Representative Types of Jew

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Over at The Auteurs’ Notebook, my column The Forgotten attempts to get to grips with a particularly slippery Nazi propaganda effort, the loathesome hymn to anti-Semitism that is JUD SUSS. You’ll want to look away. But you won’t.

As usual, leave any comments over there.

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26 Responses to “Representative Types of Jew”

  1. Randy Man Says:

    Ideally both versions of Jew Suss ought to be available as a DVD double feature, with a really thorough “making of . . .” documentary. That might make it easier to understand it, although really understanding Nazi films like this requires steeping yourself in the Nazi mindset, undergoing the same sort of brainwashing that an audience of SS men (for whom this was required viewing, along with the “documentary” Der Ewige Jude) would have undergone. You don’t offer an opinion as to whether the film’s availability should be restricted in any way or whether it in fact is.

  2. It’s certainly restricted, in the sense that it’s impossible to see in a good quality version. And I assume it’s probably banned in Germany and Austria. I would think the film is probably fairly safe to release now, especially with contextualising material as you suggest. Anybody likely to be seduced by it is already in deep moral/political trouble.

    At present, anybody who really really wants to get it, probably can. The difficulty might be, does anybody want to make their money by releasing such a thing?

  3. I got my copy of Lothar Mendes’ “Jew Suss” from International Historic Films, which also sells Jud Suss, Der Ewige Jude, and a host of WWII-era newsreels and features from all sides: Soviet, British, German, US. The thing is, although IHF flags and describes the most virulent material appropriately and there are manifest legitimate reasons for this stuff to be available, I have to guess that neo-Nazis make ample use of this resource, to IHF’s profit. So it’s rather quease-inducing.

    I just checked out the IFF listing for Jud Suss – http://www.ihffilm.com/22935.html – and I notice that they’re now selling a “deluxe restored” commercial DVD, with commentary by Eric Rentschler, who wrote a good book on Nazi cinema called “The Ministry of Illusion.” There’s a note at the bottom of the page: sale is prohibited in Germany, Austria, France, and Italy.

  4. The prospect of Jud Suss on sale strikes me as a little less quease-inducing because it’s old, and also a period movie, but context is important. The Rentschler commentary is an important addition to make the film comprehensible to beginners. Buying it as a historical artefact is one thing, buying it in a special swastika-decorated section of the store labelled Nazi Interest would be something else.

    I’m in favour of people being able to see it, and would advocate screening it in schools, with supporting information.

  5. Off-topic, but. . . .Ronnie Tavel R.I.P. His film scripts include Harlot, Horse, Screen Test and the “Hanoi Hanna” section of The Chelsea Girls.

  6. david wingrove Says:

    While JUD SUSS sounds like a ghastly piece of racist propaganda, is it any more horrifying than D W Griffith’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION – an acknowledged ‘film classic’ that portrays African Americans as mindless, marauding monsters and fully endorses the activities of the Ku Klux Klan?

    One of the most queasy experiences of my life was watching the Griffith film on UK television, preceded by a documentary in which a number of distinguished black academics insisted it was NOT racist! Sorry, but had they actually bothered to watch the damn thing? Its racism is both blatant and obscene.

    Is that a reason to ban or ‘restrict’ the showing of BIRTH OF A NATION? Not at all. Apart from its artistic qualities, it’s a vital historical document that shows there IS such a thing as progress…for the simple reason that most viewers no longer find such images acceptable.

    As for JUD SUSS, I haven’t seen it so it’s hard to comment. However, I did once show a scene from Leni Riefenstahl’s TIEFLAND in a class. I’d been hesitant about doing so…but one German student said she felt it was vital to show cinema from the Nazi era. “That’s one way of making sure it never happens again.”

  7. The positive thing about showing Jud Suss and discussing it, is that for all its deceitfulness, the truth is fairly obvious, and we can read the truth about Suss Oppenheimer on Wikipedia for more context. Likewise with Birth of a Nation. Both films are colossally dishonest about historical events, so a bit of context is very helpful. And the older they get the less useful they are to racists and fascists — I believe the Klan stopped using Griffith’s atrocity in the 70s: it was just too old-fashioned to use as a recruiting tool, and Hollywood had not provided them with a replacement.

    Tiefland doesn’t really get too political, does it? The sinister stuff is all outside the story, in the production circumstances etc. Whereas in Jud Suss the evil is right up on the screen.

  8. The Birth of a Nation directly led to a rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan which was failing at the time.

    D.W. Griffith is therefore an acessory to genocide.

  9. Arthur S. Says:

    He also made BROKEN BLOSSOMS, a beautiful anti-racist film, so David Wark is schizoid.

    Most Nazi era films from what I’ve read and clips that I have seen were harmless pap with all direct political and social reality removed from the surface.

    One film that I’d like to see is Douglas Sirk’s SCHLUSAKKORD that Jonathan Rosenbaum says is the finest film from this period of German Cinema.

  10. Of course, being pro-Chinese is no barrier against being anti-black.

    Goebbels was generally a believer in mindless entertainment — Jud Suss is almost certainly the most sophisticated film made under his aegis. Munchausen is attractive and apolitical, but lacks charm — maybe because we’re aware that all these supposedly lovely fairy tale characters are in the pay of the Reich.

    Recently got some German Sirk, need to find time to watch it!

  11. For one scene in Munchausen requiring candles Goebbells ordered the SS to seize every candle they could find in Berlin — which they did via house-to-house search.

    The chinese character in Broken Blossoms is played by Richard Barthelmiss. Moreover Griffith goes out of his way to underscore that his love for Gish was “pure” and utterly devoid of a sexual component.

