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Third Reich Films

No period of German history is as infamous as that of the Third Reich. Hitler's rise to power on January 30, 1933, would have a profound effect on the course of the German Film. Dr. Joseph Goebbels was named Reichminister für Volksaufklärung und Propoganda (Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propoganda) by Hitler in March of 1933. This was the beginning of the most famous propoganda machine ever. To centralize his authority, Goebbels established the Reichskulturammer (State Chambers of Culture) for art, music, theater, authorship, press, radio, and film. The Filmkammer was established as an official section of the Kulturkammer. Goebbels was very interested in the potential of film as a propogandistic tool and took an active role in its development during the twelve years of the Third Reich. Goebbels summoned Fritz Lang to his office to offer Lang a position within the "new" German film industry. Just as Lang was not interested in making films in America, he accordingly had no desire in directing National Socialist pictures. Lang reminded Goebbles of his Jewish ancestry to which Goebbles replied that this would be overlooked. Lang could never bring himself to be at the mercy of the new order, so shortly after the interview, he left Germany for France where he began a new career, first in Paris and later in Hollywood. Lang's emmigration was followed by many German film notables: producers, directors, cameramen, technicians, writers and actors. These people, who had contributed so much to the German cinema during the fifteen-year life span of the Weimar Republic and made the German film an international success, left the country and took with them the "Golden Age" of the German cinema. The flood of talent leaving the country had a large impact on the development of the German film.

Hans Westmar Goebbels sought to assure the film industry that its uncertainty was unwarranted. He then set about encouraging producers to make films that were within the moral and political parameters set by the regime. Arnold Raether, of the Ministry of Fine Arts, prefering a more direct appoach, told producers that their purpose was to educate the people and to propogandize. A string of nationalistic films such as Hans Westmar, directed by DR. Franz Wenzler, were soon produced. These films were too political and were not at all popular with the German people. Audiences were receptive to entertainment but despised being preached to. Goebbles realized that propaganda would have to be delivered in the form of entertainment. The historical film was most suited to this purpose. Das Mädchen Johanna (Joan the Girl), directed by Ucicky, which was shown at the International Film Congress in Berlin 1935, presented Joan of Arc as a Hitler prototype. She was shown as a leader who saved her people from despair and, like Hitler, was driven by her belief in her country. The movie was well recieved by the German people.

A Reich Film Law was enacted on February 16, 1934, which established a Censorship Committee. Under this law, a Reichsfilmdramaturg (Reich Film Supervisor) was designated to examine scripts and was given full authority to accept or reject those scripts. After a screenplay passed the Reichsfilmdramaturg, the completed film was shown to the Censorship Committee consisting of permanent members and four judges nominated by the Propoganda Mininster. This body was empowered to withhold permits for films if they were "likely to endanger the vital interests of the state or public order or safety, to offend National Socialist, religious, moral and artistic feelings, to have a corrupting influence, or to prejudice German prestige or German relations with foreign countries". Foreign films were also included under this law.


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The Formative Years
The Weimar Rupublic: The Golden Age of German Film
Post WWII Films
Emergence of the "New German Cinema"
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