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Was Jud Suss a veiled criticism of Hitler?

Was Jud Suss a veiled criticism of Hitler?


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In 1940, Veit Harlan directed his most controversial movie: Jud Suss. The film takes various historical liberties, but otherwise depicts the life and death of Joseph Suss Oppenheimer, Court Jew to Karl Alexander, the 18th century Duke of Württemberg. Subjectively speaking, it's a very well made film, but its content is quite striking: the Jewish characters are depicted as conniving, power-hungry and lascivious (although the duke himself doesn't come off much better), and various members of the cast and crew found difficulty getting work again after the war was over.

In attempting to mitigate their role in the production, I have heard (although I have no source beyond Wikipedia) that some of the people involved claimed to have been operating under duress. Josef Goebbels, the Reichsminister of Propaganda, was himself very involved in the production of the movie, so the claim is not so unbelievable. My question concerns a feature of the film, and how it may have been analysed critically at the time:

Karl Alexander (played by Heinrich George) is depicted as greedy and lecherous, and it is his moral depravity that causes him to invite Jews back to Stuttgart in order to finance his various entertainments. To do so, he needs to overrule the interests of his advisors, and to their chagrin he amends the constitution in order to deprive them of a voice within his cabinet and to grant sole, unmitigated rule to himself.

When I was watching this, I couldn't help but wonder whether or not the Duke's seizure of power might have been interpreted at the time as a veiled criticism of the Fuhrer. The historical circumstances are quite different, but he too entered office as one of several people who held the reigns, and he too found ways of abrogating the constitution, terminating the republic and becoming the sole power. In the movie, it is "the Jew" who is behind the rise of the Duke, and the film positions the audience in such a way that the abrogation of a constitution and the dissolution of his council are seen as heinous acts.

I was wondering if there are any sources that show that Germans at the time might have felt that this was treading a little too closely to what Hitler himself had done? Furthermore, is there any indication that members of the crew may have used it in their defense after the war? In other words, to suggest that the portrayal of the Duke was a deliberate criticism of the leader of Reich?


I think, no. I think this film's plot was not intended as criticism of Hitler. To understand it one should have idea about Nazi mentality. They did not consider themselves as some tyrants that suppress people but rather a protection of the people from such tyrants who are manipulated by the Jews and uses foreign support to seize power.

Beside this, the character of the Duke and the whole situation is quite typical. When watching this film, I could not get rid of the feeling that the film is about Russian history of the 1990s. The Duke very much resembles Boris Yeltsin. He also was quite a drunkard, there were a lot of expensive festivities at the period, he employed some popularly-hated Jews like Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar as economy advisors and ministers (Chubais was the head of the state property committee). When the Supreme Council refused to appoint Gaidar as prime minister, Yeltsin made an anti-constitutional coup and ordered tanks to shoot on the Council building. As in the film, the currency experienced hyperinflation at the time.

Currently in Russia there is ongoing another conflict: the billionaire Rotenberg brothers (friends of Putin) introduced the payment system "Platon" that would collect payments from all freight truck drivers for using the roads to the benefit of their own firm, under the pretext the roads need maintenance and repair. Part of the payment will go to the state, but a significant part would go to the hands of the Rotenberg brothers, just as it was in the film with Oppenheimer in the role of the Rotenbergs. There are mass protests about this idea.

So, the history repeats or it was just a typical situation. That said, the film, I think has very little positive characters, possibly only the dead girl and the old rabbi, for which fact (absence of positive characters) the film was already criticized at the time of creation.

Even the father of the girl is shown negatively in that he forced his daughter to marry his secretary, a man whom she did not love (although friendly) so that she not to marry a Jew. The fact she did not love her husband is shown by the fact that she refused to sleep with him at the first night after marriage (and supposedly later as well), which is not how loving people typically behave. It is conceivable she had real feelings towards Oppenheimer.

It also hints at the idea that Oppenheimer became evil because of the anti-Semitism (he says so). In the initial part of the film he is constantly attacked and insulted just for being Jewish, and tries to respond politely. In the film other Jews than Oppenheimer and his aides are not shown to do anything bad, but suffer in the end.

In general I think the film makes attempt to describe inter-ethnic interactions as realistic as possible, even though the whole narrative may be beneficial to the Nazi cause.

On the other hand if you consider another German film "Munchhausen" of 1943, where the same actor, Marian plays a role of Jewish count Cagliostro you definitely will see a lot of criticism of the regime. Starting from the fact that Cagliostro is a positive character, Munchhausen helps him to escape an arrest and disappear, the Venetian doge is very similar to Mussolini, and employes secret police, a scene in the harem where a black woman had better teeth than a white woman, enraging her and a lot of other stuff.


The German versions of "Jud Suess" and "Der Ewige Jude" were not criticisms of Hitler. But they were "take-offs on American (Jew Suess) and British (The Eternal Jew) films of the same names that were critical of Hitler.

The German versions were "sponsored" by Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, who took a personal interest in "turning" the Anglo-American films. It is highly unlikely that he would allowed the production of anything critical of Hitler (although it is barely possible that individual critical passages were "slipped in").

The Nazis were cynical, hypocritical people, and it was not above them to "overrule the interests of [legtimate authority and]… amend the constitution." Their only quarrel with such actions was when Jews did them.


It might be worth mentioning that the American and German films are both based on a novel by Lion Feuchtwanger, who was a Jew and an outspoken critic of the Nazis even before they came to power. The German film completely reverses the tendency of the novel.


Jud Suess (1940)

Jud Suss is an anti-Semitic National Socialist feature film by Veit Harlan from 1940. The work commissioned by the government at the time and conceived as a propaganda film is based on the historical figure of Joseph Suss Oppenheimer (1698–1738), but does not correspond to the traditional ones Sources that suggest that Suss Oppenheimer was merely a scapegoat who had to atone for the misconduct of Duke Karl Alexander von Württemberg (1684–1737).

“Jud Süß” is a reserved film from the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation . It is part of the foundation's portfolio, has not been released for distribution and may only be shown with the consent and under the conditions of the foundation.


This is the second in a series of articles on the recent Berlin International Film Festival, February 11-21. Part one was posted on 24 February.

One of the most engrossing films at the Berlinale was the new film by Raoul Peck. After treating developments in a number of African countries in his more recent films—Lumumba (2000) and Sometimes in April (2004), dealing with the massacre in Ruanda—Peck has turned his attention to his native Haiti.

The premiere of his film in Haiti itself was cancelled following the devastating earthquake in mid-January. Virtually the entire action in Moloch Tropical takes place within a fortress residence located high on a mountain. The opening shot is of the president of the land rising from his silk-sheeted bed and performing his morning ablutions. He appears nervous and strangely absent. In the course of getting up, he upsets a glass bottle on his bedside table and it falls to the floor and shatters.

Following his shower, the inevitable happens: the distracted president steps with his bare foot on a shard of glass. For the remainder of the film, he must conduct his affairs of state with a bandage on his foot and limping heavily.

In the first scene, we learn that the all-powerful president surrounded by his entourage of lackeys, officials and bodyguards is just as prone to mishaps as any other mortal. Peck keeps his camera on the figure of the president over the course of the next 24 hours, during which a popular uprising takes place and which ends with the president ousted from his post following the intervention of the US ambassador.

In the course of the day, the president planned to stage a play in the fortress courtyard commemorating the Haitian revolution in the early nineteenth century. An actor walks the halls of the fortress citing the words of Toussaint Louverture, who initially led the struggle for Haiti’s independence, achieved in 1804. One of the president’s closest aides is desperate to ensure that white foreign dignitaries attend the celebration. “Get me whites,” she orders a subordinate, “I need whites!”

Inside the fortress walls, corruption and nepotism prevail—outside the walls, poverty and repression. The president—it is intimated he is a former priest and of humble origins—has ordered the arrest and torture of a journalist who he had known previously as a friend. The journalist has spoken out against the repressive nature of the president’s regime and helped spark the uprising. In one of the most gripping scenes in the film, the badly tortured man is given a clean shirt, tidied up somewhat and dragged upstairs from his dungeon to sit at table and have lunch with the president.

