Fritz Hippler

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Fritz Hippler (17 August 1909 – 22 May 2002 - aged 92) was a German filmmaker who ran the film department in the Propaganda Ministry of the Third Reich, under Joseph Goebbels. He is most famous as director of the propaganda film Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew).

Poster for The Eternal Jew directed by Fritz Hippler

Early life and education[edit]

Hippler was born and brought up in Berlin as the son of a petty official. His father died in 1918 in the First World War in France. Hippler resented the Treaty of Versailles and its associated regulations, such as the assignment of the Danzig Corridor, the occupation of the Rhineland and the disarmament of Germany as unjustified humiliation, and rejected the Weimar democracy.

In 1927, Hippler became a student member of the 1927 Nazi Party. Later he studied law in Heidelberg and Berlin. He was a member of the Teutonia dueling team in Heidelberg and the Berlin Arminia country team. In 1932 he became NSDAP district speaker. In 1933 he was appointed the district and high school group leader for Berlin-Brandenburg in the National Socialist German Students' League.

He then started studying jurisprudence in Heidelberg and Berlin. He joined the student corporation Teutonia and took part in academic fencing.

Hippler was a supporter of expressionism. As the leader of the National Socialist German Students' League of Berlin he organised an exhibition in Berlin's Humboldt University for expressionist painters, for which he was vehemently attacked by Rosenberg.

In 1932, Hippler was expelled from the University of Berlin for inciting violence. On 19 April 1933, the new National Socialist Education Minister Bernhard Rust repealed any disciplinary actions against students associated with the Nazi Party, thus reinstating Hippler.

On 22 May 1933, he gave a speech initiating a march from the student house in the Oranienburger Straße to Opera Square with books which were then burned.

Hippler was later involved in a dispute over the direction of arts policy. He was satisfied with the anti-Jewish orientation of the arts policy and the consequent banishment of that art from museums and art dealers who had been created by people of Jewish faith. However he criticised in July 1933 at a rally of the National Socialist Student League in the lecture hall of the Berlin University the harsh action of some Nazi circles against the German modern artists like Emile Nolde and Barlach, the artists group Die Brücke, which was propagated by elements of the Nazi leadership as part of efforts against the Degenerate Art. Although Goebbels was a lover of Nolde, this direction after a word of argument was in favour of the more radical of Hitler's National Socialists, whose spokesman was Alfred Rosenberg and his Combat League for German Culture.

Career in film production[edit]

After receiving his doctorate in 1934, Hippler became a lecturer at the German University of Policy in Berlin. From 1936 he worked as assistant to Hans Weidemann working on the production of German newsreels, directed in the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Here he learned the production of documentaries. In January 1939, he took over Weidemann's position. In August 1939, Goebbels promoted Hippler again. He appointed the 29-year-old Hippler to head the film department at the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda RMVP. In February 1942, he appointed him to the kingdom of film directors. With these two functions Hippler was one of the most important politicians of the film "Third Reich" after Goebbels. In October 1942, he was Director in the RMVP. His task was control, supervision and direction of German filmmaking.

In 1938, Hippler was appointed to the rank of SS Hauptsturmführer. According to Veit Harlan, Hippler loved to wear his SS uniform.

In his ministerial functions, Hippler continued to produce films. In 1939-40 he was responsible for the propaganda film The campaign in Poland which ran under the title of Baptism of fire. In 1940, he was responsible for the management and design of the feature-length documentary film The Eternal Jew- according to Courtade," History of Film in the Third Reich," "the vilest anti-Semitic Nazi films." The film historian Frank Noack assessed "The Eternal Jew" as "probably the most radical inflammatory film of all time". An article written by Hippler in the magazine "The film" about its creation marked Jews as "parasites of national degeneracy." The film served as a preparation and agreement of the population in the coming holocaust and was mainly used for training of police and SS troops. In the same year, Hippler received from Hitler a secret special endowment of 60,000 Reichsmarks in recognition of his services to the Reich.

In addition to The Eternal Jew Hippler also directed the 1940 propaganda documentary Feldzug in Polen about the Third Reich's invasion and occupation of Poland in 1939, and Die Frontschau (The Frontshow), a series of shorts shown to soldiers before being shipped to the Eastern Front.

