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1 Introduction Individualist in a Totalitarian State Following a decree issued by Nazi authorities on April 29, 1942, all Jews living in the Netherlands had to wear the yellow star, and by July mass deportations to the extermination camps in the East had begun. It was around this time that the family of Anne Frank moved into a hiding place at Prinsengracht 163 in Amsterdam. Otto Frank was an ordinary businessman specializing in spices and pectin and therefore not particularly well connected, but even an internationally recognized film director such as Ludwig Berger, whose credits included Universum Film (UFA) and Paramount musicals, had to fear for his life. Just a year earlier, his Technicolor extravaganza The Thief of Bagdad had won three Academy Awards. Now his only protection against arrest and deportation was his forged papers identifying him as Aryan, which could be exposed at any time. Another German refugee fighting for survival in the Netherlands was Camilla Spira, an earthy stage actress who shortly before Hitler’s rise to power had costarred in Fritz Lang’s film Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (The testament of Dr. Mabuse, 1933). The daughter of a Danish-born actress and her German Jewish colleague, she might have survived on her own—blond and full bosomed, she looked almost like the caricature of an Aryan woman, and by Nazi law’s definition was only half-Jewish, but she had a Jewish husband and two children, and after the internment of the whole family in the Westerbork transition camp she could save them only if she passed as 100 percent Aryan. She succeeded with the help of lawyer Hans-Georg Calmeyer, later called “the Oskar Schindler from Osnabrück.” He was part of the Reichskommissariat (Reich’s Commissar’s Office) installed in the Netherlands to deal with Jewish matters. Spira insisted to veit harlan 2 him that her biological father was not Fritz Spira, the Jewish actor, but her mother’s lover, a Gentile from Hungary, and Calmeyer arranged for an interrogation of Lotte Spira-Andresen, then living in Berlin, to confirm these claims. As a result, the Spira family joined those 3,500 to 3,700 Dutch-based Jews whom Calmeyer managed to save from deportation to Auschwitz. It is likely that he knew both women were lying, and he may even have advised them to do so. Spira’s colleague Dora Gerson did not have the former’s Nordic looks and with her harsh, stern appearance never approached the latter’s popularity . She had not sought it in the first place, being openly Jewish (she could have changed her surname) and leftist, and found her true vocation in political cabaret, though her possibilities were restricted first in her Swiss and then in her Dutch exile. More or less retired as an actress-singer, she had two children by her second husband, a Dutch Jew, at the time the Wehrmacht invaded the Netherlands. Her first husband, a struggling actor when they married, had since then become a well-known filmmaker in Nazi Germany. His name was Veit Harlan, and she may have read his name on cinema billboards, for his latest film, Jud Süss (Jew Suss, 1940), had just been released in the Netherlands under the title Süss, de Jood. It was not particularly successful with Dutch audiences, but as a hate-inducing antiSemitic propaganda picture costarring two of Weimar Germany’s most celebrated actors, Werner Krauss and Heinrich George, it must have caught theattentionofthosewhomitdenounced.1 Inthesummerof1942,Gerson’s situation was not desperate enough that she needed to ask her former husband for help. By autumn, however, after a failed escape attempt across France, she and her family were interned at Westerbork, and this time their situation was desperate. Harlan’s eldest daughter, Maria, could recall her father telling her that he had learned of Gerson’s internment, which implies that Gerson had tried to contact him. This contact in turn implies that Gerson felt at least ambivalent about him—that despite his high position in Nazi cinema, he still might be someone she could count on. Jud Süss remained virtually unknown in Great Britain and the United States throughout the war years, despite a glowing review written by Michelangelo Antonioni after its Venice Film Festival premiere and the presence of foreign correspondents in Nazi Germany and the occupied countries.2 “None of America’s major newspapers had anything to say about this film,” the historian Harry Waldman has remarked, “which...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780813167022
Related ISBN
9780813167008
MARC Record
OCLC
940502002
Pages
464
Launched on MUSE
2016-02-26
Language
English
Open Access
No
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