Der Ewige Jude
DER EWIGE JUDE
Director: Fritz Hippler
Production: Deutsche Film Gesellschaft; black and white, 35mm, documentary; running time: 78 minutes, other versions include a 67-minute print; length: 1753 feet, other versions include a 1830-foot print. Released 4 November 1940 in Uraufführung, Germany. Filmed in Poland and Germany, with library footage from many sources, including the United States.
Scenario: Eberhard Taubert; photography: A. Endrejat, A. Hafner, A. Hartman, F. C. Heere, H. Kluth, E. Stoll, and H. Winterfield; editors: Hans Dieter Schiller and Albert Baumeister; music: Franz R. Friedl.
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Fritz Hippler's Der ewige Jude was an exemplary moment in the history of Nazi cinema. A dutiful Nazi Party functionary, Hippler was unrestrained by considerations of objectivity, balance, or even the sensibilities of the less fanatical members of his audience. Indeed, his virulent anti-Semitic excesses so repelled some German audiences that in a few cities the film attracted "only the politically active" segments of the populace.
Artistically, the film is a "black masterpiece" of the cinematic conventions of 1940; a German version of The March of Time style that included animated maps, falsely labeled stock footage, segments of feature films borrowed to make some ideological point, stills, decoupages of evocative bookjackets and headlines, and an omniscient voice-over narration.
The importance of Der ewige Jude lies not in its technique but in its brutal service to the cause of Nazi racism. Hippler, after reading law and sociology at Heidelberg, entered the German Propaganda Ministry, specializing in military films such as Westwall, Feldzug in Polen, and Sieg im Westen. On orders from Joseph Goebbels himself, Hippler in 1940 began an anti-Semitic film that, according to its official synopsis, would "fill the spectator with a feeling of deep-seated gratification for belonging to a people whose leader has absolutely solved the Jewish problem." In fact, it has been asserted that Der ewige Jude helped prepare the German people to accept the eventual policy of genocide inflicted upon Jews.
The controlling metaphor—the Jew as parasite in an otherwise healthy host—is found throughout the film in several forms, all of them designed to reveal to Germans the "true" Jew underneath the veneer of European culture that concealed Jewish parasitism. Jews are introduced as a foreign, swarthy, hook-nosed, untidily bearded, sullen presence that clogs the teeming streets of middle Europe. They haggle, squabble over food at the table, hoard with wealth, conceal it from tax collectors, and grow sleek and fat at the expense of good Germans. Their religion and culture are seen as cabalistic sources of secret powers.
Animated maps alive with pulsing, arterial tentacles extending outward from Palestine invoke a history of Jewish expansion into Europe. Even distant America offers no immunity from the spread of Jewish power. Stock shots of Wall Street and outtakes from the American movie The House of Rothschild throb with new meaning given them by the voice-over. The world seems in the thrall of a network of great Jewish banking houses whose interlocking pedigrees are traced in animated diagrams. Reinforcing the image of the Jew as international parasite, Hippler punctuates the film with cutaways to rats crawling out of sewers, plundering granaries, and scurrying pellmell through the streets of Europe. So compelling was the imagery, the government reported the collective relief expressed by audiences at the appearance of Hitler at the end, comforting the nation with the news that Nazi race laws had saved the day.
The Nazi period of Hippler's life ended with his capture by the British in 1944. He escaped prosecution as a criminal when Allied tribunals failed to convict other filmmakers, notably Veit Harlan. After a process of "de-Nazification" Hippler served the American Army as a translator. In later life, he lived apart from cinema circles, earning a living as a travel agent.