The 1934 Film Law

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The 1934 Film Law

The "Film Law" of February 16, 1934, established with its numerous amendments and clauses the legal framework necessary for the National-Socialists to assert rigid governmental control over the exhibition and production of films.

All feature films intended for public exhibition as well as film advertisements were thereafter subject by law to censorship by a Central Film Censorship Bureau in Berlin, a dependency of the Reich Propaganda Ministry. Along with this centralization of film censorship, the refocusing of the existing censorship law of 1920 consisted of an expansion of grounds for prohibiting films and in particular the introduction of "pre-censorship". All treatments and screenplays were to be submitted — at first on a mandatory, later on a "voluntary" basis (the process was closely tied to the granting of state funds) — to a representative of the Propaganda Minister appointed especially for this task, the "Reich Film Dramaturg". According to the text of the 1934 law, it was his job to "forestall the treatment of any content that contradicts the spirit of the times". And of course, the phrase "spirit of the times" meant nothing other than the world view of the Nazis.

The ideological alignment of films with National-Socialist policies was further aided by the assignment of ratings — such as "politically valuable" and "artistically edifying of the Volk or culturally valuable" — for such distinctions, which came from the state by way of the Film Censorship Bureau, were generally accompanied by attractive tax breaks. In this way, the rating system, which was expanded progressively over the coming years, provided filmmakers with concrete motives for producing films on topics in keeping with the "spirit of the times". The Censorship Bureau came to lose its "identity as an institution dedicated purely to censorship", as Arnold Bachmeister, the Bureau's later Director, pointed out, and became an "instrument for fostering the making of films" — to the tune and in the service of National-Socialism.

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