Bismarck (1940 film)

Bismarck is a 1940 German historical film directed by Wolfgang Liebeneiner and starring Paul Hartmann, Friedrich Kayßler and Lil Dagover.[1] It premiered at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo in Berlin.

Directed byWolfgang Liebeneiner
Produced byHeinrich Jonen (executive producer)
Willi Wiesner (executive producer)
Written byRolf Lauckner
Wolfgang Liebeneiner
StarringPaul Hartmann
Friedrich Kayßler
Lil Dagover
Music byNorbert Schultze
CinematographyBruno Mondi
Edited byWalter von Bonhorst
Distributed byTobis Film
Release date
December 6, 1940
Running time
118 minutes
CountryNazi Germany

This film depicts the life of the Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck, a German nationalist and lonely genius who withstands parliament to act on behalf of the people. It was followed by a sequel Die Entlassung in 1942, with Emil Jannings taking over the title role.

Plot summary

The Film recalls the nineteenth century desire for German Unification which at the time was threatened from several corners. From the liberals, from crown prince Frederich (who is shown as an English puppet) and the French who attempt to annex the left bank of the Rhine. The historical feature opens in 1862 with King Wilhelm I appointing Bismarck as head of the Prussian government. With Germany divided into 35 different political entities and power transferred to various principalities, the nation is portrayed as desperately longing for national unity. The Austrian Kaiser, also wishing unity, appears unconcerned with the northern province. His interest rests in asserting control over the confederation. Wilhelm I, unable to control the parliament, is on the verge of abdication. The crown prince and his English wife wish the installation of a British style government which may undermine German unity. The king's last resort is the appointment of Bismarck as his Prime Minister. Bismarck's first political act is to dissolve the Prussian parliament following the refusal of an opposition leader, Virchow, to finance military reform and rearmament plans.

From 1866 to 1870, Bismarck wages several wars against Denmark, Austria, and France. According to his main political principle; the most decisive political questions are not solved by parliamentary discussions and resolutions but by "Eisen und Blut", Iron (weaponry) and blood alone. The film concludes with the 1871 proclamation of a new German Empire at the Hall Of Mirrors in Versailles. United under the leadership of Prussia, the new nation is armed with a strong military force built to withstand powerful and malevolent neighbours.

Armed forces victories are depicted as the handiwork of one great man; the Battle of Königgrätz is viewed solely the work of General Moltke. There are no battlefield recreations .[2]

The storyline blends history with third reich era propaganda such as the assassination attempt on Bismarck by Ferdinand Cohen-Blind, who the film calls, an "English Jew", heroically stopped by Bismarck, unscathed by bullets. Spending a few years in England, his motives are questioned over his loyalty in preservation of the German state. Surreptitiously viewing an "evil Jew" attempt to halt German unity, there is also an underlying twin theme of the disruption of German Politics by the English. Bismarck believes this to be a sign from god that he is destined to unite Germany.

Released in the wake of the 1939 Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, it depicts a parallel view to Bismarck's that a Russian alliance will safeguard the Prussians in the east.[3]




  2. Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema p106-7 ISBN 0-02-570230-0
  3. Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema p43 ISBN 0-02-570230-0
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