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, accounting for nearly half of all foreign language film imports during the period. These poorly disguised propaganda films were produced by Germany’s top studios and featured prominent pro–German and Nazi actors, directors and technicians. The films were replete with overt and covert anti–Jewish imagery and themes, but in spite of this obvious intent to use the medium to justify Nazi ascendancy, viewers and film critics from such prominent publications as the New York Times, Variety, the Washington Post and the Chicago Times consistently overlooked the films’ anti–Semitic message, dubbing them harmless entertainment.
This is the complete history of German films shown in America from the founding of the Nazi government to America’s involvement in the war. Summaries, descriptions and discussions of these almost 500 films serve to examine the major filmmakers and distributors who kept the German film industry alive during the rule of Hitler and the Third Reich. Special emphasis is placed on films directly commissioned by Joseph Goebbels, head of the German Ministry for the Enlightenment of the People and Propaganda and the man directly responsible for ensuring that the anti–Semitic ideology of the new regime was reflected in all films produced after January 30, 1933. Rarely seen photographs and illustrations complete an in-depth study of the Nazi use of this global medium.