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Russian films in Austria, Czechoslovakia and Germany in Twenties and Thirties


The censorship of „Marxist matters“
On 30th October 1918 any kind of censorship in Austria was abolished. Nevertheless some political forces tried to prevent the screening of „unwanted films“.
Since the 1920ies, in Austria bourgeois governments were in power. They represented a conservative, catholic body of thought and opposed any kind of „left“ movement. Films of revolutionary and communist content were a thorn in their side and so they fought for banning this sort of films (Mock 1986: 34).

The film BRONENOSEZ POTEMKIN (BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN) [PANZERKREUZER POTEMKIN in Austria] was heavily attacked in the bourgeois as well as in the national socialist press (Neues Wiener Tagblatt, 2.7.1926; Reichspost, 18.6.1926; Deutsch-österreichische Tageszeitung, 29.6.1926). The film was assumed to activate the most primitive human instincts and to support subversive tendencies. Thereupon, in several cinemas interferences in the form of interjections and stink bombs took place, mostly initialised by national socialists. Finally, two months later the film was banned in Vorarlberg (West Austria) (Arbeiter-Zeitung, 29.6.1926 and 1.9.1926; Neue Freie Presse, 30.6.1926; Neues Wiener Tagblatt, 29.6.1926).

Even more intensive reactions provoked Dziga Vertov´s film ENTUZIAZM/ENTUZIASM: SIMFONIA DONBASSA in May 1932. The bourgeois, conservative publication „Reichspost“ criticised it harshly. The journal acknowledged the advanced director’s work, but accused the „lousy“ film of being blasphemic. The „Reichspost“ encouraged the public to protest against this „Bolshevik propaganda film of most evil character“ (Reichspost, 21.5.1932). Hereupon some bourgeois-conservative youth groups (the so-called „Lueger-Jungfront“) attended a film screening of ENTUZIASM: SIMFONIA DONBASSA and initiated, on full purpose, a riot. This incident gave the police reason to confiscate the film and to complain about all parties involved because of „blasphemy and disturbance of public peace and order“ (Reichspost, 22.5.1932 and Arbeiter-Zeitung, 10.6.1932).
In May 1934, after the coming into power of the Austrian fascists and after the interdiction of the socialist, the communist and national socialist parties, censorship was once again officially installed in Austria.

Afterwards, as expected, the fight against „Marxist body of thought“ was continued with the same strength (Moser 2002: 134-139). An information brochure about the „Austrian film“ published by the Ministry of Trade and Traffic demonstrated that communist and revolutionary film content was disliked. As a shining example the folder presented the North American censorship authority under the direction of the Irish Catholic Mr. Breen. The Austrian authorities especially lauded that the U.S.-censors unhesitatingly rejected all films glorifying communism or revolution (Volkswirtschaftlicher Aufklärungsdienst. Der österreichische Film, 5th February 1937).

In fact, only few documents of the work of the censorship authorities in the 20ies and 30ies in Austria still exist. But on the basis of the censorship cards of the Federal Archive of Lower Austria, it can be deduced that shots of the communist and socialist movement at home and abroad probably were cut out. Only films (for example newsreels) showing how socialist and communist alliances were defeated were permitted [Cf. Bavaria Woche Nr. 47]. Takes displaying strikes, riots and demonstrations also had to be removed. [Cf. Bavaria Woche Nr. 43; Auslandstonwoche Nr. 286; Bavaria Woche Nr. 15]

Moreover, the staff of the Austrian censorship authorities assumed that pictures of misery and poverty, unemployed and starving people promoted Marxist tendencies and might have disturbed public peace and order. Therefore the censors interdicted too realistic presentations of misery and poverty in films [Cf. Die neue Zeit].

After the „Anschluss“ of Austria to national socialist Germany, the German censorship rules became valid in Austria. Since this time the central film censorship authority for Austria was located in Berlin.


Source Edition urrogat Production Introduction Censorship Regulations Battleship Potemkin Horror Films Conclusion Bibliography Germany Introduction Czechoslovakia Austria Synopsis Local vs. central film assessment Potemkin abroad Russian films top back next