  12. Griffith is slightly freaked out by sex anyway, whether interracial or otherwise.

    It’s worth observing, and I should have done so already, that Jud Suss’s pursuit of Mrs Harlan is a direct steal from Birth of a Nation — it has no counterpart in the historical record (which naturally the film ignores) but very close correspondences with the tale of the Little Sister.

  13. Tony Williams Says:

    This is such a fascinating site full of interesting comments.

    First, JUD SUSS is already available from certain sources that market Fascist films from Germany, Italy, and Japan, some with subtitles. I’ve only see JUD SUSS in extracts but am really glad I had the opportunity to view the very different Veidt version.

    Seondly, both Davids (E and W) are correct about the disturbing content of BIRTH OF A NATION that can not be examined solely on the level of form and style as Spike Lee objected to when he was in film school.

    Thirdly, I’ve not seen the 30s Sirk melodrama mentioned above but have viewed LA HABANERA that also features Marian. Although this Zarah Leander vehicle contains the melodramatic discourse with the heroine wishing to return to her Swedish homeland, the Marian character who plays her Puerto Rican husband does anticipate the lower non-Aryan breed that he portrays in JUD SUSS especially in the second part of the film. He also appears as Cagliostro in the 1943 BARON MUNCHAUSEN starring Hans Albers shot in Technicolor.

    Also, despite favor from Dr. Goebbels both Lil Dagover and Leander attempted to keep their distance from the Third Reich. More information may be needed here but I just hope that somebody might translate Dagover’s autobiography ICH WAR EINE DAME sometime in the future. She does make a cameo appearance in the second part of KARL MAY.

    Finally, in relation to David C’s last point, it is the Frank Vosper Duke character who causes the suicide of Oppenheim’s Jewish daughter played by the young Pamela Ostrer (the future wife of Roy Kellino and James Mason). Although Veidt’s Oppenheim discovers that his father was really an Aryan aristocrat, he conceals this fact from everybody. It is something that could save him from execution but he dies affirming the Jewish faith very much like Veidt whose third wife was Jewish and wrote “Ich bin Juden” in reaction to anti-Jewisl laws in the early years of the Third Reich.

  14. The real Oppenheimer refused to renounce his faith, even after being tortured into confessing to all sorts of crimes. You’re right that the suicide plot is a sort of straight reversal of the UK version in the Nazi unmake.

    High time I watched La Habanera. Most of Goebbels’ films were discrete about their propaganda content, which is why he supposedly disapproved of Triumph of the Will, at least according to the unreliable Riefenstahl. But Jud Suss lays its nauseating cards on the table.

    I told a masochist friend about the torture scene and they were very impressed. “Somebody’s really thought about that!”

  15. Randy Man Says:

    As it was an UFA production I assume that whatever original elements survive of the 1942 Jew Suss are held by Transit Film, which has the rights to the UFA library. Is the IHF “restoration” done with the cooperation of Transit, and does it credit the restorers? (i.e. Anybody out there seen it?) I’m all in favor of seeing these films more widely distributed and with whatever accompanying material we can get. Yes, more German Sirk and while we’re at it how about the Luis Trenker films, like Der Rebell, Der Verlorenen Sohn, and Der Kaiser von Kalifornien?

  16. Absolutely. The German restorations we’ve seen — Lang, Murnau etc — have been tremendous. We just need MORE.

  17. Randy Man Says:

    I know. I’m looking at Spione now. And want to see the new version of Faust you reviewed. Other directors worthy of rediscovery are Reinhold Schunzel and Helmut Kautner.

  18. Jud Suss was actually produced by Terra, not UFA. I don’t know how this affected the allocation of rights.

  19. Randy Man Says:

    Those wishing to pursue this further might want to check out two recent publications: “Nazis and the Cinema” by Susan Tegel (Continuum 2008) and “Cinema and the Swastika: The International Expansion of Third Reich Cinema” edited by Roel Vande Winkel and David Welch (Palgrave Macmillan 2007). Neither have been extensively reviewed. I ran across a combined review in the March 12 London Review of Books.

  20. Thanks for the recommendation. I’m definitely going to read more on this period of cinema. And I have some Schunzel earmarked for investigation.

    Thanks for the correction, Katya.

  21. Randy Man Says:

    I think Transit Film acquired the rights to all Third Reich era features, not just those by Ufa, though I did misspeak. Yes, it was a Terra Poduction. One or both of the two books reviewed goes into some detail about another film by Veit Harlan, Die Golden Stadt (The Golden City), which also conspires to have Kristina Soderbaum suffer and die.

  22. I see Harlan’s anti-gay film is also available for download. My morbid curiosity is creeping up on me again… I better download Different from the Others as well, to balance it.

  23. Randy Man Says:

    Which one was that? That’s a new one for me.

  24. The Harlan film is “Anders als du und ich,” from the 50s.

    I have the Tegel book but haven’t read it yet.

    It’s my impression that there’s been a real revival of interest in Reinhold Schuenzel among German film scholars over the last few years, so it’s surprising that, as far as I can see, there aren’t good restorations of his films available. I’d really like to see “Amphitryon.”

  25. Randy Man Says:

    So would I. And “Ronny”, And “Vikor und Viktoria”. I’ve been researching the German and Austrian contingent in Hollywood, where Schunzel seems to have encountered a lot of animosity from his compatriots, possibly due in part to his having been such a late emigre. That may have been a factor in his stillborn career there as a director. He was, however, able to do somebody a favor, and there’s a story here if I can just tease it out. “Ice Follies of 1939″ contains the screen debut of the most elusive of all the emigre bit players, Louis Adlon, scion of the famous hotel family and husband of Marion Davies’ sister Rose. He plays a dress designer. See his nephew Percy Adlon’s documentary about the hotel.

  26. Tony Williams Says:

    Is the Harlan film sub-titled? Also, could you supply the links?

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