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Shadows and Sojourners: Images of Jews and Antifascism in East German Film
A Touring Film Series with Photo Exhibit, 2002


The Shadows and Sojourners film series is the first North American retrospective of East German films representing the intertwined themes of German/Jewish relations, antifascism, and the Holocaust. Presenting unique views of the Jewish experience and critiques of Nazi Germany seldom seen by U.S. audiences, these classics of the East German antifascist tradition are hailed by the British Film Institute as "the most consistent and coherent analysis of fascism of any national cinema." Included are thirteen subtitled films that range in approach from focusing directly on the Jewish experience to exploring German guilt and the role of anti-Nazi resistance. Featuring such acclaimed German directors as Frank Beyer (Jacob the Liar, Naked Among Wolves), Kurt Maetzig (Marriage in the Shadows, Council of the Gods), Wolfgang Staudte (The Murderers Are among Us, Rotation), and Konrad Wolf (Professor Mamlock, Sterne), the series is suitable for screening at film festivals, cinemathèques and classrooms. Titles are available in different formats, as noted, and can be booked individually.

For film tour bookings or more information please contact us at:

DEFA Film Library
Tel: (413) 545-6681
Fax: (413) 577-3808
defa@german.umass.edu

Presented in collaboration with the Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Program at UMass Amherst, the Hatikvah Holocaust Education Center, the National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University, Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes New York, ICESTORM International, Inc., the DEFA-Stiftung, the Filmmuseum Potsdam, PROGRESS Film-Verleih GmbH, and the Bulgarian National Film Center.

Letter from the Director, by Barton Byg

Introductory Essay, by Frank Stern


Photo Exhibit

A curated photo exhibition of stills of the productions included in the film tour is available to interested venues. Culled from the archives of the Filmmuseum Potsdam and never before exhibited in North America, these stills lend insight into the breadth of style and approach undertaken by East German directors. The exhibit both complements the film series and stands as an artistic statement in its own right.

Film Series Titles

The Murderers Are among Us / Die Mörder sind unter uns
Dir: Wolfgang Staudte, 1946, 81 min, b/w,
35mm, English subtitles
- renting information
16mm, English subtitles
- renting information
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles:
DVD, English subtitles:

For many years The Murderers Are among Us set the tone for the postwar discussion of German guilt and atonement. According to The New York Times (4/11/02) it is the "noirish debut of the postwar German film industry, which baldly confronted issues of guilt for mass murder." The story's lack of explicit references to Jews and their fate at the hands of the Nazis now seems incongruous in this otherwise forthright film and reveals much about the contradictions of the early postwar period. Hildegard Knef's first major screen role.



Marriage in the Shadows / Ehe im Schatten
Dir: Kurt Maetzig, 1947, 105 min, b/w,
VHS-PAL, English subtitles
- renting information
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles
- renting information
16mm, English subtitles - renting information

Marriage in the Shadows was the first postwar German feature film to explicitly address the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany. A sorrowful account of the true story of the Jewish actress Meta Baer Gottschalk and her non-Jewish husband Joachim, this film called on Germans to accept collective responsibility for the anti-Semitic crimes of the Third Reich. Acclaimed in all zones of occupied Germany, its initial release reached over ten million viewers.


The Blum Affair / Die Affaire Blum
Dir: Erich Engel, 1948, 105 min, b/w,
16mm, English subtitles - renting information
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles:

In detective-story style, The Blum Affair portrays conservative nationalism as it existed in Germany prior to Hitler's rule. The plot is based on an actual 1926 court case from Magdeburg, Germany, in which a Jewish manufacturer was nearly convicted after being falsely accused of murder. One of the few German movies that dealt with the anti-Semitic roots of Nazism, this film remains an important historical document of the time.


Rotation
Dir: Wolfgang Staudte, 1949, 84 min, b/w,
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles:
DVD, English subtitles:

Rotation is a drama of a non-Jewish German family in the 1930s and 40s. The father tries to remain apolitical, but is nevertheless drawn into collusion with Nazi policies when his son becomes a member of the Hitler Youth and betrays his father. The film concludes with a message to future generations: they must see to it that the crimes of the past are never repeated. Another Staudte classic, the film's pacifist message and the footage from Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia were censored by the Soviet authorities.


Council of the Gods / Der Rat der Götter
Dir: Kurt Maetzig, 1950, 111 min, b/w,
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles:
DVD, English subtitles:

The major German chemical corporation I.G. Farben helped supply Hitler's war effort and manufactured the gas used in the death camps. Based on Nuremberg Trial records, this startling film deals with the collaboration between big international business such as Standard Oil and Nazi Germany's scientists, whose research contributed to the deaths of millions. Featuring music by Hanns Eisler (Night and Fog) and a script by Friedrich Wolf (Professor Mamlock), the film is powerful in its depiction of moral dilemmas and in its employment of the lessons of the war crimes trials for Cold War propaganda.


