The Reich Chamber of Film

The Reich Chamber of Film (RFK) was one of the key implements of control for National-Socialist film policy. It was established in July 1933, only a few months after the Nazis took power, by means of a "Law for the Establishment of a Provisional Chamber of Film": one of the new government's first important institutions. The National-Socialist leadership thus sought the comprehensive penetration into and control over the German industry, both on political and personal levels. This body of public law, which in September 1933 was incorporated as a subdivision of the newly founded Reich Chamber of Culture, was responsible for overseeing the Film Credit Bank GmbH, but more importantly with registering all professionals involved in any area of the German film trade. The Nazis thus commandeered the function and the institution of the Umbrella Organization of the German Film Industry (SPIO). Thousands of filmmakers were deprived of the basic conditions of existence. Many of the persecuted fled abroad, but only a handful found success in exile. Those who stayed, who were not able to escape — like Kurt Gerron, Paul Morgan, Otto Wallburg, Max Ehrlich, and many others — were murdered by the Nazis.

After this point, membership in the Reich Chamber of Film, which was organized according to professional groups, was the legal prerequisite for working in the film industry in any capacity. But it could be refused, primarily on grounds "that the applicant does not possess the requisite reliability for the film trade." The intentionally vague formulation of this "reliability clause" afforded those in charge considerable flexibility in barring an individual from working in the profession. The National-Socialists used it especially to keep Jewish filmmakers out of the studios in order to push ahead the so-called "Aryanization" of German film. As early as June 1933, a directive from the Reich Ministry of Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda (RMVP) decreed that anyone "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."