Should Nazi Movies Be Consigned to Oblivion?

May 13, 2015 | Thomas Doherty
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Nazi Germany produced an impressive output of feature films, some of them involving great technical sophistication and all of them serving propaganda purposes. The documentary Forbidden Films: The Hidden Legacy of Nazi Films contains clips from these movies together with the commentary of both historians and ordinary moviegoers who have seen them recently. Thomas Doherty writes in his review:

For not a few spectators, the seductive quality of the cinema breeds a fear that, if let loose, the Nazi films can be a gateway drug into the harder stuff. Filmed in shadows, a pair of former neo-Nazis confirms that the vintage Nazi fare is useful as bonding bait for new recruits, though even they scoff at The Eternal Jew as over the top. After watching The Jew Süss, [perhaps the most atrocious of anti-Semitic Nazi movies], a theater-full of French high-school kids is nearly unanimous in voting to ban it from television broadcasts: the susceptible masses need to be protected from material that should be reserved “for the educated bourgeoisie.” A man at a cinemathèque in Jerusalem demurs, arguing that The Jew Süss should be shown to every schoolchild in Israel, so they can be familiar with it, understand it, and “dispute and reject it.”

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