- People of all ages stand on the steps outside of Choral Synagogue in Moscow, located at Bolshoy Spasoglinishchevskiy lane, 10, during the High Holidays. Multiple people wear the tallit. A man using crutches moves down the front steps of the building, unable to use the lower part of his right leg. People move out of the synagogue, men put out their hands, begging for money and some give. As more people file out of the synagogue, the beggars continue to put out their hands, becoming very aggressive with one woman. She attempts to push them back. People stand in the streets while others keep moving out and down the steps. CU of some Jews.
- Film Title
Untitled #7 -- Robert Gessner -- amateur
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Peter Gessner
Robert J. Gessner
Robert Gessner was born on October 21, 1907 in Escanaba, MI. He obtained a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1929 and a M.A. from Columbia University in 1930. He started teaching at New York University in 1930. He married Doris Lindeman on May 27, 1938 and had two children, Peter and Stephen. Mr. Gessner was a screen playwright and the author of several books, including "Massacre" (1931); "Broken Arrow" (1933); "Some of My Best Friends are Jews" (1936); "Treason" (1944); "Youth is the Time" (1945). He was a pioneer educator in motion pictures as an art form. Gessner founded the Motion Picture Department (now Cinema Studies) at NYU in 1941, the first four-year film curriculum leading to a B.A. degree in motion picture studies in the United States. He finished his book "The Moving Image, A Guide to Cinematic Literacy" before he died in June 1968.
- B&W / Color
- Black & White
- Image Quality
- Film Format
Master 4169 Film: positive - 16 mm - b&w - reversal original - B-wind - Kodak
Master 4169 Film: positive - 16 mm - b&w - reversal original - B-wind - Kodak
Master 4169 Film: positive - 16 mm - b&w - reversal original - B-wind - Kodak
Master 4169 Film: positive - 16 mm - b&w - reversal original - B-wind - Kodak
Rights & Restrictions
- Conditions on Access
- You do not require further permission from the Museum to access this archival media.
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Conditions on Use
- The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum places no restrictions on use of this material. You do not require further permission from the Museum to reproduce or use this film footage.
- Copyright Holder
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Keywords & Subjects
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
- Film Provenance
- Robert Gessner was a Jewish American screenwriter and author of several books. He traveled to several European countries in 1934 and took films and photographs of his trip. His son, Peter, donated the collection to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in November 2014.
- Robert Gessner published a book in 1936 about his overseas travels called "Some of my Best Friends Are Jews"
See RG-60.1824 and RG-60.1832 for more footage of the Moscow Choral Synagogue.
- Film Source
- Mr. Peter Gessner
- Special Collection
Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive
- Record last modified:
- 2024-02-21 08:00:37
- This page:
Also in Robert Gessner Film Collection
Robert Gessner was a Jewish American screenwriter, author of several books, and founder of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. He traveled to several European countries in 1934 and shot the footage donated to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum by his son, Peter. The footage was severely compromised and required a re-plasticization procedure that lasted months before transfers could be safely made. The footages shows Jewish life in prewar Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Palestine, Minsk, and Warsaw among other places. Gessner wrote a book about his journey in 1936 called "Some of My Best Friends are Jews" in which he explicitly warned of antisemitism and the Nazi threat in Europe.
A crowd of young children look at the camera. CU of one boy smiling. A man looks out through a window. Two men in a doorway observe. Another shot of the children lined up for the camera.
