Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. David Shneer

Abstract

Between 1933 and 1945, the German film industry was transformed from a group of independent movie studios into a branch of the Nazi government. As part of the Ministry for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda, headed by Dr Joseph Goebbels, the German cinema became an integral part of the Nazi effort to ideologically indoctrinate the population of Germany. However, the industry continued to operate in the same commercial manner as it had previously, producing films intended to appeal to paying German audiences. Because the cinema continued to function as a popular consumer marketplace, the varying film tastes of German filmgoers continued to influence the types of films produced even as Goebbels labored to transform the German cinema into an ideological weapon. Thus film production under Nazi Germany was not only the product of Goebbels ideological goals, but also public taste. This paper traces the Nazi’s efforts to control the film industry, in the process examining a number of films that illustrate both Goebbel’s changing propaganda goals and the German public’s shifting taste in films during the Nazi regime. Box office records from the years leading up to and following the outbreak of World War II provide new insight into German consumption of films and serve to illustrate the high degree to which the German public supported the war. In context, the popularity of specific films and types of films over time reveals not only how Goebbels’ adapted his propaganda to the changing circumstances, but also how the filmgoing German public reacted to those same events as a group and the change in those responses over time.

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