The prisoner, his lips thick from beating, is unable to drink the fine wine offered to him by the president who reminisces on their shared past. The journalist is, however, able to turn the tables on the president, describing him as a pitiful figure, lacking in any sort of dignity—despite his police power and privileges. The prisoner is later taken down the mountain and savagely killed by the president’s thugs.

Peck declared his intention to examine the tragic past of his country from a Shakespearean perspective. The references are clear—the play within a play from Hamlet, the madness scene from King Lear also recreated towards the end of Peck’s film, as an increasingly deranged president stumbles naked through the woods adjoining his castle. Peck is ambitious, but, it seems to me, largely successful in his endeavours. The hollowness of political power in a country like Haiti, wracked by such deep social divides, is depicted in all its fragility and brutality.

Peck has personal experience of such issues in his function as the Haitian culture minister between 1995 and 1997. While Peck says he drew on many sources for his figure of the president (including no doubt the early Haitian dictator, Henri-Christophe, as well as the notorious François Duvalier, who terrorised the population with his private militia, the Tonton Macoutes), the president’s attributes—a former priest from a modest background, democratically elected, but, in fact, lifted into power by the US State Department—certainly bring to mind the recent president, the deposed Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

At the same time, in media interviews, Peck has made clear that his film could also be entitled Moloch International. He told the news service DPP: “When I speak of Haiti I am speaking equally about the entire world. In this sense the film does not apply just to Haitian presidents, but also to politicians such as Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, Silvio Berlusconi or Vladimir Putin.”

In a question-and-answer session at the film festival, I had the opportunity to ask Peck a few questions about his film. In discussion, the filmmaker was scathing about the role of both the Catholic Church and various American administrations in Haitian politics.

Peck declared that he was originally a supporter of Aristide but quickly became disenchanted, particularly because of the subservience of the latter’s regime to the US. Peck pointed out that the eventual resignation of Aristide in 2004 had been worked out in joint meetings between representatives of the country’s two main colonial masters—French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin and US Secretary of State Colin Powell. Describing the president’s rapid transportation to an African state at the time on a US plane, Powell claimed that Aristide “was not kidnapped. We did not force him onto the airplane. He went onto the airplane willingly. And that’s the truth.”

When I asked Peck what Haiti could expect from the Obama administration, the director was reserved in his comments, but expressed hope that a new generation in the White House with different ideas would take a more progressive approach to his country. Notwithstanding Peck’s misplaced hopes in the Obama White House, his film Moloch Tropical deserves a wide audience.

We look forward to Peck’s next project—reportedly a feature film about the young Karl Marx.

Oskar Roehler’s Jew Suss: Rise and Fall

One of the worst films at the festival was undoubtedly Jud Süss—Rise and Fall (Jud Süß: Film ohne Gewissen) from director Oskar Roehler. Roehler has carved out a niche for himself in German filmmaking with hysterical studies dealing with the personal lives of middle class couples—in particular stressing their sexual incompatibility. His film version of The Elementary Particles (based on the novel by Michel Houellebecq), released in 2006, has been previously reviewed by the WSWS.

His latest film—Roehler’s first attempt at dealing with historical material—was quite justly greeted with a chorus of boos and jeering at the end of its press screening.

The original Jud Süss (about an eighteenth century Jewish banker and financial planner) was commissioned by the Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels in 1939 just a few months after the commencement of the Second World War, as part of the Nazi slander campaign against the Jews. The film was required viewing for death camp commanders and those involved in the liquidation of the Jewish population. It has gone down in history as one of the vilest pieces of cinematic propaganda.

Roehler’s film concentrates on the lead actor in the 1939 Jud Süss—the Austrian thespian Ferdinand Marian. Roehler portrays Marian as a tragic figure forced to comply with Goebbels’s demand that he play the main role in the film otherwise his Jewish wife will be sent to the camps. The manifold incongruities and untruths in Roehler’s film have been detailed and denounced by a biographer of Marian, the German historian Friedrich Knilli.

Knilli points out that Marian’s wife was not Jewish. Roehler’s film also depicts Marian as a spent force driven to alcohol after participating in Jud Süss and eventually committing suicide upon hearing that his wife has been gassed at Auschwitz. In fact, Marian went on to make a number of other films in fascist Germany before he died in a car crash in 1946. Commenting on Roehler’s film, Knilli said, “It is complete rubbish. You can’t simply falsify the facts in historical films. One has to stick to the truth a bit.”

Roehler is completely immune to such criticism. Justifying his film, the director declared that when it comes to relating “the human drama,” anything goes. “We make movies and not documentaries because we want to depict human feelings. We are telling emotions. The inner truth,” he told reporters at the film festival.

In many respects, Roehler’s film represents a considerable step back in the portrayal of fascism by German filmmakers. Recent films, most notably Downfall, graphically depicted the savagery of Hitler’s rule without resorting to caricature. In his latest film, Roehler revives all manner of clichés about the period of Nazi rule in Germany.

Fascism in Roehler’s eyes is reduced to the drive for power by men and women obsessed with domination—particularly of the sexual kind. We witness one scene in Roehler’s Jud Süss where the eyes of a bevy of attractive women sitting at a bar are hypnotically drawn to the limping figure of Goebbels as he hobbles into the room—evidently captivated by his overwhelming sexual allure.

Goebbels is depicted as a power-hungry and sex-obsessed tyrant in a totally over-the-top performance by the otherwise admirable German actor Moritz Bleibtreu. In another exceptionally distasteful scene, an avid female supporter of the Nazis seduces the actor Marian whom she assumes to be Jewish—spurred on by the erotic allure of a forbidden sex.

Predictably, some supporters of Roehler have argued that his thorough contempt for historical fact is justified in the wake of other recent movies dealing with the Nazi past—most notably Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. A wonderful argument.…


Who was Lion Feuchtwanger?

Best-selling author Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958), born in Munich, was raised in an observant Jewish and patriotic German household. He studied German history and began writing plays and stories at age 19. Most of his novels took historical themes.

After serving in the German army during World War I, Feuchtwanger's writing took a leftist political turn. His 1930 novel Erfolg (Success) provided a thinly veiled criticism of the Beer Hall Putsch and Hitler's rise to leadership in the Nazi Party. Feuchtwanger's Jewishness, the Jewish themes of his early fiction, and his close association with Bertolt Brecht were among the causes for his persecution. After the Nazi takeover on January 30, 1933, his house in Berlin was illegally searched and his invaluable library plundered by the Nazis during his lecture tour in the United States.

1933 was an eventful year for Feuchtwanger. All of his works were burned in the book burnings of May, and his anti-Nazi novel The Oppermans was published in Amsterdam and became a huge success. In the same year, Feuchtwanger moved to the south of France where he remained an adamant opponent of the Nazi regime. His popular 1925 work Jud Süss, about an eighteenth-century court Jew, was used by the Nazis for a 1939 antisemitic propaganda film of the same name. After the Germans invaded France in 1940, Feuchtwanger was detained in the Les Milles internment camp.

Lion Feuchtwanger (1884–1958), German-Jewish novelist, playwright, essayist, during his internment in the Les Milles camp. - University of Southern California - Courtesy of University of Southern California ( See archival information )

His wife organized his escape with the help of US Consuls Hiram Bingham and Miles Standish as well as US citizens Varian Fry and the Reverend Waitstill Sharp. Feuchtwanger ultimately found asylum in the United States. In 1941 he settled in southern California, where he continued to write until his death in 1958.


The Real Stanley Kubrick

Her uncle directed the Nazi propaganda film and she was a member of the Hitler Youth. Christiane Harlan was the love of Stanley Kubrick's life for more than 40 years.

