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The affair POTEMKIN in Germany

1. Introduction

1905 GOD (BRONENOSEZ “POTEMKIN”) / THE YEAR 1905 (BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN), produced to celebrate the 1905 Revolution, was opened in Moscow on 24th December 1925 and ran about four weeks.

The film received its German premiere at a private party organised by the Russian Embassy on the occasion of the 2nd anniversary of Lenin's death in January 1926. According to the newspaper “Die Rote Fahne” (cited in Meier 1962), the directors of the recently founded proletarian film company “Prometheus Film-Verleih und Vertriebs GmbH”, Willi Münzenberg and Richard Pfeiffer, were so enthusiastic about BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN) that they decided to launch the film [advertisement] in a big way in Germany. It was no easy task.

Unlike any other censorship case the affair BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN polarised the German public. The case triggered riots and civil commotion in the Republic of Weimar. On the one hand the affair POTENKIN left the progressive-faction with a feeling of political arbitrariness; on the other hand the conservative groups feared for public order and safety. Some circles rejected the radicalism and temerity of the leftists, others objected to the stupidity and brazenness of the right wing. Opponents and proponents clashed and the different lobbies tried to exert influence on the censorship authorities. Committees were initiated, press articles were written, and riots were planned.

Between March and October 1926 BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN was censored six times in Germany. The film was banned outright twice. In such cases of permission the German censors imposed several cuts and restrictions on the film. However, the trouble with the censorship authorities created a scandal which eventually smoothed the successful way of the proletarian “armored cruiser” through the world [correspondence].

Overview on BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN’s censorship examinations in Germany 1926-1933:

1) Examination number 12595:
24th March 1926, Film-Prüfstelle Berlin (Censorship Office Berlin): banned
Length: 1617 m, 6 reels

2) Examination number 349:
10th April 1926: Film-Oberprüfstelle (Censorship Headquarters): permitted only for adults 18 years of age or older
Length: 1617 m (after cuts: 1586, 85 m), 6 reels

3) Examination number 581:
12th July 1926, Film-Oberprüfstelle: revocation of permission

4) Examination number 13346:
28th July 1926, Film-Prüfstelle Berlin: new examination and full permission Length: 1421 m, 6 reels

5) Examination number 13418 (trailer):
6th August 1926, Film-Prüfstelle Berlin: permitted
Length: 83 m, 1 reel

6) Examination number 801:
2nd October 1926, Film-Oberprüfstelle: revocation of (full) permission; permitted only for adults 18 years of age or older
Length: 1421m, 6 reels

7) Examination number 19166:
5th June 1928: Film-Prüfstelle in Berlin: permitted only for adults 18 years of age or older
Length: 1469m (after cuts: 1464, 45m), 6 reels

8) Examination number 26505 (German synchronized version):
1st August 1930, Film-Prüfstelle in Berlin: permitted only for adults 18 years of age or older
Length: 1353m, 5 reels

9) Examination number 6363 (silent and sound version)
23rd March 1933, Film-Oberprüfstelle: banned

by Laura Bezerra


Source Edition urrogat Production Introduction Censorship Regulations Battleship Potemkin Horror Films Conclusion Bibliography Local vs. central film assessment Potemkin abroad Russian films