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Encyclopedia > National socialist film policy
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Goals of the Nazi film policy

Despite its authoritarian core, Nazism was a populism, a political movement that courted the masses by the means of slogans that were aimed directly at the instincts and emotions of the people. It is therefore not surprising that the Nazis valued film as a propaganda instrument of enormous power. The interest that Adolf Hitler and his Propagandaminister Joseph Goebbels took in film was not only the result of a personal fascination. The instrumentalization of film for propaganda had been planned by the NSDAP as early as in 1930, when the party first established an own film department. Jump to: navigation, search The term National Socialism has been used in self-description by a number of different political groups and ideologies, some of which have no connection with the Nazis; see National socialism (disambiguation). ... Jump to: navigation, search Adolf Hitler â–¶(?) (April 20, 1889 – April 30, 1945) was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 and Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Chancellor) of Germany from 1934 to his death. ... The Propagandaministerium (Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda) (or State Minister for Public enlightenment and propaganda - classic doublespeak) was the ministry for propaganda in Nazi Germany. ... Jump to: navigation, search Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels (October 29, 1897 – May 1, 1945) was Adolf Hitlers Propaganda Minister (see Propagandaministerium) in Nazi Germany. ... Jump to: navigation, search The National Socialist German Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei â–¶(?)), better known as the NSDAP or the Nazi Party was a political party that was led to power in Germany by Adolf Hitler in 1933. ...


Goebbels who appointed himself „Patron of the German film“ assumed, accurately, that a national cinema which was entertaining and put glamour on the regime would be a more effective propaganda instrument than a national cinema in which the NSDAP and their policy would have been ubiquitous. The main goal of the Nazi film policy was to promote escapism, to distract the population and to keep everybody in good mood. The open propaganda was reserved to documentary films and newsreels. There are only very few examples of German feature films from the Third Reich that deal with the NSDAP or with party organizations such as Sturmabteilung, Hitler Youth or Reich Labour Service. Even the so called propaganda films that refer directly to the Nazi politics amounted to less than a sixth of the whole national movie production, which mainly consisted of light entertainment films. Jump to: navigation, search Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels (October 29, 1897 – May 1, 1945) was Adolf Hitlers Propaganda Minister (see Propagandaministerium) in Nazi Germany. ... Jump to: navigation, search The National Socialist German Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei â–¶(?)), better known as the NSDAP or the Nazi Party was a political party that was led to power in Germany by Adolf Hitler in 1933. ... Escapism is mental diversion by means of entertainment or recreation, as an escape from the unpleasant aspects of daily reality. ... Jump to: navigation, search North Korean propaganda showing a soldier destroying the United States Capitol building. ... Jump to: navigation, search Documentary film is a broad category of cinematic expression united by the intent to remain factual or non-fictional. ... A Newsreel is a documentary film that is regularly released in a public presentation place containing filmed news stories. ... Jump to: navigation, search The National Socialist German Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei â–¶(?)), better known as the NSDAP or the Nazi Party was a political party that was led to power in Germany by Adolf Hitler in 1933. ... Jump to: navigation, search The seal of SA The Sturmabteilung [â–¶](audio help) (SA, German for Storm Division and is usually translated as stormtroops or stormtroopers) functioned as a paramilitary organisation of the NSDAP – the German Nazi party. ... Jump to: navigation, search Flag of the Hitler Youth The Hitler Youth (German: Hitler-Jugend, abbreviated HJ) was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party that existed from 1922 to 1945. ... The Reichsarbeitsdienst (or RAD, Reich Labour Service) was an Auxiliary formation which provided support for the German Wehrmacht during the Second World War. ... A propaganda film is a film, often a documentary, produced for the express purpose of propaganda: convincing the viewer of a certain political point. ...


Authorities and NSDAP departments

The following authorities and NSDAP departments were in charge of film policy: Jump to: navigation, search The National Socialist German Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei â–¶(?)), better known as the NSDAP or the Nazi Party was a political party that was led to power in Germany by Adolf Hitler in 1933. ...

