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221 17 Frenzy Joseph Goebbels had mixed feelings about Opfergang (Path of sacrifice). He found it, according to a diary entry dated July 24, 1943, “extraordinarily well executed color-wise. . . . Unfortunately its narrative is, like that of Immensee, a bit over the top. Harlan makes too much use of mysterious choirs, and his dialogue is also a bit too sentimental and obvious. I will have to take Harlan to task on occasion. He is moving towards a path that seems not to promise much success. He has to be brought back to reality again.”1 The German release of Roberto Rossellini’s film Un pilota ritorna (A pilot returns) at Berlin’s Capitol am Zoo would take place only two days later. The myth of neorealism’s anti-Fascist roots notwithstanding, Fascistera film critics in both Italy and Germany had appreciated the unique qualities of Rossellini’s approach, particularly his use of unknown actors or nonprofessionals and his rejection of traditional narrative. In September 1941, when Harlan had nothing to offer at Venice that year, Rossellini’s La nave bianca (The white ship) caused a sensation. Among German propaganda films, Karl Ritter’s Stukas and Günther Rittau’s U-Boote westwärts (U-Boats westward), both begun in 1940 and released in 1941, came close to Rossellini’s semidocumentary approach and lack of pathos. Harlan’s operatic style was in danger of looking old-fashioned. Like his wife, he was popular with the masses but derided by more discriminating audiences. The delay in releasing Opfergang had less to do with possible artistic flaws than with the recent opening of Immensee. For commercial reasons, it was advisable not to present Opfergang before the summer of 1944. Overexposure was bad for any artist’s image. Not although but because audiences loved Immensee, they had to wait a bit longer for the couple’s next film. Work on Kolberg continued throughout 1944. On both February 7 and June 12, Goebbels wrote about excerpts presented to him.2 Although veit harlan 222 Kolberg is one of the most-written-about films ever, the making of it is in fact poorly documented, with too much gossip and too little firsthand research. It was not until 2011 that historian Ulrich Gehrke, a Kolbergbased youth when the film was made, published a precise study that corrected false information taken for granted as facts for decades. The film did not cost 8.5 million RM but “only” 7.6 million.3 Above all, the myth of 187,000 extras needs correction because even Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960) used only 8,000. Harlan may really have used the 5,000 Wehrmacht soldiers he claimed to have had at his service, but he could not have recruited 4,000 sailors from the Kolberg Submarine School because, as Gehrke has found out, that school could host only 1,000 pupils.4 Some film historians even absurdly claim that divisions of the Wehrmacht were taken off the Eastern front—something no military historian can confirm. Alone among scholars, Susan Tegel has questioned the available data.5 The town of Kolberg was used as a location, but for most scenes it was reconstructed at Staaken near Berlin, and the town of Treptow (now Trzebiatóv) near Stettin had to double for Kolberg and was in fact the chief location for the exteriors. Whether the real Königsberg was used for the few Königsberg exteriors is questionable as well. Harlan also claimed to have used a most valuable prop: the original kaiser’s crown—which, according to Gehrke, was kept safe in Nuremberg.6 One may doubt that this crown was transported all the way from Nuremberg to Babelsberg, where set designers Erich Zander and Karl Machus had reconstructed the kaiser’s rooms, to be seen in one shot only. Either a cameraman was sent to Nuremberg to film the crown, or Harlan had to use an imitation. Exhausted by real-life death and destruction, common Germans must have felt hostile to privileged film people playing war games. Yet a daily fee of five RM was a nice sum in those days, and so hundreds of Kolberg inhabitants, including Gehrke, participated as extras. Those directly present at the shooting witnessed spectacles that did not turn up in the final print. Actor Heinz Lausch believed he was hearing God when a powerful male voice descended from heaven. Looking up, he discovered a balloon in which Harlan stood with a megaphone. The director...


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