Ladies and gentlemen, dear colleaques in studying and communicating
terrible truth of the Holocaust - and also the moral lessons for man-kind
of to-day. On my own I have done the same thing for more than 25 years.
Having passed the aequivalent to B.A. in 1970, I was accepted by the
Institute as a student, heading for the socalled mag.art. It should be
stressed, that the study is a research study, where you are on your one and
must write four major topics from different periods of general history,
supervised by a professor with full rights. On average it takes two years
to write each of these papers, which had a length in my case between 75 and
250 pages. Then you pass an oral examination and end up with a public
lecture on a topic, which is handed out to you a week before. Therefore, as
an intellectual test it has the universitarian traditions as the German
For tecnical reasons I had to write something on the history of the
century, which had no interest for me. I wanted to become a keeper of a
cultural historical museum, making research into the significance of
medieval wall-paintings as historical evidence. I loved going to the movies
and contact a professor, Niels Skyum-Nielsen, who had a little studygroup
with film-freaks. I was admitted, and on the second Friday - i.e. September
12, 1970) - I saw the film for the first time and got very little out of
it, because I have had only very little German in school. Skyum-Nielsen was
about to write an introduction for historians about source-critical
analysis and needed good examples of different kind of manipulations.
Two student groups were formed: One for "Der ewige Jude", the other for
"Why we fright". As you probably already have guessed I was assigned to the
German group - and ever since I have been fighting the "Fatwah of The
Eternal Jew". Each time, when I think, that I have closed the book, some
new and important turns up - and I have to carry on.
I am not going to tell the story of my life, I would, however, openly
stress that I have paid for the whole project out of my own pocket. I am
not affiliated with a university - the Historical Institute in Copenhagen
does not even answer my letters! - and it takes a lot of efforts to find
people like you, who are willing to listen and to discuss. I would
therefore also use opportunity to ask you of possibilities of other groups
or organisations etc, which could be interested to discuss with me - or
perhaps even invite me for an upcoming conference or a guest-lecture.
When I started my research on "Der ewige Jude", I applied the
source-critical model that the afore mentioned Niels Skyum-Nielsen had
created. First of all the commentary was transcripted. Then at least a
picture from each shot was taken - and it was possible the script with
all-in-all 713 shots. You will finde it in my source-critical edition in
German, although with long descritions of visuals. The publisher considered
it to be too dangerous to have all pictures from the film published.
I have analyzed the film in many different ways in order to establish the
origins and authenticity of the visuals and the text, which was spoken by
Harry Giese whose authoritative voice was used in the News-reels. In the
first round it was simply a question of "true" or "not true".
The pictures were divided in two groups: Shots made specifically for
film - and aechive footage. Regarding the archive material I searched for
the source - in order to check possible manipulations and thereby
evaluatung, why this particular shot was used in the film.
The analysis of the new footage was based on frame-to-frame observations
concerning camera angle, setting of light, the semiotic expression of the
motive, chosen for the film. From contemporary sources as well as Hipplers'
autobiography we know that he went to Lodz on October 11, 1939, with a
group of professional camera people. He returned with footage to Berlin
which was developed the same day and shown to Goebbels during the evening.
The pictures of half-an-hour with ritual slaughtering, deliberately staged
as cruelty to animals. Goebbels was schocked by what he saw: "Dieses
Judentum muss vernichtet werden."
After having shown these rushes at the Fuhrer's dinner-table on October
he went to Lodz to see for himself. Again he was schocked and wrote in his
diary, that the Jewish Question was more a task for the surgeon than a
humanitarian one. He most probably brought his script-writer, Eberhard
Taubert, and a very loyal cameraman, Erich Stoll, to make supplementar
shots. Some of the shots in the final version definitely has a different,
more manipulated recording-tecnique than the rest of the ghetto scenes (use
of distorting lense, angle and light).
