Evolution of Film Propaganda Throughout World War II

How Was the Cinema Regulated and/or Freely Used to Affect the People’s Attitudes toward the War?


Hyemin Koo

<Table of Contents>

1. Introduction

- List of Representative Propaganda Films

2. The Films

1) Before the War: Subtle Propaganda

Hollywood- Propaganda in American Cinema

First Level Propaganda: The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935)

Nazi Cinema: the Ministry of Illusion

Mild Nazi Propaganda:

Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der Völker and Olympia 2. Teil - Fest der Schönheit (1938)

The Soviet Cinema under Stalin

Aleksandr Nevskiy (1938): Metaphors for Stalin

2) The War Begins

Classic Hollywood Steps In:

Waterloo Bridge (1940), The Great Dictator (1940), A Yank in the R.A.F. (1941)

Serious Nazism: The Eternal Jew (1940)

The Filmmakers of Nazi Germany

3) The Tide Turns: America Steps In

Three Types of Hollywood Pro-War Propaganda

Casablanca (1942): A Too Complex and Compelling Tale of Pro-War Messages; Propaganda Only Visible to the Educated?

The Typical American Attempt at Satire: The Ducktators (1942) & Der Füehrer's Face (1943)

Government Intervention: Prelude to War (1943): Part One of Capra's Why We Fight Series

Eisenstein Strikes Again: Ivan Groznyy I (1944) (Ivan the Terrible)

4) The War Ends

The Italian Cinema Under Mussolini

Roma, Città Aperta (1945) (Open City)

3. Conclusion:

: A Comparison of Propaganda in American, German, Soviet, and Italian Cinema during WWII

4. Bibliography




1. Introduction


In World War II, some measures were taken and atrocities committed which we today have difficulty comprehending. Through what argument could Hitler lead millions of people into believing themselves to be the "master-race"? What enabled Stalin to dictate over the biggest country in the world? How could have so many people, of both the allied and axis powers, been convinced into participating in such irrational and frenzied mass killing? Of course, these questions cannot be answered by one factor alone, nor do I attempt to. Although the causes of World War II, or any war for that matter, can only be determined through a comprehensive understanding of the political, economic, social and cultural characteristics of the relevant countries, I do believe that the interpretation of one element of the complex mosaic can be decidedly useful in gaining a feeling of the cultural atmosphere of each respective country. Film, a relatively new medium of art as it was at the time, was a fledging and flourishing form of mass communication. Many leaders across the globe considered the cinema a powerful tool for propaganda, and every major power in the war owned a respectable film industry. Film both reflected and influenced- it mirrored the society and era it was made in, and affected its viewer either rationally or emotionally. And by subconsciously conveying a strong message to its audience, film could be used for all kinds of purposes, from evoking a wide range of emotions such as hatred, sympathy, and excitement and sparking a revolution to breeding indifference toward atrocities, or inspiring awe. In this paper, propaganda films from four different countries, released in the years before, during, and immediately after the war are weaved together with their historical and sociopolitical backgrounds in chronological order. Keep in mind that propaganda here does not refer only to disinformation or direct appeal for action. I have followed both the dictionary definition of the word- ideas or statements that may be false or exaggerated and that are used in order to gain support for a political leader, party, ideal, etc. - and the better judgments of historians and some of my own in compiling this list of more or less representative propaganda films of World War II. Note that these movies are not the most famous or significant WWII propaganda films; rather, each movie represents the distinctive approach of propagation employed during the war, from major productions with big-name stars and fancy directors to obscure, B-level listings.


12 Titles

American: 7

German: 2

Soviet: 2

Italian: 1


1. The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935) – U.S.A.

2. Olympia (1938) -Germany

3. Aleksandr Nevskiy (1938) USSR

4. Waterloo Bridge (1940) –U.S.A.

5. A Yank in the R.A.F. (1941). –U.S.A.

6. The Great Dictator (1940) –U.S.A.

7. Der Ewige Jude (1940) -Germany

8. Casablanca (1942) –U.S.A.

9. Der Fuhrer's Face (1942) & The Ducktators (1942) –U.S.A.

10. Prelude to War (1943) (Capra's Why We Fight Series) –U.S.A.

11. Ivan Groznyy I (1944) -USSR

12. Roma, Città Aperta (1945) –Italy



2. The Films


Before the War: Subtle Propaganda


Hollywood- Propaganda in American Cinema


Propaganda films of Hollywood during World War II defy generalization or summary into a few lines. Considering the nature and size of the country it grew in, Hollywood produced hundreds of movies every year, employing directors of all nationalities; by V-J Day, the total count of propaganda films was around 300, not including serials, documentaries, shorts, and cartoons that supported the war effort. Many filmmakers, actors, and other artists expatriated themselves from their native totalitarian countries and immigrated to Hollywood, giving the American film industry more diversity than ever. Some directors from Germany made pro-French movies, and some British-born actors became directors and made anti-Nazi films. Some production companies made pro-war, anti-axis films following the call of FDR. Some movies just wanted the audience to have a great time and give them a chance to laugh at, perhaps forget about the war. Some dramatic films evoked sympathy for the terrible pain that war could cause lovers and families. However, regardless of approach and subject matter, propaganda during the war in this capitalistic country had to obey one golden rule: it had to be entertaining, for audience was king.


First Level Propaganda: The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935)


In the January of 1933, Hitler had come into power, and by March of 1935, he had renounced disarmament and started an air force. Those against Hitler’s political policy had mostly emigrated before this time, and one of them was William Dieterle (1893-1971), a German born American film director. Offered a job in Hollywood to make German versions of American films in 1930, Dieterle immigrated to America and eventually directed the The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935), which started a whole series of ‘pro-French’ biographical films produced by MGM, including The Life of Emile Zola (1937), Marie Antoinette (1938), and Madame Curie (1943). The plot of Louis Pasteur is in keeping with the title, and deals mainly with Dr.Pasteur’s trials and ultimate success in proving his microbe theory. Throughout the movie, Pasteur is portrayed as a kindly man with a rare conviction and conscience, even risking his life to save the lives of Russian farmers. The movie ends on a heroic note, with Pasteur receiving of a medal of honor from the Russian Czar and his elevation in status from an ignored chemist to a great contributor to humanity.

Louis Pasteur was premiered in November of 1935, and was released nationwide in February 1936. Although this movie is somewhat deviant from the public’s common conception of propaganda, the time period in which it was made qualifies Louis Pasteur as subtle propaganda. The release year for Germany, 1948, clearly shows that some people believed that this movie could do more than entertain. Also the seemingly trivia of a German born director makes this movie doubly interesting, as at this time the U.S. and Germany were not in the best of terms. No direct conflict was present, and in 1935 a Neutrality Act was passed by congress. However, ‘my friend’s enemy is my enemy’, and the U.S. had tacitly sided with Britain and France. Moreover, by the time of the release of Louis Pasteur, Hitler had demonstrated his total disregard for the Treaty of Versailles, which was to F.D. Roosevelt’s great disfavor. In the month following, Hitler made his first flagrant attempt; he reoccupied the Rhineland.

