Children's and youth films under National Socialism

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The most important children's film genre in National Socialism was the fairy tale film . Although Nazi cinema produced some child actors, these were not used in special children's films.

The youth was a target group that was particularly sought after by the National Socialists. The youth film lessons , which have been held by the Hitler Youth since 1934 , had a large audience . Of course, mainly propaganda films were shown there, which were also intended for adult viewers.

Children's films under National Socialism

Age rating

In order to be able to reach all age groups with film propaganda, the cinema law of February 16, 1934 repealed the previous age limit of 6 years for going to the cinema. This is remarkable if only because the children were exposed to the entire propaganda program from newsreels and documentaries before they joined the Hitler Youth .

Children's films

The most important genre among children's films were fairy tale films , an area in which Hubert Schonger and Ferdinand Diehl worked in particular ; Diehl specialized in puppet cartoons, Schonger in real films. The templates mostly came from the collections of the Brothers Grimm ; by Wilhelm Hauff was "Little Muck" (1944) and Walter Henschel filmed "The Moon Lantern" (1941-42). Occasionally, myths such as “Die Heinzelmännchen” (1939) and popular children's books such as “Max and Moritz” (1941) were adapted. Also, Lotte Reiniger , whose silhouette films as early as the time of the Weimar Republic were popular, continued its work after the 1,933th In addition to fairy tales, she based her films on opera (“Carmen”, 1933; “Der kleine Schornsteinfeger”, 1934/35; “Galathea”, 1935). Her silhouette film “The Rolling Wheel”, made in 1933/34, which illustrates the cultural and historical change in the means of transport, is probably the only non-school non-school film for children made during the Nazi era.

Until the import ban was imposed in 1941, children were able to see many foreign films in German cinemas, including popular Hollywood productions with Shirley Temple , Hal Roach's children 's group “Our Gang” (German: “ Die kleine Strolche ”) and the comedian couple Laurel & Hardy (German : " Big and Stupid ").

Child actor

Although the Nazi cinema produced a number of popular child actors - e. B. Peter Bosse , Inge Landgut , Hans Neie , Norbert Rohringer , Hans Schaufuß , Walter Schuller , Babsi Schulz-Reckewell , Waldemar Spann-Müller , Traudl Stark - were the films in which these children were used often more on an adult than tailored for a family audience. Children under 10–12 years of age were at best used in supporting roles and usually only had a few lines of dialogue. Even in productions like “Das Ferienkind”, the title of which suggests that it is about a childish main character, children serve more as cute accessories than acting characters. It is revealing for the social image of children during the Nazi era that in most contemporary feature films they are only needed as props for maternal basic services. There is hardly a Nazi feature film with child actors that does without a scene in which these children are soaped off in the bathtub or are looked after by their mother in bed because they have a fever. Children in Nazi cinema only got more dialogue and important roles when they were 12-14 years of age.

Youth films under National Socialism

target group

The youth was a target group that was particularly sought after by the National Socialists . When the Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs Bernhard Rust introduced the use of films in school on June 26, 1933 , this included not only educational films but also propaganda films . The youth film lessons , which had been held by the Hitler Youth since 1934 , had an even larger audience .

Propaganda films

From 1939 onwards, films that the censorship authorities considered particularly suitable for showing in front of a young audience were given the title “youth value”. Admittedly, these were mainly propaganda films that were also aimed at adult viewers:

Miracle of Flying (1934/35); Pour le Merite (1938); D III 88 (1939); Robert Koch, the fighter of death (1939); Jud Suss (1940); Enemies (1940); Request concert (1940); Carl Peters (1941); Homecoming (1941); Comrades (1941); Kampfgeschwader Lützow (1941); My Life for Ireland (1941); People in the Storm (1941); Ohm Kruger (1941); ... rides for Germany (1941); Stukas (1941); About Everything in the World (1941); Jakko (1941); Andreas Schlueter (1942); The discharge (1942); Secret files WB 1 (1942); The Great King (1942); Hands up! (1942); The Infinite Way (1943); The Roedern Affair (1944); Young eagles (1944).

Only five of these films - Miracles of Flight , My Life for Ireland, Jakko, hands up! and Young Eagles - have teenage main characters. The historical film "Kadetten" (1939–1941), which also belongs to this group in terms of content, was not rated.

Youth film in the narrower sense

Youth films in the narrower sense, d. H. Films that deal with age-specific problems and concerns of young people were hardly produced under the National Socialists. Films such as "Abel with the Harmonica", " Anna and Elisabeth " and "Reifende Jugend" (all three in 1933), which meet all the criteria for a youth film, had already been conceived before the National Socialists came to power. An exception are perhaps the young girl films - "A Seventeen Year Old" (1934), "The Girl Irene" (1936), "Was Do, Sibylle?" (1938), " Into The Blue Life " (1938), "Your First Experience" ( 1939), “Aufruhr im Damenstift” (1941), “Little Girls - Big Worries” (1941) - but here too the main characters are often the adults. It seems that in a time when the youth should be "nimble as greyhounds, tough as leather and hard as Kruppstahl" ( Adolf Hitler in a speech to the Hitler Youth at the 1935 party congress), there is no room for them Representation of young people with problems.


The youth under National Socialism were also given unmistakably what their concern was: the selfless commitment to the party and the nation. So it comes as no surprise that the only genre of youth films that the National Socialist film industry finally produced was the probation films in the milieu of National Socialist youth organizations. In addition to the above-mentioned grade films z. B. Hitlerjunge Quex (1933), Die Bande vom Hoheneck (1934), Zwei Welten (1940), Jakko (1941), Jungens (1941), Cheer up, Johannes! (1941), Himmelhunde (1941/42).

Other age-appropriate films

Other films without child and youth roles, but which would still have been suitable for them, were also rarities. The most famous film of this kind was certainly Münchhausen with Hans Albers in the title role, whose screenplay was written by Erich Kästner on behalf of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels using a pseudonym .


  • AU Sander: Youth and Film . Berlin 1944. Special publication 6 for “Das Junge Deutschland”. Official organ of the youth leader of the German Reich (contains, among other things, an opinion poll of the HJ among its members in which individual films were rated, as well as extensive lists, classifications of films)
  • Youth film under National Socialism. Documentation and commentary . Munster 1984
  • Barbara Stelzner-Large: “The joy of young people”? Investigations into the propaganda youth film in the Third Reich . Publishing house and database for the humanities, Weimar 1994
  • Huwyler-Thomalla, Andrea & Räuber, Jörg: Children's and youth literature in exile. 1933-1950. An exhibition of the Exile Literature Collection of the Deutsche Bücherei Leipzig, catalog . Appendix: Jewish children's and youth literature in Germany 1933–1938 . Edited and published by Deutsche Bibliothek, Leipzig a. a. (Series: Collection of Exile Literature) 2., revised. Edition for the exhibition, 1999. ISBN 3-933641-07-1 (including information on films etc. from the post-war period up to 1950, based on templates from 1933–1945) 1st edition 1995