Just a note about my efforts to identify shots by weather. The ghetto
scenes has partly sunshine, partly clouds before the sun. The wheather
report from Lodz disappeared through the war, but the metrologists could
reconstruct the general wheather in Lodz between October 11 and 13. It was
on the border between a major high pressure to the south-east and a major
low pressure in the northwest, i.e. I could not use my observations to
anything construtive. I was, however, able to find some shots, which
derived from earlier Newsreels.
A handbook of the Propaganda Ministry from 1940 gave me the answer to
the other film clips came from: The Reichsfilmarchive. I have looked
through a lot of films at the Filmdepartment of Bundesarchiv - at that time
in Koblenz - and could identify a lot of my shots. Later I have been able
to supplement my knowledge in the former GDR film archive. The two have now
merged and are situated in Berlin.
Now the still-photos were to be identified. This happened mostly during
time, where I searched for the ideological roots of the spoken commentary.
The Royal Library in Copenhagen has a department for Jewish Studies, which
collected antisemitica during the 30's and 40's - and because of the Danish
collaboration with Germany, it was never confiscated. It was simply a
treasury, which made it clear to me, how Goebbels and Taubert had worked
out the concept.
In November 1937 there opened an exhibition called "Der ewige Jude"
Munich - and the film was conceived as a filmic multiplication of this
exhibition. The Royal Library had the booklet, which had been given out by
Hans Diebow and contained a lot of the pictures. The Royal Library also had
many copies of the book "Die Juden in Deutschland", which was a
"scientific" report and also had given many ideas to the different topics,
statistics etc. in the film. This book came out in revised editions each
year and was published by the Institut zum Studien der Judenfrage, which
had been created by Eberhard Taubert in 1934.
Through an analysis of the rest of Nazi antisemitic propaganda in the
Library, I could identify allmost the rest - and because of its
"scientific" appearance, I also got the clues of how to evaluate the truth
in the claims. Because I could come very far with some parts of the film, I
decided to try to crack it all in a systematic way, which - to my knowledge
- has never happened in such a way before. This is the reason, why it has
taken 25 mad years to complete the source-critical edition, which came out
two years ago at the Institute for the Scientific Film in Gottingen.
Was it worth the effort? I hope so - and I do hope that I have proven the
neccesity for historians to make such kinds of time-consuming and very
My research project started as a purely methodological task, given me
Professor, who wanted paedagogical examples for his book on film and
history. In my first summary I compared the opinions of film historians,
who claimed that the film was intended as propaganda for the Holocaust,
with that of contemporary historians, who based their opinion of the
Genesis of the Holocaust on written evidence. I concluded, that for
chronological reason the film could not have been deliberate propaganda for
the mass killing of Jews and started off to show, that the opinions of the
film history must have been based on hindsight. Nothing in the film itself
could be used as arguments for this notion.
I constantly got more and more problems to re-explain certain details.
film is constructed down to the very last detail. The makers have been
almost "scientific" in the way they had used their sources. Nothing happens
in this film, which has not been accepted by Hitler and Goebbels, who had
to recut it several times to please Hitler. The ritual slaughter made
Goebbels express a wish of the annihilation of the Jews, when he saw for
the first time - and it is clear from my reconstruction of the development
of the film that it got stronger and more hateful all the time. We know
that Hitler loved films and we have a lot of evidende concerning other
films, which have had strong influence on him. In short: The more I tried
to find evidence against the film historians, the more I came up with
documentation and elementary arguments, which supported them.
Having just written an article for Historical Journal for Film, Radio and
Television in 1991 (came out in 1992), I had one month with Serbian and one
month with Croation Television. My interest for propaganda made me watch a
lot, and my wife - who speaks it fluently - translated some of it. However,
also without her help it was easy to compare the whole programming and the
reports etc. with the Nazi filmproduction, which I know so well. It was
schocking to see, how nothing really had changed - and suddenly understood
the impact of "produced reality" in reality-like media like film and
television. This is a neccessary condition for making people believe that
they are doing something godd for their society, when they exterminate the
enemy, who is dehumanized by this form of strongs emotional propaganda. The
only difference between modern genecidal television and the Nazi version in
"Der ewige Jude" was, that the ultimate icon for dehumanization in Serbia
and Croatia is mutilated bodies, whereas "Der ewige Jude" uses the ritual
slaughter scenes for this purpose, before Hitler promulgates, what is going
to happen with the Jews.
