.

SA Mann Brand

SA-Mann Brand: dir Franz Seitz (SA Hero, genre from a book by Goebbels)
Hitler Youth Quex : Hans Steinhoff (SA Hero, from a novel based upon a real life member of the Hitler Youth)
Hans Westmar : Franz Wenzler (SA Hero, from a novel based upon Horst Wessel. Goebbels intervened to change it).

SA-Mann Brand

The premiere was at the Gloria-Palast in Munich. It was disrupted because an SA chief demanded that all SA and SS members leave as the cinema was showing film posters painted by a Polish painter.

For the plot and mise en scene see Faletti (2000)

Hitler Youth Quex
Hitler Youth Quex was made by Ufa. It was based upon the real life story of a Hitler Youth member called Herbert Norkus who was killed by the Communists. Welch suggests that Ufa were keen to make the film if only to outdo their competition in Munich. It was screened for Hitler and many Nazi dignitaries at the Ufa_Palast in Munich on September 11th 1933. The production values were higher with several leading actors and the director was also well known. However it cost only 320,000 marks which was slightly above average for the time. It was reviewed favourably having a successful run at the main Ufa screen in Berlin the Ufa-Palast-am-Zoo. By the end of January 1934 it had gained over 1 million viewers.

For the plot and mise en scene analysis see Rentschler (1996) and Faletti (2000).

Hans Westmar

Hans Westmar (Still)

The film Hans Westmar directed by Hans Wenzler had a slightly turbulent route to the screens. Originally entitled Horst Wessel Goebbels cancelled its premiere originally billed for the 9th October 1933. Goebbels did this on the grounds that ‘the film compromised the hero’s stature and menaced the interests of the state and the German people.’ (Faletti, 27). Goebbels wanted some revisions and also wanted the name of the hero changed and the name of the film. The premiere eventually took place on 13 December 1933.

For plot and mise en scene see Faletti (2000).

Were there deeper underlying reasons for Goebbels’ decision?

Faletti (2000) is concerned with drawing comparisons with stylistic attributes taken from Weimar cinema which is useful, however I argue here that she might possibly be missing a more valuable point here. Why should Goebbels have taken such a disliking to the original Hans Westmar previously entitled Horst Wessel? This is a question which the specialist scholars have omitted to take up and in some cases elided out of intellectual enquiry in an entirely speculative way. Sabine Hake (2001) for example comments: Hans Westmar about the first “martyr” of the movement, required significant changes because of its presumably unflattering portrayal of National Socialism.” (My emphasis: Hake, 2001 p 26) As I argue below there is a far more plausible explanation which responds to the rapidly shifting pattern of politics in Nazi ruled Germany. Making unsubstantiated presumptions isn’t a particularly useful or scholarly way of proceeding.

Faletti too, slips over the nature of the changes in attitude from Goebbels yet this has to be a particularly interesting question. It is notable that on the 9th of September when the Horst Wessel version of the film was to be premiered Goebbels came out with his well known opinions about the nature of ‘propaganda’ films:

We National Socialists do not place any particular value on our SA marching across stage or screen. Their domain is in the street … the National Socialist government has never asked that SA films should be made. On the contrary – it sees danger in a surplus of them. (Goebbels cited Taylor 1998 p 148)

It seems abundantly clear that Goebbels considers that there is a lot at stake here. This seems a lot of trouble to go to on the surface, lets face it that great piece of “Art” with a capital A (for Riefenstahl and her apologists at least), is little more than a huge bunch of Nazis marching about and standing to attention. We can either take Riefenstahl at face value (probably unwise) claiming that Goebbels and she didn’t see eye to eye and that Hitler somehow overrode things or we can try and look deeper into the political situation amongst the Nazis themselves as it was unfurling.

