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Prewar German Featurettes

DVD Review by Blaine Taylor


This is another superb offering from International Historic Films, Inc. and not to be missed by all military enthusiasts, collectors, hobbyists, and film history buffs.

According to the box liner notes, "This program consists of four Nazi propaganda films: The Years of Adolf Hitler (1933-36) presents excerpts from his speeches. Yesterday and Today contrasts Germany's pre-Hitler democracy with the years of his rule. The Honor of Work features the Reich Labor Service, or RAD, the construction of the Autobahn (highways), and Hitler speaking to workers. An Army is Formed shows the occupation of the Rhineland in 1936."

The total running time for all four films is one hour.

Yesterday and Today was directed by Hans Steinhoff, and contrasts "dead harbors and no work" with unemployment being swept away by the vigorous Nazi Party. "Chimneys are smoking again!" announces the narrator, as we also see bridges and roads being built, putting people back to work.

The viewer sees farms producing record harvests, and these scenes cut away to the massive annual Buckeberg Harvest Festivals that drew a million people to hear Hitler commemorate the bringing in of the crops. Germans overburdened with debt---and farms being auctioned---belong the liberal past, the film asserts, while Hitler's car is stopped by women, as they herald the return of better times.

Republican era slums and shanties are succeeded by marching and productive Hitler Youths building the new Germany, as Hitler characterizes them as "Swift as greyhounds, tough as leather, and hard as Krupp steel."

Strikes, economic stagnancy, inflation, and long breadlines are contrasted with industrious RAD men draining swamps, and the launching of NS Strength Through Joy organization vacation ships for cruises to the far off Portuguese island of Madiera to benefit the entire Volksgemenischaft/community. The former Weimar "regime of the parties" brought hunger and scavenging for food in garbage cans by senior citizens, while the Nazis build railroads, and we see Hermann Goring and Dr. Josef Gobbels collecting public donations with Winter Help cans to feed the hungry.

The previous class warfare and KPD/Communist Party Red Front street clashes with German riot police are juxtaposed against Hitler's triumphant May Day speech in 1937 in Berlin's gigantic Lustgarten to workers peacefully united under Nazism. The broken and destroyed German air force of 1919 forms a backdrop for ship launchings under the Nazis. The French Army of occupation in the Rhineland after the First World War is shown contrasted with the March 1936 return of the German Rhineland to the Reich.

When Austria becomes the new Nazi Osterreich/Eastern Empire in 1938, the narrator intones the Party mantra of Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Fuhrer/One Nation, One People, One Leader, and the first two segments conclude.

Honor of Work features the Nazis' three-year struggle of 1933-36 to reform Republican Germany in the new Nazi image that Hitler wanted. With Deutschland Uber Alles/Germany Over All playing as a backdrop, the viewer sees Nazi Party rallies, steelworks, cattle-breeding, ships, planes, trains, Zeppelin air ships, and banners waving, all symbolizing the new Third Reich. Next, we see how the Party overcame both unemployment and inflation under Hitler's inspired social leadership, as horses pull plows creating furrows on thriving farms, plus sheepherders with their sheep, and wheat threshing in fertile fields.

Verdant Rhine vineyards are sprayed with chemicals and their crops are later seen being harvested, with loggers splitting logs and transporting them downriver on rafts. We also view the shoeing of horses by blacksmiths, wagon wheels being constructed, chimney sweeps plying their ancient trade, and pottery wheels, glass blowing, the wood carving of seals, stained glass window craftsmanship, and hand-made bookbinding.

Then come dams being built, turbine engines humming, aircraft engines turning, the Hindenburg airliner crossing the North Atlantic, steam shovels at mining digs, steamrollers on new highways, and construction workers building new housing for the Nazi everyman. Hitler Youth workers till the soil, and RAD men drain swamps. Men at lunch take communal meals together, and also feed friendly birds in playful reverie. There is also seen swimming in groups, plus water sports and games on Germany's many lakeside resorts for all classes of youngsters.

Alpine vistas give way to new roads cut into mountainsides as RAD men labor with jackhammers. "Labor is the greatest badge of nobility," asserts the Nazi narrator, "in a society of maximum productivity" RAD men are seen marching with polished spades at the annual Nurnberg Party Congress, followed by Hitler's own black-coated SS guard, the Leibstandarte/ Lifeguard unit.

The final film---An Army is Formed---was directed in 1936 by Marc Roland, and begins with the text of the March 16, 1935 Heldengedenktag/Heroes Memorial Day military draft decree by Hitler, and the reintroduction of the new Reich War Flag, designed by Albert Speer. As soldiers fill the screen, we see German cavalrymen trotting their horses over cobblestones, artillery towed by caissons, and a bugle announcing morning wake-up call at a town's military barracks.

As soldiers suit up for maneuvers, horses are saddled in the nearby barns by their grooms, all before dawn. Ammo clips are inserted into leather pouches, and a non-com intones, "The company is ready to march." The troops goosestep out of town and into the newly occupied Rhineland, all to the tune of the ancient march, Prussia's Glory.

The film concludes as both Cologne and Koblenz are occupied, followed by a nighttime torch-lit parade before Hitler and his associates Goring and Dr. Gobbels, all gathered on the new balcony built by Speer on the Old Reich Chancellery in Berlin. SA, SS, and NSKK troops stomp by in triumphant parade.



Prewar German Featurettes


Prewar German Featurettes DVD Review by Blaine Taylor


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