Screening Transcendence

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During the 1930s, Austrian film production companies developed a process to navigate the competing demands of audiences in Nazi Germany and those found in broader Western markets. In Screening Transcendence, film historian Robert Dassanowsky explores how Austrian filmmakers during the Austrofascist period (1933–1938) developed two overlapping industries: "Aryanized" films for distribution in Germany, its largest market, and "Emigrantenfilm," which employed émigré and Jewish talent that appealed to international audiences.


Through detailed archival research in both Vienna and the United States, Dassanowsky reveals what was culturally, socially, and politically at stake in these two simultaneous and overlapping film industries. Influenced by French auteurism, admired by Italian cinephiles, and ardently remade by Hollywood, these period Austrian films demonstrate a distinctive regional style mixed with transnational influences.


Combining brilliant close readings of individual films with thoroughly informed historical and cultural observations, Dassanowsky presents the story of a nation and an industry mired in politics, power, and intrigue on the brink of Nazi occupation.


Acknowledgements
Foreword

Part I: Structures
1. System of Faith and Aesthetics of Loss: Austrian Cultural Politics in the First Republic and the Christian Corporate State
2. Scopic Regimes: Notes on Newsreel and Culture Film Production, the Legacy of Baroque and Fin de Siècle Vienna, and Political Catholicism in Public Spectacle
3. Against Nazism and with Catholicism? Two Film Industries and the Jewish Filmmaker's Conundrum

Part II: Genres and Types
4. Cinema Baroque: Reconsidering the Willi Forst/Walter Reisch Viennese Film Genre and its Trans/National/ist Value
5. Projecting Transcendence: Emigrantenfilm, the Church, and the Construction of a Catholic-Political Identity in Singende Jugend and Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld
6. Gendering the Crusade: Female Types and Sexuality in Feature Film
7. Tales of the Patriarchy: Of Cavaliers, Cads, and the Common Man
8. Reasonable Fantasies: Cine-Operetta, the Sängerfilm, and Sociocritical Music Film
9. New Order Out of Chaos: The Austrian Screwball and Hybrid Comedy
10. Contemporary Conflicts: Experimentalism, Controversy, and the Question of National Film Style
11. Snow Blinded: The Alps versus Vienna in Film at the End of the Regime

Part III: Locations
12. From Rome to the Hollywood Hope: Shared Aesthetics, the 1936/37 Vienna-Hollywood Co-Production Plan, and Cine-Economic Brinkmanship with Berlin
Epilogue
Filmography: List of Austrian Feature Films 1933-1938
Bibliography
Index

Subjects

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S C R E E N I N G
T R A N S C E N D E N C E
S C R E E N I N G
T R A N S C E N D E N C E
Film Under Austrofascism and
e Hollywood Hope, 1933–1938
ROBERT DASSANOWSKY
INDIANA UNIVERSITY PRESSThis book is a publication of
Indiana University Press
Office of Scholarly Publishing
Herman B Wells Library 350
1320 East 10th Street
Bloomington, Indiana 47405 USA
iupress.indiana.edu
© 2018 by Robert Dassanowsky
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission
in writing from the publisher.
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of the American National Standard for
Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1992.
Manufactured in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Dassanowsky, Robert, author.
Title: Screening transcendence : film under Austrofascism and the Hollywood hope, 1933–1938 / Robert
Dassanowsky.
Description: Bloomington : Indiana University Press, [2018] | Includes bibliographical references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2018004764 (print) | LCCN 2018013278 (ebook) | ISBN 9780253033635 (e-book) |
ISBN 9780253033628 (hardback : alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Motion pictures—Austria—History—20th century. | Motion picture industry—Political
aspects—Austria—History—20th century. | Motion picture industry—Austria—History—20th century. |
Fascism and motion pictures.
Classification: LCC PN1993.5.A83 (ebook) | LCC PN1993.5.A83 D377 2018 (print) | DDC
791.43/0943609043—dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018004764
1 2 3 4 5 23 22 21 20 19 18
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e principals of the cultural aims of the Action “New Life” a revival of Austrian national feeling , sound ideas on
all questions of life, respect of the Christian, German, and cooperative ideas of new Austria are to be carried
though in the world of the lm. . . . e quality of Austrian lm, by which it conquered the sympathies of the
world, was also favorably in uenced by the fact that Austria is a border country where the particularities of so
many nations meet. e circumstances and the strong artistic powers of Austria allowed the foundation of a
ourishing Austrian lm production, in spite of the fact that Austria is a small country where a lm cannot be
amortized by the sources of this country alone.
“Austria and Its Cultural Filmwork”
Vaterländische Front—Werk “Neues Leben”
(Fatherland Front—Action “New Life”)
Souvenir Book, World’s Exposition Paris 1937C O N T E N T S
Foreword
Acknowledgments
Part 1: Structures
1. System of Faith and Aesthetics of Loss: Austrian Cultural Politics in the First Republic and the Christian
Corporate State
2. Scopic Regimes: Notes on Newsreel and Culture Film Production, the Legacy of Baroque and Fin de Siècle
Vienna, and Political Catholicism in Public Spectacle
3. Against Nazism and with Catholicism? Two Film Industries and the Jewish Filmmaker’s Conundrum
Part 2: Genres, Narratives, Contexts
4. Cinema Baroque: Reconsidering the Willi Forst / Walter Reisch Viennese Film Genre and its
Trans/National/ist Value
5. Projecting Transcendence: Emigrantenfilm, the Church, and the Construction of a Catholic-Political
Identity in Singende Jugend and Der Pfarrer von Kirchfeld
6. Gendering the Crusade: Female Types and Sexuality in Feature Film
7. Tales of the Patriarchy: Of Cavaliers, Cads, and the Common Man
8. Reasonable Fantasies: Cine-Operetta, Sängerfilm, and Sociocritical Music Film
9. New Order Out of Chaos: The Austrian Screwball and Hybrid Comedy
10. Contemporary Conflicts: Experimentalism, Controversy, and the Question of National Film Style
11. Snow Blinded: The Alps versus Vienna in Film at the End of the Regime
Part 3: Locations
12. From Rome to the Hollywood Hope: Shared Aesthetics, the 1936–1937 Vienna-Hollywood
Coproduction Plan, and Cine-Economic Brinkmanship with Berlin
Epilogue
Filmography
Bibliography
Index






















