How is a movie for entertainment

Heinz Rühmann in "Die Feuerzangenbowle" (1943)

Just a few weeks after the National Socialists came to power in January 1933, Joseph Goebbels had emphasized the important function of entertainment films. In his speech at the Hotel Kaiserhof in Berlin in March 1933, the Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda declared that with the aim of "reforming German film from the roots" in order to give it "folkish contours", it was also important that " Creating the smallest amusement, not neglecting the daily requirement for boredom. During the Second World War, Goebbels - the dominant but not omnipotent factor in National Socialist film policy - placed increasing importance on entertaining material. The entertainment film in particular should be taken seriously "as a valuable instrument of popular leadership in the war" - even the comedy, he emphasized in 1940 on the occasion of a working meeting of the Presidential Council of the Reich Film Chamber, could have a deeper meaning. So-called "serious" films, on the other hand, according to Goebbels, could "appear completely meaningless if they pose a strange problem and create unnatural dialogues". In 1942 Goebbels explicitly called for the production of entertainment films and noted in his diary on February 8, 1942: "Today entertainment is also important in terms of state policy, if not decisive for the war."

"Politically important" entertainment

Rolf Wenkhaus in "SA-Mann Brand" (1933)

Against this background, it is not surprising that comedies and entertainment films played a special role in the "Third Reich". In 1939 alone, the year the war began when German troops attacked Poland, entertainment films made up 36% of total production, followed by 34% in 1942, the year of the greatest military expansion of the "Third Reich". And not only the offensive propaganda films like "Hitlerjunge Quex" and "SA-Mann Brand" in 1933 conveyed the worldview of the National Socialists: elements of propaganda can also be discovered in so-called non-political Nazi comedies, the "politically important" entertainment also refers to the context their manufacturing time. This connection becomes particularly important in view of the fact that a large part of the Nazi entertainment films - in contrast to the propaganda films and entertainment films with propaganda content that are subject to "reservation" - can still be seen on German television and are shown in cinema screenings. Two to this day popular comedies exemplify the amalgamation of ideology and entertainment. On the one hand, in the Tobis production "Old Heart Becomes Young Again" (1942/43), which is still touted as an "entertaining comedy" as a family entertainment and as the last film by the great star Emil Jannings. And secondly to the Heinz Rühmann classic "Die Feuerzangenbowle", which is revered as a cult film to this day and which is particularly popular with screenings in the university environment.

"Die Feuerzangenbowle"

Heinz Rühmann in "Die Feuerzangenbowle" (1943)

In the case of the extremely popular "Feuerzangenbowle", in which Heinz Rühmann embodies the rogue Pfeiffer with the famous three Fs, who goes to school again as a made man, the context of the Nazi ideology can hardly be recognized on the surface. On a closer look at the "Feuerzangenbowle", however, the figure of the teacher Brett and his role in the comedy is particularly striking. Brett's maxim, confirmed several times in the film, is: "Young trees that want to grow have to be tied up so that they are straight grow, do not turn in all directions, and it is the same with young people. Discipline must be the bond that binds them - to beautiful straight growth! " The teaching methods of the dashing, young, popular teacher, who appears in the jargon of Nazi propaganda as a representative of a "new era", are vividly reminiscent of the idea that the German forest - as in the Nazi propaganda film "Ewiger Wald" (1936) vividly is - instrumentalized as a symbol of the army and the people. The ideal of "beautiful straight growth" could also be understood in the sense of the racial madness of the Nazis, in which the "Aryan race" was propagated as superior and millions of men, women and children as so-called "sub-humans" or "pests of the people" were murdered.

"Old heart gets young again": From the family comedy ...

"Old heart becomes young again" (1943): Viktor de Kowa, Maria Landrock, Emil Jannings (from left to right)

In the comedy "Old Heart Becomes Young Again", a closer look reveals a variety of references to Nazi ideology and politics. Directed by Erich Engel and with Emil Jannings, Paul Hubschmid,
Viktor de Kowa and Elisabeth Flickenschildt's comedy with a prominent cast is "not one of the trumpeting propaganda films", as the film historian and journalist Gerald Koll explains: "His indoctrination is more elegant." At first glance, the story of young Brigitte (Maria Landrock) tells the 1938 in search of a job locates her missing grandfather and soon comes unexpectedly not only to a new family and a job as a secretary, but also to a husband, from a very private fate. The old, sullen, childless factory owner Hoffmann (Emil Jannings) finds new momentum with the surprisingly emerged granddaughter. His relatives, lurking for the inheritance, have to learn to get used to the initially unknown young woman at Hoffmann's side. And Hoffmann's great nephew (Viktor de Kowa), with whom Brigitte finds a job, will fall in love with the young woman and plan the wedding with her in the end. This apparently apolitical story of family reunification, however, is in a special way "timely", as it was before the magazine "Film-Kurier" stated in April 1943 with praise. From the beginning, the comedy was permeated by the power of the National Socialist racial doctrine and politics. Even the decision to search for the missing grandfather developed out of "parentage concerns", as the young Brigitte confesses. This alludes to nothing else than the so-called "Aryan certificate", which had become a condition since March 1933 for civil servants, but also for workers, employees in the public service, lawyers, medical professionals and students in secondary schools. Their families had to be "purely Aryan" at least up to the grandparents in the sense of Nazi racism.

... on Nazi heredity

Emil Jannings in "Old Heart Becomes Young Again" (1943)

From this starting point, "Old Heart Will Be Young Again" not only justifies the demand for "Aryan proof" - a family can get together again and find happiness together - but also confirms underlying ideologems of the Nazis. In addition to numerous allusions to e.g. Hitler's visit to Mussolini and the expansion of the "Greater German Empire", the question of ancestry remains of central importance. One of the foundations of the racist worldview and the extermination policy of the Nazis consisted in the instrumentalization of heredity: Along with external traits, character traits and "essential traits" were also considered to be inheritable. From this the Nazis developed their construct of a "Jewish race" and the requirement to "keep the Aryan race" clean. The application of heredity to sociological contexts led to compulsory sterilization and mass murder. Exactly this conviction of "keeping clean" and of the inheritance of character traits and inner values ​​consolidates "old heart becomes young again" in a subtle way: the granddaughter Brigitte must unequivocally as part of show direct Hoffmann lineage, in that their affinity with Hoffmann extends into phrases and musical tastes. And in order to preserve this "purity", it seems downright logical that Hoffmann's granddaughter will now also take Hoffmann's nephew as a husband. The circle of the folkish "we" closes in the "new era" of Nazi Germany - this quintessence is so important that Hoffmann is allowed to emphasize it once again in his final monologue: "There is a time coming over our country. People do not just watch new courage forward. He also looks back - reflecting - on his ancestors. "