Paper presented at the 27th Annual Scholars’ Conference on the Holocaust
and the Churches, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida, USA, March
Stig Hornshoj-Moller, Copenhagen, Denmark
The paper discusses the possibilities and dangers of using authentic Nazi
anti-Semitic film propaganda as a means of teaching the reasons behind th=
Holocaust. It argues that especially one socalled “documentary” – “Der
ewige Jude” from 1939/40 – had a major impact on Hitler’s final decision =
launch the genocide because of its “reality-like” character. The paper
outlines the production story of the film which was produced in close
cooperation between Joseph Goebbels and the Fuehrer himself. It shows how
this film – together with the feature film “Jud Suess” – was used to
legitimize the annihilation of European Jewry to the German public. The
main section of the paper consists of a report on almost 25 years of Dani=
and German experiences of the effects of showing the film to the young
people of today for educational purposes, also pointing out the fact that
“Der ewige Jude” is regarded as a “cult film” among neo-Nazi groups in- a=
outside Germany. The paper then relates the opinions of the different
audiences to the question whether the film can be considered to be
dangerous today – or not. It is concluded that to show the film for
educational purposes could be a fruitful way to make the young people
understand why the unthinkable became a reality – at least in Denmark and
Germany – and ask the question from an ethical point of view, if such an
approach could be used elsewhere in teaching the Holocaust.
We must look into the abyss
in order to see beyond it.
Robert Jay Lifton, 1986
“I would also like to say that it did not at all occur to me that these
orders could be unjust. It is true that I know that it is also the duty o=
the police to protect the innocent, but I was then of the conviction that
the Jews were not innocent but guilty. I believed the propaganda that all
Jews were criminals and subhumans and that they were the cause of Germany=
decline after the First World War. The thought that one should disobey or
evade the order to participate in the extermination of the Jews did not
therefore enter my mind at all.” (note 2)
This testimony by Kurt Moebius, a former police battalion member who serv=
in Chelmno, was quoted by Daniel J. Goldhagen at a key place in his book
“Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust”.
According to Moebius’ court statement in 1961, Nazi anti-Semitic propagan=
was an important factor – perhaps even the key psychological factor – in
convincing the perpetrators that they were doing something “good” for
German society by killing Jews. This personal evidence from an “ordinary
German”, as well as many other such testimonies, confirm the importance o=
what Robert Jay Lifton and Eric Markusen have defined as “Genocidal
Mentality” and which they have seen as a neccessary precondition for actu=
genocidal behaviour (note 3).
In his book Goldhagen has traced the background of genocidal thinking in
Germany and he has proven how a lot of ordinary Germans had no problems
with their role as perpetrators, because their world-view during the war
had developed into a profound genocidal mentality. Goldhagen lacks,
however, a convincing analysis of the process of how genocidal thinking w=
turned into genocidal mentality in the individual perpetrator, i.e. the
process of how the last psychological obstacles of human empathy was brok=
down and was replaced by a willingness to kill. From my point-of-view he
seems to have underestimated perhaps the most crucial of all those
different factors that though a long and complex process finally instigat=
the Holocaust: the role of self-enforcing propaganda in mass-media, using
the techniques of modern technology to produce “reality” as “authentic
proof” of anti-Semitic ideology (note 4).=20
Film as a means of teaching Holocaust
All teaching of the Holocaust must based on high ethical standards and ha=
to deal with the the two key questions: “How could it happen?” and “What
are the historical lessons we can learn in order to prevent it from
Our knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust is to-day profoundly
influenced and formed by the ability of film and television to reconstruc=
and dramatize the history. One notable example was the American Holocaust
TV series which had a strong impact not only on Germany when it was shown
“Put names and faces on the victims, bring the abstract horror of
million-fold annihilation down to the flesh-and-blood experience of the
Weiss family, and you unleash an emotional reaction, even a momentary
catharsis, that libraries full of learned treatises could never produce.
A more recent example of the same kind is Steven Spielberg’s most
remarkable film “Schindler’s List” which now has been transferred to vide=
and is widely used as a means of teaching the Holocaust to future
generations both in the US and abroad (note 6). Despite the undisputable
qualities of the film – and of the teaching material that has been
published for this purpose – it can be seriously questioned whether this
kind of teaching the Holocaust really is accomplishing the high goals
listed above. The film creates strong emotions through its realistic
descriptions of the atrocities commited by the German SS and it makes the
viewer understand, that it was possible for human beings to act so inhuma=
to fellow human beings. “Schindler’s List” is for a teacher perhaps the
most suitable tool to convince his students that the Holocaust did happen=
and it can used as an effectful warning to young people that it must not
However, the film describes only the Holocaust from the point of view of
the victims, not from the perspective of the perpetrators. It gives no
explanation of why and how the perpetrators behaved the way they did and
there is no indications of an answer to the crucial question of what made
the Holocaust possible – the message of the film “only” being an appeal t=
the audience to act like Schindler and help people who are persecuted. Fr=
a ethical point of view this is undoubtedly an important aspect, because =
counteracts the deniers of the Holocaust, but it is definitely not enough.
