Banning, Censoring, and Rating

Titel

Banning, Censoring, and Rating

In the Weimar Republic, films were prohibited based on then-current commonplaces. Backed by the Reich Film Law of May 12, 1920, censors banned films using categories like "Threatens Public Order and Safety", "Threatens Vital Interests of State", or because of their "Brutalizing Effect". With their February 16, 1934 amendment of the Reich Film Law, the Nazis added to these another category of prohibition: "Offensive to National-Socialist Sensibility, to Moral Sensibility, and to Artistic Sensibility". Since it was entirely up to a given censor to determine the meaning of this vague measure, the possibilities for control and censorship were significantly expanded. In addition, films that had been produced or imported before January 30, 1933 had to be submitted once again for censorship after 1935 —according to the expanded National-Socialist categories, of course. This move, according to film economist Daniel Otto, "enabled the National-Socialists to ban troublesome films posthumously and to approve for the first time previously banned Nazi films". Films banned after the fact included "Die 3-Groschen-Oper" (The Threepenny Opera, 1931), "Westfront 1918" (Comrades of 1918, 1930), "Die Büchse der Pandora" (Pandora's Box/Lulu, 1929), and "Die Drei von der Tankstelle" (Three From the Gas Station, 1930).

With the so-called "Aryan Paragraph" passed on April 7, 1933, the anti-Semitism actively promoted by the Nazis was established as law for the first time. The law prohibited employment in any public capacity by so-called "Non-Aryans"; those already thus employed were to be laid-off immediately. The term "Non-Aryan" designated anyone who had at least one Jewish parent or grandparent. In a June 1933 directive, the Reich Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda (RMVP) decreed that "everyone involved in the production of a German film must be of German descent and hold German citizenship". This was "a momentous redefinition", as Martin Loiperdinger points out, of what counts as membership in the German nation: All Germans who had been classified by the National-Socialists as belonging to the Jewish cultural community were now, through this additional criterion of descent, 'banished' from being German.
In the Weimar Republic, films were prohibited based on then-current commonplaces. Backed by the Reich Film Law of May 12, 1920, censors banned films using categories like "Threatens Public Order and Safety", "Threatens Vital Interests of State" or because of their "Brutalizing Effect". With their February 16, 1934 amendment of the Reich Film Law, the Nazis added to these another category of prohibition: "Offensive to National-Socialist Sensibility, to Moral Sensibility, and to Artistic Sensibility". Since it was entirely up to a given censor to determine the meaning of this vague measure, the possibilities for control and censorship were significantly expanded.

In addition, films that had been produced or imported before January 30, 1933 had to be submitted once again for censorship after 1935 —according to the expanded National-Socialist categories, of course. This move, according to film economist Daniel Otto, "enabled the National-Socialists to ban troublesome films posthumously and to approve for the first time previously banned Nazi films." Films banned after the fact included "Die Dreigroschenoper" (The Threepenny Opera, 1931), "Westfront 1918" (Comrades of 1918, 1930), "Die Büchse der Pandora" (Pandora's Box/Lulu, 1929), and "Die Drei von der Tankstelle" (Three From the Gas Station, 1930). With the so-called "Aryan Paragraph" passed on April 7, 1933, the anti-Semitism actively promoted by the Nazis was established as law for the first time. The law prohibited employment in any public capacity by so-called "Non-Aryans"; those already thus employed were to be laid-off immediately. The term "Non-Aryan" designated anyone who had at least one Jewish parent or grandparent. In a June 1933 directive, the Reich Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda (RMVP) decreed that "everyone involved in the production of a German film must be of German descent and hold German citizenship." This was "a momentous redefinition," as Martin Loiperdinger points out, "of what counts as membership in the German nation: All Germans who had been classified by the National-Socialists as belonging to the Jewish cultural community were now, through this additional criterion of descent, ‘banished" from being German".

Meanwhile, as censorship was being tightened and the film industry "cleansed" in keeping with the Nazis' racist and populist-nationalist policies, laws protecting children were being relaxed: Children under the age of six, who previously had been prohibited from attending film screenings, were now allowed in as long as the film complied with RMVP criteria. In keeping with the Nazis' cross-generational manipulation of the masses, children, too, were to have exposure to National-Socialist cinema.

The entertainment tax levied on every film screening remained, but reduced. But cinemas now could avoid the tax by screening films assigned particular ratings. To the catalogue of such ratings (Artistic, Educational, Edifying of the Volk) was now added the category "Politically Valuable"; and films rated as "Artistic" or "Politically Valuable" were now tax-free. This led to a "veritable flood of ratings", as Daniel Otto points out. "In 1941 the system was entirely reworked and new ratings established: 'Group 1: Films of the Nation, politically and artistically especially valuable'; 'Group 2: Politically valuable, artistically valuable, and culturally valuable'; 'Group 3: Youth-value and educational'."

This reorganization proved most effective: the widespread interest in ratings generated interest and appeal for moviehouses, encouraging them to choose films in keeping with the Nazis' intentions and emphasizing self-censorship amongst film producers in order to meet the ratings' requirements. But just as film production and exhibition were subject to state control and intervention, so too was film criticism. In 1933 the film press was officially put into the control of Joseph Goebbels as Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda. Eventually, in 1936, all film criticism and individual evaluation was forbidden by decree: "Since art criticism has not seen a satisfactory improvement in the year 1936 either", declared Goebbels in his decree, "as of today, I prohibit once and for all the continuation of art criticism in its present form". Film criticism was thus done away with, replaced by "film consideration"; and film critics were now called "film observers", limited to describing films acceptable to the regime and, by no means to a lesser extent, the dissemination of propagandistic hate speech.

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