F O R E W O R D
While there are many studies on the Berlin modernism that moved to Hollywood with German exile talent, and
of lm in the ird Reich, there have been few examinations of the unique products of Nazi Germany’s
neighbor, Austria, during its post–First Republic phase. This study will attempt to fill that gap by examining the
form, style, ideology and reception of cinema made in Vienna during its clerico-authoritarian period,
academically known as Austrofascism, which began in 1933 and ended with the Nazi German annexation of
Austria in 1938, and which a0racted unprecedented international and especially Hollywood interest. at
industry engaged in its own ght for survival in the ve years that it was able to see itself as independent, or at
least different, from its affiliates in Germany.
While mainstream Viennese production companies bowed to Germany’s racial dictates for the sake of
distribution in its largest market, new Austrian companies that were not dependent on Germany for investment
or distribution rejected Nazi racial guidelines and sidestepped the Austrian Nazis who assisted German
in ltration by creating the independent production or the Emigrantenfilm (emigrant lm). is secondary
industry utilized crossover “Aryan” stars, German émigré and Austrian Jewish talent in coproductions with
Hungary, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, and Sweden, and marketed these lms internationally. Ultimately,
the contemporary and progressive comedies and dramas invented by this industry gave American careers to
many of its Central European talents, such as Walter Reisch, Franziska Gaal, Hans Jaray, S. Z. (Szöke) Szakall,
Felix Bressart, Oskar Karlweis, Felix ( Joachimson) Jackson, Henry (Kosterlitz) Koster, Joe Pasternak, Hans J.
Salter, Richard Oswald, Hans May, Nicholas Brodszky, Albert Bassermann, Steve (Stefan) Szekely, Robert
(Wohlmuth) Wilmot, and many others.
It is clear that lm noir emerged in Hollywood when German and Austrian-born lm emigres from Berlin’s
Weimar era cinema blended aspects of expressionism and their despair of the world with the American gangster
1film. My text will show, however, that the genre already emerged with German exiles in Vienna as early as 1933
without the Hollywood inCuence, and it also posits that Vienna’s opere0a-style comedy of errors and its
particular cabaret tradition fostered a screwball comedy that emerged simultaneously with the early form of that
genre in Hollywood. Nevertheless, it would be the Viennese Film genre, its musical iteration, and its eventual
subgenres that remained the most popular of all Austrian cinema in and outside the country throughout the
decade. ese successes, then, helped create the international legend of modern Austria as the land of music,
transcultural historical allure, and rural beauty. ey also perpetuate “what distinguished pre-1914 Vienna from
most other European capitals, and what gave the Viennese school its particular intellectual tang . . . that it was
2an imperial city rather than a national capital.”
e Austrian lm industry of the 1930s also had its failures. While Hollywood developed aesthetics that
articulated America’s conservative morality but also New Deal social renewal, Austrian and other Central
European lmmakers who remained in Vienna were never completely successful in using their work to outline
an ideology for Austria to remain independent of Nazi Germany. It could never summon up a successful vision
of the state’s authoritarianism, political Catholicism, corporatism, and a0empted class leveling through a
oneparty national front. e “transcendence” of the book’s title refers to the regime’s spiritual and
geopolitical/cultural desires, as well as the popular desire to overcome the impoverishment that plagued Austria
since 1918 in different extents. A0empts to valorize that ethos are obvious in almost all of Austrian lms made
in the era regardless of genre.
As a rst English language study on this era in Austrian cinema, this text will clarify what was socially and
politically at stake with the two simultaneous and somewhat overlapping lm industries that existed in Austria
between 1933 and 1938. e “Aryanized” (for German export) and the emigrant / Central European (not for
German export) productions are explored on several pertinent levels (genre, form, style, character types,
narrative structures, star system, reception, Church-led lm criticism, etc.) to create a panorama of the complex
and oJ en contradictory Austrian (inter)national lmmaking process of the era. Perhaps one of the most
important developments is in association with actor/director Willi Forst and writer/director Walter Reisch,
creators of the Viennese Film genre, which became internationally synonymous with Austrian cinema in the
1930s, and which was inCuenced by French auteurism, admired by the cinephile Italians, and ardently copied
