The Horst Wessel song written by the martyred Nazi became a battle hymn and as such was hugely symbolically significant: That such an open celebration of brutal physical force could become the battle-hymn of the Nazi Party speaks volumes for the central role that violence played in its quest for power. (Evans, 2003: p 268)

If we take into account the fact that By the summer of 1933 the creation of a one party was virtually complete (Evans, 2003 p374) and that as Goebbels put it the Nazis were on The road to the total state. Our revolution has an uncanny dynamic (Goebbels cited Evans, 2003, 174) then we can see that over a very short time an initial set of problems was becoming superseded by another.

The Nazis had successfully brought on board many of the middle-classes as members as well as gaining the approval of many of the elites. But many of these people were being alienated by not only the brutality of the SA but also by the fact that many of the SA leadership around Roehm were interested in a further revolution where the leading capitalists were nationalised immediately, and at the same time the Roehm faction of the SA saw itself as the military vanguard of the new state. Neither of these developments was welcome amongst the leadership around Hitler and Goebbels.

The new allies of the Nazis needed to be won round. Of particular importance was the position of the army and by default the attitude of the Prussian elites. The army would certainly not accept any situation where their power was eroded in favour of the SA. As a fully professional and trained military force they were vital to Hitler’s key goal of Lebensraum or living space. This was the imperial dream writ new. Hitler wanted expansion into Eastern Europe and as can be seen after 1936 the whole state was pushed into investing in this ultimate goal. At this point Hitler wanted new friends and to win a position of trust until a fully hegemonic position could be gained. Even in the late summer of 1933 it was clear to those around Hitler that the excesses and ambitions of the SA would need to be reigned in.

It is this dramatically changing political position of street oppositionists to government and the possibilities of bringing dreams into fruition which spelt caution to the leadership. In terms of gaining a better understanding of the path to creating the Nazi state and how people were persuaded to accept it an intense appreciation of the political ground rather than abstract textual analysis is likely to bear more fruit.

It is political expediency in the light of changing circumstances that can be understood to be a marker of Goebbels’ attitude to the Horst Wessel / Hans Westmar film in September. It would be fascinating to know exactly what changes were instituted and more work clearly needs to be done on this in order to substantiate this argument fully. Currently it remains more circumstantial based on the clear shifts in attitude taking place.

Part of Hitler’s and Goebbels’ problem is the speed of their success. Had the SA needed to have been still engaged in pitched fighting with communists and other oppositionists as they were in the first few weeks of power then there is little doubt that this heavy handed ‘propaganda’ would have been required for morale purposes. But suddenly the street enemies had largely collapsed and the political and economic aims were now rather different. Eventually these intra-Nazi tensions would be resolved by the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ but until then steps were taken to control cinematic output more carefully. The extreme SA was becoming more dangerous for the overall ambitions of Hitler than the communists.

The new cinema law instituted in February of 1934. Under this law completed films were still to be submitted to the Reichsfilmprufstelle as well as having the scripts subjected to preproduction censorship. At he same time the censorship office in Munich was closed down and decision making centralised in Berlin. Each censorship committee was to have a casting vote by a member of the Propaganda Ministry. In 1935 even more measures were taken to ensure the tightest possible controls. At this point the shutting down of the Munich censorship office was important. It was from Munich that two of the three SA Movement films were made. Whether there was a conscious decision to reduce SA influence in the decision making about films is a question which is raised here.

A complicating factor is the fact that only two days after Goebbels’ speech Hitler Youth Quex is premiered. Goebbels was very flattering about it (Rntschler 1996). Was it a decision that two premieres of two similar films would damage each other, Goebbels clearly preferred Hitler Youth Quex aesthetically. Being made by Ufa in Berlin it is likely that Goebbels knew exactly what was in this film and how it was being represented. By comparison Hans Westmar represented a fear of loss of control.

Bibliography: see main bibliography using the resources tag.

December 05, 2006

Open Studies in European Cinema: Webliography


This ‘Webliography’ is being continually updated. If users have any suggestions please post a comment with the relevant URL. Thank you. Please note some links may already be available in the site already.