Stanley Kubrick cut himself off from the outside world, giving no interviews, declining to be photographed and not appearing in public for 20 years. Even before his death, on March 7, 1999, he was called the Wizard of Oz, described as the successor of the famous recluse Howard Hughes and was likened to Dr. Mabuza, the all-seeing monster-type character in the series of paranoid films made by Fritz Lang. Kubrick, the genius who directed, among other films, "2001: A Space Odyssey," "A Clockwork Orange," "The Shining" and "Eyes Wide Shut," became a reclusive genius, a control freak, an obsessive perfectionist and a misanthrope who hated women especially.

"Where did people get the idea that he was a woman hater?" his widow, Christiane Kubrick, guffaws. His third wife, she is the mother of his three daughters and lived with him for more than 40 years. "The man was surrounded by women his whole life. He had good relations with his mother and with his sister, he had three daughters and he was a far better mother than I was. He had no choice but to love the world of women. Stanley was fond of women and was an avid supporter of women's liberation. When we met, in Munich, he was the first man I had ever known who used to call his mother regularly and hold pleasant conversations with her."

Kubrick, who was Jewish, was born in the Bronx in 1928. From a young age he was an expert chess player, and people close to him say that in his films and his life he took far-reaching risks in every move he made, as he did in chess. His black eyes were focused and piercing, attested his friend, the writer Michael Herr, who co-wrote the screenplay for "Full Metal Jacket" (1987) and also wrote a book about the director ("Kubrick," Grove Press paperback).

Heavily built, Kubrick felt ill at ease in physical contact and his body language was stiff, Herr notes. It took Kubrick four years before he placed his hand, awkwardly, on Herr's shoulder, and then he backed off, lest he had overdone it. At the same time, Herr emphasizes that he was a warm person but did not express this in bodily contact, at least not with people. Most of all he hated being photographed.

In the early 1970s, Kubrick decided that the media was beyond the pale for him. Already in an interview to "Rolling Stone" magazine, in 1972, he said that the test of a work of art lay in the feeling one has for it and not in one's ability to explain why it is good. In that period, he gave quite a few interviews and turned out to have a razor-sharp humor. He told The New York Times that year, "I have a wife, three children, three dogs, seven cats. I'm not a Franz Kafka, sitting alone and suffering." He remarked that no critic had ever succeeded in illuminating even one aspect of his work.

"Right from the beginning he realized that he wasn't good at interviews," his widow says. "He would listen to an interview with him on the radio and grumble that he had done himself damage and that he sounded idiotic. That was not true, but that is how he felt. As someone who began his career as a photographer for Look magazine and was present at interviews with people whom he admired as being intelligent, Stanley discovered that in interviews smart people sound stupid. If there is one thing he hated, it was superficiality and small talk. A person like him, who made films with such meticulous attention to detail and wanted everything to be perfect and correct, told himself one day that his films expressed him best, that they are concentrated and contain the gist - so why give interviews? He was frank with himself and understood that he was bad at that."

So it's as simple as it sounds? There was no self-hatred or anything like that involved?

"It did not stem from self-criticism. Stanley preferred to devote his energy to his films. He was a good businessman and wanted to focus on the budget, the production and marketing, on everything that is entailed in directing a film, and especially on working with the actors. That was the most precious thing for him and the center of his life. He was a happy person who loved to be in his home. He worked most of the time and the term `going on vacation' would bring on an outburst of anger from him. The quiet of life outside the city, in a rural setting [in England], with the children and the animals was the right thing for him. He was a person who took an interest in everything, from the news to sports and literature and history and what have you, and because of his status he did not have to go anywhere: whoever wanted to work with him came to the house. He thought that was wonderful, and would say, `I'll sit in the garden and wait. They will come.'"

In 1987, Kubrick told the Chicago Tribune that everything that had been written about him was grotesquely wrong and that he was not a recluse but led a normal life. But the image that clung to him was so convenient and so attractive that it developed a life of its own. Christiane confirms that the decision to stop giving interviews exacted a high price. "Barricading himself from the media acted like a boomerang. One day he understood that it was a bunker, because the media hates him and is making up stories about him. He admitted that he had made a mistake and that he had to correct it. `Maybe I'll write an article,' he said. `Dear people, in practice I am charming and amiable.' And we both burst out laughing."

But the laughter gradually faded, she said, "because the situation became worse in the 1990s, when someone named Alan Conway went around for a long time in all kinds of places pretending to be Stanley Kubrick and trying to seduce children by promising them a part in a film. The police tried to catch him but failed, and the thing got bigger and bigger in the press, and people said Stanley Kubrick was a pedophile. Stanley thought something needed to be done, so he turned to his friend Mike Herr, who had fought in Vietnam and had written `Dispatches,' an important document about the war, and was also involved in writing the screenplay for `Apocalypse Now' [directed by Francis Ford Coppola]. Herr, a Jew who became a Buddhist, knew Stanley well and wrote a moving book about him. The Conway affair ended with his arrest and his confinement in a psychiatric hospital. But later a documentary film was shown in which Conway said how much he had enjoyed being the great Mr. Kubrick, and that was awful. So, when Warner Brothers suggested that I and my brother, Jan Harlan [who was the executive producer of Kubrick's films in the last 30 years of the director's life] produce a documentary film about Stanley, I thought it was time to stop being insular and weeping and whining. After his death, the stories only proliferated and worsened and became grotesque. We said that if we remained silent and did not react, people would say it was all true."

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As a guest of last month's Haifa Film Festival, Christiane, a German-born artist whose uncle, Veit Harlan, directed the notorious Nazi propaganda film "Jud Suss" (produced 1938 released 1940), brought not only a copy of the documentary about her late husband, "Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures," but also a wide-ranging homage to the director, which included new prints of five of his films: "Paths of Glory" (1957), "Spartacus" (1960), "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968), "A Clockwork Orange" (1971) and "Barry Lyndon" (1975). She and Harlan are also behind an international exhibition about the director's work, which is about to open in Melbourne and may come to Israel. (Her paintings can be viewed at www.christianekubrick.com.)

"Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures" was made by Jan Harlan in 2001, and features figures such as Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen and the science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, co-author of the screenplay (with Kubrick) for "2001." The film is a lengthy and somewhat didactic personal portrait, which progresses chronologically via the 13 feature films Kubrick directed between 1953 and 1999, through conversations with members of the family, actors and directors, interspersed with rare archival footage from Kubrick's childhood and equally rare footage of Kubrick directing. The exhibition, which contains about 1,000 objects from Kubrick's estate, including costumes from his films and examples of his work as a still photographer, is accompanied by a massive catalogue-album, also overseen by Christiane Kubrick and Jan Harlan, and published by Taschen, "The Stanley Kubrick Archives" which sells for $200.

Kubrick conducted most of his ties with the world by phone. He and Christiane lived on an estate in Hertfordshire, north of London, surrounded by animals. His favorites were the cats, which were concentrated in his wing. Herr writes that Kubrick was capable of conducting hours-long phone conversations. He notes that the writer Gustav Hasford, on whose book "The Short-Timers" Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket" was based, told him that he once spoke with Kubrick on the phone for seven hours. Hasford likened Kubrick to an earwig, a small insect, that enters one ear but doesn't go out the other until it has "eaten clean through your head." Christiane confirms this predeliction: "There was no one whom he did not reach by telephone. If someone told him it was the middle of the night, he would say, `But you are awake, aren't you?'"

Kubrick's parents, Jack and Gertrude Kubrick, were American-born, to parents who immigrated from Russia and Romania. His father was a doctor and his mother, Christiane says, was an autodidact and knew how to go about raising her gifted child. "She said that he took no interest in himself as a child. He was a gifted boy, brilliant and independent, and she, in her wisdom, succeeded in implanting in him a strong belief in himself."

School was not his thing, he decided to forgo a bar mitzvah because it didn't interest him, and at the age of 15, as a high-school student, he was not much in class. He was a drummer in the school band and on Sundays attended an art class. He started to take pictures with his father's Graflex camera. His scholastic achievements continued to be mediocre (he finished high school with a 70 percent average, and so did not go on to college), but his photographs were published in the school magazine and he preferred to spend his time in movie theaters and wander about with the camera around his neck. In June 1945 a photograph of a newspaper vendor mourning President Roosevelt won him $25 and the image was published in Look magazine. A year later he was working for the magazine and publishing photo-stories about boxing and jazz performances, about Frank Sinatra and about the young actor Montgomery Clift. At the age of 19, he married his high-school sweetheart, Toba Metz, and the two moved into a one-room place in Greenwich Village.

