Black Gravel

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Black Gravel
Black & white photo of bar scene in postwar Germany
Directed by Helmut Käutner
Produced by Walter Ulbrich
Screenplay by Helmut Käutner
Walter Ulbrich
Starring Helmut Wildt
Ingmar Zeisberg
Cinematography Heinz Pehlke
Edited by Klaus Dudenhöfer
Release date
  • April 16, 1961 (1961-04-16) (West Germany)
Running time
111 minutes
Country West Germany
Language German

Black Gravel (original title: Schwarzer Kies) is a German film from 1961. The screenplay was written by director Helmut Käutner and Walter Ulbrich. The film was shot in Lautzenhausen, Germany.[1]


The story takes place in postwar Germany, following Germany's loss in World War II. For years, people struggled with shortages of everything, housing, water, food, clothing. A military base for several thousand American soldiers is going to be built in the village of Sohnen. The locals eye them suspiciously, nonetheless recognizing the economic potential.[1] Numerous individuals find ways to serve (and service) the Americans, turning barns into bars, becoming prostitutes, building the new airbase. Robert Neidhardt, who owns a truck, starts selling gravel on the black market. Robert flees during a police raid, causing a fatal accident. He keeps going, fleeing further, becoming more ruthless, causing the death of a couple.

Charges of anti-semitism[edit]

Käutner attempted to show postwar Germany as it was, gritty, smarting from defeat, still encumbered by anti-semitism,[1][2] despite the denazification efforts. However, the Central Council of Jews in Germany protested against the film and filed a criminal complaint, labeling the portrayal of anti-semitism as the expression of it and citing the treatment of a character (Loeb) who is a Nazi concentration camp survivor and who is called a "dirty Jew"[1][2] by "der alte Rössler" ("old man Rössler"). Though the director and producer said the Council misunderstood their intent, and the general secretary of the Council said he found the movie "much more anti-German than anti-Jewish," all the scenes with Jewish references were cut from the film.[1]

In an issue of Der Spiegel published at the time the movie was released, an article called "Slice of Life" ("Eine Scheibe Leben"), begins with the scene in question.[1]

The camera travels through the smoky haze of a tavern, at the tables, US soldiers and fräuleins are hanging out. Playing from the jukebox for several minutes is marching music and a farmer, his walking stick slung over his shoulder like a weapon, marches in place in front of the record player, enjoying the fond memories. Finally, the tavern owner admonishes him, "Okay, time for another record... The Yanks are already complaining." The farmer: "The Yanks can kiss my..." The tavern owner bends over and pulls the plug out of the wall. The music stops. The old man curses, "Dirty Jew!"

— Scene from Black Gravel described in Der Spiegel, April 26, 1961

Not until 2009 was the originally premiered film shown again, after an uncut version was uncovered.[2]



  1. ^ a b c d e f "Eine Scheibe Leben" Der Spiegel (April 26, 1961). Retrieved March 13, 2012 (in German)
  2. ^ a b c "Wiederentdeckt: Schwarzer Kies" German Historical Museum. Retrieved March 13, 2012 (in German)

External links[edit]