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Nazi propaganda: anti-Polish

Film | Accession Number: 1995.147.1 | RG Number: RG-60.0902 | Film ID: 32

This feature film opens in the German village of Emilienthal in the Polish district of Luzk in March 1939 as Polish authorities close a German school to turn it into a military police post. The teacher Maria Thomas constantly complains to the Polish mayor. Other Germans are angry about higher taxes for ethnic Germans and growing expropriations of land and houses. Maria's husband refuses to sing the Polish anthem and he is beaten up by Polish thugs who are said to thrive for the 'annihilation of...German pigs'. He dies because the police and the hospitals refuse to help Germans at all. Maria's father is shot and blinded in a Polish ambush. A German woman is stoned to death by Poles. After listening to Hitler's radio address on September 1, 1939 promising to take action against the Polish government because of harassment against the German minority, hundreds of Germans are arrested and imprisoned in inhumane conditions. Polish plans to kill all of the prisoners are disrupted as German warplanes shell the prison and German tanks invade the town. In the final scene, covered wagons travel "heim in ein neues, starkes Reich" [home into a new and powerful Reich] passing a German border sign and a huge picture of Hitler, while the German national anthem plays in the background.

This Austrian film addresses the situation of ethnic and cultural minorities living in the newly established multi-ethnic states of Central Europe after the Versailles Treaty as well as the practice of 'resettling' ethnic Germans living in Soviet-occupied territory to Germany as agreed upon in the secret Ribbentrop-Molotov-Agreement of August 23, 1939. Here, the German minority in Volhynia (Eastern Poland) is depicted as clinging to its German heritage in language and culture despite living outside the boundaries of Germany for 250 years. Aggressive Polish nationalism leads to growing persecution and denial of rights for these Volksdeutsche [ethnic Germans]. As a result, the minority develops even stronger bonds with their people and homeland, climaxing in their "Heimkehr" [coming home] to Germany. As early as December 1939, Goebbels conceived of producing a feature film about the Volhynian Germans. This "Staatsauftragsfilm" [film commissioned by the state] premiered on August 31, 1941 at the Biennale in Venice and was awarded a prize. After passing censorship on August 26, 1941 the movie publicly premiered in Vienna on October 10, 1941 distinguished as "Film der Nation" [Film of the Nation], "staatspolitisch und kuenstlerisch besonders wertvoll" [state-politically and artistically especially valuable] and "jugendwert" [of worth for the youth). Despite the broad press campaign orchestrated by Goebbels the movie's estimated loss was 423,000 RM with production costs of 4,020 million RM. It was screened to audiences of ethnic Germans and resettlers in occupied parts of Poland and in the Generalgouvernement with more positive results. Furthermore it was shown to welcoming audiences in the Netherlands and Japan.

Event:  1939 March
Production:  1941
Accessed at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Bundesarchiv Filmarchiv
Record last modified: 2022-07-28 22:04:22
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