Dieterle was an exile from Hitler’s Third Reich Germany, and thus renounced Nazi ideals. However, having spent his first 37 years in Germany, he wanted his homeland free from the grasp of what he obviously thought as a disastrous regime. Louis Pasteur, with no doubt a pro-French movie, proved his intentions. In the movie, with the exception of a brief mention of the Franco-Prussian War to signify the passage of time, there are no elements of war or politics. Louis Pasteur simply succeeds in depicting France as a country of great people, a country worth fighting for, and that was the most Dieterle as a pre-war movie director could do to propagate participation in the future world war. As no ministry of information or propaganda existed in the U.S. as in totalitarian countries such as Germany or Italy, Louis Pasteur symbolizes the propaganda prevalent at the time in the U.S.- individual, subtle and inconspicuous, first level pre-World War II propaganda.


Nazi Cinema: the Ministry of Illusion

"The essence of propaganda consists in winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it." - Goebbels


Germany in the 1920s and 30s was a society which was, even in its best years, both politically and economically insecure. Torn by World War I and its aftermath, including hyperinflation and an unstable government, the German people longed for stability, a traditional value system, a sense of belonging, and the hope of a better standard of living. The National Socialist Party was aware of this situation, and it can be said that the Nazi cinema's popularity rested on this knowledge and its ability to express positive social fantasies and promote the enchantment of reality, creating a delightfully unrealistic cinematic world. Away from all the propaganda and politics, many members of the Nazi party, Joseph Goebbels in particular, were film fanatics. Later, dubbed with the title 'Minister of People's Enlightenment and Propaganda', Goebbels emphasized the film industry as the most effective tool of propaganda.

Many directors and actors fled Germany when the Nazi party came into power, and from the mid-1930s, the German film industry suffered a severe crisis. With a dearth of workers, more and more production companies went bankrupt. However, this did not necessarily lead to a decrease of the number of new films. Goebbels had his mind on cinema as the perfect tool for propaganda purposes, and a declining and unprofitable cinema would obstruct his plans. Therefore, with the funding of the Nazi government, the surviving companies became more productive. He also took several measures to nationalize the film industry, and in 1942, practically succeeded. German cinema was now completely under the control of the Nazis.

Escapism was the main goal of Goebbel's film policy. Movies, in this era, were produced to distract the population and to keep everybody in good spirits. Generally it was the documentary films and newsreels, such as Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, Olympia and The Eternal Jew that employed open, overt propaganda. Even the so called propaganda films which directly reflect Nazi ideology amounted to less than a sixth of all the movies produced. The Nazi film industry consisted mostly of light entertainment films which subconsciously weakened the audience's perception of the world around them.

The following film, Olympia, is a documentary film which lies in the grey area on the propaganda scale.


Mild Nazi Propaganda:

Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der Völker and Olympia 2. Teil - Fest der Schönheit (1938)


“Politically, I did not know what was important. I only asked where the best material could be found, where intensifications might be possible. I concentrated on blending images and movements.” - Leni Riefenstahl


The 1936 Summer Olympics had been decided to be held at Berlin before the Nazis came into power. Although there was a movement to boycott the 1936 Olympics, the United States and other western democracies had rejected the proposal. Hitler saw this as a golden opportunity to promote the Nazi ideology of Aryan racial superiority, and his Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels had the perfect scenario ready. Although this plan went awry when black American Jesse Owens became a hero with 4 gold medals, and many other athletes of theoretically inferior races showed excellent results with their medal counts, Hitler did achieve one thing. The film showed a Germany in perfect order, a place where people were happy. One could never surmise that the Germany shown in the film, a country of beautiful weather and smiling faces, was the same place where innocent people were being massacred.

The International Olympics Committee commissioned the making of a film record of the Olympics. Not surprisingly, Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s favorite film director and hired-hand, was hired for the job. A master filmmaker, she molded the Berlin Olympics into an artistic achievement, Olympia (1938), a revolutionary movie in film technique.

The documentary is divided into two parts; Olympia Part One: Festival of the Nations, and Olympia Part Two: Festival of Beauty. Each part records the first and second half of the 1936 Olympic Games, but in the beginning of the first part, there is a long and sleep-inducing exposition of the ideal Aryan physique. Several healthy German men and women are shown in the nude, posing, running, or throwing javelins. Riefenstahl opens her Olympia by making sure we all understand the dominant nature of the Aryan race, and then we go on to the actual footage of the 1936 Olympics. Riefenstahl does not try to distort the Olympics in any way; she was interested in beauty and art, not politics. Other than applauding the German winners, Hitler does not take much action. Jesse Owens’ accomplishments are shown as heroically as they really were. The close-up shot of the expression on Hitler’s face when Jesse Owens wins a gold medal reveals nothing; he is neither angry nor pleased. Riefenstahl simply concentrates on making a “hymn to the power and beauty of man, making visible of the healthy mind in a healthy body, illustrated by exquisite[!] youths from all over the world,” and in the process, fails one kind of propaganda but achieves another. According to her documentary, the Aryans are not superior at everything, but Germany is an unbiased, glorious, and functioning country.



Soviet Cinema under Stalin


“Film is the most powerful weapon” - Lenin


Hitler had agreed with Stalin, and Stalin had agreed with Lenin that film was the most powerful tool of propaganda. Both visually and auditorily, film possessed the power to have a profound impact on its audience. The Soviet Union, not unlike Nazi Germany, nationalized its film industry and made the Soviet cinema into a propaganda machine.

Just as in other countries, the extent of propaganda in films produced in the Soviet Union was both extensive and minimal. Sometimes Stalin personally participated in the conception and production of films. He preferred metaphorical propaganda to conspicuous ones; Stalin considered himself a culturally refined man and a great leader of Russia comparable to those in history, such as Alexandr Nevskiy and Ivan the Terrible (the Great, in Russian). Naturally, he tended to promote historical epics. One of his favorite actors was Nikolai Cherkasov, who was frequently cast in Sergei Eisenstein's films as the character symbolizing Stalin.


Aleksandr Nevskiy (1938): Metaphors for Stalin


Aleksandr Nevskiy (1938) is a biopic of Alexandr Nevskiy, a 13th century Russian Prince who victoriously led a ragtag army against the Teutonic Knights, a Germanic people. This is one movie which shows how the importance of timing in a movie's release, especially in the era of World War II.

Stalin directly requested Eisenstein for a production this film. His purpose was to make a film which could warn Soviet citizens to be wary of German aggression. The whole film is filled with metaphors. The Teutonic Knights, who are Germanic in origin, invade Russia; this symbolizes a not so subtle prophecy that history is about to repeat itself. The Teutonic Helmets resemble the Nazi war gear. The reconciliation with the enemy Mongols in order to face the Teutonic Knights symbolizes the possibility of having to unite with the Western Powers against Germany. Some of the Teutonic knights even have Swastikas on their clothes, which is overtly and somewhat farcically unhistorical.

Eisenstein, who had experienced unbelievably bad fortune throughout his career, believed that this film would be his big break. But to his dismay, moments after Aleksandr Nevskiy's release, the Soviet-German non-aggression pact of 1939 was signed. The film was immediately pulled out from the theaters and it was only after the 1941 German invasion of Russia that it could be released for its due critical acclaim and success. Reportedly, Stalin ordered Aleksandr Nevskiy to be shown in every theater in the Soviet Union as a rallying cry against the invasion.



The War Begins


By this time, the reality of a war one ocean away began to unconsciously register into the minds of civilians. Although unaware of the details, most parents were envisioning their sons on a foreign battlefield. Hollywood also knew about the fighting in Spain, witnessed the rise of National Socialism and understood Mussolini’s territorial claims. At first, a few propaganda films trickled out of Hollywood, invoking the wrath of congressional isolationists. These following three movies represent the acceptable – and unacceptable – extent of propaganda before Pearl Harbor.