In 1942, Hippler published a book about film theory titled Betrachtungen zum Filmschaffen (i.e., Contemplations on Filmmaking), which included a preface by Emil Jannings.

By 1943, he was promoted to Obersturmbannführer.

Conflict with Goebbels[edit]

Goebbels could usually count on his young people. Nevertheless, he frequently criticised their shortcomings. As early as 1939, he recorded in his diaries that Hippler was intelligent but cheeky and totally contradictory. He also stated that Hippler was immature. Goebbels complained repeatedly about the disorganisation of the film department. Hippler suffered apparently of alcohol addiction.[6] Goebbels finally discharged Hippler in June 1943 because of his alcohol addiction.[7] Hippler made an entry in his memoirs that he had been dismissed when it became known that the screenplay for the film Münchhausen written by Erich Kaestner, who had been ostracised by the National Socialists, emerged as an apologetic statement. After his dismissal, Hippler's SS ranking was again disallowed because they accused him of having denied that a great-grandmother was of Jewish descent.

In March 1943, Goebbels discharged Hippler as Reichsfilmsuperintendant after differences of opinion. (Rentschler Eric.1998. Ministry of Illusion p 266). Hippler was sent to an infantry replacement battalion of the country, according to Strauss and underwent mountain infantry training. Then he was again released from active duty and used until February 1945 as a front cameraman in order to produce material for newsreels. On 3 May 1945, he flew into Hamburg as a British prisoner of war.

Postwar[edit]

After the end of the Second World War, Hippler was interned and sentenced to two years in prison.

He was able to stage a comeback after his release. He was interviewed in the Bill Moyers' PBS documentary "Walk Through the 20th Century" in 1983. He is portrayed by Cary Elwes in the 2001 television film, Uprising and by Ralf Bauer in the 2010 film Jew Suss: Rise and Fall.

Filmography[edit]

  • Word and Deed. A documentary film (1938, director), a film about the annexation of Austria
  • The Western Wall (1939, director)
  • Campaign in Poland (1939–40, director)
  • The Eternal Jew Film contribution to the problem of world Jewry "(1940, directed, co-ordination)
  • Several short film reviews for the "Front Show" (1941, director)
  • Victory in the West (1941, producer), a film about the campaign against Denmark, Norway, the Benelux countries.
  • Orient-Express (1944, producer)
  • Interview with Hippler (1981, Walk Through the 20th Century)

Books[edit]

  • "Betrachtungen zum Filmschaffen", 2nd Ed, Berlin (Hesse's Publishing) 1942
  • "Die Verstrickung. Einstellungen und Rückblenden von Fritz Hippler ehemaliger Reichsfilmintendant unter Josef Goebbels", Düsseldorf revised second Edition 1982
  • "Meinungsdressur?. Ein heiter-kritisches Fernsehtagebuch", Mountain / Lake Starnberg ( Kurt Vowinckel Verlag ) 1985
  • "Verbrecher Mensch? Die Beobachtungen des Historikers Johannes Scherr", Mountain / Lake Starnberg ( watchman-Verlag ) 1987
  • "Schopenhauer heute. Denkanstöße und Kostproben", Mountain / Lake Starnberg (watchman-Verlag) 1988
  • "Korrekturen: Zeitgeschichtliche Spurensuche, einmal anders", Mountain / Lake Starnberg ( Mountain Publishing Company ) 1995
  • "Einspruch Euer Ehren: Den Zeitgeist an den Pranger. Narreteien aus der deutschen Provinz", Mountain / Lake Starnberg (Mountain Publishing Company) 1999

Further reading[edit]

  • Hans-Jürgen Brandt: Nazi documentary film theory and practice: Hippler, Noldan, Junghans . Tuebingen (Niemeyer) 1987, ISBN 3-484-34023-1
  • Felix Moeller: The Film Minister. Goebbels and the Cinema in the Third Reich. With a foreword by Volker Schlondorff. Translated from the Deutsch by Michael Robinson. Stuttgart-London 2000, ISBN 3-932565-10-X
  • Roel Vande Winkel: Nazi Germany's Fritz Hippler (1909–2002). In: Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 23, No. 2, 2003, 91-99. ISSN 1465-3451
  • Silver bullet movie: eyewitness report: State Film Intendant Fritz Hippler . Bochum 2007, time travel-Verlag (DVD Documentary), ISBN 978-3-941538-19-1

External links[edit]