Mommert. Wilfried . "Wartime Germany: Concerts and cinema to the bitter end," Deutsche Presse-Agentur 19 Mar 1995. LexisNexis. 29 Nov 2008
Nazi Germany had a thriving arts and entertainment culture until all theaters were shut down September of 1944 as a step toward pursuing “total war.” Up until this point, the theaters held regular showings of films and concerts despite the fact that many were destroyed by Allied bombings. These theaters were in use until the Nazis were on the edge of defeat. Despite setbacks with the war and the continued bombings by the Allies, films were still made and shown up until the end of the war. Twenty eight films were works in progress when the war ended. Concerts were also still shown regularly. Thirty operas were ready for performance but never actually put on stage. Resources were still being allocated to put on new operas and films despite the fact that Germany was in "total war," and all resources were allocated to the war effort supposedly. Film and concerts were the main forms of amusement and diversion for the German people, and the Nazis felt that keeping the masses' minds diverted and happy was still important.
This article really shows the misguided priorities of the Nazis. Resources that could have been used for the war effort were misallocated to film production and concert staging. The Nazis were concerned with appeasing the masses, even though they were about to lose the war. Maintaining the support of the masses was a core value for the Nazis to attain and maintain their power, but if they lost the war, they would lose their power immediately. These efforts to keep the masses happy were completely pointless and wasteful. Goebbels proclaimed that he closed the theaters to put Germany on the track of “total war,” yet this obviously did not shut down the entertainment industry. The film Kolberg began production in 1942 and was not released until 1945 (Thompson and Bordwell 274). This film was the costliest of the Nazi cinema projects, and it was made at a time when Germany was losing the war and about to be defeated (Thompson and Bordwell 274). Goebbels even diverted 200,000 troops from battle to be used in Kolberg's production (Thompson and Bordwell 274). Overall, the Nazis wasted their resources on film and the arts during a critical time during the war when Germany could not afford it.
Thompson, Kristin, and David Bordwell. Film History An Introduction. 2nd. New York: McGraw Hill, 2003.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1993.5.G3 K2913 1989
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1993.5.G3 K2913 1989
Call#: Van Pelt Library--4 East--Temporary Location Annenberg PN1993.5.G3 K2913 1989
Call#: Van Pelt Library--4 East--Temporary Location Annenberg PN1993.5.G3 K2913 1989
“The Politics of Representation”
This chapter starts with a description of the contrasting images of the filming of the extravagant film Kolberg with the harsh realities of war. Germany was constantly being bombed by the allies; the people were seeking refuge in bomb shelters while director Veit Harlan was concerned with finishing filming. This introduction shows the ridiculousness of the whole situation. This situation illustrates how the priorities of the Nazis were very misguided. Goebbels, who was also overseeing the project, allowed for Harlan to draw away almost 200,000 troops from battle for use in the film. Kolberg was a film about a historic battle at Kolberg in which the citizens were key to victory. The film was meant to inspire, but it was released only a couple of months preceding eventual defeat. The film’s propaganda was lost because the war was already lost. “Today, Harlan’s Kolberg has become an emblem of the Third Reich’s unshakable belief in the demagogic power of images” (Kaes 3-4). The Nazi political system relied on keeping its power through the maintaining of an appearance of strength and a belief in the system, which were both fostered by propaganda through film. The keeping up of these appearances became a major goal of the Nazis that often interfered with other priorities i.e. the war effort. The only reason the Nazis were successful was because of the Godlike status the Nazis were able to give Hitler through the use of these appearances, which were built using film.
The argument of this chapter directly supports the claim that the Nazis placed an overly high value on film because of the over importance of image and appearances to the Nazi system. Goebbels and the Nazis should have recognized, though, that the resources spent on keeping up these appearances with extravagant films like Kolberg would have been better utilized directly in the war. The maintaining of appearances should not matter once fear of survival is an issue, but Goebbels obviously did not realize this. The Nazis should have changed their priorities once the threat of defeat became evident. It is unbelievable that even a couple months before defeat Goebbels still had the production of Kolberg completed. The propaganda generated by film was seemingly more important to Goebbels than military victory. Such misguided priorities and principles doomed the Nazis.
Miller. Peter. " Evil genius of Hitler's propaganda machine," Sunday Times (London) 05 Jul 1992. LexisNexis. 29 Nov 2008
This article is about Joseph Goebbels and his pivotal role in the formation of Adolph Hitler’s status and power. Goebbels was one of few individuals that realized early on the importance of the support of the masses in attaining power. As minister of propaganda, Goebbels was in charge of making sure that the citizens perceived all information the way that the Nazi Party wanted them to. While originally he was against Hitler, he soon recognized Hitler’s great oratory talents. While Hitler was the orator that delivered the message to the German people, Goebbels was the one making sure that the content of the message was, indeed, the "proper" message to be relayed to the masses. Goebbels utilized radio, television, and cinema to spread his propaganda. He was very effective with this media and realized their importance in fostering public support. Through this manipulation of the public did Goebbels enable the Nazi Party to accomplish its many terrible deeds. Goebbels was very committed to the Nazi cause and arguably was just as or even more important to many of its “accomplishments” than Hitler. Like Hitler, Goebbels and his family also suffered a bloody fate.