  • the film department of the Propagandaministerium
  • the Reich Chamber of Culture (‘’Reichskulturkammer’’)
  • the Reich Chamber of Film (‘’Reichsfilmkammer’’)
  • the film department of the Party Propaganda Department (‚’Reichspropagandaleitung’’)

The Propagandaministerium (Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda) (or State Minister for Public enlightenment and propaganda - classic doublespeak) was the ministry for propaganda in Nazi Germany. ...

Measures of Nazi film policy

The measures to subdue film to the goals of propaganda (“Gleichschaltung”) included: Jump to: navigation, search The German word Gleichschaltung listen ( ♫) (literally synchronising, synchronization) is used in a political sense to describe the process by which the Nazi regime successively established a system of totalitarian control over the individual, and tight coordination over all aspects of society and commerce. ...

  • subordination of the entire film business and administration under Joseph GoebbelsPropagandaministerium
  • concentration and gradual nationalization of the film production and distribution industry
  • mandatory membership of all film actors, filmmakers, film distributors etc. in an official professional organization (‘’Reichsfilmkammer’’)
  • founding of a film bank (‘’Filmkreditbank GmbH’’) that provided the film industry with reasonable loans for the production of politically welcome films
  • appointment of a Reich Film Dramaturge (‘’Reichsfilmdramaturg’’) who in the very first stages of production pre-censored all manuscripts and screenplays
  • increase of the censorship that had already been established during World War I and the Weimar Republic
  • introduction of film ratings that provided politically welcome films with tax benefits
  • establishment of a national film award (‘’Deutscher Filmpreis’’)
  • prohibition of film criticism
  • foundation of a state-run professional school for politically reliable filmmakers (‘’Deutsche Filmakademie Babelsberg’’)

Jump to: navigation, search Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels (October 29, 1897 – May 1, 1945) was Adolf Hitlers Propaganda Minister (see Propagandaministerium) in Nazi Germany. ... The Propagandaministerium (Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda) (or State Minister for Public enlightenment and propaganda - classic doublespeak) was the ministry for propaganda in Nazi Germany. ... Nationalization or Nationalisation is the act of taking assets into state ownership. ... Jump to: navigation, search Censorship is the control of speech and other forms of human expression, often in the context of government control. ... Jump to: navigation, search World War I was primarily a European conflict with many facets: immense human sacrifice, stalemate trench warfare, and the use of new, devastating weapons - tanks, aircraft, machineguns, and poison gas. ... Jump to: navigation, search The period of German history from 1919 to 1933 is known as the Weimar Republic IPA (German Weimarer Republik). ...

Film production

In the mid-1930ies, the German film industry suffered the most severe crisis it had ever faced. There were multiple reasons. First of all, many of the most capable actors and filmmakers had left the country after the appointment of the Nazi government; others were banned from their profession by the new professional organization (‘’Reichsfilmkammer’’). These people left a gap that the film industry couldn’t fill easily. Secondly, the remaining actors and filmmakers seized the opportunity to demand higher salaries which considerably increased the production budgets. It became more and more difficult to recover the production costs. Thirdly, the export dramatically dropped due to the boykott of foreign countries. In 1933, export had covered 44 percent of the film production costs; by 1937, this number had dropped to 7 percent.


More and more production companys went bankrupt. The number of companies went down from 114 (1933-35) to 79 (1936-38) to 38 (1939-41). This didn’t necessarily lead to a decrease of the number of new films; the surviving companies did better and better and became more and more productive.


The concentration of the film industry was absolutely in the interest of the Nazi government. On the one hand, an ailing and unprofitable film industry would not have been of too much use for the propaganda requirements. And on the other hand, a small number of big film production companies were easier to control than a multitude of small ones.


Goebbels went even further and engaged a holding company – ‘’Cautio Treuhand GmbH’’ – to buy up the stock majorities of the remaining film production companies. In 1937, the ‘’Cautio” acquired the largest German production company, Ufa, and in 1942 merged this company with the remaining companies – Terra Film, Tobis, Bavaria Film, Wien-Film, and Berlin-Film – into the so-called “Ufi-Group”. Jump to: navigation, search Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels (October 29, 1897 – May 1, 1945) was Adolf Hitlers Propaganda Minister (see Propagandaministerium) in Nazi Germany. ... UFA logo Universum Film AG, better known as Ufa or UFA, was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema during its brief existence from 1917 to 1945. ...


