Nazi Films in America, 1933–1942

October 31, 2020
Nazi Films in America, 1933–1942

From 1933 until America’s entry into World War II in 1941,nearly 500 Nazi films were shown in American theaters, accountingfor nearly half of all foreign language film imports during theperiod. These poorly disguised propaganda films were produced byGermany’s top studios and featured prominent pro–German and Naziactors, directors and technicians. The films were replete withovert and covert anti–Jewish imagery and themes, but in spite ofthis obvious intent to use the medium to justify Nazi ascendancy,viewers and film critics from such prominent publications as theNew York Times, Variety, the WashingtonPost and the Chicago Times consistently overlookedthe films’ anti–Semitic message, dubbing them harmlessentertainment.This is the complete history of German films shown in America fromthe founding of the Nazi government to America’s involvement in thewar. Summaries, descriptions and discussions of these almost 500films serve to examine the major filmmakers and distributors whokept the German film industry alive during the rule of Hitler andthe Third Reich. Special emphasis is placed on films directlycommissioned by Joseph Goebbels, head of the German Ministry forthe Enlightenment of the People and Propaganda and the man directlyresponsible for ensuring that the anti–Semitic ideology of the newregime was reflected in all films produced after January 30, 1933.Rarely seen photographs and illustrations complete an in-depthstudy of the Nazi use of this global medium.