Goebbels realized that before the Nazi Party could gain power and take over the state, they had to win over the hearts and minds of the people. Because of the importance of fostering the support of the masses, Goebbels placed such a great emphasis on propaganda. His use of film allowed his propaganda to most effectively reach the masses. Film was the most influential medium for propaganda because it allowed for great subtlety in the portrayal of the message the Nazis wanted. The importance of film as a tool for propaganda and Joseph Gobbels’ high priority of attaining the support of the German public as minister of propaganda led to an overemphasis of the value of film, specifically when he unwisely allocated an excessive amount of money and troops—much needed resources for the war—to the making of the film Kolberg.
Fritzsche, Peter. "Nazi Modern." Modernism/Modernity 3.11996 1-22. 1 Dec 2008 .
The Nazis came to power because of the hopelessness of the German people due to the disastrous condition in which Germany was left following WWI. The people were not happy to see the Nazis in particular; they accepted them because they needed a change. The main goal of the Nazis was to exterminate the Jewish people, yet most Germans did not agree with this agenda. The Nazis embraced technology and made Germany’s economy more industrialized and more technologically advanced. Because of this some people, oversimplify the Nazis’ impact on Germany and say that they were modernizers. The more complex view argues that Nazis were modernists. As modernists, the Nazis sought racial purification in an attempt to unify and strengthen the German society so that it would be “strong and homogeneous enough to prosper in the dangerous era of world wars” (Fritzsche). This racial purification in conjunction with increased social programs were measures to promote national health and were seen as modern ways to better German society. In theory, these practices could have made German society very strong and unified, but these apparent benefits do not justify the mass murders that were made necessary to carry out the racial purification. This racial purification, ultimately, destroyed German society because the wrath of the world for the murderous injustices Germany was committing.
The initial background for the argument of this article is that the people were never won over by the Nazis. This information offers a new perspective. This lack of all out support by the people may be the reason that Goebbels and the Nazis were so concerned with maintaining public support. If their support was a given, surely Goebbels would not have spent so many resources on propaganda like Kolberg. The overarching goals of the Nazis for unity also explain why the public's consensus with the goals of the Nazi Party was so desirable. In creating a unified German society, surely the Nazis not only wanted unification with race and appearance, but unification with the thoughts and minds of the German people. The Nazis felt that this unification was key to strength in this dangerous world. The Nazis' great desire to attain strength for the German society is explained by the way Germany was left crushed following WWI. Overall, the desire for the unification of German society explains why such a high value was placed on propaganda and therefore, film, its most important medium.
Call#: Ctr for Adv Judaic Studies Lib, 4th & Walnut Sts. CJS PN1993.5.G3 K7 1942
Kracauer, Siegfried. From Caligari to Hitler, a psychological history of the German Film. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1947.
“Nazi Views And Measures”
All films in Nazi Germany were propaganda films. Newsreels and features were the two forms of propaganda. Newsreels were a means of propaganda not information. The purpose of newsreels was to give the German people skewed world views. The production of newsreels greatly increased at the onset of WWII. While newsreels portrayed falsified messages, the scenes shown were never faked—they were always actual footage taken on site. This element made these propaganda newsreels more believable. The Nazis prided themselves on the fact that the cameramen for newsreels were like “regular soldiers, doing a soldier’s full duty, always in the first lines…” (Kracauer 276). The deaths of these cameramen and reporters at the front lines were emphasized to the public to reiterate the fact that the reporters were, indeed, amongst the soldiers on the war front. These newsreels were considerably long, so that the propaganda techniques could be repeated for increased effectiveness. While newsreels were long, unlike feature films, newsreels were produced rapidly so that the information was timely and viewed as actual news.
While in my thesis I use the broad term film, I only consider the term to describe feature films. This chapter highlights the importance of the newsreel. The newsreel is a form of film propaganda that I really should not have ignored. Because of the newsreel’s entirely different nature, its inclusion would have given my thesis more depth. The newsreel did not have the same production costs or length of time needed for production because all the footage is filmed live at the scene. Considering these facts, newsreels as film propaganda were much more cost effective than feature films. While newsreels directly told Germans what to believe, newsreels still were subtle forms of propaganda because they were being portrayed in documentary style as fact. In my thesis I argued that film was overvalued by the Nazis at times because of its great cost when resources were needed badly for the war effort. Newsreels, though, would have served as a good compromise. Still, though, when the situation with the war became very dire, resources should never have been diverted from the war effort.
Citation: Kallis, Artistole. “Nazi Propaganda and ‘Coordination’: The Haphazard Path to Totalitarianism.” European Review of History 13.1 (Mar 2006): 115-139.
This articles presents information on censorship in regards to German cinema during the Nazi period. Kallis explains that once Goebbels takes charge as the Minister of Propaganda, he goes to work to rescue German cinema from its current financial and cultural problems that lingered when the Nazis came to power. In order to create change in the film industry, Goebbels created institutions such as the RKK and RMVK. These groups were established to bring all aspects and cultural and leisure activity under the control of the National Socialist regime. In addition, Goebbels made the decision to stray away from negative censorship and instead focus upon an idea of positive censorship. This new method of production would enable the regime to partake in every step of the film’s creation rather than simply view the end product. The article argues that, with this change, the Nazi hierarchy could not only ensure that film conformed to the regime’s political planning but could also promote and actively endorse its own objectives.
This source serves as background information for further evidence that the Nazi regime whole-heartedly sought to promote a positive feeling about war and a strong connection between home and the front through the creation of Wunschkonzert. Due to the fact that hierarchy had a hand in every step of film production, it was easy for the Nazi power to ensure that war, self-sacrifice, and the idea of community were portrayed in the best light.
