Jew Süss (Power) (1940)

 

 

 

Director:     Lothar Mendes.

Starring:     Conrad Veidt (Josef 'Jew Süss' Oppenheimer),  Benita Hume (Marie Auguste),  Frank Vosper (Duke Karl Alexander),  Cedric Hardwicke (Rabbi Gabriel),  Gerald du Maurier (Weissensee),  Paul Graetz (Landauer),  Pamela Mason (Naomi Oppenheimer),  Joan Maude (Magdalen Sibylle Weissensee),  Percy Parsons (Pflug),  James Raglan (Lord Suffolk),   Sam Livesey (Harprecht),  Dennis Hoey (Dieterle),   Campbell Gullan (Prince of Thurn & Taxis),  Eva Moore (Jantje),   Hay Plumb (Pfaeffle). 

anti-Semitism in Württemberg (Nazi film in answer to the British film Jew Süss (Power) (1934))

German

 

Spoiler Warning:

The events in the film are based on historical facts. 

1733.  Stuttgart.  Prince Karl Alexander, Duke of Württemberg, has lost his cousin Duke Eberhard Ludwig to the great reaper, so now he governs Wuttemburg.  Prince Karl was the Kaiser's Gen. Field Marshal and former Governor General of Serbia.   He swears an oath to uphold the Constitution and rule with the Council.  Afterwards, they have a parade for him.  A woman pushes her way up to the front of the crowd and in the process her blouse opens up (brief nudity).   Prince Karl has a good laugh about it. 

Dorle Faber plays the piano while his beloved Dorothea Sturm sings.  Her father Sturm comes in and greets the couple.  They then have dinner together and toast to Prince Karl Alexander.

The new Duke of Württemberg greets his duchess.  Soldiers march up to the palace, followed by the people of Württemberg running up behind them. 

The Duke's aide is in the Jewish area of town.  He tells his coach driver Romberberg not to stop on the street in this area.  The aide is looking for a Mr. Joseph Oppenheimer (aka, the Jew Süss).  The visitor comes in and Joseph shows him a huge selection of beautiful jewelry.  The fellow asks how much for a giant set of pearls and Joseph tells him it's 50,000 talers.  The aide says that's too much.  So Joseph says it 10,000 talers.  The aide asks about the 40,000 talers and Joseph tells him that they will reach an understanding when in Stuttgart.  The fellow objects that no Jews are allowed in Stuttgart.  Joseph tells him to get permission from the Duke for him to be in Stuttgart or revoke the ban on Jews in that city.  The aide gasps and says the Duke doesn't have the power alone to revoke the ban.  Joseph finally just tells the fellow that the Duke will find the way to get the necessary documents to get him into Stuttgart. And don't worry, he says, he will change his appearance so as not to appear Jewish.  The customer leaves with the pearls.

Levy hears all this and asks Joseph why he is he going to make himself look like a Gentile?  Joseph just says that he is opening the door for all the rest of the Jews to follow him. 

On the road Joseph's carriage turns over.  Dorothea is passing by in her carriage and Joseph asks her if she could take him the rest of the way to Stuttgart?  She agrees to take him.

There is a meeting of the Council.  A council member asks why does the Duke need a ballet, an opera or even a body guard?  Chairman Sturm suggests that they at least give him the bodyguard, so he won't become belligerent toward them.  Faber is told to collect the voting stones from the council members.

Joseph arrives in Stuttgart with Dorothea and the guard lets him in as his papers are all in order. 

The Duke learns that all three of his requests to the Council were denied.  He's not happy. 

Dorothea introduces Joseph to her family.  Faber tells her that the man is a Jew, "our Mr. Oppenheimer, from Frankfurt."  Dorothea says that's just not possible, but Faber insists "that's a Jew!"  Faber confronts Oppenheimer saying that Jews are not allowed in Stuttgart.  Joseph congratulates the young man on his knowledge of people. 

Joseph gets in to see the Duke.  He pours a lot of money on the desk saying it will pay for the Duke's ballet. The Duke is happy. 