From that, the entire German film industry was practically nationalized, but unlike the situation under Stalinism, the German film production widely preserved its character of a private industry. Although Joseph Goebbels engaged a film bank (‘’Filmkreditbank GmbH’’) in order to provide the film industry with credits, the funds came from private investors. In Nazi Germany, there was no governmental subsiding to the film industry. Because of that, this industry remained forced to be fully profitable – and to produce films that met the expectations of the audience. Jump to: navigation, search Stalinism is a brand of political theory, and the political and economic system implemented by Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union. ... Jump to: navigation, search Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels (October 29, 1897 – May 1, 1945) was Adolf Hitlers Propaganda Minister (see Propagandaministerium) in Nazi Germany. ...


Film distribution

A concentration also took place in the distribution field. In 1942, the Ufa-owned ’’Deutsche Filmvertriebs GmbH (DFV)’’ took the place of all companies that had been remaining so far. For the export of films to foreign countries special companies had been established such as the “Cinéma Film AG’. UFA logo Universum Film AG, better known as Ufa or UFA, was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema during its brief existence from 1917 to 1945. ...


Since the days of the Weimar Republic, there also existed an extensive system of educational film hire services which under the Nazi administration was even extended. In 1943, there were 37 regional services and 12,042 city services. In parallel, the Party Propaganda Department (‚’Reichspropagandaleitung’’) run an own network of educational film hire services which included 32 Gau, 171 district, and 22,357 local services. All film hire services had extensive film collections as well as rental 16 mm film projectors available that made it possible to show films in any class or lecture room and at any group meeting of the Hitler Youth. Jump to: navigation, search The period of German history from 1919 to 1933 is known as the Weimar Republic IPA (German Weimarer Republik). ... Gau can denote the German term for shire. ... 16 mm film was initially created in the 1920s as an inexpensive amateur alternative to the conventional 35 mm film format. ... Jump to: navigation, search Flag of the Hitler Youth The Hitler Youth (German: Hitler-Jugend, abbreviated HJ) was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party that existed from 1922 to 1945. ...


Movie theatres

Apart from the Ufa-owned theatre chain, the movie theatres were not nationalized. The majority of the 5506 theatres that existed in 1939 within the so called Altreich (Germany without Austria and Sudentenland) were small companies run by private owners. UFA logo Universum Film AG, better known as Ufa or UFA, was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema during its brief existence from 1917 to 1945. ... Altreich (Old Empire) is a German term used from 1938 to 1945 for the territories that were part of the German Empire in 1937, as opposed to Austria (called Ostmark by the Nazis), the Sudetenland and other territories annexed by Germany during the subsequent years. ...


But there was a big number of laws and orders issued by the Reich Film Chamber (‘’Reichsfilmkammer’’) that limited the entrepreneurial freedom of the movie theatres considerably. For instance, it was mandatory to include a documentary and a newsreel in every film program. By a law from 1933 (‚'Gesetz über die Vorführung ausländischer Bildstreifen vom 23. Juni 1933’’) the government was also entitled to prohibit the presentation of foreign films. An import quota for foreign films had been set aldready during the Weimar Republic. During World War II, it occured that the import of films from certain foreign countries was completely prohibited. From 1941 on f. i. the presentation of american films became illegal. A documentary is a work in a visual or auditory medium presenting political, scientific, social, or historical subjects in a factual and informative manner. ... A Newsreel is a documentary film that is regularly released in a public presentation place containing filmed news stories. ... Jump to: navigation, search The period of German history from 1919 to 1933 is known as the Weimar Republic IPA (German Weimarer Republik). ... Jump to: navigation, search World War II was a truly global conflict with many facets: immense human suffering, fierce indoctrinations, and the use of new, extremely devastating weapons such as the atom bomb World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a mid-20th-century conflict that...