Citation: Cocks, Geoffery. “The Ministry of Amusements: Film, Commerce, and Politics in Germany, 1917-1945.” Central European History 30.1 (1997): 77-89.
In Cock’s review of The Ministry of Illusion: Nazi Cinema and Its Afterlife, written by Eric Rentschler, he focuses on examining the fundamental arguments made by Rentschler in regards to propaganda film produced by the Third Reich. First, he explains Rentchler’s idea that Nazi made a strong attempt at mass deception through film production. Additionally, Cock discusses Rentschler’s belief that the Third Reich used entertainment as a substitute for “glimpses of everyday life,” that Nazi film could be linked to traditional Hollywood conventions, and introduces Rentschler’s suggestion that the Nazis sought to use film as a way of seducing and coercing the German people. Finally, Cooks notes that it is important to understand the fact that, in his book, Rentschler emphasizes the concept of film as a powerful means of expressing and evoking emotion.
Although this article does not address Wunschkonzert, the arguments presented as to what defines a Nazi Propaganda film can be applied to this production and demonstrate to a greater extent that this film was used as war propaganda. First, Rentchler’s idea of mass deception is evident in the portrayal of Germany as a peace-minded country. The film aimed at portraying Germany as a place in which the home-front should be a place of optimism and unity. In addition, the suggestion of seducing and coercing by the Nazis is evident in the way in which the film instills within the audience the idea that war, joy, romance and love can be intertwined and, thus, one should feel hope and pride in this time of warfare. Through the use of entertain, Wunschkonzert sought to associate positive sentiments and thoughts with then concept of war in the minds of audiences. Finally, the film does indeed evoke emotion within the German people. Wunschkonzert evokes positive feelings in support of Hitler’s struggle for triumph and power.
Citation: Blair, John. "Nazi Cinema as Enchantment: The Politics of Entertainment in the Third Reich." German Quarterly. 78.2 (Spring 2005): pp. 258-259.
In this book review, Blair discusses the way in which O’Brien expresses the Nazi administration’s obligation to cinema as both entertainment and propaganda. O’Brien emphasizes how Nazi Film followed a similar model to that of classical Hollywood cinema through its promotion of identification. In addition, the book review explains that O’Brien presents the fact that “only 153 of the 1,094 feature films produced in Germany during the Third Reich are "generally considered outright propaganda;" (1) thus, the rest of the propaganda film depicted political agenda in a variety of different genres. Through the close scrutiny of thirteen Nazi films, from five different film dramas, O’Brien determines the impact of each genre on German society and the way in which each particular genre excels. When observing films created during wartime, O’Brien ventures to suggest that the state tried to promote different attitudes in correspondence with different periods of the war. In chapter three, O’Brien focuses on Wunschkonzert and its impact on German society. She explains that the film is full of confidence and optimism about the war and life back at home in addition to suggesting the idea of sacrifice and support of the war efforts on the home front.
The article is significant in understanding that Goebbels and the Nazi regime undeniably strove to provide audiences with a source of entertainment during a difficult time in Germany. However, it can not be overlooked that despite the fact that these films, including Wunschkonzert, centered on a story of love and light heartedness, the film proved to audiences that support o f the Nazis and the idea of warfare was crucial in obtaining success and maintaining the morale of Germany in this period and struggle and hardship.
Citation: Zimmerman, Clemens. “From Propaganda to Modernization: Media Policy and Media Audiences under National Socialiam.” German History 24.3 (Aug 2006): 431-454.
In the section entitled, “ ‘Propaganda’ as the Key Concept of Earlier Media-Oriented Analyses of the National Socialist System,” Zimmerman takes a close look at propaganda and its impact on National Socialism. First, Zimmerman emphasizes the fact that the real study of propaganda lies in an examination of subliminal messages that are being displayed. He goes on to conclude that it is not only the content of the message that is important but also the function that the media performs within the communication of society. Zimmerman presents an opposing view to many of the other sources included which is based on the idea that entertainment films were predominantly meant for entertainment and only marginally produced to present propaganda. However, although Zimmerman states that an audience interprets media differently in regards to their gender, educational background, sex, age, and previous life-experience, the author does suggest the fact that media mass communication can influence people’s emotion, that people tend to agree with majority opinion, and that the media can set agendas on topics in which uncertainty exists.
Despite the fact that this article presents some facts in opposition of the thesis stated above, the facts presented in support of propaganda in entertainment film can be supported through an analysis of German society during the Nazi regime. The fact that the Nazi hierarchy had power over much of the culture and activity in Germany did not leave much freedom for citizens to develop their own thoughts and beliefs or to express them openly. Therefore, film production and the messages being relayed by these works of art and entertianment played a large role in the formation of society’s opinion on a variety of different topics, including politics and war. It is undeniable that films such as Wunschkonzert served as an escape and form of amusement for the German population; however, one mustn’t fail to recognize the conditions of the society at the particular time and the heavy influence that the Nazi regime had over society and their overall beliefs on important issues.
Citation: Assorted Nazi political films, 1932-1943 [videorecording]. Videocassette. International Historic Films, 1985.