Joseph is by the side of the Duke when he tells his aide Remchingen to bring that black-haired ballerina up to see him.  The girl comes up and Joseph and the aide leave them alone.  The two kiss. 

Joseph asks the Duke how is it that he cannot get a lot of money out of Württemberg, a land of 400 villages and 70 cities?  The Duke asks what is Joseph's interest in this and Remchingen tells him that he owes Joseph 342,000 talers.  Joseph says they can forget the money.  He wants the Duke to give him the streets of the land for a period of ten years.  He adds that the streets, after all, are in terrible condition.  The Duke says if only he weren't a Jew.  Joseph quickly asks the Duke:  "Doesn't Kaiser Leopold have his Jew making money for him?"  The Duke thinks about this. 

A man carrying his produce in a wagon complains that he has already paid the toll in four villages and the bridge fare on two bridges, making for a total of six talers.  But his entire produce is only worth 20 talers.  Levy comes along collecting the tolls.  The man protests to him, but Levy just says the price for his produce will go up because of the tolls and that will compensate the man. 

Dorothea complains to her father how all the prices of basic goods are going up and up.  Dad says that the Duke has figured out a way to get the things he wants that the Council denied him.  Faber is mad.  He says he saw the Jew Levy collecting the taxes and tolls and putting the money in his "dirty pocket".   Dad says that the Jew has even bought the Duke his bodyguard.  He tells Faber that they need to be much more clever than the Jews, because the Jews are not that clever.  They're just sly. 

Joseph deals with a blacksmith whose shop is on his street property.  Therefore, Oppenheimer is going to remove the offending half of the property.  People are amazed to see half a house at the blacksmith's place.  Joseph passes by the place and approves of what he has done.  He tells his female companion that this will teach people not to mess with the future Minister of Finance ("should his name also be Süss Oppenheimer").  The people are mad at Oppenheimer and they block his carriage from further movement.  This gives the blacksmith enough time to come over and whack at one of the wheels of the carriage with a sledge hammer.  Joseph gives the order to his driver to drive on. 

A father complains about the Jew running a meat market in the castle. His girls want to go to Joseph's big party, but dad doesn't want them to go.  Minna Fiebelkorn says she's mature enough to go to the dance. 

At the party the Duke says the dance is too custom-bound.  He asks:  "What is your opinion, Jew?"   Joseph shows the Duke how he separates the young girls from their parents using this dance.  Faber is there and he is very upset by the dance and the castle.  He says:  "It's a pigsty."  Meanwhile, Joseph introduces the lecherous Duke to all the young ladies.  Joseph notices Dorothea in the line.  The Duke picks out one young lady he likes and dances with her.  (The lady turns out to be Minna Fiebelkorn.)  Meanwhile, Joseph asks Dorothea to dance with him.  She says she doesn't dance, but Joseph asks her won't she follow the Duke's example?  The dropping of the name of the Duke puts Dorothea into a more cooperative mood and she goes with Joseph.  The Duke and Joseph take the young ladies into a separate room and the door is closed behind them.  He starts kissing Dorothea's naked shoulder and Dorothea bolts from the room.  Faber and her father save Dorothea from Oppenheimer.   

A masked Faber comes over to the gaming table where Joseph is playing cards.  Joseph is on a winning streak and Faber says loudly:  "It's all blood money, countryman."  He then shouts:  "He's playing with your daughters and the Duke holds the bank!"  Joseph tries to grab Faber to have him arrested, but Faber rushes out of the castle.  Joseph complains to the Duke that he has been insulted.  The Duke tells him to disregard the incident, but Joseph says as long as there is a ban against Jews, citizens will be able to criticize the Duke's Minister.  So the Duke says he will lift Stuttgart's ban on Jews.  This makes Joseph happy, but he also wants the Duke to give him a letter of proxy stating that all of Joseph's actions are on behalf of the Duke.  He then complains about the black smith who attacked his carriage.  The Duke says:  "Then Hans Bogner, the blacksmith, will hang." 

Joseph and his female companion attend the public hanging.  Someone yells at her:  "Jew whore!"  A man yells:  "You'd better be careful, Jew, you're next!"