Classic Hollywood Steps In:

Waterloo Bridge (1940), The Great Dictator (1940), A Yank in the R.A.F. (1941)


Waterloo Bridge (1940)


The most commonly used starting date for World War II is September 1st, 1939, the German invasion of Poland. It certainly was the last straw for Britain and France, but in the first few beginning months, the war that had been going on was virtually nonexistent. Jokingly termed "the Phoney War", or the "Sitzkrieg", this state of no actual fighting lasted until Germany invaded France and the Benelux countries in the May of 1940, which also coincides with the release of Waterloo Bridge (1940).

Waterloo Bridge (1940), directed by prolific director Mervyn LeRoy and starring two of the biggest names in Hollywood history, Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor, is a classic war romance. The movie begins with Roy, a British Officer, reminiscing his past on Waterloo Bridge on the eve of World War II. His story is as follows: After a brief encounter during an air raid, the officer, Roy, falls instantly in love with beautiful ballerina, Myra. The two decide to get married, but when Roy is called to the front on short notice, Myra misses her performance in order to see him for what may be the last time. Thrown out of the ballet corps due to her absence, Myra leads a jobless, destitute life, and to make matters worse, finds Roy’s name in the Killed in Action segment of the newspaper. Devastated and hungry, Myra takes to prostituting, but it turns out that Roy wasn’t killed after all. Ecstatic about seeing Myra again, Roy happily plans their wedding, but Myra eventually kills herself, overcome with guilt.

This tragic love story occurs during World War I, but the references to the war itself are indirect. Although the war is fundamentally what brought about the tragedy- after all, their romance was interrupted because of the war, and Myra had to take extreme measures to survive in the warn-torn economy- it is never outspokenly blamed. However, several emotions overcome the viewer after watching this movie, and ‘that damned war’ is one of them. Waterloo Bridge was filmed and released before any real fighting had started, and long before American participation, thus free to insinuate an anti-war sentiment. Waterloo Bridge is perhaps best described as one of a number of films "with an English accent" that played to American sympathies for England in the years when England largely stood alone against Nazi Germany.



The Great Dictator (1940)


This film deviates from the pre-Pearl Harbor list in that its caricature was so blatant. Released in October 1940, United Artists’ The Great Dictator spurred the greatest Brouhaha across the nation. Every mannerism of the Third Reich was mimicked, and Hitler was lampooned as a clown. Some said it showed the epitome of comedy, satire, and allegory. Others criticized it for its oversimplification and antiseptic naïveté; in some scenes, the horror of the Third Reich was minimized to buffoonery and slapstick.

Charlie Chaplin wrote, directed, and produced this movie in which he plays double roles, Adenoid Hynkel (Dictator of Tomania) and a Jewish barber. During World War I, a clumsy soldier (the barber) saves the life of military pilot Schultz. Unfortunately, due to a plane crash, the barber loses his memory, and after several years in the hospital, is released only to return to his now deserted barber shop in the Jewish Ghetto. Although the barber is saved from the concentration camps with Schultz’s help, during his escape he is mistaken for the dictator Adenoid Hynkel himself, with whom the barber bears an uncanny resemblance. The small barber now gets the once-in-a-lifetime chance to speak to the people of Osterlich and all of Tomania, who listen eagerly on the radio. The film culminates at an elaborate Munich-type rally where the barber-Hynkel renounces his former positions of aggression and instead advocates brotherhood and mutual understanding. In this final dramatic speech, Chaplin voices his criticism of Adolph Hitler, fascism, and patriotic nationalism.


A Jewish Barber: I'm sorry, but I don't want to be an emperor. That's not my business. I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery……The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish. Soldiers! Don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you, enslave you; who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel!..... Don't fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!.….Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfill that promise. Let us fight to free the world! To do away with national barriers! To do away with greed, with hate and intolerance! Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness. Soldiers, in the name of democracy, let us all unite!......


World War II is today a big part of our pasts, and a major event in modern history. Most people are aware of Hitler’s atrocities and the specifics of his concentration camps. However, because America had declared neutrality, and the war, even at its peak, was thousands of miles away, the American public at that time was poorly informed of the exact European situation. Despite its fault of oversimplification, The Great Dictator, released one year before the war, enlightened the audience as to what was going on overseas, and at the same time positively stated its maker’s strong pro-war opinion.



A Yank in the R.A.F. (1941)


A Yank in the R.A.F. (1941) was released in September, three months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and U.S. intervention in the war. Notwithstanding the fact that both are typical Hollywood films, A Yank is an antithesis of Waterloo Bridge. Waterloo Bridge is a tearjerker which appeals emotionally to our anti-war sentiment. A Yank, classic pre-war bravado, promotes participation in the war for all its heroic reasons. The plot is light, one of Hollywood’s archetypical romantic comedies. Roguishly handsome actor Tyrone Power plays Tim Baker, an American pilot who flies over to England to earn some extra bucks, then enrolls in the British Royal Air Force to impress his girlfriend. A lighthearted womanizer, Tim, in course of his several missions begins to develop an understanding of what they are fighting for. All turns well at the end; Tim returns from the Battle of Dunkirk, which was in real life a narrow escape, victorious. He is slightly injured, but his girlfriend is waiting for him and they meet and walk off happily together. The message banned in Finland and Germany is clear: Join the war against the axis powers for all its glorious reasons.


Serious Nazism: Der Ewige Jude (1940)


“In cinema, more than in theater, the spectator must know whom he should hate and whom he should love.” – Fritz Hippler


A flagrant, controversial, and politically incorrect piece of infamous propaganda, Der Ewige Jude (which translates to The Eternal Jew) currently requires a visit to a white superiority website for a viewing. It is not light or suggestive propaganda, but more a blatant, outrageous, and shameless indoctrination. While without a story, it is still fiction. Numerous footages are edited together in a manipulative way, with direct and explanatory narration all throughout; its director, Fritz Hippler, was known as the most eager and unscrupulous among Goebbel’s film experts who knew how to arrange the most disparate clips and most antagonistic arguments into a triumph of “dialectical destructiveness.” The purpose of the film was to explain to the German public about the supposed danger posed by the Jews, an ‘evil, scheming, parasitic race’. The concentration camps and massacres of Jews are never mentioned, and ‘Aryans’ are portrayed only as happy, healthy, and diligent people. Though Der Ewige Jude was released after the war had begun, in 1940, the film was a failure. Audiences, who had been accustomed to watching the elevated works of directors like Leni Riefenstahl, or even those who tolerated the anti-Semitic Jud Süß, found this film to be exaggerated and extreme.

Although Goebbels and Hitler were serious in the making, the audience of today will be unable to be so in the viewing. This underlines the importance of context for a movie or documentary- had Der Ewige Jude been made in a different time period, or in a different part of the world, its outrageous judgments and discrepancy in reasoning would have been considered to be something between psychotic and comedic. Regardless of its box office failure, the mere fact of the creation and existence of such a docufilm reflects the state of mind the Nazis tried to promote in 1940. Since the medieval ages, Jews worldwide were looked upon unkindly by the mainland Europeans. They were deemed to be cunning charlatans, who made their wealth by corrupt measures. After the devastation brought about by World War I and the Paris Peace Treaties, the Nazis needed someone to blame. Hoping to provoke the long bred European antipathy, the Jews were degenerated into scapegoats and blamed for the economic crisis.

Some of the unlikely arguments made in the film are:


Wherever rats appear they bring ruin, by destroying mankind's goods and foodstuffs - just like the Jews among human beings.