This film recording provides an opportunity to further understand the effect of the Nazi regime on Germany and its people. The video begins by showing audiences the speech that Hitler gives to the people of Germany after winning the election in 1932. Hitler speaks of the way in which the country needs to unite and rid itself of the 30 plus political parties that now exists in the country and instead join as one front. He goes on to makes statements about the leaders who have been in charge for the past thirteen years, holding them accountable for any financial, cultural, or societal dilemmas that had arisen to weaken Germany. Finally, he challenges the people to rise up with him in the hopes of creating a stronger, more powerful Germany. He explains that the strength of the nation starts with the people and that no progress can be made without their support. The next recording is a speech of Hitler’s in Vienna in 1938 on the Anniversary of Munich Putsch. The crowds roar and soldiers raise their arms towards their leader as Hitler speaks once again of a country united in a fight for power and strength. Finally, the video displays a speech given by Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda, in 1943. Within his speech, he challenges the German people to remain loyal to their motherland. He explains that this is the time in which people must be willing to make heavy sacrifice for the greater good of their others and their country. He ensures society not to lose hope and reminds them of the potential German had to exude dominance and power in the world.
After watching this film, I could not help but relate it back to the idea of Nazi propaganda and reflect on the way in which Nazi power had such a great influence over German society. In every clip of this recording, there is an abundance of German citizens cheering and saluting, each in favor of the Nazis quest for power. Even in 1943, when the tides of the war were beginning to turn, Nazis still were able to influence the people and instill in them a sense of duty and loyalty to the Nazi hierarchy and Germany in general. These video recording demonstrate that, during the Nazi regime, Nazi leaders held the power to persuade the German people and evoke emotion within them. This insight into the societal structure in German society proves to explain how film production could affect the sentiments of society. The German people was so heavily shaped by the Nazi regime that it is not hard to believe that Nazi films, such as Wunschkonzert, were indeed capable of evoking in audiences a particular emotion and leaving a last impact on their outlook on cultural, war, and many other aspects of German life.
Citation: Giesen, Rolf. Nazi Propaganda Films: a history and filmography. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2003. 151-162
The chapter entitled “Black-Out: The Home Front, or “That’s Not the End of the World,” describes movies during the Nazi film period which focused on the environment back at home during wartime in Germany. Throughout the chapter, the author depicts the role of women during this period by showing that the typical bride or fiancé in many films would be waiting for their brave, faithful soldier to return victoriously. Within the chapter, Giesen discusses Wunschkonzert as an example of a home front film. He explains the way in which movies such as these strived to keep German spirits high through a focus on music and an upbeat screenplay that depicts war in a positive light. It is also important to recognize that Wunschkonzert can be used to better understand the role of women at the time. Through the character of Inge Wagner, we witness the way in which women in German society reacted to war. Despite being separated for three years, Inge waits for Herbert and remains devoted to him until they are reunited in a hospital.
Through Giesen’s depiction of Wunschkonzert, we gain a greater understand of the way in which entertainment film was used by the Nazi regime to unite German society and keep spirits high in the time of war. Indeed, through the character of Inge Wagner, women throughout Germany were given an example of what it means to be in support of soldiers and their country in a time of fighting, yet another way in which the Nazi regime gained support through entertainment film.
Citation: Kallis, Artistotle. Nazi Propaganda and the Second World War. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2005
In the section entitled, “Commercial and political value? The ‘entertainment film’ and NS Propaganda,” Kallis addresses film production during the sensitive war period. He explains the idea that during this time, groups such as RMVP and the RPL in accordance with the Minister of Propaganda managed every aspect of the regime’s film policy and suggests that, despite this control, there is a blur in the distinction between politics and entertainment. He goes on to present the idea that strictly political or historical films were much less appreciated than romantic comedies or dramas in German culture. In fact, it seemed as if many audiences were unmoved by the importance and significance of events captured in political film and showed little admiration or respect for political productions. Therefore, the author concludes, that “the most commercially successful films ever produced under the Third Reich were indeed popular Unterhaltungsfilme, such as the Wunschkonzert” (212). The novel stresses the belief that the success of Wunschokonzert and films of its kinds could have power over an audience and society and thus, could be used as a new form of Nazi propaganda during a time in which traditional methods of political propaganda were suffering.
This portion of the novel is relevant to looking at Wunschkonzert as a Nazi propaganda film because it stresses the idea that despite the fact that this film was considered an entertainment film, there can be no doubt that its content had an impact on German society. The film touched on social conformity; however, it remained predominantly influenced by political objectives. In fact, the way in which political propaganda was much more dispersed within the plot line rather than being the driving force behind the story seemed to be better appreciated and well received by audiences.
Citation: Baird, Jay. The Mythical World of Nazi War Propaganda, 1939-1945. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1974. 3-11.
In the first chapter entitled “The Mythical World of Nazi Propaganda,” Baird seeks to explain to readers the unique way in which the Nazi propaganda merged the political and practical with the mythical. He describes how Hitler focuses on the irrational, such the use of myths and symbols, to covey Nazi propaganda. The author continues by explain the way Nazi propaganda film merges the themes of traditional German patriotism with Nazi ideological motifs. In the initial part of the chapter, Baird focuses on the way in which films such as The Eternal Jew and Jud Suss contributed to the feelings of anti-Semitism in Germany and help the Nazi regime gain support in their quest for the evacuation of the Jews. Baird goes on to discuss war as an important component in Nazi mythical ideology. He explains that films, such as Morgenrot and Wunschkonzert, help to convey the message that war was the German spirit of life; those who died in battle for their country not only were ensured eternal life but also served as an inspiration for Germans in future centuries. Finally, the author makes note of the importance of the anti-Bolsheviks motif in films that strove to depict the Nazi agenda of conquering Bolshevism and Soviet Russia.