In order to boost the propaganda effect, the national socialists supported film shows in large movie theatres with large audiences where the feeling of being part of the crowd was so overwhelming for the individual spectator that a critical film perception didn’t have too much of a chance. Film shows also took place in military barracks and factories. The Hitler Youth arranged special film programs (‘’Jugendfilmstunden’’) where newsreels and propaganda films were shown. In order to supply even rural and remote areas with film programs, the Party Propaganda Department (‚’Reichspropagandaleitung’’) operated 300 film trucks and even two film trains that carried all equipment which was necessary to perform film shows f. i. in village inns. The dislike that Joseph Goebbels and other film politicians carried for individual, more private film perception was probably one of the reasons why they didn’t make any afford to develop television – at that time a technique that was ready to be applied – as a new mass media. Jump to: navigation, search Flag of the Hitler Youth The Hitler Youth (German: Hitler-Jugend, abbreviated HJ) was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party that existed from 1922 to 1945. ... A Newsreel is a documentary film that is regularly released in a public presentation place containing filmed news stories. ... A propaganda film is a film, often a documentary, produced for the express purpose of propaganda: convincing the viewer of a certain political point. ... Jump to: navigation, search Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels (October 29, 1897 – May 1, 1945) was Adolf Hitlers Propaganda Minister (see Propagandaministerium) in Nazi Germany. ...


Film propaganda had highest priority in Germany even under the severe conditions of the last years of World War II. While schools and playhouses stopped working in 1944, movie theatres continued to operate until the very end of the war. In Berlin for instance, anti-aircraft units were posted specially to protect the local movie theatres in 1944. Jump to: navigation, search World War II was a truly global conflict with many facets: immense human suffering, fierce indoctrinations, and the use of new, extremely devastating weapons such as the atom bomb World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a mid-20th-century conflict that... Jump to: navigation, search Berlin â–¶(?), IPA: , is the capital of Germany and its largest city; the city is now home to 3. ...


Star system

There always had been movie stars in Germany, but a star system comparable to the star system in Hollywood didn’t yet exist. In order to improve the image of Nazi Germany, Joseph Goebbels took great efforts forming a star system. After Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo had gone to Hollywood and could not be persuated to serve the national socialistic film industry as figureheads, new movie stars were promoted. A movie star is a celebrity who is well known for his or her starring, or leading, roles in motion pictures. ... The star system was the method of creating and promoting film stars in classical Hollywood. ... Jump to: navigation, search Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels (October 29, 1897 – May 1, 1945) was Adolf Hitlers Propaganda Minister (see Propagandaministerium) in Nazi Germany. ... Jump to: navigation, search Marlene Dietrich in the 1920s Marie Magdalene Marlene Dietrich (December 27, 1901-May 6, 1992) also known as Maria Magdalena Dietrich was a German actress, entertainer and singer. ... Greta Garbo (September 18, 1905 – April 15, 1990) was a Swedish-American actress. ...


The best-known example is the swedish actress Zarah Leander who was hired in 1937 by the Ufa and became the most prominent and highest-paid German movie star in only very few years. The publicity campaign for Zarah Leander was run by the press office of the Ufa who concealed her past as a film actress who was in Sweden already well-known and put their money right away on her charisma as a singer with an exceptionally deep voice. The Ufa press office provided the newspapers with detailed instructions how the new star would have to be presented, and even the actress herself had to follow detailed instructions whenever she appeared in public. This kind of star publicity hadn’t existed in Germany before. Zarah Leander Zarah Leander (March 15, 1907 – June 23, 1981) was a Swedish actress and singer. ... UFA logo Universum Film AG, better known as Ufa or UFA, was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema during its brief existence from 1917 to 1945. ... Zarah Leander Zarah Leander (March 15, 1907 – June 23, 1981) was a Swedish actress and singer. ... UFA logo Universum Film AG, better known as Ufa or UFA, was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema during its brief existence from 1917 to 1945. ... UFA logo Universum Film AG, better known as Ufa or UFA, was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema during its brief existence from 1917 to 1945. ...


