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Nazi Film Propagandas

A still from the film Kolberg

Directed by:
Veit Harlan


German premiere:
January 30, 1945

"...we portray a courageous man and the determination of a community to resist, even though their plight appears desperate. This film will serve as an important lesson, particularly in those areas under attack."

-- Joseph Goebbels, in his diary, May 7, 1943

"It is a true masterpiece... you might suspect it had been commissioned to provide answers to all those questions currently agitating the German people. In terms of the morale of the nation, this film is equivalent to winning a battle."

-- Joseph Goebbels, in his diary, December 1, 1944

Kolberg was the last epic produced under Goebbels, and its "last stand" scenario reflected the realities of the war. The color film used thousands of actual German soldiers in the production. It was the most expensive German film production of its time, topping the costs of Münchhausen and Ohm Krüger. As Berlin was being systematically bombed, Ufa built up sets on the outskirts of the city to be destroyed for the film.

Goebbels delayed the premiere until the 12th anniversary of Adolf Hitler's rise to power, on January 30, 1945. He insisted that the film simultaneously open in Berlin and at the last position the Germans still held on the Atlantic, at the French fortress of La Rochelle. Since La Rochelle was behind the enemy's lines, the film was dropped into the fortress by parachute.

Plot Synopsis
This film was based on the autobiography of the mayor of Kolberg, a small Baltic Prussian town that had resisted the invasion of Napoleon's army at the beginning of the 19th century. In the film, Kolberg's citizens oppose Napoleon's forces and defend the town, against all odds. Their rallying cry, "The people rise up; the storm breaks free!" was almost identical to Goebbels' closing words from a famous 1943 propaganda speech: "...people rise up and let the storm break loose!"

PBS American Experience