Teaching of the Holocaust must create an awareness of all those features
and attitudes in to-day’s society which might be the beginning of a
development that could end up as persecution or even genocidal killing. O=
to put it in another way: “Schindler’s List” must be supplemented by
material which demonstrates the way the genocidal mentality was induced
into the perpetrators.
One of the ways this could be done would be to show authentic Nazi film
propaganda. Both Hitler and Goebbels considered the film medium to be the
most important tool to influence the minds of the German people (note 7).
Leni Riefenstahl’s famous documentary “Triumph des Willens” on the
Nueremberg Rallies in 1934 was certainly instrumental in creating the
“Fuehrer-Myth” (note 8), and another “documentary”, “Der ewige Jude (1940=
was produced in order to “reveal” the “truth” of the Jews (note 9). It
contained the whole “legitimation” for their annihilation.=20
A source-critical shot-to-shot analysis of the film demonstrates that “De=
ewige Jude” is probably the most manipulated film ever made (note 10).
Apart from being a schocking example of Nazi paranoia towards the Jews it
is also one of the best illustrations of how distorted “reality” can be
used as a means of creating hate and genocidal mentality, because we are
able to document the way it was done down to the tiniest detail. As
outlined below, there are even strong reasons to believe that it was this
ability of the audio-visual media to “(re)produce reality” that brought t=
decision-makers (Goebbels and Hitler) themselves across what Lifton once
called “the Threshold of Genocide” (note 11) – and that the release of th=
film can be seen as the promulgation of Hitler’s decision to launch the
Holocaust (note 12).
“Der ewige Jude” contains 70 minutes of vicious anti-Semitic propaganda o=
the worst kind and it is still an emotional and intellectual challenge to
those who see it: How would you have reacted, if you had seen the film in
Although “Der ewige Jude” was produced almost sixty years ago, the German
government still considers it to be so dangerous that it is forbidden to
show it in public – with one exemption: University teachers are allowed t=
use it as part of their teaching – and by special permission it can also =
shown in seminars dealing with “politische Bildung” (education in
politics), if the responsible teacher can prove that he has got specific
expertise in media-critics and the history of the Holocaust (note 13).
Nevertheless, a lot of video-copies of “Der ewige Jude” is in circulation
among neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic groups all over the world to whom it is a
“cult film” (note 14). A copy with an American voice-over can be obtained
by everybody from the firm, International Historic Films in Chicago, and
all efforts by the German government to stop this distribution have faile=
because legally it is considered to be in accordance with the First
Ammendment (note 15). =20
>From these facts arise at least two important questions:=20
Should we still be so afraid of this more than fifty-five years old hate
picture that we pretend that it does not exist, thus leaving its use to
those whose racism it confirms?
Or should we dare to use the film ourselves as a means for teaching the
Holocaust, thus presenting the authentic venom in order to vaccinate futu=
generations against Nazism?
Before a discussion of these two questions in detail it is, however,
neccessary to present the history of the film, as it is rather unknown ev=
to most scholars of the Holocaust.=20
The production history of “Der ewige Jude”
On November 10th, 1938, the Fuehrer made an important speech to the Germa=
press (note 16). Although he made no direct reference either to the
Reichskristallnacht itself or to Jews in general, the whole speech can be
regarded as his comments upon the lack of support for the pogrom he was
getting from the German public. Hitler rebuked the propaganda makers for
not having understood his strategy – aiming at war – and he made it
unmistakingly clear to his audience what exactly he expected them to do i=
“Coercion was the reason why for years I only talked about peace. But
gradually it became neccessary to condition the German people
psychologically and slowly make it grasp that there do exist things that
one has to solve with violent means when they cannot be solved by peacefu=
means. To do so, however, it was neccessary not to make propaganda for
violence as such, but to elucidate certain events of foreign policy (note
17) to the German people in such a way that the inner voice of the peopl=
by itself slowly began to call for violence. Accordingly, it meant to
elucidate certain events in such a way that totally automatically the
conviction would gradually evolve in the brains of the broad masses: What
one cannot solve with fair means, one has to solve with violence, because
it cannot go on like this.”