Christiane: "He didn't want to be a boy and his mother said he didn't do anything silly as a boy except for getting married so young. He was focused and very ambitious and he was bored to death in school and would copy the lessons from a friend. Getting married at such a young age was an act of taking responsibility by someone who had a burning desire to be an adult. He was a photographer for Look and played chess for money and read a tremendous amount. His father was a very nice man, a bit conservative and a worrier, who sold his life insurance so Stanley could make his first film, `Fear and Desire,' in 1953."

Kubrick was then reading about 20 books a week and often visited laboratories and film-editing rooms to see up-close how films were made. He liked jazz and he never missed a Yankees baseball game. He directed his second feature film, "Killer's Kiss," at the age of 27, this time with funding from his uncle, and his name appeared prominently in the list of credits. According to Herr, Kubrick believed from the very outset that he was the greatest director of all. He never said so, but behaved as though he was. "They say he had no personal life, but that's ridiculous," Herr writes. "It would be more correct to say that he had no professional life, since everything he did was personally done, every move and every call he made, every impulse he expressed was utterly personal, devoted to the making of his movies, which were all personal."

In 1955 Kubrick married Ruth Sobotka, a dancer and choreographer. (His first marriage ended during the shooting of "Fear and Desire.") According to Christiane, that marriage did not succeed because Sobotka traveled a great deal and was not faithful to him. But at the same time Kubrick had already established his first production company, and his third film, "The Killing" (1956) led to the making of his important antiwar film "Paths of Glory" (1957), starring Kirk Douglas. The film was shot in Germany, and during the preparations for it, Kubrick, who was watching television in Munich, saw the beautiful actress Susanne Christian, nee Christiane Susanne Harlan. It was love at first sight for him, but she was already married.

"He called my agent, who told me that an American director wanted to see me. I thought I was going to meet a redneck. I went to the studio and liked him at once. I was unhappily married to a German actor and we had a daughter of two and a half. Stanley and I soon started to live together in Munich. We were married in Las Vegas in 1960," Christiane says.

After five years in Hollywood, he began to work in England, making "Lolita" in 1962 and "Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" the following year. "Our daughters [Anya, born in 1959, and Vivian, born a year later] grew up in England and we liked the fact that his studio was in the village. The urban Stanley suddenly had a large garden and a big kitchen and life was wrapped in great tranquillity."

Did the man who devoted his life to his films find time for his family?

"When we met, I knew I was getting onto a merry-go-round. I left everything and went to America with him with my daughter. It was not a small risk. He read 20 newspapers a day looking for stories, and with the same intensity he devoted himself to his goldfish, to me and to the girls. He was involved in everything. If the cat was sick he would drop everything and talk to the vet and tell him `We will do so-and-so,' and argue with him. He was certain that he was a good doctor and would drive people crazy telling them to take pills of one kind or another. He would explain to the women who worked on the set what to do about a difficult menstrual period - `Don't eat salt, eat this and this' - and would walk away, his cigarette leaving a trail of smoke. He did the same thing with the girls and it was hard for all the pampered women who wandered through our house.

"He was always available for us and he was accessible and attentive. He would speak on three telephone lines at once and if someone came in and asked him something, he would drop everything. He didn't lock himself in when he wrote, and when he had to he would leave everything and then go back to writing as though he hadn't been disturbed. Nothing made him lose his concentration and he also had a phenomenal memory.

"I think that in many ways he was a better mother than I was, because his eyes were always open. We were good friends and I learned from him how to live everyday life and concentrate on work. I copied that lifestyle. When people visited us in Munich, they were astounded at the mess there. People came and went and there were meals and even his mother was taken aback by the mess, but we loved it. When he started to make money, we had a house with large spaces and Stanley thought that this was exactly the purpose of money, for space and time."

Wasn't he dominant and domineering about the girls?

"They are pretty dominant themselves. Katharina [Christiane's daughter from her first marriage] is a painter, Anya is an opera singer and Vivian is a composer. Stanley was very involved in raising the girls and because he was in the house a lot, that was nice. The girls fought him, especially Anya, who would say things like `People think you are amazing but they have no idea how boring you are.' He would sit and grumble that he had no say in the house. What does not come through in any of his films, and probably will not come through when the widow tells about it, either - and I really do not want to sound like the professional widow - but what made Stanley extraordinary was his ability to love truly and to identify with the girls and with what was happening with them. He was angry and upset when they did not take his advice, but they loved him because he was a tremendously devoted and loving father. Yes, and domineering, too."

The murderers' state and me

She was born in 1932, to a family of theater and entertainment people. From childhood she dreamed of being a painter but studied and made a living from dance and acting. Her paternal grandfather was a playwright and the director of a theater. Her father, Fritz Harlan, was an opera singer his brother, Veit Harlan, a film director, entered history because he made "Jud Suss." The film is a rare case in the history of cinema: at the end of the war its maker was arrested and placed on trial in Hamburg for crimes against humanity and preparing the ground for genocide, with the film introduced as evidence. He was acquitted twice in 1949, once on the grounds that the film was essentially immaterial to the events that occurred, the second time on the grounds that he was coerced by the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Harlan went on making films in Germany until his death in 1964, at the age of 64.

Christiane: "That is the heavy burden I have borne since childhood. I would be happy if I didn't come from a state of murderers. Stanley took a great interest in my catastrophic family background. We spoke about it a great deal. People asked him, `How could you marry a German woman, especially one with a background like that?' I thought a lot about the fact that no one could have taken a greater interest in my family background than Stanley, who understood that I came from the other side, which was the opposite of his [background]. But he also knew that my generation could plead innocence: I was very young during the Holocaust, though at the same time old enough to remember everything."

What did his parents say about his choice of a wife?

"I was very nervous ahead of the meeting with his parents, and he was very nice and supportive, because he sensed that I was suffering. I sat there as though my head was weighed down by a ton. If only I were not from a state of murderers, I thought to myself - but his parents were wonderful, especially his mother."

Prof. Michal Friedman, from the Department of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University, discusses "Jud Suss" in her book about Jews in Nazi cinema, published in France in 1984. The film, which was based (distortedly) on the 1925 novel of the same name by the German-Jewish writer Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958) - it was released in the United States under the name "Power" - won a prize at the Venice Film festival of 1940 and continued to be shown in occupied Europe until the fall of the Third Reich. It is thought to have been seen by 20 million people.

The plot of the film, Friedman says in an interview, maintains tension because of the protagonist's acts of dispossession and rape. "The success of the film lies in the fact that the central character was widely known from German literature and plays, which developed it for different goals. In 1934, for example, a film of the same name was made in England, based on the Feuchtwanger bestseller. The film, like the book, extols the activity of a court Jew in 18th-century Germany who, because of schemes related to his origins, was executed in 1738. The Nazi version, however, portrayed a Jew who plunders the local population and exploits its women to satisfy his lust. The brutal rape of an Aryan girl in London leads to his execution, as he violated the race laws."

The Nazi film's drawing power was in part due to its high production values. Goebbels not only funded the film generously but recruited the finest cinematic talent available to him and chose the actors and the crew himself. Friedman: "The director, Veit Harlan, took advantage of this fact in his trial - his line of defense was based on the fact that he was chosen to direct the film because of his reputation and was therefore forced to submit to Goebbels' will. Actors and directors, including Dr. Fritz Hippler, the director of `The Eternal Jew' [the 1940 anti-Semitic film in which Jews are likened to rats], testified that they were put under pressure and threatened with being sent to fight at the front. It was not only the argument of coercion that ultimately got Harlan acquitted, as the judgment also noted, `It is difficult to complain that the director did not soften the anti-Semitism in the film, not least because the historical figure himself was a criminal and exerted brutal authority over the nation he controlled.'"

