German cinema of the Third Reich, even in the 1990s, a half-century in no other country", observes director Wim Wenders, "have images and language been abused so unscrupulously as here, never before and nowhere else have they been debased so deeply as vehicles to transmit lies". More than 1000 German feature films that premiered during the reign of National Socialism survive as mementoes of what many regard as film history's darkest hour. As Eric Rentschler argues, however, cinema in the Third Reich emanated from a Ministry of Illusion and not from a Ministry of Fear. Party vehicles such as "Hitler Youth Quex" and anti-Semitic hate films such as "Jew Suss" may warrant the epithet "Nazi propaganda", but they amount to a mere fraction of the productions from this era. The vast majority of the epoch's films seemed to be "unpolitical" - melodrama, biopix, and frothy entertainments set in cozy urbane surroundings, places where one rarely sees a swastika or hears a "Sieg Heil". Minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels, Rentschler shows, endeavoured to maximise film's potential, to cloak party priorities in cinematic shapes. Hitler and Goebbels were master showmen enamoured of their media i
Eric Rentschler is Professor of Film Studies at the University of California, Irvine.
Preface Abbreviations and Special Terms Introduction: The Power of Illusions Part I. Fatal Attractions 1. A Legend for Modern Times: The Blue Light (1932) 2. Emotional Engineering: Hitler Youth Quex (1933) Part II. Foreign Affairs 3. Home Sweet Heimat: The Prodigal Son (1934) 4. Hollywood Made in Germany: Lucky Kids (1936) 5. Astray in the New World: La Habanera (1937) Part III. Specters and Shadows 6. The Elective Other: Jew Suss (1940) 7. The Fuhrer's Phantom: Paracelsus (1943) 8. Self-Reflexive Self-Destruction: Munchhausen (1943) Epilogue: The Testament of Dr. Goebbels Appendix A. Films and Events, 1933-1945 Appendix B. Directorial Filmographies Appendix C. American Film and Videotape Sources Notes Bibliography Index