hen Professor Karl Brunner, (the official Censor in Berlin to whom
Kurt Tucholsky dedicated his poem "The Trousers Sniffer")
went to the cinema or theatre in the first or second decade of this
century, a scandal was not very far off.
40 years after the event, the director Richard Oswald remembered
the second showing - to a specially invited audience -- of his film
Anders als die Anderen (Different from the Others)
in Spring 1919. Among the audience were Minister Gustav Stresemann,
and the doctor Friedrich Sauerbruch.
While the film was running - in the middle of the
showing - a man stood up and called out 'when I see such filth
...' I (Oswald) stopped the film at once by raising my hand and
calling out: 'If anyone assesses this film as "filth",
Herr Professor Brunner, then he is himself that ...'
The subject of this verbal battle was the first film produced which
polemicised against Paragraph 175. The story concerns a homosexual
musician who becomes a victim of blackmail, gets caught up in the
wheels of justice and in view of the social climate of intolerance
and prejudice chooses suicide.
The film was produced with the active co-operation of Magnus Hirschfeld,
who not only advised Richard Oswald, but himself played a role.
As a doctor Hirschfeld delivers a lecture about the naturalness
of homosexuality and compares the repression of it to the witch
trials of the middles-ages. After the musician Paul Körner
is buried he (Hirschfeld) demands:
As is fought for someone unjustly condemned to
prison so must we fight to restore the rights and honour of the
many thousands past, present and to come. Through science to justice.
But for those who were against the film science was not on the
agenda. The discussion of the film was accompanied by much anti-Semitism,
for Oswald, Hirschfeld and the actor who played the role of the
blackmailer, were Jewish.
Anders als die Anderen was water on the mills of those
who demanded a quick end to the absence of a censor in the Weimar
Republic. Behind the loud campaign against the educational film
were those who opposed the liberalisation and democratisation of
society. The acceptance of the call to tolerance towards other ways
of loving, would have meant accepting sex as a pleasure. Such an
understanding would have put the institution of marriage in question
since there sexuality is associated with reproduction and the maintenance
of society. The ending of marriage as an institution was feared
by just that section of the middle-strata of society threatened
by "proletarianisation", where the family structure was
frequently the basic economic unit.
A report on the film Anders als die Anderen by the
Cologne "Association for the Protection of Respectability and
good Behaviour" stated:
Neither spirit, nor backbone, nor strength were
found in this lad. If you had given him a spade to dig a hole
he would have fallen on his nose within two minutes - like a weak-kneed
Even more direct were the demands of the Senior Teacher Franz H.
One can state quite plainly: We must have the courage
to demand relations with powerful, healthy (not burnt-out) loins,
if our people are to renew the strength of which they have been
robbed from our own resources . .. One means of doing that today
- demanded by all who with any understanding - would be the re-introduction
The main actor in the film was Conrad Veidt. Born in Berlin on
22nd January 1893, his artistic career began in 1913 at the "Deutsche
Theatre" of Max Reinhardt. In 1918 with the film Das
Tagebuch einer Verlorenen (The diary of a lost one) began
his co-operation with Richard Oswald who built up Veidt's career
as a star of films which sought to educate on questions of disputed
morality and custom.
His rise to become a star coincided with one of the most creative
periods of German film history - expressionism in film. With the
role of the sleep-walker in Robert Wienes The Cabinet of Dr.
Caligari (1919) his fame spread outside Germany and he was
at the same time type-cast. Both his personal appearance, as well
as his expressive acting which was rooted in the acting-style of
the early twenties contributed to this .
In his early films Veidt embodied negative characters, among others
Dr. Warren and Mr. O'Connel in Murnaus' film Janus-Head
- a version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." He played the
mad ruler Ivan the Terrible, who knew how to torture both physically
and mentally, in Paul Lenis' film Das Wachsfigurenkabinett.
This film of horror and violence, characteristic of the German films
of the period 1919 - 1924 laid the foundation of Veidt's reputation
as demon of the German silent films.
He was an elegant, seducer without scruples, whose women found happiness,
and was himself on the path to destruction through illness brought
on by pleasure. Such roles he played with extra-ordinary intensity,
but his depiction of the wicked and reckless was aesthetic and didn't
induce rejection and denunciation. One of the few characters he
played outside his role-cliché was the musician Paul Körner
in Anders als die Anderen.
Developments within German films in the second half of the 20's,
including their aesthetic and content stagnation, led to Conrad
Veidt receiving few interesting roles, and thus he turned to studios
abroad. He worked from 1927 to 1929 in Hollywood.
In distinction to many other actors/actresses of the silent film
era Veidt managed to switch to sound films without any great problems.
The only surviving copy of his first German film (Die letzte
Kompanie - 1929/30 - The last company) is in fact a version
in the English language. Because of his good knowledge of English
Veidt played in many English versions of German films for example
F.P.1. - the English version of Hans Albers' "F.P.1
doesn't answer." Among the ten films he made in Germany between
1929 and 1933 none can be regarded as outstanding. An exception
would be Robert Siodmaks quality whodunit, Der Mann der einen
Mord beging - (The man who committed a murder) and Heinz
Paul's anti-war film Die andere Seite (The other side).
Veidt's depiction of Prince Metternich in the film Der Kongress
tanzt (The Congress dances) makes the film worthy of being
In 1933 Veidt was on set in Britain making The Wandering Jew.
Since he was already committed to it he came back once more to Germany
to play Geßler in Ufa's William Tell. Then he
returned to Britain to play Josef Süß Oppenheimer in
Lothar Mendes film version of Feuchtwanger's Jüd Süß.
Veidt was accepted as member of the Reichsfilmkammer (State Film
Institute), but after his appearance in Jüd Süß
the Nazi 'paper "Völkische Beobachter" (People's
Observer) announced the ban on him on 23.11.1934. The sensitive
artist rejected the Nazis - in addition his wife, Lilly, was in
danger in Germany as a result of her Jewish origins. Veidt's acting
talent and linguistic abilities made it possible for him to quickly
become an actor "in demand". His name is also connected
with one of the best known anti-Nazi films to come out of Hollywood,
Casablanca, in which he played Major Strasser - Humphrey
Bogart's opponent. The duel between the two men in Ricks Café
is among the most famous scenes in film history. Veidt, however,
didn't live to see the end of the war. At only 55 he died in Hollywood
on 3rd April 1943.
In his book, Eric Pommer, like Veidt also in American exile - wrote
"It is difficult to decide what was more remarkable about him,
his artistic abilities or his humanity."
Among those who helped make Anders als die Anderen,
Richard Oswald, Reinhold Schünzel and Magnus Hirschfeld were
all refugees after 1933.
Dr. Almuth Püschel / trans. C. de la Motte-Sherman