"He saw all my uncle's films," Christiane says, "and also met him in the same year we met. My uncle, who was tried and acquitted, was already sick. He liked Stanley and warned me that if I were going to America, I should not expect people to like me there. My uncle's story is complex. I liked him very much and thought he was a fantastic person. He and my father wanted to be circus people and used to do stunts, and when I studied dancing they would hurl me in the air. But it certainly depresses me to think about the nature of `Jud Suss.'"

At the age of 10 she, like all her peers, was inducted into the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth). "I liked going there because it released me from housecleaning duties. I was a girl whose whole world was the theater: I had a large puppet theater and I wrote and directed plays and took money from children to see them. And that's actually what I did in the Hitler Jugend. The first time we were evacuated was when Germany attacked France. In my conversations with Stanley, I often told him that the ray of hope I had came from my being a bad and rebellious girl. I was far from my parents and those people in the Hitler Jugend, and even though I was educated to be a Nazi and was no better than anyone, in my heart I did not believe it."

Is that a perception of hindsight or did you feel that way then?

"I remember that I painted well and that when they taught us [in art class] about the structure of the Aryan skull, I thought it was ridiculous. The person who gave the talk didn't even look Aryan. Germany is the most mixed state in the world - there were 11 borders along the Rhine and the Danube, where everyone came from - so what were they talking about? The whole race thing was totally insane. Afterward, we were sent to a labor camp that was protected from bombing and I did farm work there. Female prisoners - Ukrainian, Polish and a few French women - worked with us and I became friends with some of them and that gave me a new ray of hope."

Her parents, who were part of the Wehrmacht entertainment troupes, performed for the troops at the front. Her father was later drafted and sent to a combat unit in the Black Forest where, his daughter says, he guarded Russian prisoners. After the war he was detained in an American prisoner-of-war camp. She and her mother lived by Lake Constance, on the Swiss border, in the hope of being able to cross into Switzerland. "My father was arrested brutally - I will not go into details, because it is a terrible story. He returned home three and a half years later. My mother and I were at Constance the Moroccan-French army captured the area and I was very sick and things were not easy. We got our `prize.' Stanley was fascinated when I told him about those years, but also sad, and sometimes we wondered who had a more horrific background - him as a Jew or me as a German who lived through the Nazi period."

How did your family react when you told them you were going to marry a Jew?

"There was a bit of chaos. My family was a microcosm of the events. My maternal grandmother, who was a pianist from Hamburg, married a Jewish violinist from New York, so that there was also a half-Jewish side in the family. The amazing thing is that this was in a society that had the chance to be respectable and was educated and not poor. The murders in Germany were perpetrated by people who it is hard to believe were capable of that. It is impossible to understand how it was physically possible to murder so many people. They did it meticulously, by manual means, and it was all documented in the certainty that the hatred was justified and that Germany was the savior of the world. I do not understand it."

She is from the generation that wanted to see and know everything. When Kubrick was engaged in the preparations and massive research for a film about the Holocaust, to be entitled "The Aryan Papers," based on the novel "Wartime Lies" by Lewis Begley, "I read all the material Stanley collected with his usual care and became depressed, even though I knew everything. He was also in a state of depression, because he realized it was an impossible film.

"It's impossible to direct the Holocaust unless it's a documentary. If you show the atrocities as they actually happened, it would entail the total destruction of the actors. Stanley said he could not instruct actors how to liquidate others and could not explain the motives for the killing. `I will die from this,' he said, `and the actors will die, too, not to mention the audience.'" (After originally trying to get Isaac Bashevis Singer to write an original screenplay for the film, Kubrick abandoned the project because Steven Spielberg was making "Schindler's List.")

Death and superstition

Interviews may not have interested Kubrick, but reviews did. "When reviews of his films were published, he would tell me, `You read it, I don't want to.' A while later he would ask what the critics wrote and when I told him he became angry. In the end he got angry at himself for getting angry at the reviews and said he wasn't going to think about it at all. Of course he was very childish, in all senses. He knew that. He would tell me, `I'm an asshole.'"

His friends knew what he meant. Herr writes in his book about the director that not only was Kubrick's attitude toward money pathological and that he was terrible as a businessman, but that even though he forsook Hollywood because of its brutal management methods, he himself frequently resorted to similar methods. According to Herr, Kubrick knew people thought it was a great privilege to work with someone like him and took full advantage of this. Herr himself refused to polish the screenplay for "Eyes Wide Shut" (1999), because he understood that Kubrick thought he would not have to pay him.

In their last phone conversation (one hour), Herr reports, Kubrick talked about the prose style of Ernest Hemingway and suggested that he come to watch "Eyes Wide Shut" and interview him for "Vanity Fair" (the film was released after Kubrick's death). Kubrick told Herr about a friend of his, the director of a studio, who bought an apartment in New York and thus became the first Jew to be approved by the other tenants. Kubrick was astounded by the story.

"Stanley believed in superstitions and I would laugh at him. He knew it was stupid, besides which he was a total unbeliever. After all, all his thoughts in `Space Odyssey' revolved around the question of what's out there. The girls and I used to tease him by saying that his body language was like that of Tevye the Milkman - he would clasp his hands and sigh. He apparently grew up in a milieu where there were religious Jews and from them learned to sigh with a big `ochhh' while looking up toward God with accusation and melancholy. We imitated him and laughed. I told him it was bad luck to believe in superstitions."n


“Nightingale emergency coronavirus hospital may not be needed as urgently as expected”

London’s intensive care units were expected to be overflowing at this point but are only three-quarters full

But while the emergency capacity had been expected to be required as soon as last Wednesday, the first patients are now likely to arrive early next week – a tentative sign that the coronavirus outbreak in the capital may not be as bad as expected.” [The Guardian]

Maybe I was right in my guess that the virus crisis is both less serious than at first thought and, also, already at or past its peak.

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I, Dynamo

Before I jump ahead to the reformer Jud Suss and the rise of modern Judaism let us first review evolving European society. While the Jews were sinking into a desperate mysticism characterized by the Kabala, which is to say even into deeper subjectivism, Europeans were developing a more objective appreciation of reality, that is the scientific method of raising the Veil of Isis and revealing nature.

One might say that the Europeans truly discovered the world, both visible and invisible. Unlike the earlier Marco Polo they didn’t traverse the Eurasian land mass but, blocked by the Moslems on that route, they made an end run around Africa to India, thus proving a water route to the East while beginning the realization that the Earth was indeed a sphere. Untold vistas were opened up as geographical information rapidly added to the knowledge, thus from the fifteenth century onward the European mind expanded rapidly.

The European brain expanded quickly as the objective world ceased to be less and less mysterious. Initially Astronomy and Chemistry moved rapidly ahead soon followed by the other sciences.

Judaism stagnated stultifying itself in the nonsense of the Talmud and Kabala. They took at most a peripheral part in the rapid development until the turn of the twentieth century and then they began to inject Jewish subjectivism into it and corrupting it. The world was developed in the image of the Europeans.

In about 1740 the Jud Suss made his appearance on the world stage from the German Duchy of Wurttemberg nestled between Bavaria on the East and Alsace of the West and South of Hesse and its capital of Frankfort. That city was also the center of Jewish operations in Europe at the time.

Not much has been written about Suss in Western Europe. My account relies on the novel of the Jewish writer Lion Feuchtwanger. He first wrote up a play about Suss in the critical year of 1916. By 1926 the Jews under the guise of Communism were in open revolution against the ancient native German population. Volkist [folkist] groups of which the National Socialist was the most prominent were defending the Germans and Germany from the Jewish takeover. A few years later in 1930 Feuchtwanger would write his novel Success that mocked the National Socialist leader Adolf Hitler. At that time the Jews considered Hitler a joke and no threat. That was a serious miscalculation.

At that time the future of the National Socialist electoral victory was undreamed of and the events of WWII were unimagined and unimaginable. Indeed, in 1930 the Jews had little cause to doubt their success as Russia, France, England and the United States were in their pocket. If needed the US could be held in reserve as they had been in WWI. How could they lose? Thus the novel Jud Suss was mocking Germany as losers and was perceived as such.