The rebuke was certainly understood by Joseph Goebbels, who for the first
time decided to use the film medium as a tool for inducing anti-Semitism
into the German people (note 18). Being responsible for Nazi film
production he had, however, earlier preferred other topics (including eas=
entertainment and more “positive” presentations of Nazi world view) (note
19), but immediately after Hitler’s speech he called upon the production
companies to present scripts for anti-Semitic feature films (note 20). Hi=
wish for a “documentary” could only be fulfilled after the Campaign in
Poland in September 1939, because he lacked footage of Jews actually
looking like the Nazi stereotype of the Jew, of services in the synagogue
and of ritual slaughtering (note 21).
>From his diary as well as other sources we can follow the production of
this particular propaganda film – “Der ewige Jude” – which right from the
beginning was intended to become the ultimate public legitimation of
anti-Semitism, in accordance with Hitler’s afore-mentioned demand (note
There are strong reasons to believe that the film and its production
history should be characterized as a mirror of the decision-making proces=
to launch the Holocaust itself, because the final version of the film can
only be interpreted as a deliberate call for annihilation, through its
juxta-positioning of ritual slaughtering – staged as cruelty to animals –
and Hitler’s notorius prophecy of January 30, 1939 (note 23).=20
In order to create the strongest effect on the public as possible Joseph
Goebbels had ordered ritual Jewish slaughtering to be filmed in the Lodz
ghetto, and when he saw the rushes of these scenes on October 16, 1939, h=
wrote in his diary:=20
“Scenes so horrific and brutal in their explicitness that one’s blood ru=
cold. One shudders at such barbarism. This Jewry must be annihilated.”
He showed the scenes at Hitler’s dinner table on October 28, 1939, and
those present “were all deeply shocked” (note 25). Two days later, Goebbe=
himself went to the ghetto of Lodz – and commented on his impressions in
“It is indescribable. They are no longer human beings, they are animals.
It is therefore no humanitarian task, but a task for the surgeon. One mus=
make cuts here, and that in a most radical way. Or Europe will one day
collapse from the Jewish disease.” (note 26)
Goebbels pursued this idea of a genocidal solution during the whole
production of a film which can only be seen as his personal advocacy for
prevailing on Hitler himself to draw the “natural” consequence of his own=
exterminist, yet still theoretical – ideology (note 27). The film was
recut, rephrased and tested several times in accordance with Hitler’s
wishes before the Fuehrer finally approved the film for public screening,
probably on May 20, 1940 (note 28).
However, “Der ewige Jude” was not released immediately because it awaited
the final cut of the feature film “Jud Suess” which was another part of
Goebbels’ propaganda package. It should arouse those anti-Semitic feeling=
that were to be “proven” by the “authentic film-document”, “Der ewige Jud=
(note 29). While “Jud Suess” had its opening night with great publicity
during the Venice film festival on September 6, 1940, “Der ewige Jude” wa=
shown to the top people in the Third Reich on September 8 as the
demonstration of the new kind of war propaganda that should prepare the
German audience for the continuation of the war (note 30). Now, nobody
could be ignorant about the fact that the war was not just a “normal” war.
It was a war on “Weltanschauungen”, based on racism. Members of the
attendant audience, however, protested heavily against showing the
slaughtering scenes outside party meetings, and Goebbels had to produce a
milder version – without these scenes – for women and children (note 31).=
“Der ewige Jude” finally had its opening night on November 28, 1940, wher=
its director – Fritz Hippler – stressed that the film was the proof of th=
correctness of Hitler’s prophecy from 1939. In an interview, broadcasted
all over Germany, Hippler concluded by quoting this prophecy after having
pointed out that the premise – the war – had become reality (note 32). An=
just after the film had been shown all over Germany, Hitler himself on
January 30, 1941, began to recall the prophecy in his broadcasted speeche=
– thus virtually giving oral confirmation of the call for genocide
expressed and legitimized in the film (note 33).=20
It can thus be argued that “Der ewige Jude” could be Hitler’s public
statement of what was to be the next step in his war against the Jews –
using the emotional power of modern reality-like mass media to transfer h=
decision into the minds of the perpetrators and bystanders. Just as the
Fuehrer in his rebuke to the propaganda makers on November 10, 1938 had
outlined, the German people were themselves to take the decision to kill
European Jewry systematically – out of the conviction: “What one cannot
solve with fair means, one has to solve with violence, because it cannot =
on like this.” (note 34)
Testimonies like the one by Kurt Moebius quoted above are indeed horrifyi=
proofs of how successfull this strategy was.
“Der ewige Jude” as a means of teaching the Holocaust?