Jewish people are coming into Stuttgart by the hundreds, shouts Faber.  The Council members say that Finance Minister Oppenheimer has his monetary fingers in a great many of the products produced and sold in Stuttgart.   One member says Oppenheimer has his claws on "our women and daughters!" 

Council member Roder literally forces himself into the Duke's office.  He reports that he has come on behalf of the Council.  "All of Württemberg is infuriated, Highness!"  He goes on to tell the Duke to get rid of the Jew.  Levy warns Joseph about what's going on.  They both go to a peep hole in the wall to listen to the conversation.   The head of the Council, backed by other Council members, reads some anti-Semitic passages from the works of the Rev. Martin Luther:  The Duke thinks Roder is getting above his position and says he will have the man locked up.  He throws all the Council member out of his office.  Then he calls for Oppenheimer to come and see him. 

Oppenheimer tells the Duke he should get rid of the Council by fire and sword.  The Duke says that a dangerous path to follow.  Joseph says it's written in the stars.  The Duke asks if Oppenheimer can read the stars?  No, he can't but he has a Jewish Rabbi who can read the meanings in the stars.   So Oppenheimer gets the reader of the stars, but tries to get the man to say what he, Oppenheimer, wants him to say.  The man tells Joseph that he has "become vain and arrogant as a peacock."  He goes on to tell Joseph that if he wants to control the Goyim, control his finances, but stay out of princely conflicts.  The Rabbi adds:  "Princes change and Jews get hanged."  Since Oppenheimer can see he's not making much progress with the Rabbi, he changes his tune and tells the man to tell the Duke what needs to be said for the sake of Israel (and not just Oppenheimer). 

The Duke asks the Rabbi if the stars are favorable for him to go against the Council?  The Rabbi says the stars are neither favorable nor unfavorable.  But, he reads a passage from a book that says:  "They will obey he who dares it!"   That happens to be the Duke's motto:  he who dares.  So the Duke thinks he can successfully dare to carry out his plans. 

Oppenheimer now tries to get Dorothea's father to be the leader of a single Council.  He also tells dad that he would like to marry his daughter.  Dad says that's not possible.  His daughter is already promised to Faber.  So Oppenheimer says he will give the man until tomorrow to think about it.  At night Dorothea and Faber are married. 

The next morning Oppenheimer comes to Dorothea's father Sturm to see if he has changed his mind.  He has not.  He says:  "My daughter will bring no Jew children into this world."   Joseph now threatens the father.  Dad gets so mad that he shouts at Oppenheimer how can he be so insolent and throws him out of his office.  The Finance Minister now goes to Levy to take down a letter to the public prosecutor.  He says it has been proven that the head of the Council (Dorothea's dad Sturm) is in a conspiracy against the Duke and he expects the prosecutor to commence proceedings immediately. 

The prosecutor Levy calls Sturm in, but Sturm says he does not recognize the legitimacy of the prosecutor, who is a Jew.  He asks:  "Should Jews sit in judgment over Württemberg citizens?"  Levy brings up charges against Sturm, but these only make the man angrier at Levy. 

Lord von Rader goes to tell Dorothea that her father is being held in the castle by force.  He also tells her and Faber that a special meeting has been called of the Council.  At the meeting of the Council, Faber says that the Finance Minister and the Duke want to create a Ministry and exclude the Council.  This infuriates the Council members and they are ready to use force if necessary to oppose the Duke and free Sturm. 

Meanwhile, the Duke calls a Ministry conference with the Duke as the chief member.  The Duke says that Oppenheimer has informed him that at a recent Council meeting there was talk of having him, the Duke, arrested.  So he has decided to dissolve the Council immediately. 

Roder tries to reason with the Duke, but the man is too angry to listen to anyone.  After Roder leaves, the Duke tells Oppenheimer that he has created too many enemies for him and the situation is out of control.  Oppenheimer tells the Duke that they can borrow soldiers from Wurzburg.  The Duke doesn't like the idea.  Just then his wife comes in and she tells her husband that he should follow the sage advice of the Minister of Finance. She leaves the office.  The Duke is furious and accuses Oppenheimer of seducing his wife to take on his positions on various policy matters as her own.  He admits that now he does not trust his genius minister. 

