Ghetto Fighters’ House Talking Memory – Austrian Cinema during the Nazi Regime Between Alliance and Resistance – 23.1.22

The Ghetto Fighters’ House – Itzhak Katzenelson Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Heritage Museum– known as the “House” – is not only the first Holocaust museum in the world but also the first of its kind to be founded by Holocaust survivors. Since its establishment in 1949, the museum tells the story of the Holocaust during World War II, emphasizing the bravery, spiritual triumph and the incredible ability of Holocaust survivors and the fighters of the revolt to rebuild their lives in a new country about which they had dreamed – the State of Israel.

Last Sunday I had the privilege to attend a zoom session organized by the Ghetto Fighters’ House . The session was about Austrian Cinema during the Nazi Regime. It was very interesting and intriguing. One thing that I hadn’t been aware of was that Jewish actors were already banned to play in Austrian movies before the ‘Anscluss’

This is the recorded session.

source

https://www.gfh.org.il/eng/About_the_Museum

Nazis and cinema

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Ever since its inception , the media of  film has been a perfect tool to inform the masses be it in an entertaining way or in a more sinister manner.

It was and still is the perfect way to distribute propaganda material en mass, although in more recent  years social media has taken over that reign.

Don’t get me wrong I love movies I sill see that they do a lot more good then harm, it is a great way just to escape the daily strife for an hour or two. However it doesn’t take away the fact that they have been used to promote evil causes.

No matter what you think of the Nazis, they were masters of propaganda and were able to use it in the most efficient way possible. They understood the power of cinema/ At relatively ‘low’ costs they were able to distribute their warped ideology on a large scale by using propaganda movies.

Marika Rökk

They varied from short documentaries to massive cinematic productions that rivaled Hollywood in many ways.

Hitler was a big movie fan,prior to the war he spent night after night watching feature films and newsreels. He sometimes watched two, even three films, either at his mountain residence in the Bavarian Alps, the Berghof, or in Berlin at the Reich Chancellery.

Not only German films, but also American,French, and British films, in the original language.Although  Hitler only spoke German he would rely on synopses given by his aides about the movies he was about to watch.

He was a great Walt Disney fan but also loved Laurel and Hardy movies. Ironically the movie “Swiss Miss” which featured Grete Natzler(aka Della Lind) an Austrian Jewish actress  who had fled Germany in 1933, was one of his favourite movies.

Swissmisscard

Short movies like “Erbkrank” -“”The Hereditary Defective” were made  yo gain public support for the T-4 Euthanasia program. the euthanasia of mentally disbled . This film, as  others, were made with actual footage of patients in German psychiatric hospitals.

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Goebbels, the self appointed “Patron of the German film”, thought, cirrectly that a national cinema which was entertaining and put glamour on the government would be a more effective propaganda instrument than a national cinema where the NSDAP and their policy would have been ubiquitous. Goebbels wanted  to end the ‘moral’ corruption that he thought could be found in the former movie industry. The main goal of the Nazi film policy was to promote escapism, which was designed to distract the population and to keep everybody in good spirits.

Aside from the glamorous movies and the short documentaries promoting T4, a great number of big budget open propaganda movies were made. Documentaries like Der Sieg des Glaubens( The Victory of Faith) and Triumph des Willens(Triumph of the Will),  which were records of the Nuremberg rallies, and newsreels.

Directors like Herbert Gerdes and Leni Riefenstahl were pivotal in the production of these movies.Leni Riefenstahl’s career was not damaged by her involvement the Nazi party and her closeness to Adolf Hitler, after the war she still made several award winning documentaries.

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