by Hollywood. It is analyzed here as a form of “baroque cinema” for its ornate visual and aural orchestration, in
the spirit of a lmic Catholic “counter-reformation” against pagan Nazism, and for its staying power beyond the
Anschluss into the 1950s. Early Austrian sound lms oJ en identify with essentialist Viennese modernism
(secessionism, Arthur Schnitzler and the “Jung Wien” tradition in literature, poetic realism and symbolism,
Silver Age opere0a, Viennese cabaret) in theory and creation. e desire, however, to connect with the lost
imperial past, evoke a grandly cosmopolitan Vienna, and distance the era’s Austrian arts from the “Germanic”
fascist aesthetic ironically and revealingly hampers the regime’s a0empts to successfully mimic the political
spectacles of its surrounding neighbors.
Alongside this lm industry’s varied lm product and Cexible dual industry tactic used between 1933 and
1938, my text uncovers a sophisticated use of semiotics in Austrian entertainment lm to persuade without
directly engaging politics. is includes images and messages regarding gender roles, their adaptation of
traditional genres, and their creation of new, even progressive structures, which paradoxically underscore an
essentially retrograde ideology. ese lmmakers explore the connotations of Vienna and the Alps, as well as
the possibilities and results of social leveling from a state following but never achieving a corporate system.
ey also accept the curious position of Jewish lm talent who supported or tolerated the Austrian regime but
were principally excluded from its Catholic bias. To see what these dynamics imply, I also indicate how market
forces make the messages of two opposing non-democratic ideologies (Austrofascist and National Socialist)
ambiguous in the “Aryanized” mainstream Austrian cinema by the mid-1930s. e secondary industry of
German émigrés and Austrian/Hungarian/Czech talent is analyzed for its internationalist lmic vocabulary and
its transcultural narratives.
Essentially, this text provides a wide-angle view of Austria in its geopolitical and cultural se0ing during
Austrofascism, complementing a close-up focus on the cinematic details that make the ideologically
problematic but also cinematically inCuential productions of that era truly different from any other national
cinema of its time. In the introduction to their superb Interwar Vienna: Culture between Tradition and Modernity
anthology, Deborah Holmes and Lisa Silverman make it clear that Vienna of the 1920s and 30s should not be
seen as some weak reCection of the cultural and artistic powerhouse of Weimar-era Germany: “Post-1918
Vienna may not have been able to compete with its own Habsburg past either strategically or in terms of social
3glamour, but it nevertheless remained a major—if ultimately doomed—center of cultural innovation.” Yet
Austria’s early sound cinema of the 1930s, emerging as it does from an authoritarian state and given its
acceptance of racial dictates to distribute in the German market, has been largely regarded as insigni cant or
wholly a puppet of Nazi cinema. Even with the narrative ambiguities and market-driven concessions increasing
with the destructive Austrian-German lm accords in the nal approach to 1938, these notions are hardly the
case.
My research con rms that the study of Austrian lm in general and of this era in particular must by its very
nature cross into several different national cultures and their relationship with Austria, historically and
contemporary. Multicultural Vienna had generated an unordinary amount of world-class lmmakers and
performers into 1930s but lost many of them to other countries during the silent era, particularly to Hollywood
during this period of positioning against Nazi German designs. During currency inCation of the postimperial
1920s, Austrian (or rather former Austro-Hungarian) lm talent moved to the larger industry in Berlin from
Vienna, Budapest, or Prague, but Jewish and antifascist artists returned aJ er 1933 in a vain a0empt to escape
Nazism; some Ced again, if they could, mostly to London or Hollywood. ose refuges helped continue
Austria’s most popular genres, the Viennese Film and the cine-opere0a in both British and American cinema,
even after the disappearance of the country from the world’s maps.
What I do here requires an optic somewhat offside from traditional studies of national or transnational
cinema. e very model of Austria’s transnational cinema industry between 1933 and 1938 produced by two
parallel industries is a unique and problematically progressive development, and so, on the one hand, it merits
study as a national cinema, for the most part as positioned against Nazism and its ideological cinematic
vocabulary. Its product is also a distinctive regional transnational lm development and inCuence, and acts as
virtually global purveyors of a formalism and style associated with the modern and oJ en with far more liberal
aspects than Hollywood’s Production Code would allow. ese lms also offered true multicultural
entertainment, which proved its international worth enough for Hollywood to consider risking the most
unprecedented production outreach in its history.
Film under (rather than of) what is considered Austrofascism, as the industry was not nationalized, develops a
few hybrid genres of its own to answer to its almost unique political position. It spans “Aryanized” cast and crew
productions, oJ en using German talent, but it also presented subject ma0er that would be general enough for
audiences in Nazi Germany, while also developing its own style and direction (reaching to the antifascist and