The people charge over to the castle to shout for the release of Sturm.  Oppenheimer says that this is how rebellions start.  But, says Joseph, the Duke can use this opportunity to carry out a coup d'etat and take all the power for himself.  The Duke likes this idea and asks how much would it cost him to borrow 4 to 5 thousand Wurzburg soldiers?  It would be extremely expensive and the treasury is just so-so.  So, Oppenheimer suggests that he may be able to get some monetary help from the Jewish community, who are indebted to the Duke for abolishing the ban. 

Oppenheimer goes to a synagogue to talk to Rabbi Harponi.  He tells the Rabbi he needs 500,000 talers from the clan.  Joseph lies and says the Council wants to drive out all the Jews from Stuttgart.  In short, Oppenheimer convinces the Rabbi to seek the approval of the others to offer the Duke 500,000 talers. 

Dorothea is very sad about her father and cries while playing the piano and singing.  She tells her maid that this is the third night and there's still no news of her father.  Faber comes in and Dorothea is very happy to see him.  He tells her that the Duke's guards have taken control of the Council building.  He adds:  "We are now in open revolution." 

Oppenheimer goes to talk to Sturm to try and get him to accept the position of head of the ministry.  Sturm says he would rather die than break his oath to the Council.  Joseph admits he needs the good reputation of Sturm to legitimize the ministry.  Sturm refuses to cooperate.

Roder brings the Council the bad new that the Duke is going to use foreign soldiers to eliminate the Council.  And the Jews are financing the Duke's war.  Roder yells out the password for the evening, which is "Karl Alexander".  Faber says he will use the password to get past the gate to spread the word of rebellion.  His attempt fails, however, because the password is changed to "since midnight".  Faber is arrested. 

Oppenheimer now has both the orders of and the actual physical body of Faber.  He demands that Faber tell him who are his co-conspirators?  Faber says it's Oppenheimer himself because the man has supported a coup d'etat.  Oppenheimer gives the order to torture Faber until he talks.

Dorothea is at home pacing back and forth and crying. 

Oppenheimer convinces the Duke to travel to Ludwigsburg to see the Kaiser's envoy and when he comes back in a day and a half, the coup d'etat will have made him absolute ruler.  The Duke agrees.

Dorothea comes to ask Oppenheimer for help to save her father and husband.  He says the Duke won't help her.  She tries to give him her jewelry to get his support, but he just tries to force himself on Dorothea.  She pushes him backwards and he knocks a table over.  Now he gives the signal for the torture to begin.  Dorothea can hear the screams of pain coming from her husband.  She indicates she is ready to give in, but she makes Oppenheimer use force.  He pushes her onto the bed. 

Levy comes to the torturers and says Faber is to be released.  As Faber leaves, Levy tells him that he has to thank his pretty young wife for his freedom for she went to see the Finance Minister personally.  Faber can't seem to believe it.  He tries to find her and does find her.  She jumped into the river and drowned herself.  Faber retrieves the body from the waters.  He brings her body to the doorstep of Oppenheimer, followed by the people of the town.  The people shout:  "The Jew must go!"  They attack the front door.  Levy is scared for his life and tries to hide. 

Faber and Roder ride to the gate in an attempt to reach Ludwigsburg and the Duke.  An officer tries to shoot Roder, but Roder shoots first, killing the officer.   The soldiers are about to shoot Roder, when he stops them with his words.  They open the gate for Faber and Roder who ride hard for Ludwigsburg. 

At Ludwigsburg Oppenheimer is with the Duke, who isn't feeling well.  The messengers arrive.  The Duke has to go outside to speak with them, since they refuse to come in.  Roder tries to reason with the Duke, but once again the Duke is so righteously indignant that he hears nothing.  He gets so caught up in his indignation that he drops over from a heart attack.  The man is dead.  Now the messengers from the Council arrest Oppenheimer. 