The novel was a propaganda success. It sold extremely well in England. The English made it into a movie also titled Jud Suss which was even more successful than the book. From my view of the matter, it is difficult to see why either the book or movie was so well received. Feuchtwanger lays bare the Jewish conspiracy and its methods. Methods the Jews had used at least since the reign of Suss and which ought to have been known by one and all. One can only say that like Maxwell Grant’s fictional character, The Shadow, they had the ability to cloud men’s minds. Perhaps the Jewish bible had indoctrinated and conditioned the West to view the Jews in the light in which they wished to be viewed.

Feuchtwanger chose Suss as his vehicle in part because he represented the demise of the medieval Jew and the rise of the modern Western Jew as would be epitomized by the Rothschilds who may have emulated Suss to perfect his method. At the same time as the Western Jews adapted to Aryan ways the Eastern Jews remained dedicated to the ancient ways. Thus paradoxically the Western Jews despised the Eastern Jews for those very Jewish customs.

It is this transitional moment in time that Feuchtwanger chose to capture. He could have used the early nineteenth century Rothschilds but he didn’t. He chose the beginning and foundation of modern Jewish history. In this passage below Feuchtwanger contrasts the medieval Jew in the character of Isaac Landauer with that of the modern Suss, Joseph Oppenheimer.

Isaac Landauer looked his colleague up and down with amicable amusement. The elegantly cut brown coat, bordered with silver made of the first cloth, the powdered peruke with its fastidious formal curls and delicately pleated lace ruffles, these alone must have cost forty gulden. He had always had a weakness for this Suss Oppenheimer, whose eager and adventurous spirit flared so fiercely as his great restless round eyes. He, Isaac Landauer, had seen a rough and sparing life, the kennels of the Jews’ quarter and the pleasure houses of the great. Confinement, dirt, persecution, arson, death, oppression, utter helplessness—and pomp, spaciousness, despotism, lordliness and beauty. He knew the machinery of diplomacy as only three or four others at most within the empire knew it, and his eye could examine down to the smallest detail of the whole apparatus of war, and peace, of the government of men. His countless business interests had given him a keen eye for the connections between things, and he was aware with a good-humoured and mocking awareness, of the absurd and subtle limitations of the great. He knew there was only one reality in the world- money. War and peace, life and death, the virtue of women, the Pope’s power to bind or to loose, the Estates’ enthusiasm for liberty, the purity of the Augsburg Confession, the ships on the sea, coercive power of princes, the Christianizing of the New world, love, power, cowardness, wantonness, blasphemy and virtue, they were all derived from money and they would turn into money, and they could well be expressed in figures.

Yes, and usury meant the control of money and hence the control of all. As the saying goes, follow the money. In many ways this history is the history of money and usury.

But in his [Landauer’s] dress and appearance he clung obstinately to the traditions of his race. He wore his caftans as he wore his skin. In it he entered the closets of princes and of the Emperor. That was the other secret and more profound secret of his power. He disdained gloves and perukes. He was indispensable, and this was his triumph, even in his caftan and his ritual curls.

But now there was this Josef Suss Oppenheimer, the younger generation. There he sat, proud magnificence with his buckled shoes and his lace ruffles, and puffed himself up. It was not subtle, this younger generation. It did not understand the refined pleasure of keeping power secret, of possessing it without betraying it, and the still more refined pleasure of relishing its flavour quietly and exclusively by oneself. Knick knacks and silk stockings, and an elegant traveling carriage with attendants up behind, and the trumpery external signs of possession, these were of more account to it than a jealously-guarded chest containing a bond on the City of Frankfort or on the Margrave of Baden’s Treasury. A generation without finesse, without taste.

Here in Feuchtwanger’s novel we have he Jewish side of the story and it is exactly this image of the most ardent anti-Semite. It is the reality that Jews deny to the outside world.

It is also the truth about money. It was the truth that Europeans wouldn’t begin to learn until the nineteenth century when this epoch begins, when the great banking institutions of money developed that reality to the world. The Duke Karl Alexander of Wurttemberg is secure in his power as the Lord of Wurttemberg with all its people and its lands, for to the European land was the source of wealth and power not money.

Suss would betray the Duke’s trust and wheedle away his power in land until Suss had both the power of the purse and the land leaving the Duke a mere shadow of a presence. This was the sneer that Feuchtwanger was giving the German people during the Weimar Republic.


History-germany

Farmers - some farm debts were written off, all farmers benefited from increased food prices.
40% increase in income.

Big business - benefited from rearmaments and destructions of trade union. Average salary of managers rose by 70% between 1934 and 1938. 115% increase in earnings

Unskilled workers - most were quickly given jobs on govt. programmes, e.g. constructing autobahn. Local govt. took action to provide cheap flats unemployment reduced from nearly 6 million to 119,000 (1939)

Dr Ley - leader of workers and DAF set up two policies:

Beauty of Labour scheme - helped improve conditions in factories, e.g. good ventilation, hot meals in the factory etc.

Farmers - resented Nazi meddling, every hen had to lay 65 eggs per year for example. Farmers suffered from shortage of labour as workers went to work in the cities and factories.

Big business - greater govt. intervention, e.g. over prices, wages, profits and imports. Govt also decided who should receive raw materials and forced some industries to produce certain goods for the war effort..

Unskilled workers - wages often lower than unemployment benefit working week increased from 43 to 47 hours (1939).

1933
Jews banned from all public service jobs - teachers and civil servants.
Non Aryan children forbidden playing Aryan children.

May 1934
Jews prohibited from holding health insurance and joining army

September 1935
Nuremberg Laws introduced which included:
Law for the Protection of German Blood and Honour which prohibited Jews from holding German citizenship and marrying non-Jews
Reich Citizenship Law which made Jews 'subjects' rather than citizens - lost rights.

July 1938
Munich synagogue burned down.
Jewish doctors, dentists and lawyers forbidden from working.

October 1938
Jews had to have the red letter 'J' stamped on passports

9-10 November 1938
Kristallnacht 'Night of Broken Glass': In retaliation at Jew in Paris killing Nazi official (von Rath), 100 Jews murdered, 1000s sent to concentrations camps, shops destroyed & synagogues burned. Hitler avoided blame for it - said it was the German people doing it.

15 November 1938
Jews expelled from schools

December 1938
Jewish businesses confiscated

January 1939
Jews had to add new first names - Sarah for women, Israel for men

12 March 1939
Mass arrests of Jews - 30,000 men and boys sent to concentration camps. Forced to do labour there.

September 1939
Second World War began

1939
Ghettos set up from 1939 as Germany gained land from other countries. Set up in Poland where Jews were rounded up, sent to and kept in certain areas. Great starvation and disease in area as food, water and power cut off.

November 1940
Warsaw ghetto formed in Poland- biggest and most famous.

1941
Einsatzgruppen ('one sentence groups') - When entered Poland and Russia in 1941 these SS groups shot Jews on sight - 500,000 killed. Mobile gas chambers also used but seen as inefficient.


Third Reich 1933-1945

My new project, a chronological sequel to Apursan​sar nice list Weimar Cinema: Daydreams and Nightmares . A list for people who have a historical interest. No glorification and no advertising for these films. Over 1000 German feature films produced between 1933-1945, 10-15 percent are propaganda.