When the list is long enough they will be placed in categories such as film journals.
Useful web links

16-9 Danish Film Journal for more scholarly market. Mainly in Danish but each issue has an article in English

The following link to site of American academic Randall L. Bytwerk is very useful for work on Nazi propaganda.

This is a link to a useful BFI Bibliography on Contemporary European Cinema which is a downloadable Pdf.

Scope is an online cinema journal from the University of Nottingham

For articles primarily on Eastern Europe comes Kinoeye (no relation to the blog but with similar critical antecedants perhaps).

Images: A Journal of Film and Popular Culture Film

Genre Theory course. Much material available on line.

Link to University of Zaragoza academics group currently working on genre issues:
Cinema, Culture and Society Portal – Home

December 03, 2006

Open Studies in European Cinema. German Cinema: The History & Culture of Weimar & Nazi Cinema


This page is an entry portal in the Warwick Open Studies course for Weimar and Nazi Cinema.

This course starts on tuesday 9th of January 2007 @ 7.00 pm

Contact University of Warwick Open Studies to register. It is possible to register online. Please follow the link above.

The course is continuing during the summer term featuring another range of films from the period.

Open Studies in European Cinema. Summary of key findings of Rentschler's Ministry of Illusions


First published in 1996 Eric Rentschler’s book The Ministry of Illusion was an important step forward in the historiography of Nazi cinema seeking to go beyond the over-simplistic binary models of propaganda / distractive entertainment which had been prevalent until then.

Under Goebbels cinema became centralised and consolidated. By 1942 there were 4 state owned studios: Bavaria, Ufa, Terra, and Tobis which between them dominated the industry.

Rentschler has identified a number of core features of Nazi feature films over the period:

  • Very little footage was shot out of doors or on location
  • Directors were functional as facilitators not auteurs
  • Film was to be artful and accessible not intellectual or esoteric
  • Films were made under a state apparatus that determined every aspect of production from script development to the final shape of the film
  • The conditions of exhibition including release and distribution were also closely administered
  • Nazi cinema denigrated the film of the fantastic as well as filmic realism
  • Nazi cinema assumed a ‘middle ground’ of historical period pieces, costume drams, musical revues, light comedies, melodramas and petty bourgeois fantasies

Paul Wegener Kolberg 1943_1945

  • Modernism persisted not within full length features but in short films and non-fiction films. (Examples given: Riefenstahl, Zieckle & Ruttman)
  • Nazi film narratives generally privilege space over time, composition over editing, design over movement and sets over human shapes
  • Compared to Hollywood output the films appear slow and static. There was more use of panoramas and tableaux than close-ups
  • There was little nudity and few stunts or action scenes
  • The music worked with visuals to make spectators lose touch with conceptual logic
  • The ideal film would spirit people away from the real world to a ‘pleasant, compelling, and convincing alternative space

Heinz Ruhman 1

  • Only a minority of features were ‘overt’ propaganda

The wife who was murdered by mercy killing in Ich Klage an

  • There were two waves of films with strong propaganda content. The first was comprised of the SA films of 1933. the second were the anti-Semitic, anti-British and anti-Russian films between 1939-1932
  • These propaganda films worked within the larder constellation of the whole of Nazi cinema apparatuses
  • The Third Reich was … a full-blown media dictatorship (p 217)
  • Both film executives and government film administrators avoided films which put National Socialism on display
  • The utopian spaces of cinema were sponsored by the Ministry of Propaganda: Nazi cinema not only created illusions but also often showed illusionists at work, occasionally self-reflected about the power of illusion (p 218)
  • Despite the post-war claims of filmmakers and revisionist critics, one finds very few examples of open resistance to the party and state in films of this era (p 218)
  • Rentschler recognises that not all meaning can be controlled and furthermore points out that allowing occasional spaces of transgression served the overall aims of the film industry admirably

