Although many German film makers left Germany in the 1930s, because of the rise of the Nazism, propaganda minister Göbbels still had quite a pool of film makers to help him produce a great number of propaganda movies.
The most famous and probably prolific was Leni Riefenstahl. But a close second was Veit Harlan.
After Adolf Hitler came to power, Harlan -unlike many German film directors – decided to remain in Germany. He embraced the new Nazi regime with both arms and directed several pro-Nazi propaganda films for the new Nazi regime , with his 3rd wife Kristina Söderbaum in the main parts. Considered to be the worst of these was the universally reviled Jud Süß (1940), a virulent anti-Semitic propaganda piece masquerading as a period piece melodrama. After the war, he was charged with crimes against humanity because of this film, but in 1950, after several court trials, he was acquitted twice and released. Both acquittals remain controversial to this day since the ruling judge had previously worked as a judge for the Nazi regime and since Harlan’s works had been proven to have contributed hugely to spreading the antisemitism in Germany, which enabled the Holocaust.
His first wife Dora Gerson was one of the victims of the Nazi regime, she was murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau on February 14, 1943.
There are some fascinating connections to Veit Harlan. His son, from his second marriage to Hilde Körber, Thomas Harlan was an author and film director who created a semi-documentary film in 1984, “Wundkanal” (“Wound Passage”), in which his father, played by a convicted mass murderer, is forced to undergo a series of brutal interrogations into his war crimes. Thomas Harlan’s final publication, issued posthumously, entitled Veit, was a memoir in the form of a letter to his father, continuing the investigation into his father’s actions during the Nazi regime.
The mass murderer(turned actor) in the film Wundkanal was SS Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Filbert, responsible as the first head of SS-Einsatzkommando 9, a mobile killing squad, for the murder of more than 18,000 Soviet Jews – men, women and children. Filbert was sentenced to life imprisonment but was released in 1975.
Susanne Körber, one of his daughters from his second wife Hilde Körber, converted to Judaism and married the son of Holocaust victims. She committed suicide in 1989.
Veit Harlan’s niece, Christiane Susanne Harlan, German born actress, dancer, painter, and singer took the name of her second husband, the legendary Jewish director Stanley Kubrick. Her married name was and still is Christiane Kubrick.
Christiane did act in a few movies like in ‘the Path to Glory’ She said she was ashamed to come from a “family of murderers” but was happy that Kubrick’s Jewish family accepted her despite her ties to Harlan. They remained married until Stanley Kubrick’s death in 1999.
She painted for her husband’s films; the paintings seen in the Harford’s apartment in Eyes Wide Shut (1999) are hers, as is the large painting of seed boxes in the writer’s home in A Clockwork Orange (1971).
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