I simply had to believe my own analysis and start to use the production
the film as the chronological structure for a new interpretation of the
decision-making process. I have promised Jim not to go any deeper into the
results of my latest research into this. If some of you should be able to
read Danish, I have written a thick book in Danish, which has just been
transformed to a major TV-series, intended for the international market.
However, you are wellcome to ask me some questions concerning this
Instead I would like to raise some crucial questions with regards to
film. Goebbels' diaries documents, that the decision to make an over-all
antisemitic propagandafilm in the style of an extended Newsreel was taken
on October 4, just after having seen the latest newsreel, which contained a
longer story on Jewish life in Polish ghettos. He outlined his concept on
October 5 to Fritz Hippler, Head of the Film Department, and Eberhard
Taubert, who was an expert for anti-Bolshevik and anti-Semitic propaganda.
Goebbels wrote in his diary, that the film should be finnished within 3 or
4 weeks, but it lasted longer, as the first public screening took place on
November 28, 1940.
There are many reasons for this delay:
First of all Goebbels had underestimated the whole project. Everyone, who
has worked on a major documentary, knows, how one again and again has to
cut and recut and rewrite and cut again and so on.
Equally important for the delay was, that the Fuehrer wanted to survey the
film during the production and ordered several changes before giving his
endorsment. This apparantly happened on May 20, 1940, the day, where German
troops reached the English Channel - and thus making the victory over
France a matter of one month. The script to the film was then sent to
Goebbels' archenemy, Alfred Rosenberg, who only had few comments (probably
because he knew that it had already been accepted by Hitler).
A further delay came, because Goebbels wanted to launch a feature-film
Suss" at the same time. The feature film should arouse anti-Semitic
feelings, which then were to be "proven" by the socalled "documentary". The
two films were also intended for different audience: Jew Suss for the
general public - and Der ewige Jude for those, who were already
anti-Semites or part of the Nazi establishment. Der ewige Jude should
mobilize and legitimize. Jew Suss took, however, time to produce - and was
finally finnished in late August. It was then shown in Venice on Septerber
Two days later, Goebbels screened "Der ewige Jude" as part of an enlarged
press conference. He talked about the need to make new and stronger
warpropaganda. The whole top-leadership of The Third Reich was present.
However, there seems to have been a strong reaction against showing the
ritual slaughter in public. After a week - he must have contacted Hitler,
but there is no mentioning of this in his diary - he decided that the film
should be shown in public cinemas, but in two versions. One without
slaughtering for women and children during the afternoon - and the original
one for men in the evenings.
Finally, on November 28, 1940, the film had its opening night. The Press
had been asked to write big articles on the film on the political pages,
not - as usual - on the filmpages. Fritz Hippler gave an interview in the
radio, where he concluded with Hitler's notorius prophecy, at the same time
underlining, that the precondition for the fulfillment of the prophecy -
the war - had occurred. And Hitler himself started to endorse this
interpretation by refering to this prophecy from January 30, 1941 and later
again and again.
On January 20, 1941, the SD wrote a report on the reception of the film.