Films of the Third Reich (1933-1945)

On March 28, 1933, only eight weeks after Adolf Hitler’s inauguration as Reich Chancellor, Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels sketched out for a group of filmmakers the shape of National-Socialist film policy (Mat.) to come. Film was to take on the “contours of the Volk,” and it was imperative that “the National-Socialist movement intervene in the economy and in general cultural affairs, and that includes film.” Only art that “has taken root deep in the bedrock of National Socialism” was to be permitted. This exertion of political influence took place by no means against the will of the majority of German filmmakers, technicians, and business people. In fact, National-Socialist film policy — especially after Jewish filmmakers were forced out and into exile — was rarely repudiated. The total control of the German film industry was further pursued through interventions in its corporatist structure, reform of the Film Law, and through changes to the system of censorship and rating. The actual nationalization of the film industry took place gradually and covertly until on January 10, 1942 all state-owned film companies were united in a single holding company, Ufa-Film GmbH. But not only film production, distribution, and exhibition was subject to state control and intervention film criticism, too, was affected. As early as 1933 the film press was officially put under Joseph Goebbels’ personal control, and in 1936 the criticism and individual evaluation of films were outlawed by decree. In place of film criticism came “film observation,” which was limited to the description of films acceptable to the regime and the dissemination of propagandistic hate speech.

Leni Riefenstahl, Veit Harlan, “Triumph des Willens”, “Jud Süß”, and “Kolberg” — names and titles like these come up again and again in discussions of the National-Socialist cinema. Both famous and notorious as the treacherous concoctions of the Nazis’ propaganda factories, these films have become synonymous in the public eye with the National-Socialist cinema per se, and tend to inspire a combination of curiosity, aversion, horror, and fascination. This identification of cinema of the National-Socialist period with its most ostentatiously propagandistic products is equally symptomatic and misleading. The Nazis were unarguably single-minded and vehement in their deployment of the film medium’s considerable powers of suggestion for the indoctrination and mobilization of the masses.


Stoßtrupp 1917 (aka Shock Troop, 1934)

Nevertheless, it must be emphasized that National-Socialist film propaganda was not the same thing as National-Socialist propaganda film. As recent studies have shown, the entirety of film culture under the Nazis was designed to disseminate its ideology through the sophisticated combination of entertainment with the mediation of political content.

Political-ideological indoctrination was the explicit domain of the documentary, the Kulturfilm, but especially of the weekly newsreels in 1938, they became a mandatory component of every cinema screening. The feature film, on the other hand, was meant to provide entertainment and distraction but it was by no means free of ideological themes and propaganda — it simply combined the elements of entertainment and propaganda in more subtle proportions.


Triumph des Willens (aka Triumph of the Will, 1935)

To equate National-Socialist cinema with its propaganda films is problematic, especially as propaganda films —films pertaining directly to political measures taken by the National-Socialist government or that specifically and aggressively exhibited the Nazis’ world-view — made up only about one-tenth of the over one thousand feature films produced during the Third Reich. The majority of these films are familiar to viewers today only by name. Because of their ideological content and their incendiary potential, the films are considered dangerous even today, and are prohibited from public exhibition. What, aside from being banned (since a prohibition often provokes curiosity) makes these films so interesting and at the same time so volatile? Many of these films stand out from the mass of Third Reich film productions by virtue of their immense financial, technical, and personnel expenditures alone. The so-called Staatsauftragfilme, or “state-produced films,” which were commissioned by the Propaganda Ministry under at Goebbels’ word. With budgets exceeding four million Reichs Mark and a full contingent of stars, these were the most expensive film productions of the time. As late as 1944/45, during the Volkssturm, or “people’s storm,” entire army units were deployed as extras for the “holding-out film” “Kolberg” (Burning Hearts). Aside from the state-financed megalomania, these productions demonstrate above all how propaganda, fastidious technical skill, and artistry — embodied above all by the stars — can be combined to insidious ends. They provide, above all, models for understanding the Nazis’ subtle methods of propaganda.


Zu neuen Ufern (aka To New Shores, 1937)

Film propaganda was thus implemented primarily by way of polarizations, in which the audience was presented either with idealized images of the perfect society or radical depictions of the enemy (both according to National-Socialist ideology). Furthermore, the propaganda function of the films was frequently context-oriented, meaning, films were produced and distributed in conjunction with specific political actions. Judging from the general principle of National-Socialist propaganda, these took various forms, gradual attempts to take elements like the “Führer principle” and the “master race” doctrine, the myth of blood and soil and the cult of the Volk, as well as specific images of the enemy and themes like war and nation, and to popularize and instill them in the masses once and for all.


Der Berg ruft! (aka The Mountain Calls, 1938)

After the rather negative reception received by the films “SA-Mann Brand”, “Hans Westmar, einer unter vielen”, and “Hitlerjunge Quex” — the Nazi “trilogy of martyrs” made directly after the seizure of power in 1933 —, the Nazis tended to avoid direct representations of their regime or of the National-Socialist movement in film. Instead, in further attempts at mediating the norms of a world-view, as was predominant in propaganda films of the 1930s, they resorted to doing so at a spatial and, especially, temporal distance. Historical biographies like “Robert Koch, der Bekämpfer des Todes” (Robert Koch: The Battler of Death, 1939), “Friedrich Schiller, der Triumph eines Genies” (Friedrich Schiller: The Triumph of a Genius, 1940), and “Der große König” (The Great King, 1940–42 — with Otto Gebühr, recalling the “Fridericus Rex” series of the early 1920s) were produced as aggrandizements of “great Germans” and justifications for the “Führer principle.” The teleological interpretation of history underlying these films celebrated Hitler and the Third Reich as the logical end of German history.


Münchhausen (aka The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, 1943)

With Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, the beginning of World War II, came changes to the demands on film propaganda. The number of propaganda films explicitly justifying the war and the mobilization of the German people rose considerably. Slogans celebrating war and military heroism were typical for the pilot films, most of which were directed by the avid National-Socialist Karl Ritter. In films like “Feuertaufe” (Baptism by Fire), “Kampfgeschwader Lützow” (Battle Squadron Lützow), and “Stukas” (Stukas), themes like camaraderie, obedience, duty, readiness to fight, and heroic death for the fatherland were embedded and mystified in stories of adventure, romance, and male bonding – complete with spectacular flight footage. After 1941, when it became clear that the war would not be ending any time soon, its representation in feature films became practically taboo. Instead, studios began making films dedicated to mobilizing the home front, like “Ein schöner Tag” (A Beautiful Day, 1943/44), “Die große Liebe” (The Great Love, 1942), “Wunschkonzert” (Wish Concert, 1940), and, lastly, the big-budget film “Kolberg” (Burning Hearts, 1945), which was made during the final phase of the war. While pre-war National-Socialist film was not particularly incendiary, not least out of consideration for its own export potential, the construction in films of images of the enemy served, as film publicist Wolf Donner has incisively put it, “as ideological background music for the Nazis’ shifting foreign policy.” The propaganda films “Menschen im Sturm” (People in the Storm, 1941), “G.P.U.” (The Red Terror, 1942), and “Ohm Krüger” (1942) demonstrated anti-Slovenian, anti-Polish, anti-Russian, and above all anti-British tendencies.


Opfergang (aka The Great Sacrifice, 1944)

The most infamous examples of National-Socialist propaganda, however, were inflammatory anti-Semitic productions like “Jud Süß” (Jew Suss), “Die Rothschilds” (The Rothschilds), or the pseudo-documentary “Der ewige Jude” (The Eternal Jew). All three were released in 1940, a year in which the Nazis greatly intensified their “Jewish policy” by building the Warsaw Ghetto and beginning the deportation of German Jews to the east. By effectively spreading discrimination and defamation to the masses, these films colluded with the Nazis’ genocide of the European Jewry, which took the lives of over six million people. The most extreme of these propaganda films, Veit Harlan’s “Jud Süß”, was shown to SS commandos directly before their assignments. The threat posed by the assimilated Jew Süß to the national community is woven as a central theme into the tradition of the bourgeois tragic-drama. Not only was the film a box-office hit at the time of its release, but it is enjoying an unfortunate renaissance today amongst right-wing radical groups and organizations.


Die Feuerzangenbowle (aka The Punch Bowl, 1944)

The great majority of films produced under the Nazis are today no longer officially prohibited from being exhibited. Only a handful of offensive propaganda films are still classed as “conditionally banned” [Vorbehaltsfilme] due to their racist, anti-Semitic, militaristic, or incendiary content these can only be shown in closed gatherings accompanied by a scientifically sound introduction and discussion. Guidelines for deciding how to treat films from the National-Socialist period thus drew an apparently clear line between a handful of “dangerous” propaganda films and the mass of commercial entertainment films. For a long time this distinction also influenced public debate and scholarly discourse. Beginning with the early studies of Nazi-period cinema made in the 1960s, discussion has proceeded more or less along two main lines.


