The City Without Jews Film Discussion

Saratoga Jewish Community Arts, with a generous grant from the Jewish Federation of Northeast New York and the sponsorship of Temple Sinai, presents a zoom discussion on December 11 at 7 PM of the 1924 silent expressionist film The City Without Jews, by Austrian filmmaker H. K. Breslauer, based on the novel of the same title by Hugo Betttauer.  The novel and film predicted the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe in the following decades. The novel, published in 1922, became a wide success and sold over 250,000 copies. Shortly after premier of the film, Bettauer was murdered by a Nazi party member. The film was shown in public for the last time in 1933 in Amsterdam as the rise of Hitler’s Germany closed the doors on it. In 2015, a copy of the film in good condition was discovered at a flea market in Paris. It was restored and re-released in 2018.

The film was set in the Austrian city of Utopia (a thinly disguised stand- in for Vienna). There are unemployed workers demanding jobs, hyperinflation in the economy, and the superrich corruption while the workers suffer and starve. The Jews are seen as the cause. The film follows the political and personal consequences of an anti-Semitic law passed by the National Assembly forcing all Jews to leave the country. At first, the decision is met with celebration, yet when the citizens eventually come to terms with the loss of the Jewish population and the resulting economic and cultural decline, the Assembly must decide whether to invite the Jews back.

The book was translated into English and issued in the United States in 1926. The film was released in the States in 1928 and played in Chicago. When moving on to New York, it was censored by the NYS Department of Education Review Board. “It was considered anti-Semitic in New York, a corrupter of morals and an incitement to crime, and was not further shown. At the same time, it was no longer screened in Germany after 1933 because of its criticism of Nazism,” says Phyllis Wang, Coordinator of SJCA.

The City Without Jews is in German and can be viewed with subtitles on https://youtu.be/5iMV7WI0TTw

The zoom discussion of this film will be held on December 11 at 7:00 PM.  The panel to discuss this historic piece of film history will include Steven Hoffmann, retired professor from Skidmore College; Professor Harvey Strum from Sage Colleges; and Professor Scott Weiss from St. Francis College of Brooklyn. Registration is available by emailing sjca.sjcf@gmail.com.

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