Advanced Search

Learn About The Holocaust

Special Collections

My Saved Research




Skip to main content

Propaganda film about Jewish emigres in the British army

Film | Accession Number: 2009.357.1 | RG Number: RG-60.4897 | Film ID: 2888

Title on screen: "Into Battle No. 1: Lift Your Head Comrade" British propaganda film. British soldiers march up to a building and are called to attention. Their sergeant attempts to call the roll but stumbles over the foreign names and orders one of the soldiers to do it for him. As the soldier reads the foreign names, the camera pans over to the commanding officer, who explains that this company is almost entirely composed of anti-fascists from Austria and Germany. The officer says that for these men the war started in 1933 when Hitler came to power. Interior of an office. The CO pulls an identification card for one of his soldiers from a board on the wall, saying that the man's name has been blacked out to protect his family still in Austria. The officer states that many of his men have served time in concentration camps. He turns to a white haired man sitting at a desk, who has calculated the total amount of time served in prisons and concentration camps by the men in the company (125 years, 7 months and 6 days). The CO turns to another man in the office, who shows his "release ticket" from Dachau. The CO narrates a flashback scene to 1939, saying that back then the soldiers had little confidence. Standing outside a barracks, the CO lists some of the achievements of his unit. The camera focuses on individual soldiers as the CO gives a brief history of each man. One of the men says that he was kicked twice, once by a horse and once by Schicklgruber [Hitler] and that he preferred the horse. The men spend their morning break playing soccer. Men working to safeguard the coast "somewhere in England." Bobby Spooner tells his story: he was the amateur bantamweight champion of Europe. After Hitler entered Vienna Spooner was sent to Dachau because he was Jewish. While in Dachau he was hung from a tree and lost some of the use of his hands. A doctor who was also in Dachau demonstrates this torture technique. The CO says that the group is not a gloomy lot: shot of the company orchestra playing the Blue Danube waltz and a song that was written by an Austrian poet in Dachau [Dachaulied, written by Herbert Zipper and Jura Soyfer]. The audience sings the song. The CO describes the day the members of the company were first issued their weapons. The CO explains that these soldiers run a greater risk than ordinary British soldiers, for if they are captured they are executed immediately. Men with rifles aim at a paper target, with an image of a man with his hands tied behind his back superimposed on the center of the target. The CO intones, "Every shot they fire is a shot against the ghosts of their past." See above for production credits. Additional credits: Script: Arthur Koestler; Music: William Alwyn; Sound recordist: William S. Bland.

BA notes give the following background information: "Their history is explained by their CO and occasionally told by the men themselves: they are all volunteers, German and Austrian anti-Fascists (the company between all its members has a total prison and camp record of over 125 years) and film points out the danger to which these men expose both themselves and their families by serving. The men are shown (during the commentary) drilling, building a camp, installing coastal guns, receiving and training with weapons, and relaxing (title of film comes from a song they are shown singing); the detailed histories of individuals include distinguished civilian and even WWI German military careers, clever means of escape (one secured exit permit for a whole bogus football team), and stories of concentration camp life: one man shows his release card from Dachau, another, a Jewish former amateur boxer, shows how punishment for a trivial offence has ruined his hands, etc. "At last they are on the right side of the barbed wire and gun."

Production:  December 1942
Accessed at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Imperial War Museums
Record last modified: 2021-06-03 12:48:41
This page: