Thomas Müntzer

GDR, 1956, 130 min, color
In German; no subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)
Production Company
Themes & Genres:


This film documents the last years of the great Reformation-era peasant leader Thomas Müntzer: his marriage to Sister Ottilie von Gersen; the effect he has as a radical preacher in Allstedt; his flight to southern Germany; and his role in the Peasants' Revolt. 


A follower of Luther’s teachings, Müntzer believes that the Bible contains arguments for clerical and secular reform. But when Luther turns away from the rural population after a disagreement with him, it is Müntzer who becomes the spokesperson for the common people.


Thomas Müntzer—a lavish production, one of DEFA’s most expensive—was part of a series of documentary and feature films about important medieval personages whose humanistic legacy was important to East German policies.  


In the mid-1970s, East German cultural officials planned a re-release of the film, in commemoration of the 450th anniversary of the Peasants’ Revolt. Director Hellberg had to delete over twelve minutes of scenes to accommodate the changed political situation between the two German states.


In 2015-16, the film was restored, based on the original script, back to its original length. Both the censored (118 min.) and original (130 min.) versions are available from the DEFA Film Library.

Press comments

“In this agfa-color ‘pictorial series on German history,’ Martin Hellberg […] transforms the rebel, iconoclast and martyr of the Peasants’ War into an ur-communist ancestor of [GDR leader] Walter Ulbricht.”   –Der Spiegel, 1956


DVD Bonus Features:
  • Thomas Müntzer: A Destroyer of Unbelievers (2005, doc.)
  • Little Trick...Quite Large: A Model from the Muentzer Film (2005, doc.)
  • Credo, Martin Luther: Wittenberg 1517 (1967, doc.)

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