This chapter helps to further explain the way in which Wunschkonzert depicts the positive side of war and, thus, serves as a propaganda film. It explains that, within through the heroic death of Schwarzkopf for Germany, the film conveys to the audience the Nazi idea that fighting for one’s country was an essential part of German life and should be looked at as a gallant and necessary duty by all German citizens.
David Welch’s article describes how the Nazis used propaganda to influence public opinion. He argues “the concept of a ‘national’ or ‘people’s’ community was a key element in the ‘revolutionary’ aims of the Nazi regime, and illustrates the remarkably ambitious nature of its propaganda.” He claims that German propaganda was ambitious because it attempted to unite the classes. The author also analyzes “two sections of the community- the industrial working class and German youth.” He believes that there is “considerable evidence to suggest that Nazi policies and propaganda reflected many of the aspirations of large sections of the population.” This argument continues as Welch says that propaganda is “as much about confirming rather than converting public opinion. Propaganda, if it is to be effective must, in a sense, preach to those who are already partially converted.” He points out that the “regime’s propaganda was pragmatic enough to recognize that its policies could be maintained provided section of the community who were opposed to Nazism remained quiescent.” He mentions that Nazi leaders such as Joseph Goebbels identified the importance of propaganda and attempted to utilize it to their advantage. Propaganda may have been effective in Germany because the country was suffering from national humiliation after World War I and was also was facing economic troubles. The propaganda also based on traditional German ideas, which included: an “appeal to national unity based on the principle: ‘The community before the individual,’ the need for racial purity,” and “charismatic leadership.” The purpose of Nazi propaganda was to radically “restructure German society so that the prevailing class, religious and sectional loyalties would be replaced by a new heightened national awareness.”
This article gives an interesting viewpoint about the effects of propaganda as the author says that propaganda is more capable of confirming an opinion that already exists than completely altering a person’s perspective. This idea conflicts with Meaney’s article, which describes how propaganda can manipulate any person’s mindset. Yet, Welch’s argument is supported by some of the sources that describe the Disney Company, which claim that Disney based some of its cartoons on public opinion. Though the article uses Germany as an example, it tends to discuss propaganda mostly in general terms, so its arguments are applicable to my thesis.
This article explains why propaganda is such a powerful force and uses Germany as an example. The author thinks that propaganda is not a means of persuasion, but rather “an extension of the techniques of psychical coercion.” He incorporates ideas from Adolf Hitler, who tried to manipulate facts to control public opinion. Meaney investigates the way Hitler used propaganda and concludes that “terror used with suddenness can stampede the masses into a course of action; used over a prolonged period it can exhaust individuals psychologically and cause them to collapse and to yield.” In his argument, he also discusses modern advertising, which makes it easy to spread propaganda. With an example, he demonstrates “the full effect of concentrated propaganda on an individual, showing that a gradual, unconscious, involuntary, but nevertheless effective breaking down of the will’s latent opposition took place.”
This article addresses the second part of my thesis as it explains the effects of propaganda. Though it focuses on German propaganda, which differed from American propaganda, the author discusses propaganda in general to show that it can be incredibly powerful. The example that Meaney uses demonstrates how any person can be manipulated by propaganda, so it seems as though the author would argue that Americans would have been greatly affected by cartoon propaganda during World War II if he were writing a paper with my thesis.
Downing, Taylor. Olympia. London: BFI Publishing, 1992.
The chapter “Aftermath” in Taylor Downing’s examination of Olympia describes the reception of the film and its post-release history. Initially the film received generally positive reviews, but as Germany became more threatening, Riefenstahl and the film became less popular, resulting in a boycott of the film in the United States. For the rest of her life, Riefenstahl would have trouble clearing her reputation for her involvement with the Nazi party. The film stands as a major artistic achievement, however, and the author notes its influence on films about future Olympics, although competition with television coverage of the games made a cinematic masterpiece such as Olympia more difficult. Downing argues that Olympia beautifully captured the spirit of the Olympics, and Riefenstahl’s use of retakes in the film aid its artistic vision if they decrease its level of journalism.
The chapter concludes by grappling with the film’s propaganda question. Downing notes that the Berlin Olympics themselves were designed as propaganda to promote Germany as a friendly, peace-loving nation, and hence the Nazi party invested in Riefenstahl’s production to display their propaganda to the world. The author affirms Riefenstahl’s artistic independence during the production, however, and concludes the film is not intentionally propagandistic. Nevertheless, he maintains the film is still political since it was set up for political reasons and documents a political event, but he argues this fact does not and should not detract from its artistic merit.
Large, David Clay. Nazi Games: The Olympics of 1936. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2007.
The chapter “Olympia” in David Clay Large’s book on the 1936 Olympics provides a succinct history of the film. It notably refutes some of the claims made by Riefenstahl regarding her independence from the Nazi party in the making of the film. While Riefenstahl claims the film was commissioned by the International Olympic Committee and funded by a firm called Tobis Films, the author contends it was commissioned by the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda and financed by the party. Furthermore, while Riefenstahl claims that Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda, was at odds with her, Large asserts that he tolerated her despite his preference for a different director to make the film, although he acknowledges that Goebbels did cause some problems for Riefenstahl such as when he audited her company. The chapter then discusses some of the technical innovations of the film and some of the difficulties the crew encountered during filming, and finally finishes by describing the mixed critical reception Riefenstahl received internationally.
