Der ewige Jude

Der ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew, which means the "Wandering Jew" in German) is a 1940 anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda film directed by Fritz Hippler at the insistence of German Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, though the writing is credited to Eberhard Taubert. The film consists of feature and documentary footage combined with new materials filmed shortly after the Nazi occupation of Poland, which then had a Jewish population of about 3 million (roughly 10 percent of the total population). The purpose of the film was to explain to the German public about the supposed danger posed by this new population, which had come under the control of the Reich.

One of the opening shots of the film shows a pack of rats emerging from a sewer, juxtaposed with a crowd of Jews in a bustling Polish street. Close-ups of individuals show sickly, malformed facial features. The narration explains how just as rats are the vermin of the animal kingdom, Jews are the vermin of the human race and similarly spread disease and corruption. Unlike rats, however, the narrator continues, Jews have the uncanny ability to change their appearance and blend into their "human hosts." A chilling scene depicts four bearded men in traditional Jewish costume, then shows them shaved and in modern business suits, while the narrator explains that only a "trained eye" can distinguish their Jewish features. In this scene, the men's eyes roam from one side of the shot to the other as they smile at the camera--the men, who were filmed at gunpoint, were following the soldiers whose rifles were aimed at them.

Other scenes include footage of notable figures such as Albert Einstein (placed adjacent to a series of images about Jewish control of the pornography industry), socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg, and even Charlie Chaplin, who was not Jewish but who managed to earn Adolf Hitler's wrath through his own film, The Great Dictator. Other noted figures are clearly taken out of context as well: for example, actor Peter Lorre is shown in a scene from Fritz Lang's film M, in which he played a child murderer.

Scenes of Jewish life in Poland were also staged to make the Jews objects of ridicule. Adam Czerniakow, whom the Nazis appointed head of the Judenrat (Jewish Council), is shown seated in front of a seven-branched menorah (candelabra), gesticulating wildly at the director's insistence, because "that is how Jews speak." Toward the end of the film, after showing how Jews have been responsible for the decline of Western music, science, art, and commerce, is a scene of a cow being slaughtered for meat by a shochet (Jewish ritual slaughter). This long scene, lasting several minutes, shows the animal in all its death throes.

Though it was released in German cinemas in 1940, the film was a failure. Audiences that had been accustomed to the elegant filmwork of directors such as Leni Riefenstahl in Triumph of the Will and Olympiad and even to such popular anti-Semitic features as Jud S found that this film was exaggerated and extreme. Nevertheless, Hippler, who was Goebbels's favorite director, remained in Poland to continue "documenting" Jewish life. Despite the obvious bias, his later footage, particularly of the uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto is historically valuable because it is the only filmed record of the Ewige Jude (Film)


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