Hans Westmar (full title: Hans Westmar. Einer von vielen. Ein deutsches Schicksal aus dem Jahre 1929 "Hans Westmar. One of many. A German Fate from the Year 1929") was the last of an unofficial trilogy of films produced by the Nazis shortly after coming to power in January 1933, celebrating their Kampfzeit – the history of their period in opposition, struggling to gain power. The film is a partially fictionalized biography of the Nazi martyr Horst Wessel.
|Hans Westmar. Einer von vielen. Ein deutsches Schicksal aus dem Jahre 1929|
|Directed by||Franz Wenzler|
|Produced by||Robert Ernst|
|Written by||Hanns Heinz Ewers|
|Music by||Giuseppe Becce|
|Edited by||Alice Ludwig|
Originally, the film, based on Hanns Heinz Ewers's novelistic biography, was named Horst Wessel. Goebbels temporarily banned it, eventually allowing its release with alterations and with the main character's name changed to the fictional "Hans Westmar". One reason may have been to avoid "de-mystifying" Wessel. Part of the problem was that authentic depiction of Stormtroopers, including picking fights with Communists, did not fit the more reasonable tone the Nazis adopted while in power, and would undermine Volksgemeinschaft; the fictionalized Westmar, unlike Wessel, does not alienate his family. It was, however, among the first films to depict dying for Hitler as a glorious death for Germany, resulting in his spirit inspiring his comrades. His decision to go to the streets is presented as fighting "the real battle." Along with S.A Mann Brand and Hitlerjunge Quex, Hans Westmar was the last of the trilogy of films released in 1933, which were designed to present an idealized account of the Nazis' heroic struggle to come to power in Germany.
The film concentrates on the conflict with the Communist Party of Germany in Berlin in the late 1920s. When Westmar arrives in Berlin the communists are popular, holding large parades through Berlin singing The Internationale. When he looks into the cultural life of Weimar Berlin, he is horrified at the "internationalism" and cultural promiscuity, which includes black jazz music and Jewish nightclub singers. This scene dissolves into images of the German fighting men of World War I and shots of the cemeteries of the German dead.
Westmar decides to help organize the local Nazi party and becomes, through the course of the plot, responsible for their electoral victories, which encourages the Communists to kill him.
Depiction of communism
While communism as such is depicted as the foe, the communists fall into three categories. While the party boss shamelessly transmits the party line from Moscow, and the short Jewish official incites violence and then flees, and are directly responsible for the murder, one communist is presented as an idealist fighting for the proletarian. In the last scene, on seeing a Nazi torchlight procession on the eve of the Nazi seizure of power, he is moved to salute the new Germany; Hans Westmar's example has inspired him.
Originally banned by Goebbels
The movie was originally called Horst Wessel. Ein deutsches Schicksal and was banned immediately after it was first shown in October 1933, since Horst Wessel was shown in a prostitution- as well as Christian milieu. According to the Nazi Film Review Office the film "does neither do justice to Horst Wessel's personality nor to the national socialist movement as the leader of the state."
Goebbels justified the ban as follows:
- "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."
Only after the film was revised could it pass the censors.
- D. Welch, Propaganda and the German Cinema, pp. 61–71.
- Robert Edwin Hertzstein, The War That Hitler Won p 262 ISBN 0-399-11845-4
- Claudia Koonz, The Nazi Conscience, p. 85 ISBN 0-674-01172-4
- Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema p24 ISBN 0-02-570230-0
- Richard Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, p462 ISBN 0-393-02030-4
- Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema p35 ISBN 0-02-570230-0
- Erwin Leiser, Nazi Cinema p35-6 ISBN 0-02-570230-0
- Alfred Bauer: Deutscher Spielfilm Almanach 1929–1950. New edition 1976, p. 190. Original in German: "weder der Gestalt Horst Wessels noch der nat. soz. Bewegung als der Trägerin des Staates gerecht"
- Erwin Leiser: „Deutschland, erwache!“ Propaganda im Film des Dritten Reiches. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1968, p. 30. Original in German: Wir Nationalsozialisten legen an sich keinen gesteigerten Wert darauf, daß unsere SA über die Bühne oder über die Leinwand marschiert. Ihr Gebiet ist die Straße. Wenn aber jemand an die Lösung nationalsozialistischer Probleme auf künstlerischem Gebiet herangeht, dann muß er sich darüber klar sein, daß auch in diesem Falle Kunst nicht von Wollen, sondern von Können herkommt. Auch eine ostentativ zur Schau getragene nationalsozialistische Gesinnung ersetzt noch lange nicht den Mangel an wahrer Kunst. Die nationalsozialistische Regierung hat niemals verlangt, daß SA-Filme gedreht werden. Im Gegenteil: sie sieht sogar in ihrem Übermaß eine Gefahr. […] Der Nationalsozialismus bedeutet unter gar keinen Umständen einen Freibrief für künstlerisches Versagen. Im Gegenteil, je größer die Idee, die zur Gestaltung kommt, desto höhere künstlerische Ansprüche müssen daran gestellt werden."