Austrian Silent Movie From 1924 Anticipates Holocaust
Last year, sequences believed to be permanently lost from what is arguably the most important Austrian silent movie, The City Without Jews (die stadt ohne juden), were discovered by a coincidence at a Paris flea market and subsequently acquired by the Film Archive Austria.
The film, based on a novel by Jewish writer and journalist Hugo Bettauer and shot in Vienna in 1924, is eerily prescient in its portrayal of a society that is both intellectually and economically impoverished due to the expulsion of its Jewish population.
The newly discovered sequences not only allow us for the first time to see the movie in its entirety, but also cast fresh light on it. Hitherto unknown scenes show Jewish life in a society in which hatred of Jews is being stoked. These scenes bring into much sharper focus the political message of the movie with its depiction of the vituperative antisemitism of interwar Vienna.
Owing to its advanced age, the highly inflammable nitrate material of the film rolls formerly thought to be lost evinces the beginnings of decomposition. Saving the film by transferring it to safety film must be given top priority. The film will then have to be restored and integrated into the already existing version.
Since the financial support from the public sector was insufficient to accomplish the urgent task of preserving the material, the Film Archive Austria launched the largest cultural crowdfunding initiative in Austrian history in order to save The City Without Jews (die stadt ohne juden) from perdition. The campaign, which ended December 10, was a success. More than 700 supporters made it possible to rescue the film by contributing more than 86.000 Euro.
“This is not only a wonderful support for the work of the Filmarchiv but also a clear signal of the civil society to contribute decisively to the salvation of cultivated animals with extraordinary private commitment“, summarizes Filmarchiv director Ernst Kieninger.
More than just the significance of rescuing the film The City Without Jews (die stadt ohne juden) is the overwhelming international press response to the test. There were detailed reports in international mainstream media such as the time, the FAZ , the Agence France-Presse , the Guardian, the Libération or The Washington Post and in more than 50 international media throughout Europe, in Russia, Israel, the Arab world and the United States on The film archive project.
After completing the restoration, the movie will be screened in late autumn 2017 in the original version last seen more than 90 years ago. In addition, The City Without Jews will be given center stage in an exhibition organized by the Film Archive Austria. The opulent show at the Metro Kinokulturhaus will open in late autumn 2017 and explore the relations between cinema and Jewish culture in the period 1918-1938.