>From a narrow, purely historical point-of-view there can be little doubt
that on an university level “Der ewige Jude” must be considered to be an
important tool in teaching both Nazism and the Holocaust. No other single
historical source is so elucidating about Nazi ideology and world view as
“Der ewige Jude”. From my more than twenty years of teaching experience I
can certify that all major features of the mentality of the Third Reich c=
easily be demonstrated through an analysis of this film by students at hi=
school or university level. It is also my experience from many such
seminars in both Denmark and Germany that the viewing of the film suddenl=
turns the distant historical ideology of Nazism into a both attentive and
relevant question for young people of to-day. For a period of seventy
minutes they are set more than fifty years back in history and feel as if
personally involved what it was like to live in the Third Reich – or to b=
its unfortunate neighbours or scapegoats.=20
A project was launched in 1970 at the Institute of History at the
University of Copenhagen, originally as a purely methodological attempt t=
establish principles for source-critical editions of important film
documents (note 35). One of the films selected was “Der ewige Jude”. As i=
however, soon became clear that the film contained excellent educational
examples of all kinds of propaganda techniques within the audio-visual
media, the project got a supplementary perspective apart from the
methodological one: We wanted to find out whether the film – or part of i=
– could be used to teach mass-media criticism outside the university,
particularly in high-schools. First of all we had to find out what effect=
it had on young people of the present day. In our own opinion the film wa=
both plump and grotesque and had just the opposite effect of the one
originally intended, because of our knowledge of the Holocaust, but we ha=
to support our notion through empirical research as we, of course, in no
way wanted to arouse any kind of anti-Semitism.
Between 1973 and 1975 we tested “Der ewige Jude” on a sample of 1200 Dani=
high-school students in the age between 16 and 19, by means of a
questionaire consisting of 25 questions, and prepared according to the be=
sociological standards at the time. We had hidden some “traps” in order t=
control the honesty of the answers which were filled out anonymously. The
result of the survey was both clear and encouraging to us. Only one singl=
person expressed that he had changed his opinion of Jews in a negative
direction – and from an analysis of his other answers we could conclude
that he already was a latent anti-Semite before viewing the film.=20
>From this survey we could conclude beyound any doubt that the fear that w=
and other experts had had of unintentionally creating anti-Semitism among
Danish high-school students was unfounded. That was most of all a questio=
of the different experiences of different generations. A close analysis o=
each individual questionaire demonstrated that if/when the film made
somebody change his or her attitude towards Jews, it was clearly in the
directly opposite direction of the one originally intended by Goebbels. T=
film, however, had another effect: The experience of seventy minutes of
hate propaganda, as issued by the Nazi authorities, suddenly made the
students reflect upon the mental process of ordinary Germans in the Third
Reich. The students expressed the view that they now understood what it
must have been like to live in a totalitarian society and how difficult i=
must have been to oppose the media bombardment of the authorities activel=
Some of them even said, that they felt sorry for the Germans – and starte=
to comment on the problems of coping with guilt after the Holocaust. They
had suddenly become aware of the range and efficiency of Nazi propaganda
which had brain-washed the German public.
Most of all, however, we were surprised by the ability of the youth to be
critical in relation to what they saw. Because they had grown up with
television contrary to most members of the project group they handled the
informations from the film in much more balanced way than we had ever
expected. They were also able to express their impressions and points of
view on a very differentiated level. From a democratic point of view it w=
most comforting to us that we had underestimated their ability to associa=
to more general thinking and to draw their individual conclusions.=20
One of the questions asked was whether the topic of the film was still of
current interest and in case the answer was “yes”, the student should arg=
why. We thought that the students would refer either to persecutions of
Jews in the Soviet Union and Poland or to the (then) recent Yom Kippur-Wa=
About 60 percent answered the question in the affirmative, but only half =
these pointed to matters related to Jews. The rest referred to racism in
general – including the Danish attitude to Turkish and Yugoslav workers i=
Denmark – or to the neccessity of being critical to mass media.
Although our experiences thus were encouragingly positive, the project of
making the film – or part of it – available to Danish high-school teacher=
stopped for a number of reasons. One of them was that the group members g=
their degrees and left university, another that German authorities in the
late 1970’s had tightened the rules for lending copies of the film from t=
Federal Archives in Koblenz.
The difficulties with the accessability was (and still is) – together wit=
the lack of tradition among historians of using films as historical sourc=
– the reason why the film was (and still is) almost unknown to both
scholars and students of the Holocaust. In 1972 the project group therefo=
contacted the Institute for the Scientific Film in Goettingen – an
institution owned by the German federal states which reprints film source=
for research and educational purposes at the German universities.
A survey carried out in the following year showed that 60 out of 63
professors of modern history supported such a reprint and the institute
obtained the rights for university use from Transit-Film in Munich which
controls the rights of Nazi film production on behalf of the German
Government. In return the institute had to publish a written commentary t=
the film in order to refute the manipulations in the film. For many years
there only did exist a preliminary text, until the final source-critical
edition was published by me for the institute in 1995 (note 36).