Freudian narratives of Werner Hochbaum), and different forms of the independent and Emigranten lm. eir
experiments paradoxically vacillated between mild Catholic propaganda (as by the popular “half-Jewish” Max
Neufeld or lm pioneer Louise Kolm and husband Jakob Fleck) and social comedies that have their roots in the
banned leJ ist/proletarian lms of the 1920s, in polyglot humor, and in a humanist quality that would make
them a close relation to Hollywood’s Capraesque cultural politics.
As the inevitable annexation of Austria to Nazi Germany drew near, the paradox of such resistant social views
in Austrian lm gains a new dimension, in which it becomes clear that even fascist vocabulary can be made
ambiguous enough to suit both the German and the Austrian audiences and government control. e longing
for the modern never abates under Austrofascism, however, and paradoxically continues the artistic concepts
evolved in both the idealized imperial Vienna and the former Red Vienna. It makes Viennese modernism in the
cinema and arts under Austrofascism at once reactionary and progressive, but always a statement against the
active in ltration of Nazi ideology. Its study will model how lm production and different political, economic,
and distribution pressures need to be understood as heavily influencing
aesthetics.
----------------Articles in the following publications served as the genesis of chapters in this book: “A Reasonable Fantasy:
e Musical Film under Austrofascism (1933–1938),” Colloquia Germanica 4 (2013); “Snow Blinded: e
Alps contra Vienna in Entertainment Film at the Anschluss,” in Austrian Studies (UK) Austria and the Alps:
Landscape, Culture and National Identity, ed. Jon Hughes Vol. 18 (2010/11); “Gendering the Crusade:
Representations of Female Roles and Sexuality in Film under Austrofascism,” Sexuality, Eroticism and Gender in
Austrian Literature and Culture, ed. Clemens Ruthner and Raleigh Whitinger (New York: Lang, 2011);
“Screening Transcendence: Emigrantenfilm and the Construction of an Austrofascist Identity in Singende
Jugend,” Austrian History Yearbook Vol. 39 (2008).
—Robert Dassanowsky
NOTES
1. See Schrader, “Notes on Film Noir,” 55.
2. “City of the Century: How a fin de siècle capital produced ideas that shaped the West,” The Economist, 24
December 2016, 28–30.
3. Holmes and Silverman, “Introduction,” Interwar Vienna, 4.