Gessner enters a doorway through two Red Army soldiers after one looks at his papers. 01:05:40 WS of the House of the Unions [Дом Союзов] in Moscow, Russia. Sign beneath reads ““Всесоюзный Съезд Советских писатепей”[All-Soviet-Union Meeting of the Soviet Writers].Three other banners hang from the building with quotes from Maxim Gorky Писатели- Это Инженеры Человеческих Душ [Writers are Enginеers of Human Souls]. 01:05:48 Gessner walks through a doorway again, pulling out his papers to show to the soldier. He looks back at the camera and flashes his papers. A young boy and girl talk to each other in front of a board with portraits of the classics of the Russian literature (Nekrasov, Gogol, Griboedov, Pisarev, and others) mounted. The camera shows more boards with portraits of Russian writers. A man observes.The young boy and girl sit down at an outdoor table. The girl attempts to grab a paper from beneath the menu of the person next to her, but then is handed a paper. Soviet Propaganda posters of books with covers in Russian like “Mаркс” [Marx] and “Сталин” [Stalin], "Ленин" [Lenin]. Very young children. One lightly hits another. Young boys play with a ball. A group of older men at the entrance to Moscow Choral Synagogue. Some smile, others just stare. Two men in the street look up at the camera. More of the group of men. Two men standing outside, one wears the Jewish prayer shawl (tallit). Blurry CU of a bearded man wearing a tallit. More men talking outside the Moscow Choral Synagogue.
Tents and flags in Palestine A girl seated in a tent looks up, speaking to someone. The tents with a white building behind them and more tents. INT boy sits on small stool next to an unmade bed. 01:10:50 A man sitting near a window looks back towards the camera, stands up, and closes a book. CU of a little boy wearing round glasses, another young boy in round glasses standing behind him. A man walks past and the camera focuses on him. CU of a little girl looking at the camera. People stand outside of a small shed in a field. White building with the tents in the BG at the top of the hill. Another building. Women in a field picking turnips. WS of the buildings in their colony behind them. A woman rakes through the dirt. 01:11:43 Shot of a crate that reads “A.S. 240 JAFFA VIA Hamburg”, with “3000K” written next to it. A man and a younger boy work on another part of the garden. CU of lemon trees. Camera follows a woman carrying a baby alongside the field. Cows sitting and standing in the grass. CU of a camel eating hay. People walking to and from in front of the buildings. WS of the landscape. Young children on a house porch. Two sit on the railing looking back at the camera. Other children stand by the stairs. More kids playing and smiling for the camera. A group of young boys holding long strips of paper stand with a woman on the right. Some look at the camera. 01:12:54 One young woman sits in a window sewing while another girl stands in the house behind her doing the same. The young woman repeatedly hits something with an axe while the man next to her watches. Horse and donkey drawn carriages move across a field. A woman sits next to two donkeys grazing in a field.
Various sizes of framed prints of Adolf Hitler. Somewhere in Germany. German soldier standing in street wearing the spiked helmet. Nazi soldiers marching through the streets. Trolley cars move past soldiers on horseback.
Men rowing a boat along a river. A young boy stands on rocks, looking at the camera. Other boys float along in small boats. Some swim through the water. People on the banks of the river walk past, looking at the camera. A boy jumps from a wall into the water and swims towards the boat. 01:07:19 A man looks at the Aswan Dam from ground level. Water forcefully runs through the dam. Gessner’s friend on top of the dam points outwards. Another boy jumps into water. Young children use hand paddles to move their small boats along in a line formation through the water. 01:08:17 Gessner? rides a donkey. He hits the donkey, whipping it with its reins in an attempt to get it to move. Adults spar using large metal bars. One falls on the ground and the others pull him out of the way. People stand around in town. Gessner? now rides a white donkey lead by a local man. 01:08:29 “Agfa 1935” 01:09:31 Great Pyramid of Giza. Two men stand on a rock at the base of the pyramid. The head of the Great Sphinx of Giza. WS of the Pyramid of Giza with the Sphinx in the foreground. A man stands looking out over the Nile River. Sailboats move through the water. 01:10:55 Nazi flag flying next to the flag of Egypt. Man looks out from the tower of a mosque next to the Temple of Luxor. Pans right to the ruins of the temple featuring two standing statues, one of which is missing its head. CU of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs on the side of the stone chair for the Colossus of Ramesses II. Camera tilts up on the Colossus above. ECU of the hieroglyphs. INT ruins. Avenue of sphinxes outside of the Temple. Road leads into the avenue of sphinxes. INT ruins shot. Aerial view of the avenue of sphinxes, taken from the top of the temple. Palm trees, with the Nile and a mountain range beyond.