Oppenheimer is put on trial.  The judge in conference says that Oppenheimer is guilty of blackmail, usury, abuse of office, procurement and high treason.  And that's not mentioning how much shame and dishonor the man brought on the people of Württemberg.  Joseph Oppenheimer is sentenced to hang and he does hang.  And now begins the punishment of all Jews:  "All Jews must leave Württemberg within three days."  it is also said that this law must always kept to protect the German people from the Jews.  February 4, 1738. 

 

By 1934 Hitler was the chancellor of Germany and on his way to becoming a total dictator.  He hated the Jews so it's no wonder that films such at this one would be produced in Germany.  Films were a part of the fascist and racist propaganda of the Nazis.  The conclusion to be drawn from all this is that based on the actions of one Jewish person and his associate, all Jews can never be trusted.  The film is good in making the audience hate this particular Jewish man, Joseph Oppenheimer.   (I myself was happy to see him hanged.)  But you don't condemn an entire people for the bad behavior of one bad man and his bad associate.  Ah, racists never listen to logic, anyway.  Ever try to reason with a really nasty racist?  It's impossible to get through to them.  They live in their own world with their own values and their own distorted versions of history and science.  

And look at where this racism led  -- to the Holocaust, one of the greatest crimes (if not the greatest crime) ever committed against humanity.  It's good to oppose racism and racists no matter what form they take. 

 

The reviewers of the film on Amazon.com mentioned it was produced by the Nazis.  But an e-mail from a person informed me that this was not the Nazi film. The Nazi film was much worse.  

Wikipedia says:  "Jud Süß is a 1934 British historical romantic drama film. Directed by Lothar Mendes, the film stars German actor Conrad Veidt in the role of Joseph Süss Oppenheimer. British censors did not allow a film to openly criticize the persecution of Jews, since it would have appeared as an attack on German policy and led to a diplomatic incident.  The film had little success in America or most of Europe, but a great political impact in Vienna, where it was banned.  Unlike the 1940 version, the 1934 version is based on Lion Feuchtwanger's 1925 novel and is a condemnation of anti-Semitism, not a justification of it. The 1940 version is considered by some to be a response to the British version." 

If this film is a condemnation of anti-Semitism, it sure fooled me.  Oppenheimer lived in a land of anti-Semitism and had to work around the racist laws, so he had to be clever and work around these laws.  I guess what disturbed me about the character Oppenheimer was his helping the Duke to get women to misuse and tried to marry Dorothea when she was in love with a fellow named Dorle Faber who is young like Dorothea.  Then Oppenheimer takes advantage of Dorothea even though she is now married.  Does that sound like a good person to you?  I thought the character Oppenheimer was an illustration of a Jewish person working the system to rise to power and then becoming corrupted by that same system.  I did not see the film as anti- anti-Semitism.  The injustice of anti-Semitism should have been more clearly delineated. 

My interpretation  of the film was because the message was compromised by Oppenheimer's character when he came to power.   This is backed up by information provided by the article Two Films About Jud Süss essay by Edgar Feuchtwanger, nephew of Lion Feuchtwanger.

"Four years were to elapse before the first moves were made that led to the production of the notorious anti-Semitic Jud Süss film directed by Veit Harlan. These moves occurred around the time of Kristallnacht in November 1938, when the Nazi persecution of the Jews went into higher gear."

"The film industry is traditionally portrayed by anti-Semites as dominated by Jews, but even the many Jews involved in the British film industry in the 1930s took some convincing that Jew Süss was a viable proposition. The industry was struggling hard to establish itself in the teeth of competition from Hollywood. Political, let alone Jewish themes, were thought to be death at the box office. Any political message was therefore well hidden in the film. Michael Balcon was as head of British Gaumont in the 1930s instrumental in getting Jud Süss on to the screen. Thirty years later he regretted that the political message was not stronger: “Hardly a single film of the period reflects the agony of those times”, he wrote in 1964."

Yeah, the political message was way too "well hidden".

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Thanks to the reader for informing me about the two films by the same name.  It was interesting reading more in depth about the controversy of the two films:  one supposedly anti- anti-Semitic and the other definitely anti-Semitic. 

 

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