*



A C K N O W L E D G M E N T S
With more than ten years of research, examination, and debate behind it, this book would not have been
possible without those who never gave up on encouraging the need for its writing and on its author to do so.
e following deserve special thanks for their input in this project and the generous opportunities and support
they have given me: Siegfried Beer, Günter Bischof, and the Board of the Botstiber Institute for
AustrianAmerican Studies (BIAAS), for their generous foundation grant and their sincere support of my project;
omas Ballhausen and the Filmarchiv Austria, for years of screenings and screeners of lms that ought to be
known again—restored, studied, and enjoyed; Katherine Arens, for the gi- s of her knowledge, wisdom and
friendship; the late and greatly missed Hans Wagener, my mentor since graduate studies at UCLA; the minds
behind the Austrian History Yearbook, especially Pieter Judson, Gary Cohen, and David S. Lu- ; Todd Herzog
and Hillary Hope Herzog, editors of the Journal of Austrian Studies; and the scholars connected with the
Austrian Studies publication in the UK, in particular Allyson Fiddler, Deborah Holmes, Judith Beniston, and
John Hughes. anks are also very much due to Harald Höbusch, eodore Fiedler, Francesco Bono, Michael
Burri, Joseph Moser, Raleigh Whitinger, Clemens Ruthner, Gregor uswaldner, Christopher Dietz, Fernando
Feliu-Moggi, Ken Marchand; the former and current deans of the College of Le: ers, Arts and Sciences at the
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs—Provost Tom Christensen and Dean Peter Braza; the chairs of the
departments of Languages and Cultures and Visual and Performing Arts, Teresa Meadows and Suzanne
MacAulay, respectively, for their encouragement and research/ conference travel support; and Kathryn Andrus
for technical advice and expertise in the preparation of the screen captures.
I am most grateful to the Austrian Cultural Forum New York and Washington DC, as I am to the participants
of the annual conferences of the Austrian Studies Association, the German Studies Association, and the
German-Austrian-Swiss Division of the Kentucky Foreign Language Conference for constructive receptions
given to my presentation of potential chapters. For research material and assistance, I am indebted to Helmut
Karigl of the Austrian Archive of the Republic; Cosima Richter and Doris Schneider-Wagenbichler of the
Austrian National Library; Sandra M. Garcia-Myers at the USC/Warner Brothers Archives and Edward “Ned”
Comstock at the USC Cinematic Arts Library; the UCLA Film and Television Archive; Lisa Kenny at the
British Library, London; and Rachel Bernstein at the Margaret Herrick Library of the Academy of Motion
Pictures Arts and Sciences. Very special thanks go to editors Janice E. Frisch and Rachel Rosolina, along with
the production staff at IUP for their guidance and meticulous support.
Lastly, and most personally, I am deeply grateful to Alexander and Ingrid Dreihann-Holenia for many years
of generosity, sympathy, and solidarity, and for the sincere spaces of true friendship graced by their
extraordinary family.
This book is dedicated to them.S C R E E N I N G
T R A N S C E N D E N C EPA RT 1
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1
SYSTEM OF FAITH AND AESTHETICS OF
LOSS
Austrian Cultural Politics in the First Republic and the Christian
Corporate State
e clerico-authoritarian and corporate system in Austria following its First Republic from 1933 to the Nazi
German annexation in 1938 is generally known as Austrofascism, a relatively recent term for a system that has
been the subject of contested analysis and claims, and one that still causes division among historians and
political scientists. e ideology of the Social Democratic Party of the First Republic is also known as
Austromarxism for its unique national variant on the Marxist doctrines, particularly its “Intellectual Worker”
concept, which was o1en accused of serving the bourgeoisie rather than fermenting revolution. Similarly, the
unique antidemocratic right wing “Front,” which imagined an Austrian mission in Central Europe that had not
ended with the Empire, and which understood Catholicism and corporatism as its philosophical and economic
1base structures, was also homegrown. Ultimately, Austria ended up with two opposing antidemocratic forces
—one based on the political right wing’s desire to quell both the socialism of the First Republic and growing
German nationalism, which had already been one of the subversive elements of the transcultural Habsburg state,
and another that found a racist mission in National Socialism. eir successes rested on the interests of foreign
fascist leaders that considered Austria its charge: Mussolini for the Ständestaat or corporate clerico-authoritarian
state, and Hitler for Austrian Nazism and integration into the Greater German Reich.
The Austrian authoritarian state under its two chancellors, Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt von Schuschnigg, has
a; racted various terms and combinations of quali ers and modi ers that intend to capture the elusive internal
values and the external assignment of meaning encountered in the hybridization of this regime’s ideology:
Ständestaat (“State of Estates” corporate state), Heimwehrfaschismus (Heimwehr militia fascism), Halbfaschismus
(half fascism), autoritäres Regime (authoritarian regime), Konkurrenzfaschismus (competition fascism),
Imitationsfaschimus (imitation fascism), Regierungsdiktatur (government dictatorship), and the generalization
t h a t focuses on the regime’s reactionary desire to de ne an historically based Austrian sovereignty in
authoritarianism within the scope of what was still considered the greater German nation, Austrofaschismus
2(Austrofascism).
Such a variety of suggestive terms, the long avoidance of popular discourse on the period due to the partisan
political atmosphere of the early Second Republic, and the relatively late scholarly analysis and access to records
and resources, have all contributed to a continuing ambiguity surrounding this era and its politics. Moreover,
much of the initial a; empts at understanding the phenomenon of this movement, its culture, and its leaders