In 1979 the German Association of History Teachers held a large conferenc=
in Berlin in order to discuss how they could deal with the effects of the
American TV-series “Holocaust” which had aroused an enourmous debate in t=
West German public. We presented our experiences from Denmark and argued
that the use of such authentic material could be one of the ways to work =
the traumas of the past (note 37). Most of the participants agreed, but f=
many reasons nothing came out of the ideas of a cooperation that could
prepare the neccessary didactic material.=20
The next initiative concerning the educational use came from the Universi=
of Cologne where two German psychologists, Dr. Yizhak Ahren and Dr.
Christoph B. Melchers, in the mid-1980’s studied the effects of
anti-Semitic propaganda films on ordinary Germans to-day with the help of
in-depth psychological interviews. First they analysed the impact of the
feature film “Jew Suess” (note 38) and then of “Der ewige Jude” (note 39).
In their concluding reflections they underlined the fact that any film
experience can be seen as a dialogue between the film and the viewer, whe=
the viewer is bombarded with statements which he principally can accept a=
trustworthy or reject as untrustworthy. They summarized their empirical
findings as follows:=20
“Since 1945 the situation in Germany has changed so fundamentally that t=
film no longer can have the same effects as was originally intended. With
to-day’s knowledge of the crimes of the Nazis the audience has quite
different possibilities of playing the balls back. But the film is still
able to produce insecurity about Jews and to make existing prejudice
current and to confirm it. Those who have seen the film ‘Der ewige Jude’
would want to have ‘trustworthy information’ about the different topic
which the ‘documentary’ has presented (need to speak, questions). However=
by careful analysis of different scenes and by illuminating the historica=
context historians who have dealt with the film in a historical-critical
way are able to confort this need from the audience.” (note 40)
To Ahren and Melchers there is a striking similarity between modern
information through mass media and commercials on one hand and open
propaganda on the other, and they explicitly argued that the only way to
fight such propaganda is to make it a specific topic in education.
Therefore they strongly advocated the use of “Der ewige Jude” in history
teaching as well as in special courses on politics:=20
“Education in propaganda is able to neutralize impact; this education
could on the other hand itself also change into propaganda. Enlightment o=
propaganda goes direct to the roots, when it reconstructs the way of the
impact and makes it discussable. Together with such an analysis the viewi=
of such a propaganda film can be a lesson on the complexity and developme=
of mind and also lead to a deeper understanding of historical realities.”
Concluding remarks =20
The book by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has once more lit a fierce public
discussion on the reasons behind the Jewish genocide – and once more made
the question of the guilt of “ordinary Germans” a matter of current
interest. Josef Joffe has recently commented upon the strange gap between
the rejection of the book by many scholars and the positive – almost
masochistic – reception of the book by the German public (note 42). After
having observed the importance of Goldhagen’s approach, describing the
perpetrators as “people, perhaps, like you and me?”, Joffe argues that th=
main reason for the favorable reception of the book in Germany is the
“distance that separates today’s Germans from the darkest of all pasts”
together with the way that West German scholarship had been able to
“sterilize the past”. Because of his case studies and his powerful langua=
Goldhagen was able to break down years of collective psychological
projection of culpability into “Hitler and his henchmen”. The emotional
character of the book even made Marion Countess Doenhoff ask in the paper
“Die Zeit” whether the book would “revive the anti-Semitism that has
remained more or less dormant”, but as Joffe reassuringly concludes:=20
“The response of the German audience has proven the Countess wrong.
Goldhagen has come and gone, and the dogs have hardly batted an eye.”
This eagerness of the German public – especially young people – to know a=
to accept the obligations of history is the main reasoning behind a
forthcoming conference organized by the Bundeszentrale fuer politische
Bildung and the Association of History Teachers in Germany to discuss the
possibilities of using “Der ewige Jude” as a didactic tool. A lot of
test-screenings, accompanied by half-an-hour of introduction, and always
followed by at least one hour of discussion, have been carried out in the
past years in both the former West and East Germany. At the beginning of
such a screening the audience was told that it was about to see a forbidd=
film and the participants were asked to vote after the discussion whether
the ban of the film should be lifted or not.=20
The result was the same both in the former West Germany and in the former
East Germany, although there seems to be a clear difference between the
need to discuss in the two parts of the reunited Federal Republic – the
need being much bigger in the former GDR. A clear majority had voted in
favour after the viewing and the following discussion, but then the same
thing happened again and again: Members of the audience began during the
voting to protest against the way I had deliberately phrased my question
for the referendum. After a new discussion it was rephrased and obtained
the votes of almost the whole audience. They were not willing to accept a
general release of the film, but they did support the use of the film for
educational use, i.e. in the way they had just experienced it themselves.
Some of them even claimed that they had learned more about the Holocaust
from the film experience and the subsequent discussion than ever before.
