National Center for Jewish Film (NCJF)
This version includes recently discovered scenes from the children's production of "Brundibar."
Excerpts of well-known propaganda film made by the Nazis to show the International Red Cross and others that they were not mistreating Jews in the "ghettos." Documentary footage depicts the life of Jews in the ghetto of Theresienstadt [Terezin] in Czechoslovakia as harmonious and joyful. They wear yellow stars on their civilian clothing but are euphemistically called residents ["Bewohner"] instead of inmates. They look well-dressed and well-fed and keep smiling. No SS guards or other armed Germans are shown.
With English subtitles. Titles explaining the history of Terezin which include the number of people brought to the ghetto, how many died, and how many were sent to death camps. Film title "Theresienstadt" superimposed over orchestra scene. Audience, orchestra. Animation of the fortress city. 01:01:27 Narrator describes building the city of Theresienstadt. Several CUs of inmates playing chess, reading, and at leisure outside. Teens sitting together. Young women exercising. Man painting the landscape. Others outside - narration alludes that people happily relax on the fortress grounds in the sunshine. People sitting on benches or lying in the grass. MS, old woman winding yarn. INT, woman with yellow star on her jacket knitting, men playing chess in BG. More MSs of men playing chess. Teens running, outdoor soccer match, girls watch from the sidelines. 01:04:22 INT, operating room, surgeons working on a patient, surgical tools in FG. Patients in hospital beds, nurse and doctors walking among them. Narration alludes that the hospital is equipped with all necessary supplies. EXT, hospital patients lying in the shade as nurses attend to them. MSs, young women in beds, doctor writing notes. 01:05:13 EXT, building - narrator identifies it as a children's convalescent home on the city's fringes. Scenes of children gardening, eating bread with butter. Sign with two children: "Zum Spielplatz" [to the playground]. Children playing in a sandbox and wading pool. INT, children on rocking horses, several shots. Another child rolls a toy horse on wheels on a table.
01:07:14 Scenes from the children's production of "Brundibar." Children appear from behind one of the sets. Audience (mostly children). CU, boy sitting on the lap of a young woman. LS, children lined up on stage, the conductor is visible. MS, children singing the "victory song" at the end of the opera. Pan from right to left. The child with face-painted whiskers standing at right (next to child with a fake mustache) is Ela Weissberger. VAR, performers and the audience. Curtains close and audience claps.
01:08:59 Man shoeing a cow, music in BG. Man leading the cow. INT, labor in several workshops: blacksmiths, potters, craftsmen, sculptors, tailors, and cobblers. Fountain sculptor is Professor Rudolf Saudek (Leipzig). 01:13:45 Leaving barracks - narration indicates that laborers leave factories at the end of a work day and return to the city for free time. Men and women, old and young, walking through an archway into the fortress. Soccer game in the courtyard of the old fortress - narrator suggests that workers often play soccer. People line the balcony, watch the game, and eventually leave. 01:17:29 INT, men showering at "Zentralbad." Sign: "Zur Bucherei" [to the library]. INTs, people holding books and walking in the stacks. People appearing in this sequence: Prof. Heinrich Klang (Vienna, Judge); Dr. Desider Friedmann (Vienna, Jewish community leader, member of the Aeltestenrat of Theresienstadt); Prof. David Cohen (Amsterdam, Jewish community leader, member of the Aeltestenrat of Theresienstadt); Prof. Ernst Kantorowicz (Frankfurt/Main).
01:18:26 INT men attending an evening lecture about science and art. People appearing in this sequence: Prof. Emil Utitz; Rabbi Leo Baeck (Berlin, member of the Aeltestenrat of Theresienstadt); Prof. Hermann Strauss (Berlin); Dr. Otto Stargardt (Berlin); Dr. Jur. Alexander Cohn (Berlin); Prof. Alfred Philippson (Bonn); Prof. Alfred Klein (Jena); Prof. Heinrich Klang (Vienna, Judge); Prof. Arthur Stein (Prague, historian); Prof. Leo Taussig (Prague); Prof. Maximilian Adler (Prague); Franzi Schneidhuber (Munich, widow of SA-Obergruppenfuehrer August Schneidhuber); Elly von Bleichroeder (Berlin, daughter of the banker James von Bleichroder).