have been limited to comparisons with Italy and Germany rather than to sorting out the implications of this
panoply of fascistoid terms, especially as they also varied regionally within Austria. Questions remain even as
examination grows: Was Austrofascism an undemocratic a; empt at saving Austria’s sovereignty, which
suggested groundwork for the creation of an Austrian national identity, or did its repression of the party system
and parliamentary democracy encourage the National Socialist takeover in 1938? Could a democratic Austria
have managed to resist the Anschluss, or did this postimperial neoabsolutistism simply prove that Austria’s
sovereignty was of little interest to Europe regardless of what form its resistance might take?
e diverse terminology also suggests selectivity of purpose, as Emmerich Talos and Wolfgang Neugebauer
posit, that has not aided in the understanding of the Austrian corporate state. Examination of its actual social,
cultural, and political elements and contexts have brought us closer to discerning the qualities that made this
regime so unique, and yet its cinema has been dismissed in these discussions on the basis of an assumed
generalized decline in the arts due to the removal of the Le1, to censorship, and to the clerical basis of the
regime. is symptom is also part of the general lack of Austrian interest in its own signi cant cinema history<
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until the emergence of the New Austrian Film at the end of the 1990s. Furthermore, the Austrian productions
of the 1930s have been largely neglected and even maligned without the lms being allowed to plead their
visions to contemporary analysis, at least until recent lm archival a; empts at reconstructing the era as part of
an overall endeavor to preserve film heritage.
Nevertheless, lm used for propaganda, for nation building, and to project a people’s cultural imaginary is
also the window into the soul of a regime and its ideology. It is the intent laid bare in audience reassuring or
stimulating tropes, and the manipulation of a visual vocabulary that o1en is more powerful and more subversive
than the cleverest demagogy. How then did lm serve—or could it serve—the purposes of Austrofascism, and
what was expected from filmmakers between 1933 and 1938? The popularity and variety of Austrian films made
in that era—and they were popular for different reasons—underscores the failure of the ideology of a stable
“Front” regime. It underscores the difficulty that scholars have had in understanding these lms as a national
cinema, as Austrian rather than just cosmopolitan or transculturally Viennese (in the way that émigré based
Hollywood lm is also American cinema), and in rejecting the folding into German cinema purely on the basis
of language and shared talent. Ultimately, in retrospect and as a representative statement on concept of national
cinema, Austrian lm from 1933 to 1938 is as contradictory as the Austrian authoritarian state itself and
successful in a manner wholly detached from the desires or conflicts of the regime.
Let me now turn to brief narratives to help clarify what is at stake in Austrian history and its state identity
3during the period under question. Following, I will introduce the cultural and market forces affecting the
evolution of the Austrian film industry against this political landscape.
PRELUDE: OF THE RED AND THE BL ACK
From its very conception as the poorly carved out German-language remnant of the disintegrated
AustroHungarian Monarchy in 1919, through its First Republic (1919–1933) and the authoritarian state to 1938,
Austria had two continuing crises that never abated: its economic survival, and the nature of its identity vis-à-vis
the successor states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany. e economic challenges were formidable.
e former imperial capital of Vienna, developed for an empire of sixty million, was now leading a fragment
state of seven million. Inhabitants referred to it as the Wasserkopf or hydrocephalus, the inLated capital of a state
where most of its traditional resources, natural and industrial, were now in other countries largely unfriendly to
the now truncated and isolated core of what represented the former Habsburg empire. e rst impulse
regarding economic survival of the initial republican state was to join the equally beaten but relatively intact
German republic (encouraged by the rst head of state, the Social Democratic state chancellor Karl Renner
under the provisional president Karl Seitz). at solution was denied by the Allied authors of the Treaty of
Versailles, who had taken pains to reduce the size of the former German Empire and were not willing to increase
it for the sake of Austria’s survival.
Even the Austrian state’s provisional name, German-Austria, which the state deemed necessary to
differentiate it from all other “Austrias” of the past and present, revealed how isolated and problematically
selfconscious the state would be. Independent Hungary and the other crownlands that had become postimperial
states (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia) or joined re/established nations (Italy, Poland, Romania, Ukraine) hardly
considered that the term Austria was descriptive of anything but Vienna and its Alpine territory westward. e
Treaty of Saint Germain signed by Austria and the Allied Powers in 1919 was far more problematic in
establishing the postimperial Austrian territory than the Versailles Treaty proved to be for Germany. Like so
many of the resolutions of World War I, this treaty disregarded the actualities of Austro-German
linguisticcultural populations (in Bohemia and Moravia, as well as Italy) and favored the territorial demands of the
breakaway crownlands, yet utilizing the same concept of a successor state as was the case with the rede nition
of Germany. is ordained that legally and politically German-Austria would be treated as the single successor
to the entire Empire, rather than the new state it actually was, which would have necessitated different
de nitions of its obligations and liabilities. e idea that Austria was now simply “what remains” (“L’Autriche,
c’est ce qui reste”) as the Austrophobic French Prime Minister Clemenceau referred to it, would haunt it to its
annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938 and beyond. It ensured that its development of a reborn
political/national identity would be the most difficult and trauma-laden on the entire post World War I
European continent. Indeed, from the proclamation of the Republic of Austria on November 12, 1918, through
its rst elections for a national assembly in February 1919; the seating of a coalition government composed of
the Social Democratic Party, the Christian Social Party, the German National Parties, and the Communist
Party; and the rati cation of the new constitution in October 1920, an imbalance was created that would shape
Austria’s interwar future. Coalition governments with small center-right interests kept the Christian Social Party<
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in power nationally and moved the Social Democrats and the Le1 to control Vienna. Moreover, the very nature
of the new state’s geography remained in question, with signi cant border regions threatening secession or
annexation.
Several plebiscites intended to stabilize the new state had the opposite effect. In sorting out borders with
Hungary, Austria lost the city of Sopron and gained the West Hungarian “Burgenland” province. Outright
border conLicts with Slovenian occupation representing the new Yugoslav kingdom (defying the population of
Lower Carinthia, which had favored Austria) became the trigger point for the Carinthian or Austria-Slovenian
War of 1919–1920. Perhaps most complicated were the Tyrolean Plebiscite of 1921, in which German
National Party adherents in East Tyrol aimed to join Germany, and the repercussions of the British Treaty of
London (1915), which granted Trento, Trieste, and the Istrian Peninsula to Italy for its abandonment of the
Central Powers. is plebiscite also included Italian-occupied South Tyrol (Bozen and Meran) and Venezia
Giulia, which was not con rmed until June 1921. Additionally, the new elongated Austrian state seemed to
have no geopolitical center: “ e Alps and the Danube Valley divide the country into two unequal and distinct
parts, and the federal capital of Vienna is far off center in the East. For the residents of Vorarlberg, Vienna and
4Paris are practically equidistant.”
Not only did this geographic instability create a camp mentality that subverted the a; empts of the new
Austrian state to forge an identity that was as free of successor state mentality as its former partner in the Dual
Monarchy, Hungary, but it also caused a provincial division that would pit Vienna and the “Danubian” region
against the Alpine/Southern regions politically up to 1938, despite the efforts of the First Republic and the
Austrofascist state to realign the regional identities of these territories with the new state. Politically, this
division favored the Christian Social Party in the rural Alpine West and the South (the “Black” provinces, as per
the color-coding of the political ideologies of the time) and the Social Democratic enclave of the capitol and its
5environs (“Red Vienna” ). is division also preserved an essentially two-party system that could not nd a
majority or even consider coalition for the sake of nation building. A third force threatened even this structure:
the German Nationalists (whose representational color was blue), along with the support of rightist
panGerman splinter parties—later the National Socialists or Austrian Nazis (brown)—continued to insist on
union and thus ethnic/racial realization with Germany.
e inLexible party identi cation that divided Austria geographically did so also by class. e traditionalist,
mostly practicing Catholic population that voted Black was rural provincial or urban middle class. e
reformminded mostly secular, le1ist or Austromarxist population that voted Red was predominantly urban and
working class. e German Nationalists in various party con gurations through the First Republic were
composed of no particular class or urban/rural designation—although the borderland ethnic pressure points of
the geography (in the South and the East) a; racted voters to German nationalist politics. ese tensions
managed to subvert the kind of “nationalism” the other imperial successor states in Central Europe had
managed to muster, and so the very question of an Austrian Nation was something that continued to plague
even the Austrofascist regime. Despite its demand for sovereignty and recognition of its difference from
Germany, it nevertheless declared Austria to be part of the larger historic German nation (of the Holy Roman
Empire), albeit a Christian/Catholic state and a representative of the state’s traditional religious/cultural
mission in Central Europe dating back to that Empire (962–1806).
What made this dualistic political camp/class/geographical division even more problematic from the
inception of the republic was the fact that anti-Marxism would place the Christian Socials on the same side as
the German Nationals. e Le1 and Right would converge in opposing the common enemy of Bolshevism.
And although Austrian Nazis would eventually court Christian Social voters, they detested the Catholic
idealism of the Black provinces as well as Habsburg monarchism or any cultural concepts that would deign to
establish Austria as separate from Germany, while the Social Democrats had joined the German Nationalists in
desiring union with Germany early on. ey were however, anti-Nazi and so rejected German union a1er
Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933, as well as Habsburg restoration and political Catholicism.
Jewish populations would tend to vote with the Red urban areas, but, depending on class and location, also
voted Black, even though they were not officially represented by political Catholicism but were subject to
antisemitism across party lines and directly targeted by racist German Nationalists and the later National
Socialists. e paradox of an “empowered marginality,” as eodor Herzl described the Viennese Jewish status
in his history of Zionism, was “exceptional” in the empire and in moving n de siècle Vienna to become one of
the greatest fonts of intellectual life and cultural modernism in Europe. Edward Timms describes this paradox
succinctly:
Despite high levels of educational and professional achievement this subgroup remained outsiders in a


