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Television Under the Swastika (Sub)
Television Under the Swastika
Actors: Albert Speer, Robert Ley, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels
Director: Michael Klof
Genres: Indie & Art House, Educational, Documentary, Military & War
NR     2008     0hr 54min

Legend has it that the triumphant march of television began in the United States in the 1950's, but in reality its origins hark back much further. Nazi leaders, determined to beat Great Britain and the U.S. to be the world...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Albert Speer, Robert Ley, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels
Director: Michael Klof
Genres: Indie & Art House, Educational, Documentary, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Educational, World War II, Military & War
Studio: First Run Features
Format: DVD - Color - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 08/19/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/1999
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1999
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 0hr 54min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 4
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, German
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

The Birth of Television
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 08/11/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Television Under the Swastika"

The Birth of Television

Amos Lassen

Many of us believe that television began here in the United States in the 1950's but the truth is that its origins began further back. German leaders were determined to beat England and the United States began Greater German Television in 1935.
Michael Kloft uses 225 reels of film which were found in the Federal Film Archive in Germany to fashion his documentary, "Television Under the Swastika", which looks at the world's first broadcast television network. It not only looks at the beginning of television but the programming that the Nazis chose for it.
At the start of World War II, television broadcasts were primarily used for the entertainment of German troops and TV sets appeared in hospitals hoping to raise the morale of soldiers so that they would return to fighting. TV broadcasts continued until the Allies closed in during September 1944. There were sets in the homes of the upper echelons of the Nazi party and there were television parlors in public places. Whatever was broadcast included Nazi propaganda and there were vaudeville and cooking shows, sporting events, interviews and even self-help shows. Kloft discovered footage of the 1936 Olympics, exercise shows, original dramas and political shows.
The movie features interviews with German television pioneers who explain the early technology. Is it no surprise that we were never taught that the greatest invention of modern times was developed by the Nazis?
Before Roger Ailes, Karl Rove and Fox News Channel; before b
J Bucknoff, PMP | Fort Lee, NJ USA | 11/01/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"The phenomenon of the far right using television as a propaganda tool did not begin with Roger Ailes and his Fox "News" Channel; 24-hr anti-American/anti-Semitic television did not begin with al Qaeda and the al Zawraa network; the idea of using a full-time government propaganda minister did not begin with the Bush Administration's use of Karl Rove. As early as the 1930s, Adolph Hitler and his Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, took a nascent, inchoate technology and turned it into a powerful and effective tool of deception and fear.

In this re-release of the 1999 documentary, Das Fernsehen unter dem Hakenkreuz (Television Under the Swastika), we see the genius of Nazi Germany's Ministry of Propaganda (the Third Reich predecessor to the current White House Offices of Political Affairs, Public Liaison, and Strategic Initiatives). While the programs appeared, on the surface, to be covering "everyday life" in Germany between 1935 and 1944, their true, sinister purpose was to bombard the masses with the Nazi message. Hitler saw propaganda as Television's highest goal. The music & arts programs, garden shows, fitness programs, interviews and public events programs were only intended as a backdrop for the, sometimes subtle, other times not-so-subtle, propagation of the pro-Aryan, Nazi agenda and the misinformation campaign of Hitler and the Third Reich. Of course the "news" programs were not intended to inform and, not surprisingly, were very carefully scripted and were often pure fiction sprinkled with a few random, innocuous facts thrown in as a condiment.

Hitler and Goebbels had already, successfully, made use of radio broadcasts. Part of this radio-based propaganda campaign included the development of the very affordable volk-radio which Goebbels hoped would bring the radio into the homes of the German masses, as well as to the peoples across the border that the Nazis had hoped to conquer. While television took this campaign to a new level, the high cost of a set made the dream of bringing TV to masses in their homes unattainable. Only members of the Nazi Party elite had TV sets in their homes. However, the TV broadcasts were available at public "television parlors", in hospitals (to raise the morale of troops), and at public gathering sites.

There is a big difference between merely opinionated journalism and sheer propaganda. Although some modern-day broadcasts, such as Al Jazeera or MSNBC, possess an editorial bias towards a certain point-of-view, they do in fact, they do broadcast actual News with objectivity and journalistic integrity as well as presenting a balanced mix of opinions. On the other hand, Nazi TV's sole purpose was propaganda and only propaganda (more along the lines of the modern-day 24-hr "news" networks such as al Zawraa or Fox News Channel). All programs were filtered through Hitler and Goebbels, and, along with the Nazi owned press, were the only sources of "information" available to the "volk" under Hitler's rule. This had the desired effect of keeping the people uninformed and ignorant. (Think how ignorant American would be, today, if they relied on FNC as their only source of "information" and you will get an idea of just how powerful TV was as a weapon in Hitler's arsenal. Fortunately, here in America, we can change the channel. Germans did not have that luxury in the 1930s).

Beyond political motivation for offering TV broadcasts in the first place, the development of televison as a new technology is also very interesting. A portion of this documentary covers this topic.

As the documentary explains, the crude nature the new technology made live broadcasts very difficult to produce. Live broadcasts were of very poor quality. Indoor (studio based) broadcasts were limited to a very small, and uncomfortable room and the results were always unsatisfactory. The rare broadcasts of outdoor events were of poor quality, as well.

Since the crude technology of the time made live broadcasts difficult and limited, most programs were put onto film first and broadcast later. While the live broadcasts have been lost, an archive of the filmed programs has been found. This DVD documentary offers an interesting selection of excerpts from these programs, including a musical entertainment show with a definite, underlying agenda; man-in-the-street interviews; sporting events (highlighting Aryan superiority); and some seemingly innocuous entertainments with both subliminal as well as blatant racial themes.

With our current knowledge of the truth about that dark time, watching this documentary can be chilling at times. But it's a very entertaining and informative look at this period as well as an indication of how easily TV can be turned into a weapon. The technology of television broadcasting has reached levels they could only dream about in the mid-20th century, and the range of programming is vast. However, television as propaganda continues to thrive today and the parallels between television under the Third Reich and modern broadcast propaganda (al Qaeda's 24-hr television station, al-Zawraa in the Middle East and Ruppert Murdoch's FNC in North America, just to name two) are startling.

This is an important and thought provoking documentary that any student of history, psychology, propaganda, politics or broadcasting should not miss.

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Some recommended related Videos and Books:

Doctor Goebbels: His Life & Death
The Third Reich in Power, 1933-1939
The Third Reich: Politics and Propaganda
The Architect: Karl Rove and the Dream of Absolute Power
Machiavelli's Shadow: The Rise and Fall of Karl Rove
Media Control, Second Edition: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda (Open Media)
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism - Fox Attacks Special Edition
The Box: An Oral History of Television, 1929-1961
Nazi TV way back when
E. D. Deuss | Phoenix, AZ | 11/30/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I thought this DVD, (Television Under the Swastika) was very well handled. My only real complaint was that it was not anywhere near long enough! They had thousands of feet of film to possibly use, so I think that cutting all down to about an hour is just too much! The quality of what they did use was great, and the narration was very good. It was good of them to include English sub-titles so we could actually understand what was being said. I recommend it, though it could have been a lot longer."