Others explained that they now understood why it could happen in Germany.
Why did it happen in Germany? is one of the key questions in Goldhagen’s
book. He has shown that there did exist an exterministic attitude among
those ordinary Germans that participated as perpetrators and he has
demonstrated the cultural roots of this anti-Semitism. Yet – as many
critics have pointed out – he has not dealt sufficiently with crucial
“how much responsability for their actions should be attributed to the
Nazi system in which these ‘willing executioners’ did their killing? What
of the Nazi system of indoctrination and training? What of the express Na=
belief in, and advocacy of, physical terror, bereft of all civilizing
restraints and values?” (note 43)
Or to put it in other words: Goldhagen never really showed why and how th=
annihilation of the Jews was made into firm belief to perpetrators like
Kurt Moebius. =20
It is exactly these psychological and socio-psychological factors that ar=
made topical by “Der ewige Jude”. The viewing of this film demonstrates i=
a horrifying way, how cultural stereotypes suddenly can evolve into
paranoid reasons for killing other people. As revealed by the
test-screening and the research by Ahren and Melchers, one of the reasons
for its strong impact to-day is that it is “the real thing” – it is an
authentic historical document, made by the Nazi themselves and intended f=
public use. Another reason is that it still is an emotional and
intellectual challenge to the individual seeing it – to make up his mind
regarding Nazism and anti-Semitism.=20
Should we still be afraid of Hitler’s public call for annihilation of the
I strongly believe the answer is no. Viewing the film produces a ominous
warning about what can happen when “produced” reality in a reality-like
medium is conceived as the reality itself. In this respect, “Der ewige
Jude” has become the ancestor of audio-visual propaganda on TV which – li=
it happened in former Yugoslavia – has instigated and legitimized genocid=
killing in our time (note 44). Through a comparison with such examples an
analysis of the film – with the hindsight of what were the dreadful
consequences of this piece of “produced reality” – we can help to disclos=
those psychological patterns of genocidal mentality which should be the
ultimate aim of teaching about the Holocaust.
Notes and references
1. I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Gerald Fleming,
London, for his encouraging and challenging criticism during the
preparation of this paper.
2. Quoted from Daniel Jonah Goldhagen: Hitler’s Willing Executioners.
Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York 1996, p. 179. My underlining.
3. Robert Jay Lifton/Eric Markusen: The Genocidal Mentality: Nazi Holocau=
and Nuclear Threat. New York 1986.
4. This process is described in detail in my Danish book: Foerermyten.
Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels og historien bag et folkemord. Copenhagen
1996, 424 pages (The Fuehrer-Myth. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels and the
History behind a Genocide). Basic thinking and preliminary results are al=
presented in two articles in German: Stig Hornshoj-Moller: “Die
Entscheidung. Der antisemitische Propagandafilm ‘Der ewige Jude’ und sein=
Bedeutung fuer den Holocaust.” In: Gerhard Maletzke/Ruediger Steinmetz
(ed.): Zeiten und Medien – Medienzeiten. Festschrift zum 60. Geburtstag v=
Karl Friedrich Reimers. Leipzig 1995, p. 142-63. – Stig Hornshoj-Moller:
“‘Der ewige Jude’ (1940) – Legitimation und Ausloeser eines Voelkermordes=
In: Karl Friedrich Reimers (ed.): Unser Jahrhundert im Film und Fernsehen.
Muenchen 1995, p. 59-97.
5. Josef Joffe: “Goldhagen in Germany”. The New York Review, November 28,
1996, p. 18-21. – Cf. also Friedrich Knilli/Siegfried Zielinski (ed.):
Holocaust zur Unterhaltung. Anatomie eines internationalen Bestsellers.
Berlin 1982. – Friedrich Knilli/Siegfried Zielinski (ed.): Betrifft
‘Holocaust’. Zuschauer schreiben an den WDR. Berlin 1983.
6. Facing History and Ourselves. A Guide to the Film Schindler’s List.
Brookline, Massachusetts 1994.
7. David Welch: Propaganda and the German Cinema 1933-1945. Oxford 1983. =
Hilmar Hoffmann: “‘… und z=E4hle nicht die Toten!’. Die Funktion von Fi=
und Kino im Dritten Reich”. In: Hillmar Hoffmann/Heinrich Klotz (ed.): Di=
Kultur unseres Jahrhunderts. Bd. 3. 1933-1945. Duesseldorf 1991, p. 151-8=
8. Martin Loiperdinger: Rituale der Mobilmachung. Der Parteitagsfilm
‘Triumph des Willens’ von Leni Riefenstahl. Opladen 1987. – Martin
Loiperdinger/Rudolf Herz/Ulrich Pohlmann (ed.): Fuehrerbilder. Muenchen
9. Stig Hornshoj-Moller: “Der ewige Jude”. Quellenkritische Analyse eines
antisemitischen Film. Goettingen 1995 (=3D Beitr=E4ge zu zeitgeschichtlic=
Filmquellen Bd. 2). – Cf. also note 4.