The chapter also devotes some time to discussing the film’s propaganda value. Large argues the film, even the German version, was not explicitly partisan in any particular way. The film gives no sense that the Germany was the winning team, and it includes some of the nation’s defeats as well, although the Ministry of Propaganda did mandate fair reporting of the games. On the other hand, while the author notes that the black Jesse Owens was portrayed very favorably, other black athletes did not receive as much screen time as they probably deserved. Furthermore, many of the most dramatic moments are of German athletes, and some events featured disproportionately more footage of Germany and her allies Japan and Italy. Additionally, the German version contained more shots of Hitler and swastikas and placed a greater emphasis on the games as a national battle. And finally, the film’s glorification of physical perfection and the communitarian togetherness depicted in the Olympic Village are reminiscent of Nazi values. The author concludes by suggesting the film’s late release lessened its political potential as propaganda to foreigners, however, since by then Germany was well into its path of aggression, undermining any sense of international good will the film could evoke.
Masumoto, Naofumi. “Interpretations of the Filmed Body: An Analysis of the Japanese Version of Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia.” Critical Reflections on Olympic Ideology. Centre for Olympic Studies, 1994. 146-158. 31 Mar. 2008 <http://www.la84foundation.org/SportsLibrary/ISOR/ISOR1994t.pdf>.
This article analyzes the Japanese version of Olympia and explores its relationship to contemporary Olympic events. While it touches on a wide variety of questions such as the film’s political implications, its focus is on the aestheticization of the human body, particularly of the strong and victorious. It suggests that Olympia was not so much a document of the 1936 Olympics as it was a unified body of art. While the article acknowledges the historical context of the film and its influence, it affirms Riefenstahl’s commitment to producing an artistically free and independent picture. For example, it notes that Riefenstahl beautified the bodies of not just Aryan athletes, but also blacks and Asians, against the wishes of Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels. Additionally, it argues that Riefenstahl’s use of retakes and overdubs serves to discredit the film as a historical documentary but instead supports it as an artistically united statement. It connects the film to today’s Olympics by contrasting its emphasis on beauty with mass commercialization yet also notes the film represents universal and unchanging Olympic ideals.
The article raises several points in the question of the extent that Olympia is propagandistic. Aside from noting the film’s beautification of the human body irrespective of race, the article suggests the film was not propaganda in and of itself, but rather a record of a propagandistic event. On the other hand, the article also spends some time on the introductory sequence in which an Olympic torch is carried from Greece to Berlin, suggesting the Germans as the true descendents of the culturally advanced Greeks. Additionally, it argues that the film’s depiction of Hitler as a typical sports spectator humanized him and was inherently positive.
Riefenstahl, Leni. Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993.
The chapter “Problems and Worries” in Leni Riefenstahl’s memoirs describes the harassment she received from Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, during the making of Olympia. Goebbels requested that she include less footage of “niggers” in the film and that she dismiss her press chief because of his marriage to a “non-Aryan” wife. Riefenstahl ignored both demands, and Goebbels resultantly cut off her funding in an effort to take over production of the film. She appealed to Hitler, giving him a police report indicating the Ministry of Propaganda had previously had members of her staff arrested. Her work was then removed from the auspices of the Ministry of Propaganda and placed under Rudolf Hess, which, to Riefenstahl’s delight, ended any harassment and interference during the film’s production.
This chapter is significant to the question of Olympia as propaganda because it supports Riefenstahl’s claim that her work was not propaganda. Riefenstahl’s account describes her work as not an instrument of the Ministry of Propaganda, but rather a nuisance. She refused to bow to Goebbels’s demands that would have incorporated propagandistic elements into the film. When her film was removed from the Ministry’s authority, she noted that she felt liberated, suggesting that her film should be understood as artistically free and without political influence.
Rings, Guido. “Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia: A Documentary Film as Instrument of Propaganda?” Storia della Storiografia 36 (1999): 105-119.
This article examines the question of Olympia as a propaganda film and largely concludes that it is indeed propaganda. Much of its argument is derived by drawing parallels between the aesthetics of Olympia and the ideals espoused by National Socialism. The author argues that in its depiction of the athletes the film glorifies the strong, healthy, and young and celebrates physical perfection, creating a cult of the idealized body that Nazism champions. The sacrifice of the individual for the better of the community, epitomized in the marathon sequence as the runners visibly suffer for their nations’ glory, is also a key part of Nazi ideology conveyed in the film. The author notes a militarist tone that celebrates discipline and unity over individuality throughout the film, especially during the parade and calisthenics sequences. The article concludes by pointing out that although the film may not have explicitly been intended as propaganda, the fact that there existed propagandistic overtones meant German audiences, who were accustomed to such ideas being conveyed in their media, would make the political connections suggested by the film.
Other points relevant to this debate that the author mentions include, as other scholars have noted, that the shots of Hitler depict him as an average, relatable person, and he suggests that these shots are intercut with segments in which Germany is winning, thereby linking Hitler with the success of the nation. While other scholars have praised Olympia for its seemingly fair treatment of the black athletes, Rings takes issue with the fact that they only appear on the podium as winners once, despite winning numerous times. Overall the article takes a less forgiving stance towards the film, and its assessment of the political connotations of Olympia’s aesthetics is quite useful. However, the author sometimes quotes German sources without providing an English translation, which can make a full comprehension difficult.