Wo Ratten auch auftauchen, tragen sie Vernichtung ins Land, zerstören sie menschliche Güter und Nahrungsmittel- nicht anders als die Juden unter den Menschen.




This parasitical Jewish race is responsible for most international crime. In 1932, Jews, only 1 per cent of the world's population, accounted for ... 47 per cent of crooked games of chance -

Das Parasitenvolk der Juden stellt einen grossen Teil des internationalen Verbrechertums. So betrug 1932 der Anteil der Juden, die nur ein Prozent der Weltbevölkerung ausmachen... an Falsch-und Glücksspielsvergehen 47 Prozent

- 82 percent of international crime organizations

- an internationalen Diebesbanden 82 Prozent 

- 98 percent of prostitution.

- am Mädchenhandel 98 Prozent. 

The common language of international thieves comes not without reason from Hebrew and Yiddish.

Die Fachausdrücke des internationalen Gauner- und Verbrecherjargons stammen nicht ohne grund aus dem Hebräischen und Jiddischen.


In this century of industry, Jewish business blooms as never before. The House of Rothschild is but one example of the Jews' tactic of casting their financial net over the honest worker.

So blüht in dem arbeitsamen Jahrhunderts des technischen Fortschritts das jüdische Zwischengeschäft wie nie zuvor. Das Haus Rothschild ist nur ein Beispiel für die Taktik der Juden, das netz ihres finanziellen Einflusses über die arbeitende Menschheit zu spannen.



-Fifty-two out of every 100 doctors were Jews.

Von 100 Ärzten (waren) 52 Juden.

-The average wealth of Germans was 810 marks; the average wealth of Jews 10,000 marks.

Das Durchschnittsvermögen des einzelnen Deutschen betrug 810 Mark. Das Durchschnittsvermögen des einzelnen Juden betrug 10.000 Mark.


While millions of established Germans were unemployed and in misery, immigrant Jews acquired fantastic riches in a few years - not by honest work, but by usury, swindling, and fraud.

Während Millionen des eingesessenen deutschen Volkes in Arbeitslosigkeit und Elend gerieten, gelangten zugewanderte Juden in wenigen Jahren zu phantastischen Reichtümern - nicht durch ehrliche Arbeit, sondern durch Wucher, Gaunerei und Betrug.



The rootless Jew has no feeling for the purity and cleanliness of the German idea of art.

Für die Reinheit und Sauberkeit des deutschen Kunstempfindens hat der wurzellose Jude kein Organ.

What he calls "art" must titillate his degenerate nerves. A smell of foulness and disease must pervade it.

Was er "Kunst" nennt, muss seine entarteten Nerven kitzeln. Ein Geruch von Fäulnis und Krankheit muss es umwittern.


The relativity-Jew Einstein, who concealed his hatred of Germany behind his obscure pseudo-science.

Der Relativitätsjude Einstein, der seinen Deutschenhass hinter seiner obskuren Pseudowissenschaft versteckte.





The Jew Curt Bois enjoys a particularly perverted role.

Der Jude Curt Bois gefällt sich in einer besonders perversen Darstellung.

The Jew Lorre in the role of a child murderer. Not the murderer but the victim is guilty, according to this film, which presents the criminal sympathetically, to gloss over and excuse the crime.

Der Jude Lorre in der Rolle eines Kindermörders. Nach dem Schlagwort: "Nicht der Mörder, sondern der Ermordete ist schuldig", wird versucht, das normale Rechtsempfinden zu verdrehen und durch mitleiderregende Darstellung des Verbrechers das Verbrechen zu beschönigen und zu entschuldigen.


Jewish law has no love and regard for animals in the Germanic sense. Jews refuse to put a suffering animal out of misery.

Die jüdischen Gesetzbücher haben für Überlegungen, die aus der germanischen Achtung und Liebe zum Tier stammen, keinen Sinn. Sie verbieten sogar, den Qualen des sterbenden Tieres vorzeitlich ein Ende zu machen.



The eternal law of nature, to keep one's race pure, is the legacy which the National Socialist movement bequeaths to the German people for all time.

Das ewige Gesetz der Natur, die Rasse rein zu halten, ist für alle Zeiten das Vermächtnis der nationalsozialistischen Bewegung an das deutsche Volk.

It is with this spirit that the unified German people march on into the future.

In diesem Sinne marschiert die Gemeinschaft des deutschen Volkes in die Zukunft.


Facts were exaggerated or sometimes outrightly fabricated. Every tired, angry, annoyed, jealous, and spiteful nerve of the German audience was meant to be stimulated against the eternal Jews. However, although Der Ewige Jude was shown in sixty-six cinemas in Berlin alone, Security Service reports on its reception suggest that audiences were already tiring of anti-Semitic propaganda; ‘Statements like “We’ve seen Jud Süß and we’ve had enough of Jewish filth” have been heard.’ Nevertheless, in August 1941 the German authorities in the occupied Netherlands decreed that every Dutch cinema should include Der Ewige Jude in its program during the following six-month period- and to some under-informed movie audiences, the points made in the film continued murmuring its anti-Jew whispers, if unconsciously for most people. The film ended up becoming at the same time a prelude to the Holocaust, a propagandist’s excuse for it, and a perverted documentary-format record of its early stages.


The Filmmakers of Nazi Germany


One might wonder what happened to the numerous filmmakers of the Third Reich after the war was over. After all, Goebbels’ Ministry for People's Enlightenment and Propaganda had a separate film office; the filmmakers were undoubtedly in on the game. The allied powers also employed directors for propaganda purposes, such as Frank Capra for the Why We Fight Series, but his works were not essentially politically incorrect, as was Der Ewige Jude. Der Ewige Jude represents both the epitome of anti-Semitic propaganda and Goebbels’ infamous argumentum ad nauseam, also dubbed the Goebbels’ Technique of Big Lie. Fritz Hippler had a fairly high position in the Propaganda Ministry, oversaw its film office, and played a key role in determining censorship of foreign films. However, as soon as the war was over he was quick to disavow his role in the party and went untouched until his death in 2002. During his life he argued that he had only shot some footage for the film, and Goebbels was the one who had had the upper hand. Hippler claimed that at the time he was shooting the film he was unaware of that the Holocaust was taking place, and if it were possible to annul everything about the film, he would.



The Tide Turns: America Steps In


On December 7th, 1941, Japanese warplanes attacked Pearl Harbor. On the following day, the United States declared war on Japan and finally officially entered the war. And at the same time, Roosevelt cited Hollywood for its role during this wartime period, and, echoing the words of Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Hitler, and Goebbels, claimed that motion picture was the most effective medium to inform the nation. However, under the same idea he took an opposite path from these other leaders; he imposed no strict government censorship and called for a continuous output of various titles to keep the public abreast regarding the War. One year later the Office of War Information (OWI) did become the official watchdog of the film industry. OWI issued hundreds of pages of elaborate guidelines, but a screenplay deviating from its rule would receive no more than minor objections. Moreover, the OWI basically aimed at safeguarding moviegoers from extreme, ill-conceived, ambiguous or offensive themes that might disrupt morale, but since with or without federal decree, no sane director or producer would have taken such a risk in a capitalistic society, there is controversy as to if this office was really necessary.

The United States had always leaned toward the allies, but now that belligerence was official, soldiers were actually being carried off to war. Their sons and husbands at the front, the women left at home were the main audience for whom movies were now made. And because of the commercial nature of the film industry, no director or production could literally afford to speak against the war, even in democratic America- thus the self-imposed censorship. The women needed to believe that there was a sacred cause for the absence of their loved ones, an assurance that their lives were not staked in vain.


