Tag Archives: Nazis

How Hitler helped make Hollywood

GlobalPost, February 14, 2013
BERLIN, Germany — Two months after Adolf Hitler’s appointment as German chancellor in 1933, Jews working in Germany’s groundbreaking film industry were warned there would be no place for them under the new Nazi regime.

“We will not even remotely tolerate that those ideas, which Germany has eradicated at the root, are able to make their way either openly or surreptitiously back into film,” Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels announced that March. The powerful UFA studio canceled contracts for most Jews working there the following day.

Thus began the greatest rupture in German film history, marking the end of the golden age for Weimar cinema. Soon not only Jews, but left-wingers began fleeing the country, followed by others who saw no place for themselves in what would become the Third Reich’s propaganda machine.

Their departure would help transform another film industry: Hollywood. Of the some 2,000 movie professionals who left Germany in the 1930s, most ended up in California, where the techniques they pioneered back home would have a lasting impact on American film.

This week, the Berlin International Film Festival is honoring them in a retrospective called “The Weimar Touch.” More than 30 films dating from 1933 to 1959 are being shown in a program co-curated by the Deutsche Kinemathek film archive and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

The selection explores not only films made by those immigrants after they left Germany, but also their influence on international cinema in general, from their experimental sets and lighting techniques to the way they viewed the world.

“Weimar cinema paid attention not only to the surface but the deep currents beneath,” retrospective director Rainer Rother said in an interview. “It was a cinema more of doubt than of self-assuredness, very open to nuances and ambiguities.”

Film was one of many arts that flourished under Weimar Germany, a period of nascent democracy and great instability between the end of the World War I and the Nazi rise to power. The political and economic uncertainty somehow translated into a great burst of creative energy that’s rarely been matched.

Although experimental works such as “Dr Caligari,” “Nosferatu” and “Metropolis” may be the first to spring to mind on mention of Weimar, Germany also boasted a vibrant commercial film industry that turned out comedies, musicals and other popular entertainment for the home market and international distribution.

But German cinema’s most creative and productive period ended with the exodus that began in 1933. Fritz Lang, Billy Wilder, Peter Lorre, Douglas Sirk, Max Ophüls, Robert Siodmak and Max Reinhardt were just some of the actors, directors and others to leave. Continue reading

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Russian star withdraws from Bayreuth Festival over Nazi tattoo

The Guardian, July 22, 2012

Expectations had been high for this year’s Bayreuth opera festival. For the first time a Russian would be taking a lead role, with rising opera star Yevgeny Nikitin preparing to make his debut in Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman.

Instead the Bavarian-based festival is struggling to repair the damage after Nikitin, a former heavy metal singer and drummer, quit the production just days ahead of Wednesday’s premiere amid controversy over a Nazi tattoo.

The scandal was unleashed on 20 July by a TV programme which showed old footage of Nikitin’s colourful heavy metal past. Highlighted playing the drums bare-chested, his many tattoos are visible including one that appears to be a large swastika, covered slightly by another symbol. He told ZDF’s Aspekte Aspekte programme that the tattoos had been “just part of our underground culture”. He has since covered up the offending tattoo with a different image.

Read more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jul/22/russian-singer-quits-bayreuth-festival

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A Fight for Memory: Monument Honors Sinti Boxer Murdered by the Nazis

Trollmann memorial in Viktoria Park

Johann Trollmann was a young boxing star when the Nazis came to power. The highpoint of his career should have been winning the light-heavyweight title in June 1933. But Trollmann was a Sinti and he was soon stripped of his title. Before long, he would fall victim to the Nazi genocide.

It seems an odd place for a boxing ring — nestled beneath a canopy of trees in a quiet corner of Viktoria Park in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district. The structure is made of concrete, its base slopes steeply in one direction and a dozen concrete spherical objects resembling boxing gloves cling to the ropes. But what’s it doing here?

Nearby, a plaque bearing a photograph of a handsome young man in boxing gloves clears up any confusion. The ring amid the trees is a temporary memorial dedicated to Johann Trollmann, a boxer who was stripped of his light-heavyweight title by the Nazis in 1933 after winning a fight just a stone’s throw away on Fidicin Strasse. There was no place for a champion like Trollmann in the Third Reich — he was a Sinti. And like half a million other Roma and Sinti, he would fall victim to the Nazis’ racial policy of annihilation, dying in a concentration camp in 1944. Continue reading

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Harnessing Anarchy for Hitler: The Nazis’ Bid to Control Carnival

Germany’s Carnival is an expression of anarchic fun and mockery of those in power. Yet the Nazis sought to harness the potential of the festivities for their own ends. Anti-Semitic floats and speeches attacking Germany’s enemies were commonplace, and defiance was rare.

It was Rose Monday in the German city of Cologne and the festivities for the 1934 Carnival were well underway. Of the many floats taking part in the traditional parade, one featured a group of men dressed up as orthodox Jews. The banner above them read “The Last Ones Are Leaving.” This was, after all, Carnival under the Third Reich.

The float was one of the many expressions of anti-Semitism marking the German Carnival season during the years leading up to World War II. Another float from 1935 seems a terrible harbinger of the Holocaust to come. In Nuremberg, where the infamous anti-Semitic race laws would be introduced later that year, a papier-mâché figure of a Jew hung from a bar on a model mill as if on a gallows.

Yet until recently, it has been almost taboo to speak about Germany’s Carnival and the Nazis in the same breath. Carnival, the pre-Lent festival celebrated in the predominantly Catholic west and south of Germany, displays the cheerful, humorous, raucous side of Germany. Nothing could seem further removed from the horrors perpetrated by Hitler’s regime. Continue reading

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