Munchhausen on a Cannonball

  • Exceptions forming some sort of resistance for Rentschler appeared firstly after 1942 and include The Enchanted Day,Romance in a Minor Key, Akrobat Sho-o-o-o-n
  • There were more ‘leakages’ as the system gradually became more chaotic as the war drew into its final months

November 30, 2006

Open Studies in European Cinema_The Ministry of Illusions_: The 5 Premises of Eric Rentschler


Eric Rentschler’s Ministry of Illusions is one of an increasing number of academic studies re-viewing the structures, productions and effects of Nazi Cinema. Some of these studies are perhaps over-embedded in textual analysis to the point of excluding the contextual. It is clear that analysis of Nazi cinema as ‘bad object’ needs careful analysis in order to better understand how the mechanisms of this abominable regime were able to contribute to the maintenance of a hegemonic position in one of Europe’s most advanced countries.

Not least amongst Rentschler’s concerns is the easy availability of much of the output of the Nazi period, at least that which was classed as entertainment and therefore nothing more than a distraction. This is something we will return to in a piece summarising Rentschler’s concerns about the redemptive processes goping on within 1990s German cinema which has potentially dangerous redemptive characteristics.

The 5 Premises

Premise 1

Nazi cinema needs to be seen in the light of the state’s concerted effort to create a culture industry in the service of mass deception (Rentschler p 16)

Premise 2

Entertainment played a crucial role in Nazi culture. Film ...was to move the hearts and minds of masses while seeming to have little in common with politics or party agendas (ibid p 19).

Premise 3

Goebbels saw media culture as a kind of orchestra which moves forward in a planned way using different instruments palying different notes. The whole being co-ordinated into a symphony: The political itself is instituted and constituted (and regualrly re-grounds itself) in and as works of art (Phillippe Lacone-Labatte on Heidegger and Aesthetics, cited Rentschler p 21).

Premise 4

Mass culture was fundamental to the Nazi project creating a specific social ontology anchoring people in a reconstructed everyday: ...the popular clearly played a prominent and ubiquitous role in everyday life. Rentschler notes that the popular entertainment model had homologies with American ones.

Premise 5

Neither dumping ground of propaganda nor a moronic cult of distraction and surely not a locus of resistance, _Nazi feature production warrants more careful scrutiny. Interestingly Rentschler notes here that the popular media could not have been a locus of resistance despite more revisionist attempts to play with concepts of ‘reading texts against the grain as an act of resistance’. (Well if even that was the case it wasn’t very effective resistance one is tempted to add).

November 23, 2006

Open Studies in European Cinema. Nazi Box Office Figures

Nazi Period Facts and Figures

Table 1

Year< > Number of Cinemas< >Number of admissions (millions)
1933…................ 5,071…................................245
1934…................ 4,889…................................259
1935…................ 4,782…................................303
1944 …................6,484…..............................1,101

Table derived from Rentchsler, 1996 p 13. Originally sourced from Prinzler, Chronik des deutschen Films 1895-1994. Stuttgart, 1995.

On these figures it can be seen that during the first two years of Nazi rule the number of screens was reduced in the first year at the rate of nearly one per day and during the second year by approximately one every three days. At the same time that there were closures the numbers of cinema-goers rose steadily every year peaking in 1943. In 1943 the peak of audiences was accompanied by the first contraction in the number of cinemas since 1936 and falling to fewer cinemas than in 1939. This trend can clearly be put down to wartime conditions changing dramatically with RAF air raids beginning to make a real impact on cities from early in 1943.

Table 2: German box-office statistics, 1929-1939

Year< >Number of Tickets sold < >Gross Income (million RM)

Table derived from Rentschler, 1996 p105. Originally sourced from Traub ed. Die Ufa. Ein Beitrag zur Entwicklungsgeschichte des deutschen ilmschaffens. Berlin: Ufa-Buchverlag, p 156.

Numbers with a * against them denote a discrepancy with table 1. This amounts to a difference of 12 million tickets sold in 1938.

