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365 Epilogue “Hitler, Harlan, Honecker” According to his friends and admirers, Veit Harlan was the victim of a hate campaign and indirect blacklisting, which led to his premature death. But heart ailments were widespread in the family, and he did not encounter stronger hostility than Leni Riefenstahl, who would die at 101. According to his detractors, he found too much work after 1945. Both groups were half right. Although Harlan was out of work throughout 1955 and 1956 and then again from 1959 to 1961, there is no evidence of his being blacklisted . It rather seems that he had too much pride to accept just any routine assignment, his concessions to producer Gero Wecker notwithstanding . From today’s perspective, with B and exploitation pictures appreciated and even adored, his last years at the low-esteemed Arca company do not have to be viewed as a disgrace. Despite his love of high culture and a belief in film’s educational value, Harlan was also a primitive artist, a duality he shared with Cecil B. DeMille. He himself told the FilmRevue in 1958 that after so many dramas, he would now like to make something deliberately stupid, some “Quatsch” (nonsense), which indeed would be the film’s title, and that he had asked cabaret performer Jo Herbst and screenwriter Rolf Ulrich (both of whom had just scored an international success with Das Mädchen Rosemarie) to write a zany screenplay for him.1 Instead, he would forever be remembered for his melodramas and propaganda pictures. Obituaries often read like reviews, and on the occasion of Harlan’s death his entire oeuvre was reviewed. In Variety, Hans Hoehn—who is possibly identical with the “Hans” who had dismissed Ich werde dich auf Händen tragen in 1958—now wrote a more redemptive text for Variety titled “Death of a Convenient Scapegoat,” which claimed more space than the obituary on prolific screenwriter and book author Ben Hecht.2 Harlan, he argued, “was one of the most prominent and most able German film veit harlan 366 directors of the 30s and early 40s. There were former Nazis who managed to find their way back to ‘big biz.’ Not Harlan, though never a member of the Nazi Party. Former colleagues who were zealous Nazis ignored him after Germany’s defeat because ‘it wouldn’t look good’ to be seen with the director.” He then quoted Harlan, who told him, “I have no intention to whitewash myself. I have done wrong in many respects. I also understand the Jewish people. They have a right to hate me: If I were a Jew, I would do the same. But one thing I want to make clear, no matter if people believe me or not. I have never, never personally been an anti-Semite.” Hoehn also quoted Kristina Söderbaum, who had repeatedly witnessed what her husband had to endure in public, being insulted and spat at: “I would understand if these attacks came from Jewish people or other victims of the Nazi regime. It may sound strange but our biggest opponents today are Germans who actually liked it quite well under Hitler.” The Variety obituary leaves a sour aftertaste because of the first two sentences following the headline: “Many Jews forgave Veit Harlan for [the] ‘Jew Suess’ film. His Red tormentors had all been good Nazis.” Some Jews had indeed forgiven Harlan, but chiefly, like Rabbi Prinz, because they did not consider him important enough. More troubling was the use of the Red scare tactics. Harlan, who was never an anti-Communist, never complained about Red tormentors. It remains Hans Hoehn’s secret why he had to invent them for this article. In 1965, a reissue of Kolberg under the title Der 30. Januar (January 30) caused controversies of both a political and an artistic nature. Erwin Leiser, best known for his documentary Mein Kampf (1960), which Dwight Macdonald panned as well-intentioned but clumsy,3 intercut Harlan’s Agfacolor epic with black-and-white newsreels to emphasize the similarity between Gneisenau’s speeches in Kolberg and Joseph Goebbels’s speeches, which shouldn’t have surprised anyone because Goebbels himself wrote what Gneisenau said. A few West German reviewers openly greeted the reissue because they hoped it would reveal Harlan as an inept filmmaker. Others disagreed. Peter W. Jansen wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in September 1965 that it was of no use denying Harlan any artistic merit.4 Another major critic, Heiko R. Blum, wrote in...

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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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