3 Types of Hollywood Pro-War Propaganda


Casablanca (1942): A Too Complex and Compelling Tale of Pro-War Messages; Propaganda Only Visible to the Educated?


Warner Brothers was the first Hollywood studio to be conspicuously open about its opposition to the Nazi regime, and the first to prohibit its films from being distributed in Nazi-occupied territories. As early as 1936, Harry Warner, one of the founders, was making anti-Nazi speeches. From this daring company came Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), the first overtly anti-Nazi film, and 3 years later, the better known Casablanca (1942).

Due to its excessive complexity, Casablanca stands on shaky ground as propaganda. At first viewing, many dismiss Casablanca as at most subtle propaganda, a film along the lines of Waterloo Bridge. After all, it is mostly famously remembered as a beautiful and tragic love story. The impression we get from The Story of Louis Pasteur is ‘Pasteur was a great person, and France is great country’. A Yank in the R.A.F. hints that joining the Royal Air Force would be a heroic and patriotic thing to do. The Great Dictator, even though a comedy, leaves behind an unsettling feeling. In contrast, after watching Casablanca, the audience is mostly filled with sympathy for the two separated lovers, an emotion miles away from the nearest war.

Moreover, Casablanca deviates from one of the most important tenets of film propaganda: clarity. Since audiences must discern between the forces of good and evil, no ambiguity can appear in the photodrama. However, in Casablanca, German and French troops, plus British and American civilians, mingle together in a quasi-friendly way, which obfuscates the real enemy and leaves the audience confused.

When more closely looked into, one can find that this amity was a result of the capitulation settlement between France and Germany, which created certain neutral areas. Adding to the complexities of the plot were esoteric references to the Spanish Civil War, the 1935 Italian Invasion of Ethiopia, and the imprudence of drinking bottled Vichy water. For a complete understanding of its propaganda value, the viewer needed a primer on recent political history as a prerequisite, something most moviegoers did not possess. From now on I assume the eye of an educated, politically-aware viewer and introduce to you some of the complex and intricate anti-Nazi propaganda which infiltrates into almost every scene.

Casablanca begins with a description of its setting. The time is early December, 1941. Over an image of a slowly spinning globe, an ominous voice-over explains the Nazi takeover of Europe, the coming of World War II, and the stream of refugees resulting from the occupied countries.


With the coming of the Second World War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully or desperately toward the freedom of the Americas. Lisbon became the great embarkation point. But not everybody could get to Lisbon directly...


And so people flocked to Casablanca, a city in French Morocco. Although pro-Vichy, Morocco is unoccupied by the Germans and thus run by corrupt French officials. Many come to Casablanca with hopes of freedom, but few find it- the exit visas necessary for the flight to Lisbon are scarce and difficult to acquire.

Rick owns a café in Casablanca, one which is the hub of the town. He is a laconic and sarcastic man, who minds his own business and ‘sticks his neck out for nobody’. One day, Ugarte, a black-market dealer, comes to Rick and requests that he hide two exit-visas which were stolen from two murdered German couriers. Rick agrees, but finds himself in a difficult position when Ugarte is arrested by the police and his clients who were supposed to buy the exit visas come to him. To make matters worse and to Rick’s dismay, the clients are Ilsa, a woman who had deserted him, and her husband Victor, a Czechoslovakian Resistance leader. Irritated and hurt by Ilsa’s appearance with another man, Rick refuses to give them the visas, stating ‘I'm not interested in politics. The problems of the world are not in my department. I'm a saloon keeper.’

However, after listening to Ilsa’s excuse for her actions, Rick realizes that although Ilsa is still in love with him, their love can never be realized. For Ilsa, and for Victor’s cause, Rick betrays the German and pro-Vichy officials and gives the couple their exit visas, letting them escape. When Major Heinrich Strasser, a Gestapo commander, tries to stop them, Rick ends up shooting him. Capitaine Louis Renault, a local Vichy puppet chief whom Rick has known for a long time, and the crime’s sole witness, protects Rick by playing ignorant, contrary to our expectations. In the last scene, Rick and Renault walk off into the fog, and with the triumphant sounds of La Marseillaise in the background, the famous last lines are spoken: ‘Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’


** The propaganda in this movie is apparent in several points:


1. Casablanca argues that everyone’s a patriot at heart. This is more apparent with Victor, Ilsa, or even Major Heinrich Strasser, who are in their own ways fighting for their countries. Victor is a heroic resistance leader who in the end escapes to Lisbon and is able to continue his resistance in other countries. Ilsa, the woman who keeps Victor going, sacrifices true love for the cause. And for a change, Major Strasser is depicted as a man who is merely doing his job as a German official. Although he is far from good, he is not inhumane or evil.

However, Rick and Renault are different cases. In the beginning, Rick is a cynical, apolitical man who ‘sticks his neck out for no one’. Besides making money out of his salon, he seemingly has no other intentions in Casablanca. However, later we learn that his indifference stems from his loss of true love, and that he is a romantic and a patriot at heart. Renault also starts out to be a corrupt Vichy official, an opportunist whose sole interest is in staying comfortable by whatever means. But even he changes when faced with the decision between loyalty and betrayal to his country. Bottom line: No matter how cynical or apathetic you were to the war before, you too can change and fight for the cause, because deep down inside, we all love our country.

One touching scene in the movie explores this subject more directly. While Rick is absent, Major Strasser and the German soldiers take over the café’s piano and sing a German Nazi song Die Wacht am Rhein ("The Watch on the Rhine"). Rick and Victor enter the café, and Victor strides over to the orchestra, disgusted. He defies the Germans by ordering the band to play the French anthem La Marseillaise. Responding to a nod of approval from Rick, the uncertain conductor leads them in playing a rousing, triumphant rendition of the French national anthem. After a duel of anthems sung in opposition, the Germans are drowned out by the Free French audience. After this, La Marseillaise is played a couple more times, most memorably at the ending scene which signifies Rick and Renault’s friendship, bonded by patriotism to their respective country.


2. Casablanca also makes many references to America’s isolation and indifference to the war before Pearl Harbor. The story is set in early December, 1941, several days before America’s entrance. Through the references, United States isolation is mildly criticized in retrospect.


(Ferrari offers to buy Sam, the piano player at Rick’s café)

Rick (looking down and with understatement): I don't buy or sell human beings.

Ferrari: Too bad. That's Casablanca's leading commodity. In refugees alone, we could make a fortune, if you work with me through the black market.

Rick: Suppose you run your business and let me run mine.

Ferrari: Suppose we ask Sam. Maybe he'd like to make a change?

Rick: Suppose we do.

Ferrari: My dear Rick, when will you realize that in this world, today, isolationism is no longer a practical policy?



(Remarking to Sam)

Rick: It's December 1941 in Casablanca. What time is it in New York?...I bet they're asleep in New York. I bet they're asleep all over America.


3. In Casablanca, any unpleasant characters other than the Nazis are from an enemy country, that is to say Italy. Ugarte, a slimy North African black market dealer, is Italian-born. The king of the Black Market and rival Blue Parrot cafe proprietor, Ferrari, and a pickpocket who preys on an English couple are also Italian.


4. Also, there are references to the conditions of countries from which these refugees have come to Casablanca from. One character, an innocent, newly-married Bulgarian woman named Annina Brandel, is willing to sell her body to obtain exit visas for her and her husband.