Low quality view of waterfront houses shot from a boat. Other ships in the water. On the shore, men and a young boy stare at the camera. 01:00:28 A man in a striped shirt jogs along the beach. Tel Aviv? Beach chairs and a beach shack that says the words “JUDAN AMITEL BEER”. A man wears a traditional Middle Eastern headdress on the beach and looks at the camera. 01:00:42 The man in the stripes walks behind him waves at the camera. Another man (Gessner?) asks a man on the beach for directions, indicated by their hand gestures. People lay in the sand. A fully-clothed man sits in a beach chair with a basket at his feet while another man clothed in just shorts bends over to look through the basket. He picks something out and hands the man money. The front sign of the beach shack is now visible, “BLACK and WHITE...” Three people in headdresses walk across the beach, past two other men having a conversation. A man stands knee-deep in the ocean holding a fishing rod. 01:01:16 Rectangular building and landscape beyond. Houses in rows. A woman turns a faucet on next to a cow pen. INT a woman holds a young boy and an older woman leans over the table of what appears to be a restaurant host. 01:01:51 EXT a woman holding a bucket with her arm extended while a flock of chickens eats the feed she has given them. A man stands next to her. 01:02:07 Another man use a hoe to dig away at the base of a plant growing in a vineyard. Water flows through to the base of the plant. Two men stand talking in the field, the one on the right holds a book of some kind. Water rushes out of a pipe and a man fills a cup up with it. Man pumps water through while two other men watch. WS of the men around the pipe.
Men, women, and children walk through a market square in Vilnius (Wilno, Vilna) outside Vilnius Old Town. Many hold flowers. One woman holds a large basket. People move through a large outdoor market. A woman buys goods. A young man walks through a residential street, glancing back towards the camera. 0:44 CU, facade of the Great Synagogue in Vilnius, the camera moves around the Shulhoyf (courtyard of the Great Synagogue) alleys and streets. Sign in Polish: “CHEMICZNA PRALINE i FARBIARNIA” [Chemical dry cleaning and coloring of Cloth) with Yiddish words beneath. A horse-drawn carriage moves up a cobblestone street, most likely Jatkowa [Butcher] street. Camera tilts down on a building, showing people on the street below. 01:03:26 Shulhoyf (courtyard and adjacent alleys and lanes) of the Great Synagogue. A boy and a young man look at the camera. Young children play outside of a house, one boy follows the camera, attempting to remain within the shot.Woman sells fruit from baskets, CU of a young boy smiling at the camera. Three older woman sit on a stoop while a fourth offers them a plate of food. A younger woman approaches and briefly turns to look at the camera. People in a narrow street, tilts up to an apartment with a partially boarded up window. More street shots, people walking. Main street, most likely Zydowska [Jewish] street), archway. Women standing and sitting by large sacks of goods. Street shots of Vilna with locals. A man holds up a pair of pants, looking to see the size. An older woman sits at a table covered with fabric. More people, views of Shulhoyf architecture. An older woman sits in front of a building that reads in Polish “LAZNIE i WANNY” [Bath House and Steam Bath], with the same in Yiddish beneath פּאַרע וואַנע. and “KASA” with an arrow and the Yiddish. Open door with a wall next to it that reads “LAZNI i KOBIET” [Bath House for Women] and the Yiddish words with a pointing hand to the entrance beneath. CU of a Jewish man with a long beard.
INT women sewing seated at a table. Men working with sewing machines too. EXT two men standing on a street, looking at the camera. Camera tilts down towards their feet. They stand and talk. A woman talks to one of the men. The other man walks away, looking at the camera while eating something. INT men shovel at rubble inside of what appears to be a church. Women help with the rubble as well. EXT man shoveling dirt into wagon. A man walks with a horse rotating a wheel. Dark shot of a man wearing a hat, and clouds in the back above a dark horizon line. INT of a home. Two men, two women, and one young boy stand outside of a house. Chickens run in the background. Man stands in front of a large boulder. Very dark shot of a man standing in front of a rising hill in the back. A mother, father, and two children smile for the camera. Two man stand chatting and looking back at the camera. A man stares at the camera. Then a woman holding a small child and a young boy standing next to them. A woman and a large pig walk outside. An older man attempts to corral the pig. Three women and a younger girl walk away from the camera. A car drives past. Then a man in a horse drawn carriage.