From this we learm, that the general population did not want to see it
because "realistic presentation" of the Jews. The report also points to
the fact that there had been an oral propaganda against the film because of
the slaughtering scenes. The audiences had primarily been political
activists. From Goebbels' diary we know that he was pleased with the
report, although it clearly indicated that only few had seen it. Goebbels
knew well, that effects depend on what kind of people, you reach. And Der
ewige Jude was intended for the future perpetrators - and also as a warning
to the rest of the German population not to interfer with businesses of the
Goebbels also believed that much in the effectiveness of the film that
was obligatory for the HJ at their Filmfeierstunden. During my different
showings of the film in Germany I have met several, who can remember it and
tell about how and when they saw it. One came from the Sudetenland, where
the whole village was forced to see both Jew Suss and Der ewige Jude. He
could not remember the year, but he could never forget the feeling he had,
as he stepped out from the cinema and into spring with flowers, sun,
humming bees etc. It must have been Spring 1942. Other earlier members of
the HJ, however, swear, that they had never seen the film.
The film was also shown to the Wehrmacht and to the Einsatzgruppen.
who lived in Berlin to mid-43, told me, that he saw it in early summer this
year in a cinema at Kurfurstendamm - apparantly as ideological preparation
to the deportation of the Berlin Jews.
He also had a Dutch and a French version produced - and in connection
the planned trial against Grynzpan as part of the cover-up around the
Wannsee-Conference he even produced an international version in German,
where Hitler's prophecy had been cut out.
After the war it was forbidden to show in public, and the Allies took
back to their own country. Kennedy, visiting Berlin, gave the rights back
as a symbolic gesture: Now the Federal Republic of Germany had become a
well-functioning democracy and could also take care of this black chapter
of its history. The rights are now with the Federal Archives, which has
transferred the users' right to a state-owned company, Transit-Film in
Munich. It still belongs to the socalled Forbidden Films - and television
companies are only allowed to use up to 3 min. of the film (and are of
course obliged to pay around 30 DM pr. meter 35 mm film).
The rights for the universities has been transferred to the Institute for
the Scientific Film in Gottingen, which rents out the film to university
teachers. Apart from this one can get a dispensation, if the arrangement is
a closed one and part of the "political education" - and if the speaker is
recognized as an expert in this field.
And yet, it is easy to obtain the film on video, if one wants to have
Since mid-70's it can be ordered from neo-Nazi postal boxes. And it can be
bought openly from a company in Chicago, called International Historic
Films. Transit Film has tried to stop it, but in vain. The way the compagny
sells it, means that it is covered by The First Ammendment.
For many reasons I consider "Der ewige Jude" on the whole as no less
one of the most important sources to the history of the 20. century. I am
therefore doing my best to make the film - or at least part of it -
available for teaching history. The Bundeszentrale fur politische Bildung
has bought a special edition of the source-critical book and distributed it
along its normal lines. Next year there will be a conference about "Enemy
pictures" arranged by the Bundeszentrale as well as the German Association
of Teachers in History, based on "Der ewige Jude" and my didactical
experiences of using the film to teach not only Nazism and the Holocaust,
but also ethics and the impact of media-produced reality.
The discussion after Goldhagen's "Hitler's Willing Executioners" has
more demonstrated the public need for understanding, how it could happen -
how ordinary citizen as you and me could particpate in genocide. The
support among ordinary Germans to-day to Goldhagen's thesis also
demonstrate the need for historians to communicate with the public on the
communicative conditions of the audience. One is the reasons for his
commercial success is that the book is written in a very personal and
dedicated way. As historians we have to compete with a lot of other things
in order to have the attention of our audience at all.
This is perhaps my main argument for a more active use of the film "Der
ewige Jude" which gives us an X-ray of the legitimation of the Holocaust
and challenges us individually with the uncomforting moral question: What
would you have done? How do you react to attrocities to-day, which you can
follow almost live on television?
"Der ewige Jude" is probably the most efficient propagandafilm ever
It has also become the blueprint for other ruthless propaganda makers in
their way of motivating ordinary citizen to genocidal behaviour. Therefore
I would close my papers with an offer to you of establishing some kind of
cooperation in order to find the best way to use this knowledge as one
little step in the struggle for a more human and humanistic world.
Thank you very much for your attention!
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