10 Damaging Depictions of Jews in the Movies

What constitutes anti-Semitism in a film? Does it have to be a negative representation of a Jew … or just something stereotypical? I’ve mulled this question recently as I pondered how individuals of my heritage have been depicted on the silver screen over the years, and I’ve come to the conclusion that hate and contempt work in disparate, though not-so-mysterious, ways. I discovered that certain flicks I enjoyed as a child are offensive to me now, as well as that other, more contemporary motion pictures that I’d dismissed as unimportant carry a variety of insidious traits. As a way to condense my findings, I’ve assembled a short list of 10 major movies—some famous, some infamous—featuring a range of Judaic interpretations that perpetuate fallacies about my culture. I’ve shared the list below let me know if I’ve missed any, as I’d be interested to hear of more examples.

10) March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934): Remember this classic Laurel and Hardy Christmas fantasy, in which the two brilliant comedians (playing doofuses, of course), save the nursery-rhyme playground of Toyland from the evil landlord Barnaby and his “bogeyman” minions—all to the tunes of some sublime Victor Herbert songs? Despite its non-Jewish subtext, I watched this during my childhood whenever it was on TV … which was usually during the holiday season. As an adult, however, I noticed that Barnaby is as stereotypically Jewish as they come, down to the hunched posture, swarthy features and conniving behavior, all buttressing his miserly attitude. It’s never said in the film that he’s a member of the tribe, but it’s a disturbing portrayal by actor Henry Brandon, and the subtext is quite hateful. Rather scary for a perennial December institution on the telly.

9) The Terminator (1984): I noted in a recent essay for the wonderful movie blog CURNBLOG that this seminal, action-packed science-fiction flick features an unsympathetic character named Dr. Peter Silberman who, as the lone individual in the film with an identifiably Jewish moniker, may be interpreted as an anti-Semitic component. Though Silberman, played by Earl Boen, doesn’t exhibit particularly Hebraic mannerisms, the name is the thing here … and the fact that he’s an obnoxious, dismissive psychologist who doesn’t believe the protagonists’ stories about murderous robots from the future while having contempt for his patients suggests a distressing subtext. He’s also without a parallel “good” Jewish character, so that makes his contemptibility more telling.

8) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011): Once upon a time, I enjoyed the Harry Potter pictures, which made every youthful fantasy of being a wizard come to life on the big screen. Sadly, this final installment is quite monotonous, with little of the wonder and humor showcased by the previous films. It also has one other problem: the Gringotts’ goblins, those wizened, ugly, officious masters of the sorcerers’ bank that control the money flow. Could they be … perhaps … anti-Semitic caricatures? The thought seems ridiculous for such a beloved children’s series, yet I can’t help but consider the idea, which stems from the ties to finance, their unpleasant demeanor and creepy appearances. Is this a not-too-thinly veiled comment on the association with Jews to the monetary world? I hope not, but it seems pretty blatant.

7) Oliver Twist (1948): Alec Guinness’s fascinating performance as the thief king Fagin caught a lot of heat from Jewish groups back in the day—particularly because of a ridiculously large prosthetic nose that brought up less-than-positive Hebraic connotations. What’s interesting about this portrayal, however, is that although Fagin is obviously shown as a villain, he’s a heckuva lot less vile than his irredeemable friend Bill Sykes, frighteningly conveyed by the great Robert Newton. There’s a problematic context in this cinema masterpiece, for sure, but it’s complex, much like Shakespeare’s Shylock, who gets the greatest, most sympathetic speech in The Merchant of Venice, despite his unpleasant traits. The qualities in Twist are both good and bad, so fitting the Fagin character into a particular hole isn’t easy … even after all these years.

6) Independence Day (1996): “Hey,” you may say. “What’s wrong with this? After all, don’t the Jews, in part, save the day?” Yes, the Jewish characters help save the world from mean old aliens in this silly sci-fi film from director Roland Emmerich, but this is one example of a positive portrayal that falls into troubling stereotype. The character in question is Julius Levinson, father to Jeff Goldblum’s hero David Levinson and played by veteran actor Judd Hirsch as a jokey, hokey old man. When he gathers people around him to pray in a time of desperation, another character suggests he can’t because he’s not Jewish. “Nobody’s perfect,” says Levinson. Oy, the tsures. Somehow, this broad performance rubbed me the wrong way it felt crass, unrealistic, as opposed to the cuddly sensibility it seemed to reach for. Does every alter Semite on the screen have to be so … so … grizzled? It’s more Borscht Belt than Kuiper Belt, frankly.

5) Nosferatu(1922): Imagine a toothy, long-clawed monster that drinks people’s blood and reminds folks of “the other.” Well, you’ve got the titular vampire in this brilliant, influential film directed by F.W. Murnau. The idea that this undead creature is attracted to—and thrives on—the substance that flows inside us all brings up connotations of the notorious “blood libel,” used since time immemorial to slander and indict Jews by suggesting they use this life-sustaining liquid in the Passover matzo. The possibility that this film is anti-Semitic is curious here, especially owing to the fact that the religion of the monster (played by Max Schreck) isn’t specifically stated. Is he Jewish, the traditional “enemy” of civilized humanity? It’s a tantalizing question.

4) The Phantom of Liberty (1974): I love this surrealist film from director Luis Bunuel, but I’ve always had one issue with it. There’s a female character named “Rosenblum” who has always struck me as one with a Jewish name. She engages in a peculiar game of S&M with a man that suggests, in the film, some kind of bizarre perversion … which indicates, in my mind, a link between Judaism and debauchery. Given the fact that Bunuel exposes his anticlerical side throughout the movie (and has done so throughout his career), it should be obvious to me that my religion wouldn’t come out unscathed still, it’s somewhat troubling for the connection to arise. I ask: Why “Rosenblum”? Why a Jewish-sounding name? I’ll probably never know.

3) The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (1974): They don’t come much more obnoxious than the namesake character of this film based on the Mordecai Richler novel, an ambitious, unpleasant jerk ably played by Richard Dreyfuss in his heyday. The bar mitzvah sequence has to be seen to be believed in its attack on insensitivity, but what lingers is a distaste spurred by the mean-spirited “hero” of the movie, who seems to care only for himself. Does this representation foment Judaic stereotypes of the selfish, aggressive human out to step over everyone else to succeed? I think so though the movie does have its nuances, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Bothersome.

2) The Passion of the Christ (2004): Mel Gibson has got to be one of my least-favorite directors working today … not because of his well-documented public outbursts, but rather owing to his tendency to let his performers overact his predilection for blunt, two-dimensional imagery and his inability to control pacing problems in his films. The Passion of the Christ has all of these problems, but it also characterizes Jews as hateful, mobbing fanatics out to destroy the Messiah. There was some controversy when this film came out about whether the biblical line condemning the Jews and their descendants for Christ’s killing was removed from the film or left in and untranslated from the Aramaic regardless, it paints an ugly, all-too-traditional picture of adherents of the Jewish faith, which could potentially instigate further anti-Semitic hatred.

1) Jud Suss (1940): One of the most offensive movies of all time—a Nazi-designed cinematic attack on Jews and their religion during the Holocaust—is also one that should be shown to everyone. The titular Semite here is played with ruthless, sleazy villainy by Ferdinand Marian he’s dark, shady, homeless, prone to chicanery and sexual violence, as much of a parasite as the Third Reich wanted people to believe his people were. I believe this picture should be seen by everyone today, as it’s an incredible teaching tool against the evils of anti-Semitism … and the ability of the cinema to disseminate the most abhorrent depictions of races, faiths and orientations. An important film and one that should never be forgotten.


Watch the video: . Documentary Harlan In the Shadow of Jud Suess (June 2022).


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