A crowd of people gather for the High Holidays. A woman places something into a man’s palm. The crowd continues to move around. Men and women exit the Moscow Choral Synagogue en masse. A group of men stand together listening to something. Men and women exit the synagogue. Four men and one woman stand still, looking at the camera. A young boy smiles at the camera, and then a bearded man. People keep walking past, some look up and smile at the camera. Others just glance. Some stop and stare. Men exit, some wearing prayer shawls. Stained glass eight-point star above the doorway. Four women and one man sit on a bench and stare at the camera. Multiple different shots of people of all ages looking at the camera, all in the area of the Moscow Choral Synagogue (the backyard of the synagogue, the back entrance, and the main entrance). Another man wearing a tallit (Jewish prayer shawl). Two men exit the synagogue, the first is wearing a tallit and holding a prayer book. Two other men in prayer shawls walk down the street. Many people exit through the main entrance, two wide open doors. 01:10:48 A sign in Hebrew is posted on the side of a building. People gather outside of the entrance with a classical style façade, waiting to enter. 01:11:25 Men sitting wearing Jewish prayer shawls. More people standing around, other sitting on the curb. People walking up the street.
Ancient ruins in Egypt, possibly part of the Karnak Temple complex. Huge columns with Egyptian inscriptions and figures. A young girl leans against the ruins. WS camera pans right on the ruins. An obelisk rises from the ruins. Various desert hills and cliffs. 01:01:45 The Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. People, piles of rubble, and wagons. People holding baskets walk around on uneven terrain. A man uses a pickax to hack away at the earth. 01:02:29 Colossi of Memnon, the giant stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Two cows rotating a wheel followed by a young unclothed boy holding a whip. People wearing headscarves sitting and standing near a wall made of the earth.
In Pompeii, three men, two in uniform and one in a suit outside of the entrance. The building reads “ENTRATA IN POMPEI”. 01:02:53 A man in a suit (friend of Gessner) walks along the entry road to Pompeii. 01:03:01 Gessner faces the camera and takes a photo before walking up the road and waving for the his friend to follow him. The friend stands in the ruins of the basilica at Pompeii. 01:03:15 Gessner in the ruins of the basilica. 01:03:25 Sign reads “TEMPLUM APOLLINIS”, the Temple of Apollo. Gessner stands on a block next to a colonnade, bronze sculpture. The other man walks across elevated blocks in the street (the blocks allowed pedestrians in ancient Pompeii to cross the streets which doubled as a drainage system). 01:03:38 Men in uniform walk around the garden of the House of the Vettii in Pompeii. 01:03:45 Gessner takes a photo through a gate. He walks towards the camera and stumbles off the sidewalk. The Pompeii forum through an archway. 01:03:55 Gessner walks up the steps to the Temple of Jupiter. He poses on what is left of one of the columns, resting his elbow on its surface. WS of the forum. Gessner walks away from the temple, across the middle of the forum towards the camera. He points backwards. 01:04:24 Main entrance and exit from Pompeii, Porta Marina. The other man walks on, waving to Gessner to keep walking. Nighttime shot of hills, camera tilts up to briefly show the moon. 01:04:45 The friend rises out of bed, gestures at Gessner to stop, and runs at him. Soldiers marching along a street. On the right, people carrying barrels. A man rowing for two people on a small rowboat exit a grotto, presumably the Blue Grotto on the coast of Capri. Three young boys stand on the side of the rocks. Other boats in the Blue Grotto from within. The front of a boat exiting the grotto through a narrow cavity. A steamboat moves along the water. 01:05:27 The man looks out over Capri with binoculars. Pans right to the Faraglioni, the famous rock formations off the coast. 01:05:33 Gessner stands at a lookout point next to four nuns. View of the Italian coastline from a plane, plane wing and clouds below. 01:06:13 Plane exterior reads “HERACLES” on the nose. Written across the tail in large lettering is “G-AAXO”. KODAK logo.