High politicians such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, and Hermann Göring appeared in public flanked by popular German movie actors. The female stars in particular were supposed to lend some glamour to the dry and male-dominated NSDAP events. Adolf Hitler’s preferred dinner partners were the actresses Olga Tschechowa and Lil Dagover, and since 1935, Hermann Göring was married to the popular actress Emmy Sonnemann. The relationships of Joseph Goebbels to several female movie stars are notorious, too. Jump to: navigation, search Adolf Hitler â–¶(?) (April 20, 1889 – April 30, 1945) was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 and Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Chancellor) of Germany from 1934 to his death. ... Jump to: navigation, search Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels (October 29, 1897 – May 1, 1945) was Adolf Hitlers Propaganda Minister (see Propagandaministerium) in Nazi Germany. ... Hermann Göring Hermann Wilhelm Göring (also Goering or Goring in English) (January 12, 1893 – October 15, 1946) was an early member of the Nazi party, founder of the Gestapo, and one of the main leaders of Nazi Germany. ... Jump to: navigation, search The National Socialist German Workers Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei â–¶(?)), better known as the NSDAP or the Nazi Party was a political party that was led to power in Germany by Adolf Hitler in 1933. ... Jump to: navigation, search Adolf Hitler â–¶(?) (April 20, 1889 – April 30, 1945) was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 and Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Chancellor) of Germany from 1934 to his death. ... Hermann Göring Hermann Wilhelm Göring (also Goering or Goring in English) (January 12, 1893 – October 15, 1946) was an early member of the Nazi party, founder of the Gestapo, and one of the main leaders of Nazi Germany. ... Emmy Sonnemann, born on March 24, 1893 in Hamburg, Germany, died on June 8, 1973 in Munich, German actress. ... Jump to: navigation, search Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels (October 29, 1897 – May 1, 1945) was Adolf Hitlers Propaganda Minister (see Propagandaministerium) in Nazi Germany. ...


The personal proximity to the political leaders became a determing factor for the carreer success of movie actors. Renate Müller f. i. found in Hitler a personal enemy. An informal system of listings decided how frequently an actor would be cast. The five categories extended from “to cast at all costs even without a vacany” (for instance Zarah Leander, Lil Dagover, Heinz Rühmann) to “casting under no circumstances welcome”. Renate Müller (April 26, 1906 - October 1, 1937) was a German actress. ... Jump to: navigation, search Adolf Hitler â–¶(?) (April 20, 1889 – April 30, 1945) was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 and Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Chancellor) of Germany from 1934 to his death. ... Zarah Leander Zarah Leander (March 15, 1907 – June 23, 1981) was a Swedish actress and singer. ... Heinz Rühmann (March 7, 1902 in Essen, Germany - October 3, 1994 in Aufkirchen, Germany(Bavaria)) was one of the best known German actors and singers of the 20th century. ...


How crucial the movie stars were for the image of the national social regime, is also evident from tax benefits that Hitler issued in 1938 for prominent film actors and directors. From that time on, they could deduct 40 percent of their income as professional expenses. Jump to: navigation, search Adolf Hitler ▶(?) (April 20, 1889 – April 30, 1945) was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 and Führer und Reichskanzler (Leader and Chancellor) of Germany from 1934 to his death. ...


But World War II finally caused a grave profanation of the German movie stars. They appeared on small front stages as troop entertainers or collected money for the German Winter Relief Organization (‘’Winterhilfswerk’’). Although most of the male stars were exempted from military service, some – such as the popular Heinz Rühmann – participated in the war as soldiers, often accompanied by newsreel film crews. Jump to: navigation, search World War II was a truly global conflict with many facets: immense human suffering, fierce indoctrinations, and the use of new, extremely devastating weapons such as the atom bomb World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a mid-20th-century conflict that... Heinz Rühmann (March 7, 1902 in Essen, Germany - October 3, 1994 in Aufkirchen, Germany(Bavaria)) was one of the best known German actors and singers of the 20th century. ... A Newsreel is a documentary film that is regularly released in a public presentation place containing filmed news stories. ...


See also

When the film industry first flowered in the period from 1900 to 1915, it took hold in Europe as well as America. ...

Literature

  • Gerd Albrecht, Nationalsozialistische Filmpolitik, München (Hanser) 1969 (german)
  • Jürgen Spiker, Film und Kapital. Der Weg der deutschen Filmwirtschaft zum nationalsozialistischen Einheitskonzern, Berlin (Volker Spiess) 1975 (german)
This article is translated from an article in www.de.wikipedia.org (see left).

 
 

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