Marriage in the Shadows

(Ehe im Schatten)

Germany, 1947, 104 min, b&w
In German; English subtitles
Set Design
Costume Design
Music (Score)
Special Effects


The film spans a ten-year period starting in 1933. Celebrated German film and theater actor Hans Wieland marries the Jewish actress Elisabeth Maurer. As Nazi anti-Semitic policies increasingly infringe on their lives, they struggle to survive. Then Hans is given an ultimatum by a friend who has become a Nazi official: save himself by divorcing his wife.


Kurt Maetzig dedicated his debut feature film to telling the story of the acclaimed German theater couple, Meta Wolff and Joachim Gottschalk. Director Kurt Maetzig, whose own Jewish mother had committed suicide to avoid deportation, based the script on a novella by Hans Schweikart, a personal friend of the Gottschalks.



The first German feature film to explicitly address the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany, Marriage in the Shadows called on Germans to accept collective responsibility for the crimes of the Third Reich. Stylistically the production—in which many former Ufa artists were involved—blends classic melodrama in the Ufa style with documentary glimpses into life in Berlin under the Nazis. Shown in all four sectors of occupied Berlin and across Germany, the initial release of the film reached 10 million viewers. It premiered in the US at the Little Met Theater in New York on September 16, 1948.


2018 Images of the Future: The Cinema of East Germany, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
2000 Shown at the New York Jewish Film Festival
1949 National Prize, Class 2 (Kurt Maetzig)
1948 Bambi Award for Best German Film
1948 Shown at the Venice International Film Festival

Press comments

"The film story slowly generates the mounting terror experienced by German Jews as more and more came under the shadow of death."
— The New York Times, 1948


"A key anti-Nazi film… [which] was also an attempt by DEFA to come to terms with the film industry's own Nazi past."
— Stephen Brockmann, A Critical History of German Film


"The film's specific merit is its honesty, which sometimes produces effects far more impressive than the glamor of Hollywood."
— Siegfried Kracauer, Commentary, 1949


Buy the DVDStream
DVD Bonus Features:
  • New digitally restored version
  • Turn Subtitles On/Off
  • Biographies & Filmographies
  • "A New Train on Old Tracks," by Kurt Maetzig
  • "Inverting the Lives of 'Others': Retelling the Nazi Past in Marriage in the Shadows and The Life of Others," by Ute Wölfel (Univ. of Reading)
  • The Gottschalks in the Shadow of Nazi Cultural Policies: Timeline
  • Contemporary Press Comments
  • Film Interview with Director Kurt Maetzig, 1999, 10 min
  • Original Trailer

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