Table 3: Foreign feature films exhibited in the Third Reich

Year/All features/German features/% of all features /Total US/ Total foreign
1941…. 81….........67….............................82.7--------—-0….......14

Derived from Rentschler, 1996, p106. Sourced from Boguslaw, Drewniak, deutsche Film 1938-1945. Ein Gesamptuberblick. Dusseldorf: Droste, 1987, p 814.

Analysis of the Statistics

In 1933 the numbers of tickets sold were higher than in 1932 by 7 million yet the gross income fell by 59 million Reichmarks. The reason is that possibly prices of cinema tickets are being lowered to keep audience share furthermore more people were being employed by the state on infrastructure projects thus beginning to stimulate the economy.

1934 shows that there were 82 fewer cinemas with 14 million more tickets being sold. This was the first full year the Nazis were in power. During this year more German made features were exhibited than during any other year of the Nazi regime.

The figures for 1934 show a contraction in production of the number of German films with US imports at their highest level during the Nazi period. It would appear that there was a focus upon making better quality productions and fewer films.

It was only in 1936 that box office sales finally increased over the 1929 figures despite the end of 1929 seeing the beginning of the economic depression. Furthermore the box office taking were 280 million RM compared with the 1929 273 million RM. The number of tickets sold were 362 million and 328 million respectively. On theses figures this means that 32 million more tickets were sold in 1936 which netted only another 7 million RM. This clearly indicates that tickets were cheaper in the first few years of the Nazi regime.

The discrepancy between cinema going numbers and income shows that the Nazi regime was not running cinema as a pure business venture as suggested by some commentators. Given that there were many popular entertainment films produced there seems to be a strong element of ‘bread & circuses’ involved.

We can also see that there was a considerable expansion in the number of cinemas with nearly two hundred more than in 1933 when the Nazis came to power. When we combine the audience figures with the expansion of cinema numbers with the fact that the Nazis paid quite a number of overseas ‘stars’ inflated rates of pay to keep them on board then it is clear that ideological concerns were the main priority for the film industry and entertainment was linked to this.

1939, the year the war started, there were over 1,500 more cinemas than in 1938. The number of admissions went up considerably there is a discrepancy between the figures by 178 million on the lowest estimate however there were only 11 more feature films made than in 1938.

These figures raise a number of questions: Who developed these cinemas? Where were they? Were they in areas that had previously had no local cinema? Does this provide us with an indicator of Nazi preparations for war? Does the start of the war mean that many people flocked to the cinemas to see the newsreels rather than the feature films in order to get news of the opening months of the war? If that is the case how might this information be utilised regarding theories of propaganda?

Throughout the period of the war the average percentage of German feature films being screened was well above 70%.

During the war the statistics show that the number of feature films being made in Germany dropped considerably. At the same time there were more foreign features being shown in Germany. We don’t know from the statistics where these were made. Some were certainly from Continental films the German controlled film production company based in Paris. Quite possibly some were from Vichy France.

November 16, 2006

Open Studies in European Cinema. Filmography: Weimar & Nazi Cinema


There is no point at all in ‘re-inventing’ what is already very good. Rather than laboriously re-enter data this filmography will hyperlink to entries already available on the excellent resource at Deutsche Film Portal and also filmographies from other courses accessible via the web. Regarding the Deutsche Film Portal it should be noted that while many of the pages are translated into English understandably the best material is only available in German. Presumably translation is an ongoing project. competent people may wish to volunteer their services. If this is done through a course then this could count as course credits.

Many films are held in university collections and other specialist collections. Where the content of these collections can be downloaded a hyperlinked reference has been been added to the resources section. If anybody comes across a useful URL please put it in the commentary box. Thanks.

This filmography will organise its links to types of personnel involved in the industry. It will start with directors and then proceed to actors, producers camera people, designers, costume designers.


Dudow, Slatan

Dupont E. A.