01:19:06 Orchestral concert, audience listening, orchestra playing. People appearing in this sequence: Dr. Ernst Rosenthal (Berlin, Jewish community leader); Dr. Fritz Guttmann (Berlin); Dr. Julius Moritz (Berlin); Karl Meinhard (Berlin, theater director); Karl Loewenstein (Berlin, banker); Dr. Leo Loewenstein (Aachen, entrepreneur); Prof. Rudolf Saudek (Leipzig); Dr. Heinrich Gans (Vienna); Dr. Heinrich Dessauer (Vienna); Oeve Meyer (Copenhagen, industrialist); Moritz and Melanie Oppenhejm (Copenhagen); Dr. Franz Kahn (Prague); Robert Mandler (Prague, Jewish community leader); Dr. Erich Springer (Prague, physician, chief surgeon in Theresienstadt); Elisabeth Czech (widow of former Czech minister); Hans Krasa (Prague, composer); Pavel Haas (Brno, composer).
01:21:16 Working in "family gardens." Inspecting plants, watering them. EXT courtyard. Reading - narrator alludes that evenings are devoted to private life. Other scenes show women sitting inside a barracks talking, knitting, playing cards, etc. 01:24:28 Eating dinner at table. People appearing in this sequence: Prof. David Cohen (Amsterdam, Jewish community leader, member of the Aeltestenrat of Theresienstadt) and his wife; Mr. Phillip Kozower (Berlin, Jewish community leader, member of the Aeltestenrat of Theresienstadt, director of the post at Theresienstadt) and his wife and their children.
Script: Kurt Gerron using drafts by Jindrich Weil and Manfred Greiffenhagen
Music: Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Sholom Secunda, Hans Krása, Jaques Offenbach, Pavel Haas, Max Bruch, Dol Dauber
This VHS version includes "Staged Nazi Film" on screen in the top right corner throughout the duration of the film.
See SSFVA files for narration and subtitle text.
SSFVA received a copy of this version in March 2006.
The full title of this film is: Theresienstadt: ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem Juedischen Siedlungsgebiet [Theresienstadt: a documentary film about the Jewish settlement]. The often-used title for this film is: Der Fuehrer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt [The Fuehrer gives the Jews a City].
Biography / History:
Film Summary: Theresienstadt, established in November 1941, was the central ghetto for Jews from the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. From July 1942 on, the ghetto also contained Jews decorated with German army medals as well as 'prominent' Jews and older Jews from several western European countries. It functioned as a transfer camp for deportations to the death camps in Poland and the occupied Soviet Union. After repeated requests by officials of the International Red Cross from October 1943 on, the SS agreed to allow a visit on June 23, 1944. Comprehensive 'beautification' measures took place in preparation for the visit in order to camouflage the ongoing mass murder of European Jewry to the world. Theresienstadt was presented as a 'model Jewish settlement.' Hans Guenther, the head of the regional SS-Zentralamt zur Regelung der Judenfrage [Central Office for the Regulation of the Jewish Question] in Prague, developed the idea to produce a movie depicting the 'excellent' living conditions for Jews in Theresienstadt (most probably in December 1943). The scenes in the film show camp life and feature the inmates in their day-to-day lives. Living conditions in Theresienstadt (and especially the efforts in education and culture organized by the Jewish council) were better on average than those in the Polish and Soviet ghettos. However, the movie crassly exaggerated the quality of life and omitted the harsh reality of overcrowding, hunger, diseases, and death that defined life in Theresienstadt.
Beside the cinematography, inmates of the ghetto were used in all functions (including the director Kurt Gerron) to produce the film under close supervision by the SS. Immediately after the end of shooting in September 1944, Gerron and other cast members were deported to Auschwitz where they perished. After the final cut on March 28, 1945 the Czech company Aktualita received RM 35,000 from Guenther's office for the production of the movie. The movie was intended to be screened to international audiences like the International Red Cross and the Vatican. Following the first screening in early April 1945 to high-ranking government and SS officials in Prague there were at least three more screenings to international humanitarian emissaries in Theresienstadt itself on April 6 and 16, 1945. Plans for a further distribution to broader audiences in the neutral states never materialized because of the progression of war.
Since 1945 no complete copy of the entire ninety minute film has been located. There are only fragments available at different archives. The infamous title "Der Fuehrer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt" ["The Fuehrer Donates a City to the Jews"] is not original - it was given by survivors of Theresienstadt in the aftermath.
The film was shot over 11 days between August 16 to September 11, 1944. This fragment seems to be similar to what was discovered in Czechoslovakia 1964 and contains parts of 12 sequences (sequences 26 to 37) out of the film's 38. Other fragments of the same film are on USHMM tapes 140 (story 80), 243 (story 269) and 201 (story 269).
2000.621.1 The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum purchased this video collection from the National Center for Jewish Film for general reference in July 2000.
Kurt Gerron under supervision of Hans Guenther & Karl Rahm
Karel Peceny (Aktualita Prag) for SS-Zentralamt zur Regelung der Judenfrage in Boehmen und Maehren
Ivan Fric; Cenek Zahradnícek
National Center for Jewish Film (NCJF)
01:00:00 - 01:24:33