“Adolf Hitler became Reichskanzler on January thirtieth, nineteen thirty-three. The Weimar Republic had run out of time, und das Land der Dichter und Denker was about to sink into barbarism. I barely paid attention when those criminals took over. I was busy making movies.”
The Führer and Youth (Adolf Hitler with a Little Girl), Postcard (1933) Goebbels’s most successful propaganda tool was the “Führer cult” that revolved around the person of Adolf Hitler. Articles in magazines and newspapers, books, films, posters, postcards, and paintings presented Hitler as both universal genius and ordinary man of the people. The parallels with Jesus Christ were not coincidental. Apparently, God had predestined Hitler to lead the German people out of its misery; it was a matter of Divine Providence. This propaganda photo shows the new “savior of humanity” with a little girl. Photo by Heinrich Hoffmann.
It is the combination of physical flawlessness and the blind celebration of danger that leads Siegfried Kracauer, in his From Caligari to Hitler, to claim that the mountain films, so beloved of the young Hitler, were “rooted in a mentality kindred to Nazi spirit”.
At the beginning of the 1930s it became clear to Kurt Tucholsky that his warnings were falling on deaf ears, and that his actions in favour of the Republic, for democracy and human rights were apparently to no effect. It was a crushing blow to him, as he recognised the danger approaching with Adolf Hitler. “They are preparing to head towards the Third Reich” he wrote, years before Hitler’s Machtübernahme in 1933, and was under no deception as to where Hitler’s chancellorship would take the country.
Adolf Hitler’s appointment as Reich Chancellor on January 30, 1933 put an end to the German republic. With political power moving into the hands of the National Socialists and propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels installed as the “patron of German film,” the pressure on Jews in Ufa’s staff increased. In the spring of 1933, unresisting, the company fired its Jewish employees ”due to the national revolution”. Erich Pommer was fired as well and emigrated to Paris in May. Ufa productions such as the patriotic submarine film Morgenrot (Dawn, 1932/33) became a symbol of the “new times” touted by the Nazi regime. In 1933, before open propaganda was increasingly replaced by sheer entertainment with ideological overtones, Goebbels celebrated the Ufa propaganda film Hitlerjunge Quex (Hitler Youth Quex) as a milestone: “The Ufa and all those who worked on this film have done a great service not only to the development of German film, but also to the artistic implementation of National Socialist ideology.” At the same time, however, Ufa also produced extraordinary works of film such as the comedies and melodramas of Reinhold Schünzel and Detlef Sierck, before the two were forced to flee to the USA in 1937/38 to escape racial and political persecution. They, too, were an example of the huge toll taken on German film by the Nazis’ policies of expulsion and destruction. Those who had not already fled in 1933, like Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, and Peter Lorre, emigrated later, or else they were murdered by the Nazis, like Otto Wallburg, Kurt Gerron, and many others.
A still from Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds”: In the film, Adolf Hitler dies in a Paris movie theater, which partisans transform into a fiery hell with the help of nitrate film. The material, which has far greater explosive power than gun powder, has become a serious problem for German film archivists.
The Swastika Rises like the Sun over the Reichstag and the Bismarck Memorial, Postcard (undated) The “awakening” and “strengthening” of Germany was a constant theme in Nazi propaganda. According to the National Socialists, it was only when they seized power that the country finally awoke from the nightmare of the Weimar Republic and embarked on an era of national greatness and strength. As this postcard shows, National Socialist propaganda often made reference to Otto von Bismarck and his legacy. These references frequently placed Hitler in a direct line of great German leaders that started with Frederick II (“the Great”) of Prussia, continued through Bismarck, and ended with the Führer himself.