Harlan, Veit

Kertesz Mihaly / Michael Curtis

Lang, Fritz
Liebeneiner, Wolfgang
Leni, Paul
Lubitsch, Ernst
May, Joe
Murnau F. W.

Ophuls, Max

Pabst, G.W.
Reifenstahl, Leni
Reiniger, Lotte

Ruttman, Walter

Sagan, Leontine

Sierck Detlev / Sirk, Douglas

Siodmak, Robert

Trencker, Luis

Ulmer, Edgar

von Sternberg

Wiene, Robert

Wlder, Billy

Filmographies used on various courses

Please bear in mind that these will not be complete filmographies but represent the specific perspectives which course organisers will be seeking to develop.

University of Warwick Department of German

Connections to collections of films made under the Nazi Regime 1933-1945

Northwestern University

November 15, 2006

Women Stars in Nazi Cinema

In 2003 Antje Aschied published Hitler’s Heroines: Stardom and Womanhood in Nazi Cinema. The hyperlinked review of the book is quite scathing about the methods behind the book arguing, correctly in my view, that there was a lack of historical contextualisation and and over-reliance on textual analysis devoid of anything else to claim that aspects of the text could be read as ruptures and disjunctures in the approach of Nazism to wards femininity.

Textual analysis is an important research tool which itself can be informed by a range of methodologies. Nevertheless there is a tension between textual and contextual which is very hard to resolve. Here Erica Carter’s excellent review article of relatively recent textual analytical approaches to film history makes the point very clearly in her summing up. Despite the excellence and usefulness of the books she is reviewing which rely upon analysis of few texts in minute detail: What however, of those methodologies from the field of film studies – genre, star and auteur studies, for instance – in which the single text is decentered and made part of larger systems of signification? (Carter, 1999, p 583).

Well it isn’t rocket science to note that there were contradictory features within Nazism indeed David Kershaw argues that Hitler deliberately encouraged competition amongst his followers on a divide and rule basis.

Only picking three stars to study seems like a flawed method if one wishes to draw conclusions about the Nazi attitude to women. The three stars in question: Kristina Soederbaum, Zarah Leander and Lilian Harvey were not true Aryans in of German stock, two being Swedish and one English. Any study would only be firmly based if comparative work was done across all the leading actresses.

Furthermore the key element of audinece is missing from the equation. As reviewer Jana Bruns scathingly and rhetorically asks:“is it conceivable, for example, that stars like Leander, Soederbaum and Harvey damaged the regime by unraveling Nazi gender essentialism and allowing viewers to align with different identities?”

Whilst textual methods of research can be extremly useful it is usually better to triangulate research across several methods. Qualitative types of audience research should be obligatory when the issues are as high stake as close analysis of the ideological functioning of Nazism and its successes and failures.

It seems worthwhile to at least contextualise a little. The position of Soederbaum is intersting to say the least. She was a star alongside Veit Harlan in the infamous rabid anti-semitic piece of direct propaganda Jud Suss which was also directed by Harlan. (Soererabum was also Harlan’s wife). The audiences were clearly so disrupted by the transgressive nature of woman that they rushed out and rescued all the Jewish women in concentration camps.

Kristina Soederbaum in Jud Suss

As if that particular piece of propaganda context were not enough Soederbaum also stars in another Veit Harlan foray into direction into direction Kolberg. Please see introduction to the film on this blog for more details.

Kristina Soederbaum in Kolberg

This was an enormous propaganda exercise which was being made in the teeth of total collapse of the regime on all military fronts. Nevertheless the propaganda value was considered so important that large number of front-line troops were used as extras and the budget was huge. From the perspective of -unraveling Nazi gender essentialism_ the issues were rather more serious for the average German with the Soviets knocking at the door of Berlin and British and American troops rapidly thrusting deep into German territory over the Rhine.

Out of the 35,000 books on the Nazi regime this one may not get to the top of the pile.

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