First U.S. anti-Hitler film discovered in Brussels archive

Fri Sep 20, 2013 4:23pm EDT
 
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By Robert-Jan Bartunek

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The first U.S. film to warn about the dangers of Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime has been found in a Brussels film archive, having lain unnoticed for some 75 years.

"Hitler's Reign of Terror" was produced by Cornelius Vanderbilt, an heir to the wealthy American industrialist family, who visited Germany as Hitler was voted into power in 1933.

The film revolves around footage that Vanderbilt shot and smuggled out, showing Nazi party rallies, book-burnings and the ransacking of Jewish shops.

At its premiere in New York in 1934, the film was a big success, said Bruno Mestdagh, head of the digital collections at the Belgian film archive Cinematheque.

"The German embassy in the United States protested, so the film was censored and adapted. It was then shown in other cities but with much less success," Mestdagh said.

The version uncovered by the archive was most likely ordered by someone who wanted to show it in Belgium but never collected it, so the reel survived the war, and Nazi occupation, in the Belgian customs office.

In the 1970s, it was transferred to the archive, which holds some 70,000 titles in its vast vaults in Brussels, 80 percent of them foreign. But it was only two years ago that the curators realized they had the only surviving copy.

The film has now been remastered and will be shown at New York's Museum of Modern Art in October.   Continued...

 
A scene from the 1934 U.S. anti-Nazi film "Hitler's Reign of Terror", by director Cornelius Vanderbilt, is seen in this handout photo by Belgian cinema library (Cinematheque Royale de Belgique). REUTERS/D.R./Handout via Reuters