Annina: The devil [dictatorial Tsar Boris III] has the people by the throat. So, Jan and I we - we do not want our children to grow up in such a country.


Eventually, Rick helps her husband win enough money from his café’s gambling room to pay for the exit visas. Annina is infinitely grateful, and here we have a microcosm of the world order in America’s point of view; The United States must save the innocent people suffering under oppressive regimes. (It is interesting how this superman mentality of the Americans continues to this day)



Filmed during a time when Roosevelt wavered between supporting the Vichy government or De Gaulle, Casablanca takes a strong pro-Free France stance. The refugees in Casablanca are victimized by predatory, corrupt Vichy bureaucrats. This film cries out that just as Rick and Renault realize that their loyalty is to their country, Americans must turn their support towards the true France of Charles De Gaulle. When Casablanca was released toward the end of 1942, the United States was already well into the War. Although other propagandistic points may be too complex for the average moviegoer, one theme was clear; those who still had doubts about U.S. participation had to search inside their hearts for that patriotism that every character in the movie ultimately had the courage to find.


The Typical American Attempt at Satire: The Ducktators (1942) & Der Füehrer's Face (1943)


The Dove of Peace comes to confront the gleeful Hirohito duck.Both animated shorts 7~8 minutes long, Looney Toons’ The Ducktators (1942) and Disney’s Der Füehrer's Face (1943), which translates to ‘The Leader’s Face’, parody and satirize Nazism and Fascism in similar ways. Although short, and to those of us today, obscure, these cartoons were widely circulated at the time of their releases because they were often unalterably packaged with big-name features at movie theaters.

In The Ducktators (1942), Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito are portrayed as ducks taking over a barnyard. Throughout the short the ‘Dove of Peace’, which apparently symbolizes the United States or the allied powers, laments over how evil the world has become, and at the end, beats up the three ‘ducktators’ in front of a cheering crowd. Definitely not subtle propaganda, the cartoon has some explicit, witty moments, such as ‘Figaro’ playing in the background with the appearance of the Mussolini goose, Hitler duck using the ‘treaty tearer uppper’ to shred up his peace pledge, and the Hirohito duck singing that he is ‘a little crazy’. The Ducktators is aimed not so much at conveying a pro-war message than to amuse the audience and lighten up the gloomy atmosphere of 1942.

Der Füehrer's Face (1943) is better known for the success of the song of the same title. Originally titled Donald Duck in Nutziland, the short is about Donald Duck’s nightmare that he lives in Germany slaving under the Nazi regime. In Hitler’s Germany, even bushes are shaped like swastikas, and Donald Duck is forced to hail an unrelenting torrent of Hitler portraits. Exhausted by all the frantic hailing and lack of food, Donald Duck has a nervous breakdown, but wakes up to find out that it was only a bad dream. Assured by the shadow of the statue of liberty on his wall, Donald kisses the shadow in his star-spangled pajamas and exclaims happily, ‘Am I glad to be a citizen of the United States of America.’ The film plays a similar role as The Ducktators, and does a more entertaining job. The lyrics to the song sensation Der Füehrer's Face is as follows:


When Der Füehrer says, "We ist der master race"

We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Der Füehrer's face

Not to love Der Füehrer is a great disgrace

So we HEIL! HEIL! Right in Der Füehrer's face

When Herr Goebbels says, "We own der world und space"

We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Herr Goring's face

When Herr Goring says they'll never bomb this place

We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Herr Goring's face


Are we not the supermen

Aryan pure supermen

Ja we ist der supermen

Super-duper supermen

Ist this Nutzi land not good?

Would you leave it if you could?

Ja this Nutzi land is good!

Vee would leave it if we could


We bring the world to order

Heil Hitler's world New Order

Everyone of foreign race will love Der Füehrer's face

When we bring to der world disorder


When Der Füehrer says, "We ist der master race"

We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Der Füehrer's face

When Der Füehrer says, "We ist der master race"

We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Der Füehrer's face


Government Intervention: Prelude to War (1943) : Part One of Capra's Why We Fight Series


Your boy wants you to see it!


Prelude to War (1943) is the first of Frank Capra’s Why We Fight Series, a set of propaganda documentaries produced by the Army Service Forces and released through the Office of War Information. It was originally intended exclusively for the members of the Armed Forces, but the War Department probably decided after the film’s completion that it was too effective to keep hidden from the civilian audience. As Capra states in the beginning of the film, Prelude to War has its goals in giving factual information as to the causes, the events leading up to America’s entry into the war, and the principles for which they were fighting. Every element of the film is blatantly propagandistic, from the content and tone of narration to the music, pictures and footages used. Images are interpreted in the most convenient ways, and enemy speeches are grossly mistranslated. Its axis counterpart would be The Eternal Jew or Jud Süß.

Prelude to War begins with a message from Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War, complemented by a fluttering star spangle banner and heroic music in the background: “We are determined that before the sun sets on this terrible struggle our flag will be recognized throughout the world as a symbol of freedom on the one hand... and of overwhelming power on the other (underlines included).” Then the dramatic narrator enters who explains and interprets the footage shown every bit of the way. He first asks the fundamental question, which the series is aptly named after: “Why are we fighting?’ Is it because of Pearl Harbor? Or is it because of Britain? France? China? Czechoslovakia? Norway? Poland? Holland? Greece? Belgium? Albania? Yugoslavia? Or Russia?” Reinforced by footages of the bombing of each country, we are convinced that there are more than enough reasons to fight.

The white free world and the dark evil world.
The documentary has its basis on Vice President Henry R. Wallace’s words, “this is a fight between and free world and a slave world.” Two planets are shown, one white and free and one black and enslaved. “Our world”, or the white and free world, was inspired by men of vision such as Moses, Mohammed, Confucius, Christ, Washington, Jefferson, Garibaldi, Lafayette, Bolivar, and Lincoln. America is like a lighthouse, lighting up the dark and foggy world. Then the narrator, This shaded areas on this map show what the axis powers supposedly desired.
in a daring and impressive tone, recites the immortal words of Patrick Henry: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

But what of this other world, the dark, evil, enslaved world? Here men were putting out the lighthouses one by one. The march of history was reversing itself. The key three countries, Japan, Germany, and Italy, were torn by political unrest, hard times, unemployment, just like every other country after world war one. Two courses were available for their people: they could solve their problems in a free democratic way or let someone else do the solving for them. They obviously made the tragic mistake of choosing the second course.

The film goes on for another half hour, explaining the atrocities of the axis forces. Descriptive maps show the extent of their greed, which is taking over the entire world. Leaders such as Mussolini, Hitler, and Hirohito are depicted as satanic demagogues, “Don’t think and follow me” being their oft-repeated phrase. Provocative images, like some shown below, are intended to rouse the anger of the American people.



 One interesting point is that the film reveals the real beginnings of the current war to be the Japanese Invasion of Manchuria in 1931 and Mussolini's destruction of Ethiopia in 1935. Their desire to enslave the nations of the "free world" was already manifest by then, but as ‘it was impossible to convince a farm boy in Iowa, or a driver of a London bus, or a waiter in a Paris cafe that he should go to war because of the mud hut in Manchuria.’, the war was delayed. This was one point in the film that seemed surprisingly perceptive.

