This historical feature film begins in 1862 with King Wilhelm I appointing Otto von Bismarck as head of the Prussian government. Since Germany was divided into 35 different political entities and transferred to various principalities, the nation is portrayed as desperately longing for national unity. Bismarck's first political action of dissolving the Prussian parliament because the opposition leader Virchow refused to finance a military reform and rearmament plan is followed by tough censorship of the press. From 1866 to 1870, Bismarck wages wars against Denmark, Austria, and France according to his main political principle -- the most decisive political questions are not solved by parliamentary discussions and resolutions but by "Eisen und Blut" [weapons and blood] alone. The movie ends with the proclamation of a "neues Deutsches Reich" [new German Empire] in the mirror hall of Versailles 1871 united under the leadership of Prussia and armed with a strong military force to withstand its powerful and malevolent neighbors.
Like the 1942 sequel "Die Entlassung" ["The Dismissal"], which was also directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner, this film intended to depict Bismarck as a national leader of exceptional genius and focused on national unity and strength as the most important issue for any German government. His task is further portrayed as "den deutschen Michel mit Gewalt zu seinem Glück zwingen" [to force the ordinary Germans into their own happiness with violence]. Thus parliamentary democracy is shown as being incapable of addressing the basic political needs of Germany and military might and violence as necessary for the existence of Germany. After passing censorship on November 19, 1940 the "Staatsauftragsfilm" [movie commissioned by the state] premiered on December 6, 1940 and very soon became a box-office success with an estimated profit of RM 1,989 million. It won the distinctions "staatspolitisch und kuenstlerisch besonders wertvoll" [state-politically and artistically especially valuable] and "jugendwert" [of worth for the youth]. According to the "Meldungen aus dem Reich" [Reports from the Reich] compiled by the "Sicherheitsdienst" [Security Service of the SS], the audience understood and appreciated the analogy drawn between Bismarck and Hitler concerning genial leadership, anti-parliamentarism, and aggressive foreign policy and thus the suggested continuity between Prussia and Nazi Germany.
- Accessed at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Bundesarchiv Filmarchiv
Record last modified: 2021-06-03 12:52:03
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