The Holocaust in Film

Christian Ideology, the Enigma of Indifference and the Portrayal of the Jew
  • Nancy Thomas Brown


During the Third Reich, audiences were hardly a passive public manipulated by an ideological apparatus. Over 1,000 German feature films were premiered from 1933 to the end of the war in 1945; ticket admissions increased from 245 million in 1933 to over 1,100 million in 1944. Entertainment during the Third Reich emanated from a ‘ministry of illusion’, not a ‘ministry of fear’.1 Hitler and Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, keenly aware of film’s ability to mobilize emotions and immobilize minds, created overpowering illusions and captive audiences without displaying overt propaganda. Ideology came packaged in gripping, engaging, and pleasant entertainment steeped in traditional values that coexisted with other emanations of everyday life and culture.


Jewish Identity Film Industry Occupied Territory Jewish Question Captive Audience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Eric Rentschler, The Ministry of Illusion: Nazi Cinema and Its Afterlife (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), p.13; Table 1, Cinemas and admissions in the Third Reich.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Noah Isenberg, Between Redemption and Doom: The Strains of German-Jewish Modernism (Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1999), p.77.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Clive Marsh and Gaye Ortiz (eds.), Explorations in Theology and Film (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997), p.39.Google Scholar
  4. 14.
    Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema, tr. Gertrud Mander and David Wilson (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1974), pp. 10–19.Google Scholar
  5. 15.
    David Weinberg, ‘Approaches to the Study of Film in the Third Reich’, Journal of Contemporary History 19 (1984): 111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 22.
    David Welch, ‘“Jews Out!” Anti-Semitic Film Propaganda in Nazi Germany and the “Jewish Question”’, The British Journal of Holocaust Education 1:1 (Summer 1992): 61. ‘The churches were not declared objects of secret police attention until much later (1941). As the surviving personal files of Catholic informers show, blackmail played a very minor role in recruitment. Instead, the voluntary commitment out of patriotic motives and even out of sympathy for national socialism was dominant, although this applied mostly to clergy. Essentially their reports did little more than assess the mood among the other clergy and churchgoers or pass on pastoral letters and conference minutes, but on occasion the lethal potential of the informer flashed up here as well.’Google Scholar
  7. Klaus-Michael Mallmann, ‘Social Penetration and Police Action: Collaboration Structures in the Repertory of Gestapo Activities,’ International Review of Social History 42 (1997): 36–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 25.
    Ilan Avisar, ‘Christian Ideology and Jewish Genocide in American Holocaust Movies’, Holocaust Studies Annual, Vol. III, 1985: 23–24.Google Scholar
  9. 26.
    Elliot Paul and Luis Quintanilla, With a Hays Nonny Nonny (New York: Random House, 1942), p.155.Google Scholar
  10. 27.
    Ilan Avisar, Screening the Holocaust: Cinema’s Images of the Unimaginable (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), pp.95–96. Upon the release of this film, MGM movies were banned in Germany and its occupied territories throughout Europe.Google Scholar
  11. 28.
    The ‘parable’ is one function of religious consciousness in film in contrast to the ‘mythical image’ discussed in the section on the Weimar era. Myths establish the world, while parables subvert it. Their message and images undermine, question, and challenge the religious and ethical practices and attitudes of the audience motivating them to change their way of thinking and/or their behaviour (Thomas M. Martin. Images and the Imageless: A Study in Religious Consciousness and Film (London: Associated University Press, 1991), pp.161–162.Google Scholar
  12. 30.
    Judith E. Doneson, ‘The Image Lingers: The Feminization of the Jew in Schindler’s List,’ in Spielberg’s Holocaust: Critical Perspectives on Schindler’s List, edited by Yosefa Loshitzky (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), pp.140–141.Google Scholar
  13. 33.
    Judith E. Doneson, The Holocaust in American Film (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1987), pp.130–131; Doneson, ‘The Image Lingers’, pp.142–143;Google Scholar
  14. Annette Insdorf, Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust (New York: Random House, 1983), pp.70–74; Avisar, Screening the Holocaust, pp.122–125.Google Scholar
  15. 35.
    Ilan Avisar, ‘Holocaust Movies and the Politics of Collective Memory’, in Thinking about the Holocaust: After Half a Century, edited by Alvin H. Rosenfeld (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997), p.53.Google Scholar
  16. 43.
    Ian Kershaw, ‘German Public Opinion During the Final Solution: Information, Comprehension, Reactions’, in Comprehending the Holocaust, edited by Asher Cohen Joav Gelber and Charlotte Wardi (New York: Verlag Peter Lang, 1988), p.147.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy Thomas Brown

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations