Censorship
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Between 1933 and 1945, Germany was governed by Adolf Hitler and was known as Nazi Germany or Third Reich. The then-ruling National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP, mostly known as the Nazi Party, was the sole legal party. Censorship within Nazi Germany was pervasive.

In 1938, Austria became part of Nazi Germany and became subject to their extreme censorship laws.

General censorship[]

Joseph Goebbels' Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda extremely and strictly enforced censorship in Nazi Germany and it included the control of any form of mass communication. Said ministry tightly controlled information available to German citizens and was active in the production and dissemination of their own literature, which was devoted to furthering Nazi ideals and myths, with anti-Semitism laying at its core.

Film censorship[]

Every film starring the Marx Brothers was banned by the Nazis due to the comedian stars being Jewish.

  • Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others) - this silent melodrama film (which was a polemic against the then enacted Paragraph 175, which made homosexuality illegal in Germany), initially restricted in the 1920s for viewing to doctors and medical researchers only, was banned again and destroyed by the Nazis after they took power in 1933. After the war, the film was partially reconstructed.
  • Battleship Potemkin - this film was banned by the Nazis for the fears it could inspire Marxism.
  • Ecstasy - this erotic romantic drama was banned by the Nazis due to its erotic content
  • M (1931) - this thriller film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Peter Lorre was banned in Nazi Germany.
  • Nana (1934) - this pre-Code film adaptation of Emile Zola's novel of the same name, was banned in Nazi Germany due to its plot, which depicted a soldier visiting a prostitute, which was deemed violating the military's sensibility and honor code.
  • The Testament of the Doctor Mabuse - this crime-thriller film was banned because Goebbels thought that it would undermine the audience's confidence in its political leaders (as a matter of fact, certain dialogue of Mabuse was lifted directly from Mein Kampf), calling the film a menace to public health and safety, saying that it "showed that an extremely dedicated group of people are perfectly capable of overthrowing any state with violence."
  • The Prizefighter and the Lady - this pre-Code romance drama film was banned due to its lead actor, Max Baer, being Jewish.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) the Nazis campaigned to get this film adapted from the novel of the same name banned from Germany due to its anti-war and anti-German message. During the film's premiere, Joseph Goebbels had the Nazis raid theatres and disrupt screenings of the film with stink bombs, sneezing pider and white mice, while falsely claiming that the film was part of a "Jewish conspiracy", which eventually devolved into antisemitic riots. His plan worked, and the film was banned at the end of 1930, which Goebbels considered the Nazis' first real victory. A heavily bowdlerised version of the film was put out in 1931, but was also banned by the Nazis as well after coming to power two years later.
  • Mädchen in Uniform - this romantic drama was banned due to its lesbian theme.
  • The Mad Doctor - this Mickey Mouse short was banned due to its horror atmosphere.
  • Mysterium des Geschlechtes - this film was banned due to erotic content.
  • Kuhle Wampe - this documentary about unemployment, homelessness and left wing politics in the Weimar Republic, whose script was conceived by Bertold Brecht, was initially banned in 1932 (before the Nazis came to power), for depicting religion, the legal system and the government negatively. Eventually, the ban was overturned due to protests and the film was released in a heavily edited version. Six months later, Hitler rose to power and consequently, the film was banned by the Nazi party again until the end of World War II. Its director, Slatan Dudow, was banned from entering Germany again due to his membership of the German Communist Party.
  • Westfront 1918 - this German-made pacifistic film was protested against by the Nazis, who disturbed its screenings, resulting the film in being pulled from theatres.
  • The Barnyard Battle - this 1929 Mickey Mouse short was banned for depicting soldiers using the pickelhaube, which was the helmet worn by German soldiers in World War I.
  • The Mad Dog of Europe - this film written by Herman J. Mankiewicz (who later would be famous for Citizen Kane) and produced by Sam Jaffe, which was about anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany, was outright canceled due to the above-mentioned chilling effect. Since Mankiewicz was making the film through an independent studio which did not had business in Europe, it would have no effect being banned in Germany, so Georg Gyssling, a Nazi diplomat sent to Hollywood as an adviser for the studios to ensure that their films would be acceptable for distribution in Germany, attempted to get both the Hays Office (who said that allowing that the film was released would result in a blanket ban on every American-made film in Germany) and the Anti-Defamation League (who said that the film's release might provoke an anti-Semitic backlash) to stop the film's production. In the end, Mankiewicz and Jaffe did not manage to find funding as investors and studios were out of fear from being banned from Germany, so the film was never made.
  • The Bohemian Girl - This Laurel and Hardy film was banned in Nazi Germany was banned due to its positive portrayal of Romani people (which were also known as gypsies), who were the subject of said film, were among the undesirable peoples who the Nazis exterminated under Hitler's rule.
  • Modern Times - this silent satirical romantic black comedy film set in the Great Depression and starring Charlie Chaplin, was banned in Nazi Germany for supposedly advocating Communism.
  • La Grande Illusion - this war film was banned by the Nazis for its anti-war message. Its director, Jean Renoir, was named "Cinematographic Enemy Number One" by Joseph Goebbels.
  • A Prussian Love Story - this historical romance film was banned after its completion due to its plot about the love affair between the Emperor and an actress, which hit too close to home to the Head of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, after his love affair with actress Lída Baarová became public.
  • Kitty and the World Conference - this romantic comedy film was banned in Nazi Germany despite a successful box run. After the outbreak of World War II, the Head of Propaganda Goebbels withdrew the film as it was he deemed that it showed a too favorable view of Great Britain.
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - Although this Disney film was so much loved by Adolf Hitler that he had a personal copy and made drawings based on it, the film was not officially released during its lifetime. This was one of the 50 American films that Goebbels bought the rights to in 1938, but it did not saw the light of release due to growing anti-American sentiment. It would be only in 1950 when Snow White was finally released in West Germany.
  • Confessions of a Nazi Spy - this film, which the first explicitly anti-Nazi film made by a major Hollywood studio released six months before Germany invaded Poland, in May of 1939. As a retaliation, the Nazis banned every Warner Bros. film. A year later, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released its own anti-Nazi film, The Mortal Storm, which prompted the Nazis to ban every MGM film as well.
  • Gone with the Wind - While this film was loved by the Nazis (being also a favourite of Hitler, as a matter of fact) for its racism, it was banned in the Nazi-occupied countries, such as France, as its themes inspired the French Resistance. It was ultimately banned in Germany itself as it was an Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer release.
  • The Great Dictator - This film starring Charlie Chaplin which directly mocked Hitler and his regime was banned by the Nazis. However, Hitler himself, out of curiosity, had a private copy brought in out, which he viewed twice. His opinion on the film has been up to debate. During World War II, it was once shown to German soldiers in 1942: In the German-occupied Yugoslavia, local guerrillas sneaked a copy from Greece into an army-cinema as an act of cultural sabotage. After half of the film was shown, German officers halted the screening and threatened to shoot the Yugoslavian projectionist. Apparently, the film was ordered by the Reich Chancellery.
  • La Kermesse Heroïque - this war film was banned in Nazi Germany (and in German-occupied Belgium as well) due to its pacifist themes. The director Jacques Feyder was later hunted down for arrest, but he managed to escape to Switzerland.
  • Große Freiheit Nr. 7 - this musical drama film set in Große Freiheit (grand freedom), a street next to Hamburg's Reeperbahn road in the St. Pauli red light district, was banned in Nazi Germany in 1944.
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - this political comedy-drama film was banned by the Nazis because it showed democracy working well.

There were also times where the Nazis would ban their own movies if they weren't satisfied with how they turned out:

  • Victory of the Faith - This film was banned by Joseph Goebbels in 1934 due to the prominent role of the SA (the infamous "Brown Shirts" paramilitary units of the Nazi party during its rise to power) in the film. The SA was purged of its leadership during the Night of the Long Knivs in June 1934 and their role was reduced, which meant that any work showing the Brown Shirts and their leader Ernst Rohm, who was executed during said purge, were not welcome anymore. Every copy was believed having been destroyed but one survived.
  • Hans Westmar - this fictionalised biopic about the life of young Nazi martyr Horst Wessel was banned by Goebbels for some time, before an expunged version was allowed for release. In the words of Goebbels himself,
    • "As national-socialists, we do not particularly value to watch our SA marching on stage or screen. Her sphere are the streets. Should however somebody try to solve National-Socialist problems in the realm of art, he must understand that also in this case the art does not come from ambition but ability. Even an ostentatious display of a National-Socialist attitude is no substitute for an absence of true art. The National Socialist government has never demanded the production of SA movies. On the contrary: we see a danger in this excess. In no way does National-Socialism justify artistic failure. The greater the idea that shall find a form the greater the aesthetic demands have to be."

With "artistic failure", Goebbels very likely meant the real violence the SA used when the Nazis conquered the power in Germany. When they rose to power, the depiction of SA's street fights against the Communists did not make for a great public relations move, quite the opposite.

  • Titanic (1943) - this film about the sinking of the RMS Titanic, commissioned by Goebbels to be used as anti-British propaganda was banned during its completion, as Goebbels himself decided that a film featuring terrified crowds running around in a panic before getting killed in a tragically helpless situation was no longer a good idea in a Germany that was being bombed by the Allies. After its ban, it would be only in 1949 that said film would be screened in Germany.
  • Uncle Krueger - this 1940 very successful anti-British German film, which detailed a very slanted account of the Boer War (where the British fought against the Boers in South Africa), was later banned from cinemas in 1944 when Germany entered a state of total war, as its graphical depictions of civilians getting shot, blown up, rounded up and sent to death camps became a highly sensitive inconvenience for the Nazis.
  • It Was a Gay Ballnight - this 1939 musical about Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, was banned in Germany after its declaration of war on the Soviet Union due to its positive portrayal of Russia and Russian culture.
  • The Postmaster - this 1940 movie, very loosely based on Alexander Pushkin's story of the same name was banned in Germany after its declaration of war on the Soviet Union due to its positive and sympathetic portrayal of Russia and its people.

When the USA entered World War II in 1941, the Nazis decided to ban every American movie. However, Eva Braun, Adolf Hitler's fiancée, who loved American movies, was still allowed to watch them in private.

Book censorship[]

There were two book prohibitions lists in Nazi Germany:

  1. List of damaging and undesirable writing, Liste des schädlichen und unerwünschten Schrifttums, December 31, 1938
  2. Jahreslisten 1939-1941. Unchanged new printing of the Leipzig edition, 1938-1941, Vaduz 1979

The official list was published by the Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda. Authors, living and dead, were placed on the list because of Jewish descent, or because of pacifist or communist and/or Freemasonic sympathies or suspicion thereof.

In May and June 1933, in the first year of the Nazi government, book burnings were carried out. These book bans compose a part of the history of censorship and a subset of the list of banned books.

After World War II started, Germans created indexes of prohibited books in countries they occupied, of works in languages other than German. For example, in occupied Poland, an index of 1,500 prohibited authors was created.

  • Almansor - this play written by Jewish playwright Heinrich Heine was banned the Nazis. Said play was the source of the quote "Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people" ("Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen."), which is now engraved in the ground at the Opernplatz (currently, Bebelplatz), a Berlin square which was the site of a major Nazi book burning.
  • Ivanhoe - this novel by Walter Scott was banned for featuring Jewish characters
  • Oliver Twist - this novel by Charles Dickens was banned for featuring the character Fagin, who is a Jew.
  • The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels was banned in Nazi Germany.
  • All of the works by Stefan Zweig and Sigmund Freud published before 1933 were banned by the Nazis as these authors were Jewish.
  • All of the works by Bertold Brecht published before 1933 were banned due to said author being a socialist.
  • The Story of Ferdinand - this children's book by Munro Leaf was banned because it was considered "pacifist brainwashing" due to its protagonist, Ferdinand, being a bull who does not want to take part in bullfighting.
  • All Quiet on the Western Front - this novel was banned (after a campaign carried out by the Nazis) for its portrayal of war as a pointless waste of human life, as well for its perceived anti-German messages, as it was found demoralising and insulting to the Wehrmacht. It was also banned in Austria as well, for the same reasons.
  • The Iron Heel - this novel by Jack London was banned by the Nazis alongside his other two novels, Martin Eden and The Jacket.
  • Die Gesteingniten - this drama by Friedrich Forster was banned and its printed copies were pulped.
  • The Outline of the History - this book by H. G. Wells was banned by the Nazis.
  • The World of William Clissold - this work by H. G. Wells was banned in Nazi Germany in 1936, with a further note added that "all other works by the author" were to be suppressed.
  • A Farewell to Arms - this novel by Ernest Hemingway was banned due to its anti-militarism themes.
  • Na tropach Smętka - this travelogue by Melchior Wańkowicz was banned because it described Mazury (which are ethnically mostly Polish, then part of Germany) as well the poor treatment of Poles there.

Board game censorship[]

  • Juden Raus! ("Jews Out!") - this children's board game published in Germany in 1936, whose goal was collecting Jews and "expel" them from the city. Frighteningly, this game was not a piece of state propaganda of the time, since there is no Nazi iconography in the game itself, but was rather a commercial product by a Günther & Co., a private company who was cashing in on the antisemitism running rampant within Germany at the time. As a matter of fact, it was actively condemned and buried by the SS, who described the game as trivializing their movement. Unsurprisingly for a game that was considered too offensive for the Nazis, it is still banned, with the only surviving copies being preserved by museums and other historical societies.

Other[]

  • The Nazis banned jazz and swing music, due to the Black and Jewish connections to these musical genres. An exhibition designed to showcase "degenerate music" was even advertised with a caricature of a jazz performer sporting blackface and a Star of David lapel pin. The film Swing Kids was about the youths who defied this ban.
  • After Carl von Ossietzky, a pacifist, won the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize for exposing the German rearmament program, the Nazi regime retaliated by banning every German national from accepting the Nobel Prize. When Gerhard Domagk won the 1939 Nobel Prize in Medicine, he had to wait until the end of the war to claim it.
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