The Eternal Jew

The Eternal Jew
Der ewige Jude
Directed by Fritz Hippler
Produced by Deutsche Film Gesellschaft
Written by Eberhard Taubert
Narrated by Harry Giese
Music by Franz R. Friedl
Distributed by Terra
Release date(s) 1940
Running time 62 minutes
Country  Nazi Germany
Language German
Budget Unknown

The Eternal Jew (1940) is an antisemitic[1] German Nazi propaganda film[2], presented as a documentary. Its title in German is Der ewige Jude, "Der Evige Yude" the German term for the character of the "Wandering Jew" in medieval folklore. At the insistence of Nazi Germany's Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, the film was directed by Fritz Hippler. The screenplay is credited to Eberhard Taubert. The film consists of feature and documentary footage combined with materials filmed shortly after the Nazi occupation of Poland. At this time Poland's Jewish population was about three million, roughly ten percent of the total population. Actor Harry Giese (1903–1991) narrated.

A British film of the same name had been produced by Gaumont-Twickenham studios in 1934. Unlike the later Nazi film, the British production portrayed the Jews in a favorable light as the victims of unjustified persecution throughout history, in the Spanish Inquisition, for example. The Goebbels film appears to have been intended as a violently anti-Semitic version of this previous British film.[3]



The movie was produced in the style of a documentary, the central thesis being the immutable racial personality traits that, according to Nazi doctrine, characterize the Jew as a wandering cultural parasite. Throughout the film, these supposed traits are contrasted to the Nazi state ideal: while Aryan men are shown to find satisfaction in physical labor and the creation of value, Jews are depicted as finding pleasure in money and a hedonist lifestyle. While members of the Aryan race live healthily, rich Jews are shown as living in bug-infested and dirty homes, even though they could afford better. The footage to convey this was actually captured in ghettos, where living conditions were very poor and unsanitary surroundings were virtually inevitable. While Germanic/Nordic man has an appreciation for Northern culture and imagery, Jews are alleged only to find satisfaction in the grotesque and decadent. Many things that run contrary to Nazi doctrine are associated with Jewish influence, such as modern art, cultural relativism, anarchist and socialist movements, sexual liberation, and the "obscure pseudo-science" of Albert Einstein.[4] The film criticizes Jewish religious practices, such as kosher slaughtering (shechita) in which animals bleed to death, as inhumane, contrasting it with Nazi laws requiring that animals be anaesthetized prior to slaughter.



Plot and content

One of the shots early in the film shows a pack of rats emerging from a sewer, juxtaposed with a crowd of Jews in a bustling street of a Polish city. Close-ups of individuals show sickly, malformed facial features. The narration says that, as rats are the vermin of the animal kingdom, Jews are the vermin of the human race and similarly spread disease and corruption. Unlike rats, however, the narrator continues, Jews have the uncanny ability to change their appearance and blend into their "human hosts." A scene depicts four bearded men in traditional religious Jewish clothing, then shows them shaved and in modern business suits, while the narrator explains that only a "trained eye" can distinguish their Jewish features.

Other scenes include footage of notable figures who had earned Adolf Hitler's wrath, such as Albert Einstein (placed adjacent to a series of images about Jewish control of the pornography industry), socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg, and Charlie Chaplin. The Jewish actor Peter Lorre is shown in a scene from Fritz Lang's film M, in which he played a child murderer. A sequence from the American film The House of Rothschild is shown, with misleading German subtitles. Scenes of Jewish life in Poland were also staged to make the Jews objects of ridicule. Adam Czerniakow, whom the Nazis appointed head of the Judenrat (Jewish Council), is shown seated in front of a seven-branched menorah, gesticulating wildly at the director's insistence, because "that is how Jews speak."[citation needed]

Toward the end of the film, after showing how Jews have been responsible for the decline of Western music, science, art, and commerce, is a scene of a cow being slaughtered for meat by a shochet (Jewish ritual slaughter), which is prefaced by a warning similar to the one in Frankenstein, warning women, children, and the squeamish about the upcoming scene. This long scene, lasting several minutes, shows the cows and sheep in all their death throes as they bleed to death. The movie's creators apparently filmed this scene on the knowledge that Hitler was opposed to cruelty to animals and had banned kosher slaughter of animals in Germany, and that such footage would shock an audience that was sensitive to animals.

The film ends with Hitler (in a January 1939 public speech) explaining the problems of the Jewry in Europe and says: "If the international finance-Jewry inside and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations into a world war yet again, then the outcome will not be the victory of Jewry, but rather the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!"[5] (The film omits the line "the Bolshevization of Earth and thus..." following "...will not be...", likely due to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact)

Public response

Unser Wille und Weg, a Nazi Party monthly publication aimed at propagandists provides a rationale for why The Eternal Jew was made. The author of the essay “The Film of a 2000-Year Rat Migration,[6]” who remains anonymous, believes the film shows “a full picture of Jewry,” and provides "the best treatment of this parasitic race."