10. Cf. note 9.
11. Robert Jay Lifton: The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psycholo=
of Genocide. New York 1986.
12. Cf. note 4 and 9.
13. Oral information from the executive of Transit-Film, Munich, Karl
Woerner (now retired).
14. Rebecca Lieb: “Nazi hate movies continue to ignite fierce passions”.
New York Times, August 4, 1991. – Michael Schmidt: Heute gehoert uns die
Strasse. Der Insider-Report aus der Neonazi-Szene. Duesseldorf 1994, p.
47-52. – Stig Hornshoj-Moller: “Kultfilm der Neonazis. ‘Der ewige Jude’
verbreitet immer noch 24 Luegen pro Sekunde”. medium 3/1994, p. 31-33.
15. Cf. note 13.
16. Wilhelm Treue: “Rede Hitlers vor der deutschen Presse (10. November
1938). Vierteljahrshefte fuer Zeitgeschichte 6 (1958), p. 175-88.
17. As the Jews from Hitler’s point of view did not belong to the German
people, the Jewish Question consequently was a matter of foreign policy.=20
18. Ralf Georg Reuth: Goebbels. Muenchen 1990, p. 399-400.
19. Cf. note 7.
20. Dorothea Hollstein: Jud Suess und die Deutschen. Frankfurt/Main 1983.=
R=E9gine Mihail Friedmann: L’image et son juif. Paris 1983.
21. A detailed description of the production story of “Der ewige Jude” is
given in my source-critical edition (note 9).
22. Ralf Georg Reuth: “Glaube und Judenhass als Konstanten im Leben des
Joseph Goebbels”. In: Ralf Georg Reuth (ed.): Joseph Goebbels Tagebuecher
1924-1945. Muenchen 1992, vol. 1, 20-46. – Cf. also Elke Froehlich (ed.):
Die Tagebuecher von Joseph Goebbels. S=E4mtliche Fragmente. Bd. 1-4. Muen=
23. Cf. note 4 and 9.
24. Froehlich (note 22) vol. 3, p. 612.
25. Froehlich (note 22), vol. 3, p. 625-26.
26. Froehlich (note 22) vol. 3, p. 628-29.
27. According to Felix Kersten, Heinrich Himmler explicitly blaimed
Goebbels as the man who made Hitler take the final decision to launch the
Holocaust. Heinz Hoehne: Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf. Die Geschichte de=
SS. Muenchen 1967, p. 298.
28. Fritz Hippler – executive director of the film – in 1992 told the BBC
in a TV-interview, that “Hitler wanted with this film so-to-say to prove
that Jewry was a parasitic race in humanity that should be excreted from
the rest of humanity. This film should be the evidence for this purpose.
For more than 13 months this film was changed, recut, enlarged and so on =
least more than a dozen times, not to speak of the different versions of
the commentary which became still more bloodthirsty, more aggressive”. An=
the correctness of this testimony is corroborated in details by the
source-critical analysis of the production history of the film. – For the
reasons to date Hitler’s final approval of the film, cf. the literature
listed in note 4.=20
29. Cf. note 4 and 9. – According to the rolling titles at the beginning =
the film “Der ewige Jude” was a “documentary film” which – “shows us Jews
the way they really are, before they conceal themselves behind the mask o=
the civilized European.” It used the slaughter scenes as the emotional
climax, claiming that the reason for showing this “original footage”, whi=
belonged to the “most dreadful” ever recorded by a camera, was justified =
one argument: By means of seeing for themselves the German people would a=
last “comprehend the truth of Jewry”. And according to the commentary –
read by the authoritative speaker of the Newsreels – “these pictures prov=
the cruelty of this form of slaughter. It reveals the character of a race
which conceals its brutality beneath the cloak of pious religious
“Der ewige Jude” contained nothing new, but was virtually a filmed “bla=
book” filled with examples from many years of anti-Semitic traditions. As
part of the propaganda set-up – and as with all feature films of the day =
one could purchase an illustrated program, the Illustrierte Film-Kurier,
with a summary of the contents of the film which is reprinted here in ord=
to give an impression of this the hate-film of all times:
“The film begins with an impressive expedition through the Jewish
ghettoes in Poland. We are shown Jewish living quarters, which in our vie=
cannot be called houses. In these dirty rooms lives and prays a race, whi=
earns its living not by work but by haggling and swindling. From the litt=
urcin to the old man, they stand in the streets, trading and bargaining.