Rother, Rainer. Leni Riefenstahl: The Seduction of Genius. London: Continuum, 2002.
Rainer Rother’s analysis of Olympia in the chapter “The Political Significance of an ‘Unpolitical’ Film” looks at the ways the film conveys a political message. Rother reasons that the film is unsettling because it was supported by the Nazi party, presumably because of its propaganda value, yet it does not contain explicit pro-Nazi material. He notes the Berlin Olympics themselves were largely ideologically motivated and considers some of the ways the film builds upon that ideology. The beginning of the film is perhaps the most explicitly political in its homage to Nazi Germany and Hitler, especially during the highly nationalistic opening ceremonies. Additionally, the commentary and reaction shots of the patriotic audiences emphasize a battle between races and nations. Still, the fact that Hitler appears in the film even when the Germans don’t win conveys a certain respect for other nations’ achievements.
The chapter is directly relevant to the debate on the question of the propaganda value of the film. The author concludes that the film is largely non-ideological, but notes certain ways in that it communicates political messages. The film’s emphasis on nationalism is the theme most clearly in line with Nazi ideology.
Hinton, David B. The Films of Leni Riefenstahl. Filmmakers Series, No. 74. Lanham: Scarecrow Press, 2000.
David B. Hinton provides a succinct history and analysis of Olympia in his chapter of the same title in his collection of works on Riefenstahl’s films. He holds it to be the first truly successful film about the Olympics, having been a massive undertaking that captured the spirit and beauty of the games in ways that previous newsreel footage could not. He praises the prologue of the film, set in the Greece, which connects the games to their ancient roots and implies the unchanging nature of beauty. He spends some time detailing the meticulous preparations Riefenstahl made for shooting the film such as devising innovative camera techniques that influenced how sports would be shot from then on. He goes on to describe Riefenstahl’s perfectionist quality, as she controlled every aspect of production to the minutest detail. The end result of her toils was that the film did not just record the games but rather illustrated the essence of each event, such as the physical strain of the marathon and the beauty of the divers.
The chapter discusses some of the accusations of propaganda leveled against the film but discredits most of them. Hinton notes that Riefenstahl’s use of retakes made the film less of a historical documentary but more of an artistic vision, which could potentially aid any propaganda aims. Still, he rejects the presence of Hitler in the film as evidence of propaganda because his appearance is brief and unspectacular. Furthermore, Riefenstahl’s choice to give the black Jesse Owens significant credit for his athletic accomplishments instead of downplaying them undercuts any support for racist Nazi ideology. The Germans are not portrayed as a “master race,” but rather internationalism is honored, as the Olympic flag is the dominant symbol, not the swastika. Some critics have contended that the glorification of competitiveness and strength reflects fascist ideals, but Hinton argues that this is an inherent quality of the Olympics themselves and not the film.
Mandell, Richard D. The Nazi Olympics. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1971.
Richard D. Mandell’s work on the 1936 Olympics provides a notably positive overview of Olympia in his chapter “The Olympics Preserved.” The chapter begins with background information about Riefenstahl, her career, and her close relationship with Hitler. Mandell then turns to the film itself and notes its technical achievements in areas such as editing and its use of zoom lenses and slow motion, which ultimately contributed to a dramatic cinematic experience that was unprecedented in sports film. Mandell likens Riefenstahl in the editing process of the film to composing a masterpiece more than a documentary film. He then spends some time analyzing particular scenes to reveal their drama and beauty, but notes that the second part of the film, “Festival of Beauty,” is less successful than the first because it is more disjointed and varied. The chapter ends with a discussion of Riefenstahl’s disgrace after World War II for her associations with the Nazi party, a fate the author considers lamentable given her artistic genius.
Mandell’s appraisal of Olympia is mostly positive, and he considers the film to be largely non-political and lacking in propagandistic content. He points out the prominence of black and Asian athletes in the film as evidence of the film’s disassociation with racist Nazi beliefs. He acknowledges that the mass exercise scene is reminiscent of the grand and awe-inspiring shots of Triumph of the Will, but contends that it is nonpolitical and only meant to convey beauty. Mandell does admit, however, that the film does capture the Nazis’ promotion of nationalism through the games’ intense communal competitiveness.
Graham, Cooper C. Leni Riefenstahl and Olympia. Filmmakers Series, No. 13. Metuchen: Scarecrow Press, 1986.
Cooper C. Graham’s text on Olympia is one of the most in-depth and thoughtful on the subject. In its concluding chapter, it provides an insightful and articulate investigation of the film as a piece of National Socialist propaganda. Graham’s main argument lies in the claim that Olympia can qualify as propaganda without being a politically motivated project if it encompasses what he terms “sociological propaganda.” He notes that such propaganda does not have to be intentionally constructed to permeate certain ideologies or beliefs, and in this sense Olympia does promote views in support of the Nazi party. Graham argues that in the 1930s, the Nazi party was attempting to mold the image of Germany as a peaceful and liberal nation, in direct contrast to its true aspirations, and saw the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a unique opportunity to further this public relations campaign. The party took measures to ensure the competing nations were treated well in the press to create an aura of fairness, and in the same manner Olympia fulfills this goal with its apparently evenhanded depiction of the games. Hence Olympia did not need to promote racist Nazi ideals or glorify Aryan athletes to be propagandistic; in fact, not doing so made the film seem more credible and effective. The film is propaganda because of the deceptive image it gives to Germany, that of a happy, benevolent, and just society, an image the Nazi party was eager to promote.