Prelude to War ends on a hopeful note, with the narrator’s voice further elevating its melodramatic tone. He argues that it is freedom that the Americans are fighting for, and without freedom, we are as good as dead. Remember those who have suffered in Manchuria and those who are currently suffering all around the world- the subsequent course of history makes it clear that that incident so many miles away is one of the main reasons that you and millions of others are in uniform today. It’s us, or them. The chips are down. Two worlds stand against each other. One must die, one must live. 170 years of freedom decrees our answer.




Eisenstein Strikes Again: Ivan Groznyy I (1944)


Another film by Sergei Eisenstein, Ivan Groznyy I (Ivan the Terrible I) was the first edition of an unfinished trilogy. Ivan Groznyy II: Boyarsky zagovor (1958), although finished in 1946, was disapproved by the government and wasn't released until 1958, 5 years after Stalin's death. The third part, which began filming right after the second part's finish in 1946, was never completed due to Eisenstein's death in 1948. The first part is another metaphor between Stalin and Ivan the Terrible, called Ivan the Great in Russia. Ivan Groznyy I shows the inevitability of the tsar's cruelty and his rise to status as national hero, a reputation Stalin considered similar to his own. However, there is proof that Stalin deemed Ivan Groznyy I a rather unsatisfactory portrayal. In the following discussion between Sergei Eisenstein and Joseph Stalin on the film Ivan the Terrible, Stalin and his associates express their complaints about the film. (G. Maryamov: Kremlevskii Tsenzor, Moscow, 1992, pp. 84-91.), Jha, 1997


Stalin. Have you studied History?


Eisenstein. More or less.


Stalin. More or less? I am also a little familiar with history. You have shown the oprichnina incorrectly. The oprichnina was the army of the king. It was different from the feudal army which could remove its banner and leave the battleground at any moment - the regular army, the progressive army was formed. You have shown this oprichnina to be like the Ku-Klux-Klan.


Eisenstein said that they wear white cowls but we have black ones.


Molotov. This does not make a major difference.


Stalin. Your tsar has come out as being indecisive, he resembles Hamlet. Everybody prompts him as to what is to be done, and he himself does not take any decision... Tsar Ivan was a great and a wise ruler, and if he is compared with Ludwig XI (you have read about Ludwig XI who prepared absolutism for Ludwig XIV), then Ivan the Terrible is in the tenth heaven. The wisdom of Ivan the Terrible is reflected by the following: he looked at things from the national point of view and did not allow foreigners into his country, he barricaded the country from the entry of foreign influence. By showing Ivan the Terrible in this manner you have committed a deviation and a mistake. Peter Ist was also a great ruler, but he was extremely liberal towards foreigners, he opened the gate wide to them and allowed foreign influence into the country and permitted the Germanisation of Russia. Catherine allowed it even more. And further. Was the court of Alexander I really a Russian court? Was the Court of Nicolaus I a Russian court? No, they were German courts.


The most outstanding contribution of Ivan the Terrible was that he was the first to introduce the government monopoly of external trade. Ivan the Terrible was the first and Lenin was the second.


Zhdanov. The Ivan the Terrible of Eisenstein came out as a neurotic.


Molotov. In general, emphasis was given to psychologism, excessive stress was laid on internal psychological contradictions and personal emotions.


Stalin. Ivan the Terrible was extremely cruel. It is possible to show why he had to be cruel.




Eisenstein. We are saying that in the first part a number of moments were successful and this gives us the confidence for making the second series.


Stalin. We are not talking about what you have achieved, but now we are talking about the shortcomings.


Eisenstein asked whether there were some more instructions regarding the film.


Stalin. I am not giving you instructions but expressing the viewer's opinion. It is necessary that historical characters are reflected correctly. What did Glinka show us? What is this Glinka. This is Maksim and not Glinka. [They were talking about the film Composer Glinka made by L. Arnshtam. The main role was played by B. Chirkov.] Artist Chirkov could not express himself and for an artist the greatest quality is the capability to transform himself. (Addressing Cherkasov) - you are capable of transforming yourself.


Contrary to its fame as a propaganda film, Ivan Groznyy I was apparently not Stalin's favorite movie. Most of the criticism is directed at historical errors and the indecisive and unclear depiction of the czar. Stalin finishes off by lightly ignoring Eisenstein and offering unfaltering praise for his favorite actor.



The War Ends


The Italian Cinema under Mussolini


In Italy, Benito Mussolini, not surprisingly, followed Hitler's lead. However, there was a difference; while Germany and the Soviet Union were totalitarian countries, Italy was an authoritarian one. In Nazi or Soviet society, individual ideals and opinions were repressed and crushed- a word against the fuehrer or the general secretary could result in execution. Mussolini's Italy showed a relatively larger amount of tolerance, and individual filmmakers were given more room to create and experiment. Also, both the USSR and Germany consolidated political interests and the cinema into one giant vehicle for propaganda. In Italy, the film industry and political groups were never able to work in harmony.

There were continuous efforts for the nationalization of Italian cinema. In 1925, LUCE (L’Unione Cinematografica Educativa) was formed, a board for overseeing films produced in Italy. Independent of the commercial film industry, LUCE focused mainly on documentaries and newsreels. Luigi Freddi, in charge of Italian cultural control, was the Italian counterpart of Joseph Goebbels and carried out various policies concerning the film industry. In 1933, laws were passed which regulated the export and import of films. Italian films could not be dubbed into foreign languages, and foreign films, if they were to be imported, had to be dubbed in Italian.

The following year, Freddi headed the Direzione Generale Per La Cinema, a state controlled censor board made up of Fascists and War Minister officials. Their job was to read and censor scripts and foreign films. Unlike other dictator-ruled countries, not all movies disagreeing with Fascist ideology were banned; only those with defiant or incitant messages were due to modification. Also, the incentive to make Fascist propaganda films were given in an oddly capitalistic way- a script judged to be pro-Fascist by the Direzione Generale Per La Cinema could receive up to 100% funding by the state. In 1937, Mussolini established Italy’s first film studio, Cinecitta. A whole city devoted to cinema, numerous movies with Fascist messages were produced on its sets.


Roma, Città Aperta (1945)


Certainly not Fascist propaganda and released months after the war was over, Roma, Città Aperta (1945) is one of the films which straddled the war and post-war era. It began filming at the end of 1943, after a chain of events which occurred after the American defeat of Italy led to its German occupation. Shot from 1943 to 1945 and set in the same time period, Roma, Città Aperta at times uses real footage of Rome and real Nazi POWs as extras, ushering in a new filmmaking movement called neorealism.

Pursued by the Gestapo, Giorgio Manfredi, one of the leaders of the Resistance, hides in his friend Francesco's apartment. Giorgio must deliver some funds in his possession to Pietro, a priest and a secret helper of the resistance, but wary of the danger he is in, asks Francesco. The Nazi officers, suspecting Francesco, raid his apartment and arrest every male in the building. Giorgio manages to save his friend and other member of the resistance, but due to his girlfriend's betrayal, they are all arrested again and conditioned to atrocious torture. Don Pietro is also executed in the witness of the town children, who, after seeing their beloved priest's death, walk silently back to Rome, the open city.

One of the most interesting scenes in the film was of two Nazi officers having a conversation about the validity of their cause. Probably shot near or after the end of Nazi rule in Rome, this scene reflects the mentality of many of the Germans at this time.


(While Giorgio is being tortured, Hartmann is in the lounge, waiting for him to talk)


Major Bergman: Strenuous evening?


Hartmann: Not very... but interesting. I've got a man who must talk before dawn... and a priest who's praying for him.. He'll talk


Major Bergman: And if not-?