The Axe of Wandsbek / Das Beil von Wandsbek
Dir: Falk Harnack, 1951, 111 min, b/w,
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles:

The Axe of Wandsbek considers the role that common citizens played in Nazi crimes, while at the same time portraying a social climate of conflict and contestation. The film tells the story of a neighborhood butcher (played by Erwin Geschonneck) who accepts money from the SS to execute four political prisoners. The film is based on one of the most important works by Arnold Zweig, a German Jew who published the novel during his exile in Palestine in 1943. Director Falk Harnack, a member of the resistance group "White Rose," was the brother-in-law of Mildred Fish Harnack, the only American civilian ever executed on Hitler's direct order.


Stars / Sterne
Dir: Konrad Wolf, 1959, 92 min, b/w,
16mm, English subtitles
- renting information

Stars is set in a Bulgarian transit camp during the Third Reich where thousands of Greek Sephardic Jews await transport to Auschwitz. The film explores the ambiguities of persecution in a hopeless love story between a German officer and an imprisoned Jewish teacher. With a script by Angel Wagenstein (who also adapted Feuchtwanger's Goya), Stars established Konrad Wolf's international repute. A Bulgarian/East German co-production, it won the Special Grand Jury Prize of the 1959 Cannes Film Festival, where for political reasons it was billed as a Bulgarian film.


Professor Mamlock
Dir: Konrad Wolf, 1961, 99 min, b/w,
35mm, English subtitles
- renting information

Set during the Weimar Republic, Professor Mamlock is the story of a prominent Jewish professor of surgery whose belief in reason and humanity makes him blind to the increasing threat of anti-Semitism. Based on the 1933 play by renowned social critic Friedrich Wolf, which was censored by the Nazis, the film was directed by the son of the playwright.


Naked Among Wolves / Nackt unter Wölfen
Dir: Frank Beyer, 1963, 124 min, b/w,
35mm, English subtitles
- renting information
16mm, English subtitles
- renting information
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles
- renting information
DVD, German with English subtitles: 

Set just prior to the liberation of the Buchenwald concentration camp, Naked Among Wolves is the true story of prisoners who risked their lives to hide a small Jewish boy from their captors. Based on Bruno Apitz's novel and featuring Armin Mueller-Stahl, Frank Beyer's film explores the antifascists' dilemma of balancing organizational discipline with human values.


Jacob the Liar / Jakob der Lügner
Dir: Frank Beyer, 1974, 101 min, color,

35mm, English subtitles - renting information
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles:
DVD, German with English, Spanish, French and Hebrew subtitles:

Jacob invents news stories about impending Nazi defeat to bolster the spirits of the other Jews living in his Polish ghetto. Jacob the Liar is a story about the importance of fantasy and hope for human dignity, nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1977. A Hollywood adaptation of the film was released in 1999, again featuring Armin Mueller-Stahl and starring Robin Williams. Emphasizing the quality of the original, The San Francisco Chronicle (5/11/99) remarked, "The beauty of this film is in its simplicity. . . The bitter comedy is loaded with human quirks and nuances."
 

Levin's Mill / Levins Mühle
Dir: Horst Seemann, 1980, 117 min, color,
35mm, English subtitles
- renting information

Set during the 1870s in a West Prussian village, Levin's Mill is the story of a Jewish mill owner whose calls for justice go unanswered after a local German competitor sabotages his mill. An interesting portrayal of life in a socially diverse region of eastern Europe, this tale of nineteenth-century anti-Semitism ends on a redemptive note when the villagers unite in moral condemnation to drive out the saboteur. Based on Johannes Bobrowski's 1964 novel.


Bronstein's Children / Bronsteins Kinder
Dir: Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1990, 98 min, color,

35mm, English subtitles - renting information
VHS-NTSC, English subtitles - renting information

A teenage son discovers his father (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and two others beating an old man who is handcuffed to a bed. The captive is a former Nazi guard (Rolf Hoppe), now held by his Jewish former prisoners. Bronstein's Children is a story of the intergenerational conflicts and questions of personal justice arising from the Holocaust. Based on the book by Jurek Becker, author of Jacob the Liar.

 

Suggestions for Further Viewing

Verdict on Auschwitz: The Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials 1963-65

The Second Track

Your Unknown Brother

Selected Bibliography

Related Links

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Jessica Hale