The facade of a synagogue in Paris' 18th Arrondissement. Daily life in the surrounding bustling neighborhood, signs of many businesses include French and Hebrew script. Trash fills the gutters and cars and horse-drawn carts share the street. Scenes of an outdoor flea market at the nearby Porte de Clignancourt. Two uniformed soldiers march through the market. A view of the Sacre-Coeur basilica rising above the rooftops of the neighborhood. 01:02:32 Children on a beach at a summer camp on the Ile de Ré, off the coast of La Rochelle, in France. Their fists raised, interact with filmmaker Robert Gessner, and hold a pennant that reads 'Thälmann', perhaps named for Ernst Thälmann, communist politician who challenged Hindenburg (and Hitler) in the 1932 election, and who was arrested by the Gestapo in March 1933 and was held until 1944, when he was shot in Buchenwald on Hitler’s orders. A large group of children march down a path in the countryside carrying the same flag, a building in the background is painted with the letters 'V.P.E.' [Vacances Populaires Enfantines]. Gessner poses with a flag on the beach, and talks to children. 01:03:51 Exterior of a boutique in Marais, also known as the Pletzl, a Jewish neighborhood of Paris since 1881. 01:03:56 Exterior of a synagogue -- the Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue, built 1913-1914 at 10, Rue Pavée. Kodak logo (leader). Quick panning shots of the interior courtyard of a residential building. Kodak logo (leader). A street sign reads "Rue de Rivoli" in Paris' 4th Arrondissement, a fancy shopping street and the southern border of the Pletzl. The busy neighborhood, including store signs in Hebrew script and a few religious Jews walking about. 01:04:35 A Jewish man Gessner met in a cafe. Street scenes with French Jews. 01:04:58 Street sign: "Rue des Hospitalières St. Gervais," a small street in the center of the Pletzl. Kosher restaurants, "Jacques Brand". 01:05:15 Blurry shots of a wooded Jewish cemetery, probably the old Jewish cemetery in Prague.
A woman gathers water from a tap in the side of a building. A minaret and the surrounding buildings. Police officers stand under an umbrella in the middle of a street. A group of men wearing fezzes looks out at a view from a doorway in a high wall. 01:02:43 Adjacent signs posted on the wall read "Church of Annunciation and Saint Mary's Veil" and "Puits de la Sainte-Vierge". Two people herd sheep through a narrow street. Sign reads "The Wedding Church of Cana in Galilee," and the gated entrance bears a cross. A man poses in front of the doors of the church. A woman leads five toddler-aged children up a path. Men ride horses on a road with a desert landscape behind them.. Herd animals graze on the shore of a large body of water. A minaret towers above a busy market street.
In Krakow, various adults and children in the lively Jewish quarter. A street sign in Hebrew letters is visible, men sleep sitting on the threshold of a building. A uniformed carriage driver talks to the camera. A throng of people crowd around a man dressed in a hat and coat, putting their hands out as though asking for something. Men carry heavy loads through the street on their backs. A crowded open-air street market. A younger man plays a joke on an elderly woman, covering her eyes with her kerchief. Good shots of Jews, market vendors, and children. Inside, a woman washes her hands in front of a window, and a man uses a sewing machine. A group of young women pose for the camera. Children help a woman push a cart laden with goods down the street.
In Berlin, a statue of a woman with her arm outstretched. Busy street scene, Nazi flags are visible from the upper floors of several buildings, as are Hebrew script signs on many of the ground-floor businesses. "Horst Wessel Platz" underground station sign. 01:05:42 Briefly, the facade of a synagogue located at 32 Grenadierstrasse. Quick cuts of two smiling women and street scenes. A residential courtyard with terraces. Concealed view of the exterior of the Reichstag building and the Siegfried statue of the Bismarck Memorial. 01:06:19 Street sign reads "Grenadierstrasse," more scenes of a bustling shopping street, including close-ups of religious Jews as they pass by. Swastika flag. Girl stands beside a shop sign. A family and Jewish children pose for the camera. More street scenes, vendor pulls a cart.