Hartmann: Ridiculous!


Major Bergman: And if not-?


Hartmann: Then it would mean an Italian is worth as much as a German...!

It would mean there's no difference in the blood of a slave-race and a master-race...!

And no reason for this war!


Major Bergman: 25 years ago, I commanded firing squads in France.

I was a young officer. I believed then, too, in a German "master-race".

But the French patriots also died without talking.

We Germans simply refuse to realize people want to be free.


Hartmann: You're drunk, Hartmann!


Major Bergman: Yes, I'm drunk. I get drunk every night to forget... It doesn't help. We can't get anywhere.. but kill... kill.

We have sown Europe with corpses... and from these graves arises an incredible hate...

Hate... everywhere!! We are being consumed by hatred...without hope...


Hartmann: Enough!


Major Bergman: We will all die.. without hope...


Hartmann: I forbid you to continue!


Major Bergman: ...without hope...


Although clearly an anti-Nazi movie, it is doubtful that anyone, maybe except for the staunchest pacifist, would have been inclined to refer to Rossellini's film as "propaganda", for the necessity to combat Nazism had become a forgone conclusion for most people in the closing of 1945. However, some critics point out that the film "effectively propagandizes for Italian unity." Giorgio Manfredi, the resistance leader, is identified in the film as a communist. In spite of this fact, the priest Don Pietro refuses to reveal him to the end and eventually meets his death. Solidarity and mutual sacrifice prevails for all who resist against an essential evil, regardless of their beliefs or religions. Now that the war is over, it is time to tolerate one another and unite for a better Italy.



3. Conclusion


A Comparison of Propaganda in American, German, Soviet, and Italian Cinema during WWII


As much as the ideals of these nations differed, so did their approaches and styles of propaganda. Nazi controlled Germany and Fascist ruled Italy, although much alike in their ideals, had different systems of rule and accordingly different approaches to dominating the film industry. With Hitler, you did not direct non-conformist films unless you wanted to die. However, filmmakers in Italy were given a considerable amount of freedom, as long as they avoided trying to undermine Fascist ideology or incite a revolution. Also, Italian cinema was never properly aligned with any political party. In the USSR, the entire film industry was consolidated into one big propaganda churning machine. Focused not on the escapist cinema Germany and sometimes Hollywood preferred, the Soviet Union frequently produced meaningful, at times blatant propaganda films fitting with the "haute" taste of Stalin. Emphasis was given on differentiating the Soviet cinema from the lowly, base ones of other democratic and capitalist countries by promoting the experimentation and invention of new and revolutionary film techniques. 

Although only one country on the allied side, the United States, could be reviewed for comparison, most of the democratic, capitalist countries such as Britain and France showed similar propaganda efforts to Hollywood. There was a suitable mix of entertaining escapist films, melodramatic and sentimental war films which appealed to the emotion, Hollywood lobby propaganda, and government funded productions in the form of documentaries and newsreels. Technically, there was no limit to the filmmakers' freedom except for a few OWI guidelines, but it is argued that even without the official edict, few directors would have spoken against the cause during the war. Somewhere between the OWI rulebook and tacit agreements, unpleasant incidents were disregarded and glorious endeavors emphasized, forming a brand of self-censorship characteristic of democratic countries.




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"Der Fuehrer's Face (1942)." The Internet Movie Database. 13 Jun. 2006 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0035794/>


"The Ducktators (1942)." The Internet Movie Database. 13 Jun. 2006 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034685/>


"The Great Dictator (1940)." The Internet Movie Database. 15 Jun. 2006 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032553/>


"Ivan Groznyy I (1944)." The Internet Movie Database. 14 Jun. 2006 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0037824/>


"Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der Völker (1938)." The Internet Movie Database. 11 Jun. 2006 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0030522/>


"Olympia 2. Teil - Fest der Schönheit (1938)." The Internet Movie Database. 11 Jun. 2006 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0030523/>


"Prelude to War (1943)." The Internet Movie Database. 16 Jun. 2006 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0035209/>


"Roma, Città Aperta (1945)." The Internet Movie Database. 17 Jun. 2006 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038890/>


"The Story of Louis Pasteur (1935)." The Internet Movie Database. 9 Jun. 2006 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0028313/>


"Waterloo Bridge (1940)." The Internet Movie Database. 9 Jun. 2006 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033238/>


"A Yank in the R.A.F. (1941)." The Internet Movie Database. 10 Jun. 2006 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034405/>


Aleksandr Nevskiy. Dir. Sergei M. Eisenstein. Perf. Nikolai Cherkasov, Nikolai Okhlopkov et al.

Mosfilm. 1938


Casablanca. Dir. Michael Curtiz. Perf. Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman

Warner Bros. Pictures. 1942


Der Ewige Jude. Dir. Fritz Hippler.

Deutsche Filmherstellungs- und -Verwertungs- GmbH, Berlin (DFG). 1940


Der Fuehrer's Face. Dir. Clarence Nash. Perf. Jack Kinney et al.

Walt Disney Pictures, 1942


The Ducktators. Dir. Norm McCabe. Perf. Mel Blanc et al.

Leon Schlesinger Studios, 1942


The Great Dictator. Dir. Charles Chaplin. Perf. Charles Chaplin, Paulette Goddard et al.

Charles Chaplin Productions. 1940


Ivan Groznyy I. Dir. Sergei M. Eisenstein. Perf. Nikolai Cherkasov, Lyudmila Tselikovskaya et al.

Alma Ata Studio. 1944


Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der Völker. Dir. Leni Riefenstahl. Perf. The Olympic Team

International Olympic Committee. 1938


Prelude to War. Dir. Frank Capra

U.S. War Department. 1943


Roma, Città Aperta. Dir. Roberto Rossellini. Perf. Aldo Fabrizi, Anna Magnani et al.

Excelsa Film 1945


The Story of Louis Pasteur. Dir. William Dieterle. Perf. Paul Muni, Josephine Hutchinson et al.

Warner Bros. Pictures. 1935


Waterloo Bridge. Dir. Mervyn LeRoy. Perf. Vivien Leigh, Robert Taylor et al.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM). 1940.


A Yank in the R.A.F. Dir. Henry King. Perf. Tyrone Power, Tim Baker et al.

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation. 1941



<Image Sources>


<Image 1>

Poster for The Story of Louis Pasteur <http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/movie/coverv/85/116385.jpg>

<Images 2- 1~ 3>

Poster and Still Images of Olympia 1. Teil - Fest der Völker <http://www.google.com/imghp?hl=en&tab=wi&q=> Path: Olympia; Riefenstahl

<Image 3>

Poster for Waterloo Bridge <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Waterloobridge.jpg>

<Image 4>

Still Image of The Great Dictator < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Great_dictator_1024.jpg>

<Image 5>

Poster for A Yank in the R.A.F. <http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/movie/coverv/51/192551.jpg>

<Images 6- 1~13>

Still Images of Der Ewige Jude <http://www.holocaust-history.org/der-ewige-jude/stills.html>

<Images 7- 1~3>

Poster and Still Images of Casablanca < http://www.cyc.org/events/2004/newyearsstills/index.html>

<Image 8>

Still Image of The Ducktators < http://www.bookmice.net/darkchilde/japan/duck.html>

<Image 9>

Still Image of Der Füehrer's Face: <http://www.newgrounds.com/bbs/user_images/pics/1/9481000/ngbbs44b17621d154d.jpg>

<Images 10- 1~10>

Still Images of Prelude to War: Captured from VCD