Using trick photography, we are shown how the Jewish racial mixture in As=
Minor developed and flooded the entire world. We see a parallel to this i=
the itinerant routes of rats, which are the parasites and bacillus-carrie=
among animals, just as the Jews occupy the same position among mankind. T=
Jew has always known how to assimilate his external appearance to that of
his host. Contrasted are the same Jewish types, first the Eastern Jew wit=
his kaftan, beard, and sideburns, and then the clean-shaven, Western
European Jew. This strikingly demonstrates how he has deceived the Aryan
people. Under this mask he increased his influence more and more in Aryan
nations and climbed to higher-ranking positions. But he could not change
his inner being.
After the bannishment of the Jews from Europe was lifted, following the
age of Enlightment, the Jew succeeded within the course of several decade=
in dominating the world economy, before the various host nations realized=
and this despite the fact that they made up only 1 per cent of the world
population. An excerpt from an American film about the Rothschilds, made =
Jews, reveals to us the cunning foundations of their banking empire. Then
we see how Jews, working for their international finance, drive the Germa=
people into the November Revolution. They then shed their anonymity and
step out openly on to the stage of political and cultural life. Thus the
men who were responsible for the disgraceful debasement of the German
people are paraded before us. Incontestable examples are shown of how the=
robbed the country and the people of immense sums. As well as gaining
financial supremacy they were able to dominate cultural life. The repulsi=
pictures of so-called Jewish ‘art’ reveal the complete decline of cultura=
life at that time. Using original sequences from contemporary films, the
degrading and destructive tendency of Jewish power is exposed. For hundre=
of years German artists have glorified figures from the Old Testament,
knowing full well the real face of Jewry. How the Jew actually looks like
is shown in scenes shot by Jews themselves in a ‘culture film’ of a Purim
festival, which is still celebrated today to commemorate the slaughter of
75.000 anti-Semitic Persians, and the doctrine with which future Rabbis i=
Jewish schools are educated to be political pedagogues. We look into a
Jewish ‘Talmud’ class and experience the oriental tone of the ceremony in=
Jewish synagogue, where Jews conduct business deals among themselves duri=
the holy services.
However, the cruel face of Judaism is most brutally displayed in the
final scenes, in which original shots of a kosher butchering are revealed=
These film documents of the inhuman slaughter of cattle and sheep without
anaesthesia provide conclusive evidence of a brutalty which is simply
inconceivable to all Aryan people. In shining contrast, the film closes
with pictures of German people and German order which fill the viewer wit=
a feeling of deep gratification for belonging to a race whose Fuehrer is
fundamentally solving the Jewish problem.”
30. Froehlich (note 22) vol. 4, p. 315.
31. Willi A. Boelcke (ed.): Kriegspropaganda 1939-1941. Geheime
Ministerkonferenzen im Reichspropagandaministerium. Stuttgart 1966, p. 50=
32. Interview printed in three German film magazines: Der Film No. 48/194=
Film-Kurier No. 279/1940; Filmwelt No. 49/1940. Reprinted in my
source-critical edition (note 9) p. 309-12.
33. C.C. Aronsfeld: “‘Perish Judah’. Nazi Extermination Propaganda
1920-1945. Pattern of Prejudice 12, 5 (1978), p. 22-23.
34. Cf. note 16.
35. The project was initiated by Professor Niels Skyum-Nielsen who worked
out a source-critical methodology for using films in historical research.
His Assistent Professor Karsten Fledelius was responsible for the survey,
testing the effects of using the film for teaching the Holocaust and medi=
36. Survey in the archives of the Institute for the Scientific Film,
Nonnenstieg 72, D-37075 Goettingen, Germany. TEL.: +49-551-50240 – FAX:
37. Karsten Fledelius/Stig Hornshoj-Moller: “Nationalsozialistische
Antisemitismus-Propaganda: Filmbeispiel ‘Der ewige Jude'”. Tagung der
Koferenz fuer Geschichtsdidaktik, Berlin, September 24-27, 1979
38. Christoph B. Melchers: Untersuchungen zur Wirkungspsychologie
nationalsozialistischer Propagandafilme. Koeln 1977.
39. Yizhak Ahren/Stig Hornshoj-Moller/Christoph B. Melchers: “Der ewige
Jude” oder wie Goebbels hetzte: eine Untersuchung zum
nationalsozialistischen Propagandafilm. Aachen 1990.
40. Ahren et al. (note 39) p. 75-76.
41. Ahren et al. (note 39) p. 108-09.
42. Cf. note 5.
43. Cf. note 5.
44. During the summer of 1992 I closely followed Serbian and Croate
Television live on Cable-TV. My experiences from viewing these programs a=
well as the whole mix of programs finally made me realize the importance =
“Der ewige Jude” as a crucial factor for instigating the Holocaust.