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On German Film: Re-viewing Veit Harlan

Veit Harlan was one of the most successful filmmakers during the National Socialist regime, and also one of its most infamous ones: In addition to a series of feature films such as Kreutzersonate (1937), Die Reise nach Tilsit (1939), and Die goldene Stadt (1942), he also made the anti-semitic propaganda film Jud Süss [Jew Suess] (1940). A new German documentary about Harlan and his family provides some interesting insights as to how the younger generations, Veit Harlan’s children and grand-children, dealt with the legacy of a director whose most well-known film has contributed so forcefully to the murder of millions of Jewish people in the Holocaust.

Here is a brief TV report about Felix Moeller’s documentary, called The Great King. (By the way, for the film buffs among our readers, director Felix Moeller is the son of Margarethe von Trotta and the stepson of Volker Schlöndorff, two of the most prominent filmmakers of the New German Cinema.)

And here is a New York Times review, which highlights some critical oversights in the documentary.

Jud Süss also played a role in this year’s Berlin Film Festival, the Berlinale, where Oskar Roehler’s film Jud Süss: Film ohne Gewissen [Jud Suess: Rise and Fall], a film about, Ferdinand Marian, the lead actor in Jud Süss, premiered and was booed by the audience. Roehler’s entire premise, it seems, is to show Ferdinand Marian’s struggle as to whether he should accept the role of the Jew or not, a struggle made very dramatic because of his Jewish wife. Now, Marian was married to a Catholic, not a Jew, so the premise is false, and it begs the question why this film?

Read more about both films here.

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About GG

Gundolf Graml is Associate Prof. and Dir. of German Studies at Agnes Scott College. He has a Ph.D. in German Studies from the University of Minnesota and has published articles on German and Austrian film and tourism. He is currently writing a book about tourism and Austrian national identity after 1945. Other research projects include critical whiteness studies and, most recently, investigations into the connection between memory and nature. At ASC, Gundolf Graml teaches courses on a broad range of topics, from German 101 to German and Austrian Cinema and Afro-German History and Culture.

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