The author relates the Jews' move from the Middle East to Egypt and their following of German colonists to rats traveling as a group, who "even then displayed the same criminal traits that they still displayed". The film is complimented for "its portrayal of the Jews' vulgar methods and the brutality and all-devouring hatred they exhibit when they reach their goal and control finance."[7]

The slaughtering method causes the author to question the "so-called Jewish religion",[8] as butchers do their work with grins on their face.

In closing, the author states the film will be a valuable tool in the struggle to break the Jews' "power over us. We are the initiators of the fight against world Jewry, which now directs its hate, its brutal greed and destructive will toward us. We must win this battle for ourselves, for Europe, for the world."[9]

Postwar significance

Post-war, Fritz Hippler contended Joseph Goebbels was truly the creator of The Eternal Jew with Hitler's close supervision. It was Goebbels who gave Hippler credit as a reward “for his excellent work in the newsreel department”.[10]

An unrepentant Hippler was interviewed in the Emmy Award-winning program "The Propaganda Battle" in the PBS series Walk Through the Twentieth Century. In this interview he explains that he regrets that his name was listed as the director of The Eternal Jew because the Allies interrogated him after the war. He thought this was unfair because, in his opinion, he had nothing to do with the killing of Jews. However, in an interview shown in the 2000 German documentary series Holocaust, the 90-year old Hippler described the film as "the most disgraceful example of anti-semitism."

The film has been banned for public use in Germany, the only exception is use in college classrooms and other academic gatherings; however, exhibitors must have formal education in "media science and the history of the Holocaust."[11]

1933 film

The same title had been used for a Yiddish-language picture made in the US by the Jewish Talking Picture Company in 1933.

Unauthorized use of US film The House of Rothschild

The Eternal Jew used some footage from the US film The House of Rothschild (1934) without permission.

See also


  1. ^ Antisemitic:
    • Sara Friedrichsmeyer, Sara Lennox, Susanne Zantop. The imperialist imagination: German colonialism and its legacy, University of Michigan Press, 1998, p. 173.
    • Jack Fischel, The Holocaust, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998, pp. 15–16.
    • David Stewart Hull. Film in the Third Reich: a study of the German cinema, 1933-1945, University of California Press, 1969, pp. 157–158.
    • Marvin Perry, Frederick M. Schweitzer. Antisemitism: myth and hate from antiquity to the present, Palgrave Macmillan, 2002, p. 78.
    • Hershel Edelheit, Abraham J. Edelheit. A world in turmoil: an integrated chronology of the Holocaust and World War II, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1991, 388.
  2. ^ 1940 propaganda film:
    • "The Eternal Jew [1940] ranks as one of the most virulent propaganda films ever made." Richard Taylor, Film Propaganda: Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany‎, I.B.Tauris, 2006, p. 174.
    • "Fritz Hippler used an idea suggested by the Propaganda Ministry's anti-Jewish expert, Dr. Taubert, and produced the notorious film The Eternal Jew." Robert Edwin Herzstein, The War that Hitler Won: The Most Infamous Propaganda Campaign in History, Putnam, 1977, p. 309.
    • "Of the Nazi propaganda films with an antisemitic message, Jud Suss (Jew Suss, 1940) was without doubt the most popular and widely seen... The popularity of Jew Suss contrasts sharply with reactions to Der ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew, 1940)..." Toby Haggith, Joanna Newman, Holocaust and the Moving Image: Representations in Film and Television Since 1933, Wallflower Press, 2005, p. 74.
    • "Of course, the Nazis also made more conventional propaganda films, the most famous being, perhaps, The Eternal Jew." Andrea Dworkin, Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women's Liberation, Simon & Schuster, 2001, p. 164.
    • "The Eternal Jew. Nazi hate-propaganda film of 1940 that summarized the whole Nazi rationale for the mass murder of the Jews." Robert Michael, Karin Doerr, Nazi-Deutsch/Nazi-German: An English Lexicon of the Language of the Third Reich, Greenwood Press, 2002, p. 154.
  3. ^ Saul Friedlander (2008) The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews 1939-1945. London, Phoenix: 20
  4. ^ Stills and narration from the film
  5. ^ Papers on 'The Eternal Jew' by Stig Hornshoj-Moller
  6. ^ A Nazi review of "The Eternal Jew"
  7. ^ A Nazi review of "The Eternal Jew"
  8. ^ A Nazi review of "The Eternal Jew"
  9. ^ A Nazi review of "The Eternal Jew"
  10. ^ Winkel, Roel. Nazi German’s Fritz Hippler, 1909- 2002. Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. Carfax Publishing. Vol 23, No 2, 2003. 91-99.
  11. ^ The Eternal Jew - a Blueprint for Genocide
  • Stig Hornshøj-Møller, Der ewige Jude: Quellenkritische Analyse eines antisemitischen Propagandafilms ("Source-Critical Analysis of an Antisemitic Propaganda Film"), Institut für den Wissenschaftlichen Film, Göttingen, 1995.

External links


Preceded by
Feldzug in Polen (1940)
Hippler Propaganda films
The Eternal Jew (1940)
Succeeded by
Die Frontschau (1941-1943)

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