Graham raises several other points relevant to the question of the film as propaganda. He notes the Nazi party financed and was heavily involved in the production of the film. The shots of Hitler also humanized him by portraying him as a friendly, average sports fan. Additionally, he explains that the existence of the film itself served as a symbol of German technological and intellectual achievement. While the film’s most significant element of propaganda lay in its apparent fairness, Graham contends that some portions of the film were subtly skewed towards a pro-German stance through dramatic shots that emphasized German athletes and victories, especially in the German version of the film.
Schneider, Robert C., and William F. Stier. “Leni Riefenstahl’s ‘Olympia’: Brilliant Cinematography or Nazi Propaganda?” The Sport Journal 4.4 (Fall 2001). 31 Mar. 2008 <http://www.thesportjournal.org/article/leni-riefenstahls-olympia-brilliant-cinematography-or-nazi-propaganda>.
This article provides an overview of the debate about whether Olympia qualifies as a Nazi propaganda film. It presents many of the arguments’ pros and cons, and the authors ultimately side with the belief that the film did contribute to the Nazi movement, though in subtle ways. They reject the claim that Riefenstahl, and by extension her film, was removed from Nazi politics because of her professional talent and political skills that provided her with connections to the Nazi party. The authors acknowledge that it is difficult to prove that Olympia was produced with the intent of serving as propaganda, but they maintain that the film functions as propaganda anyway, largely because it portrays Germany in a kind and positive light, even if it does not attempt to indoctrinate its viewers with Nazi principles. One of the ways it does this is by portraying the athletes of other nations positively, hence harboring good will towards the seemingly fair host nation, Germany. Additionally, the fact that Olympia’s finances were controlled by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, lends support to the argument that the film served certain propagandistic purposes. On the flip side, the seemingly unbiased depiction of the multinational athletes lends credence to the argument that the film is not propaganda. Riefenstahl even resisted pressure from Goebbels to modify the film to endorse Nazi beliefs. After acknowledging both sides of the debate, the article concludes with more support for the argument that the film is propagandistic.
The article is directly relevant to the film Olympia and the question of whether it is a Nazi propaganda film. While the article is not as in-depth as some other sources on the topic, such as Cooper C. Graham’s work on the film, it does provide a succinct overview of the debate and several of its key points.
In The Art of Alfred Hitchcock, Spoto discusses many of the motifs found in Hithcock’s films. Water is frequently used to symbolize create turmoil, seen in Lifeboat with the stormy uncertain waters. Water also is the impetus for the survivors to rise up against the deceptive Nazi who had hidden his secret supply from the others, even killing to keep it a secret.
Jewelry is also a common Hitchcockian theme. It frequently represents false value. Connie equates her bracelet with good luck, saying that she will never take it off for fear of what would happen. The survivors are only saved, ironically, with her removal of the bracelet and its eventual loss. Hithcock also equates the bracelet with power. Connie is never able to fasten the clasp. Initially, she turns to Kopac for help, but eventually, the Nazi Willie is the only one who can fix her bracelet.
Hitchcock also suggests that transit sparks romance. The Nurse and the Radio officer slowly develop a relationship with him eventually proposing. Sexual tension also exists between Connie and Kopec. The trip also forces Gus to think only about his Rosie back in New Jersey, frequently questioning if he will ever see her again.
Spoto also suggests that the items that pass through the water in the opening represent the film’s main themes: The New Yorker symbolizes a society troubled in its foundation; the chess board symbolizes intellect useless in solving their situation; playing cards represent excessive leisure which allow Willie to successfully cement control over the ship.
While many criticize Lifeboat for its portrayal of Willie as an Aryan superman, Spotto suggests that people would be more offended by his humanity. His singing of German anthems and appreciation of music gives him a quality no one wanted to associate with Nazis. (This humanity is intentional as Walter Slezak who played Willie claimed his character was given curls in an effort to look more innocent.) Conversely, the “rabid pack of dogs” that were the other survivors prove unappealing at the end when they finally organize as one. Americans could only view a Nazi not as human or superhuman but as inhuman.
In the same issue of The New York Times as the Macgowan letter in defense of Lifeboat, Bosley Crowther responds with a strong critique of Macgowan and the film.
Crowther's article is a strong reflection of the American view of films during the height of censorship. His article is not one of strongly synthesized arguments about why Lifeboat is bad for the war effort. Instead he frequently employs the use of rhetorical questions, asking questions like "What's going on out there[Hollywood]?" as if any film whose portrayal of America's strength is questionable is an outrage in itself and needs no further explanation.
One of Crowther's criticisms that does not feature a question mark is that of all the abilities given to the German. He is the only one with the mental, physical, and emotional ability to amputize Gus's leg, navigate the ship through the storm, and row it towards its destination. He credits all of his abilities as being well-explained, but critizes Hitchcock (and unfairly Steinbeck) for giving them to him in the first place. His argument can be summarized as no matter how well you explain Superman's ability to fly, his super strength, or his heat vision, they still make him look like Superman.
He closes his critique claiming that anything that casts doubt on America is inherently bad to morale and for our image overseas, giving credence to the idea of film as Will Hays's silient salesman. Censorship in the 1940s is often attributed only to organizations like the PCA and OWI. However, the critical reaction to Lifeboat shows that if they weren't strictly enforcing unquestionable pro-American ideals in film that their would be outcry from other outlets.