Close pan of shops, in Vienna, on a sunny day. Filmed at Seitenstettengasse and Judengasse. 01:07:40 "Judengasse" street sign above shop in Vienna. Soldier with rifle on street corner at 01:07:45. Doors of a synagogue (?). Views of Judengasse from an upstairs window guarded by a soldier. 01:08:21 Local men pose for the camera, pigs roam the streets (location unknown, possibly outside Berlin).
Prague, the facade of a large clock tower. The facade of the Church of Our Lady Before Tyn. A street in Prague's Jewish quarter. The exterior of Prague's Maisel synagogue, and the surrounding street activity. A street sign reads "Jidelna Hirsch Bilkova 19," or "Hirsch Cafeteria". The old Jewish cemetery, CU of a gravestone shows engraving in Hebrew script.
Various scenes of the burial for Engelbert Dollfuss on July 28, 1934 in Vienna. Parade was filmed at the corner of Kärntner Strasse and Kärntner Ring/Opernring in between the Opera house and Hotel Bristol. Wreath-covered vehicles. Crowds line the streets. Regiments of uniformed Austrian men march in unison. Cars drive slowly in the parade, including one with the top down. A decorated officer on horseback motions forward aggressively with a sword. A few quick shots of onlookers.
Men work near a river to install metal pipe in Palestine. Water flows from the installed pipe and the men celebrate. A tall wooden pole with electric cables running from it. Panning shot of a park on a windy day. A busy city street, in which people mill about, men lead camels loaded with gear, a public bus is parked on the side of the street, the roof of a large estate is visible behind a high wall. The view from the top of a hill onto the white buildings of a port city, probably Jaffa, and the Mediterranean sea beyond. Quick shots of residents as they go about their day: three young children stand in an alley and pose for the camera, while other children play in the distance; a cobbler sits on the curb and mends a shoe; a boy smiles toward the camera as he uses a machine operated by a foot crank; a man rides down the street on a mule; a woman strings laundry to dry along the side of a building. 01:02:54 no picture. 01:02:56 More shots of the city in Palestine and the water from above, with ships visible in the distance. An urban street scene, with cars whizzing by. Religious Jews stand outside a store advertising ice cream in both English and Hebrew. A street bustles with people, bicycles, and cars. A man stands in a darkened doorway and talks to the camera. A city block of burned-out buildings. A tailor's makeshift shop, a man uses a hammer while another looks on. 01:04:11 Sign posted on the side of a building reads "Jaffa Municipal Boundary" in English, Arabic, and Hebrew script. In another part of the city, men carry heavy loads on their backs in the street; in this neighborhood, signs show English and Arabic, but no Hebrew. Very dark shots of children inside a building. A minaret rises above the busy streets. A group of men wearing fezzes sit on a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean. A man shovels in darkened surroundings. Two police officers ride horses through the street. Quick panning shot of a rural landscape with buildings under construction in the foreground.
In urban Russia, probably Minsk, throngs of people in the street crowd around the camera. Groups of women and men each pose for the camera. 01:07:26 Inside, a large group of women sit in a crowded room reading from prayerbooks, probably in observance of Yom Kippur, according to Gessner. Outside in the street, CUs of religious Jewish men with prayer shawls. 01:08:37 Farm workers and their children pose for the camera in a rural environment in Russia. Pan, facade of large buildings. Men on horseback go through a field, then hitch horses to plows. CUs of the farm workers, including one young man who laughs at the camera. 01:11:15 Filmmaker Robert Gessner interacts with the farmers. 01:11:25 INT, rows of women sit in a large room and work on sewing machines. Women sit and collect produce (potatoes?) from a large container into baskets. Pan of town square (?), market activity (?), horses with cart stacked with hay. 01:12:26 A group of children exit a building, walk in pairs past the camera, then sit for the filmmaker in front of a stack of hay. 01:12:55 Very dark, indiscernible scenes of men and women working inside a factory. A man operates a piece of factory equipment. Children gather around the camera in the road in a village. An elderly woman sits on the side of the road.