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predominantly Catholic society. This places leading Jewish figures in a position where they could ask
critical questions or develop new initiatives from a detached perspective, while at the same time
6developing resources that gave their innovative projects a firm institutional basis
As his examples, Timms points to Gustav Mahler as the progressive director of the Vienna Court Opera,
Sigmund Freud’s creation of psychoanalysis and the Psychoanalytical Society, Karl Kraus’s signi cant cultural
criticism and his publication Die Fackel, Arnold Schoenberg’s post-Romantic and chromatic expressionist
(twelve-tone serial) music supported by the founding of the Society for Private Musical Performances, and
Herzl himself “representing the leading liberal newspaper, the Neue Freie Presse . . . as he transformed Zionism
7from a utopian vision into a dynamic political movement.” What this “empowered marginality” meant in a
postimperial Vienna struggling to maintain aspects of its polyglot trans/cultural importance in a provincialized
Austria holding its center through its relationship with the past was perhaps not so much a different ma; er than
a different modality.
Not all intellectuals could build a natural association with the Austrian successor state. Like Timms, Austrian
critic and author Georg Stefan Troller points to Karl Kraus, who found it personally grim to look beyond the
apocalypse of Austria-Hungary. Troller contends that Austria was the greatest loser of the war and that its
existential trauma never abated. He credits the signi cant Jewish intellectual/creative population, particularly in
Vienna, and their historical experience of forced transition and adaptation for inspiring the survivalist qualities
8of the Republic, and “making it work,” at least on a cultural level. Lisa Silverman has analyzed that theater
audiences in Austria a1er 1919 demonstrated a strong desire to experience the redemptive, “in order to
construct new ways of reconciling their places within the new Austria, whether the means of that construction
was Zionist-socialist-Yiddish or Austrian-Catholic-baroque.” Most crucially, the difference between the “Jewish
Austrians or Austrians engaged with Jewishness” was a coding that meant the difference between being a
nominal “insider” or “outsider” vis-à-vis the Catholic and antisemitic socioculture in the new interwar Austrian
nation.
Habsburg Vienna at the onset of the twentieth century alone was associated with names that continued to
echo the cultural, scienti c, artistic, and philosophic prominence of the city but also the transcultural and dual
Catholic/Jewish quality of the empire as a whole. With the Social Democrats holding unyielding power in the
postimperial capital, they a; empted to create a new Austrian national reputation, through a transformation of
Vienna from grand imperial remnant to a center of major reforms and modernization that generated
international acclaim and inLuence. It was a progressive move, but the imagined break with the past through
Socialism was a chimera. ere was no true tabula rasa even with the Le1 in power, as much of the “new” in Red
Vienna was a continuation of ideas and sociocultural concepts conceived and debated in fin de siècle Vienna.
e utilization of that past is, however, what made the difference in how Austria moved forward a1er the
First World War. Rather than mourn the loss or enshrine it wholly in an idolatry of nostalgia, the city would
grow in mobilizing and serving the working classes that had supported the imperial city but were, as in the rest
of Europe, hardly part of its representation. e Christian Social Party advocated renewal of Catholicism as the
guiding force of the identity and role seeking Austrian state, and clearly saw itself as a continuation of
conservative values from and as the representation of an idealized empire and imperial Vienna. is included
socially and politically empowering the rural sector that made up most of the new state, and the secondary
urban centers beyond Vienna. For the Christian Social Party, these populations stood as disenfranchised as the
le1ist urban workers. While Linz, Graz, Klagenfurt, Salzburg, and Innsbruck were signi cant provincial centers,
much of Austria’s sociocultural identity was radiated from Vienna and the now lost major urban centers east and
southeastward. Both parties managed tacit agreement by essentially de ning the new republic as “what it was
not,” with regard to its lost imperial state and vis-à-vis Germany but also in strict partisan opposition. is
increased the camp mentality, rather than solidifying the concept of a new state that could incorporate
progressive and conservative philosophies.
Unlike Weimar Germany, which stabilized economically following the Dawes Plan in 1924, the
impoverishment in Austria that so underpinned immobile partisanship never truly subsided, and it was
punctuated by the hyperinLation it shared with Weimar Germany and Hungary in the early 1920s, by Vienna’s
stock market collapse in 1927, the difficulty in locating loans and investment to strengthen Austria’s economy
through the late 1920s, and the overt and covert a; empts by Nazi Germany and Austrian National Socialists to
destabilize the Austrian economy and political structures to ferment a putsch in the 1930s. e Christian Social
Party Chairman (1921–1930) and prelate, Ignaz Seipel, who served as Austrian Chancellor from 1922 to 1924
and again from 1926 to 1929, became an internationally known gure for his wide endeavors to create a
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stabilized Austrian economy. He signed the League of Nations’ Protocol for the Reconstruction of Austria in
1922, which officially rejected German union and resulted in an international bond and a loan from the Entente
to battle the hyperinflation. He reestablished an independent national Austrian bank to aid in this goal.
Success did not come. An assassination a; empt by a disgruntled worker in 1924 represented the
dissatisfaction of the Socialist camp with the cleric’s scal designs, his courting of industrialists, and his
reorganization of the Heimwehr (Home Defense), the Austrian national paramilitary militia, as a response to
and curbing of the Socialist Schutzbund (Protection Federation) militia. e Heimwehr had been created as a
union of several paramilitary units aiming to protect Austria’s borders following the war in 1919, but soon
developed speci c political association. Similar to the phenomenon in Weimar Germany, the clashing of the
militias of the Right and the Le1 contributed to destabilization of the parliamentary democracy and would
become increasingly important in the events that lead to the suspension of parliament by the Christian Social
Minister for Forests and Agriculture, Engelbert Dollfuss.
While Seipel represented a Catholic Austria to the world for “national” purposes, Vienna’s Socialists
displayed progressive plans to ba; le the poverty, malnourishment, and illness caused by severe overcrowding
and homelessness in the proletarian districts stemming from the population boom in the late nineteenth
century, the immigration of German-speakers from other parts of the onetime Empire, and the city’s near
starvation at the end of the war. e party instituted workers housing and general health programs in the city,
erecting in just a period of ten years (1923–1933) “over 350 apartment complexes, twenty six of which were
‘superblocks’ with over 800 units, were erected in the course of communal building projects (Gemeindebauten),
9and 63,000 new apartments provided homes for almost a quarter of a million people.”
These fortresses of the people were financed by special taxes and designed by city planners and architects that
intended to create a new face for working class Vienna that counterbalanced the pomp and grandeur of imperial
era Ringstrasse with its own imposing modernist facades, spacious courtyards, integrated parks, and children’s
playgrounds. Among the largest apartment communities in Europe, these structures featured compact but airy
living spaces that featured terraces, separation of living and cooking areas, and modern conveniences including
gas heating, running water, electrical appliances, private bathrooms, and toilets. e larger versions of these
Gemeindebauten were literally small towns that provided social service offices and as well as laundries, hair
salons, public baths, libraries, kindergartens, on-site medical and dental clinics, and assorted shops and
communal occasion spaces. Two of the most famous of these were the Friedrich-Engels-Hof (Friedrich Engels
Court)—the elegant, unadorned Loosian style apartment complex of 177 units many with individual terraces
and external walkways, erected between 1925 and 1926 by architects Franz Kaym, Alfons Hetmanek und Hugo
Gorge—and the Karl-Marx-Hof (Karl Marx Court)—the art deco punctuated fortress by Karl Ehn built
between 1927 and 1930. ey have become representative of the aesthetic of functional modernity that
developed in Vienna as the German Bauhaus school took up similar concepts. e Karl Marx-Hof is one of the
longest residential buildings (1,382 units, offices, shops, clinics and cafes) on the continent and continues to be
10a major emblem of the Red Vienna period to the present. As emblems, however, the structures represented
disdained collectivization to the Christian Social Party, which led it to theorize its own version of new housing:
small but individual family homes in planned Siedlungen or garden communities, which would negate the
concept of working class identity that the Gemeindebauten accentuated. Although few of these were actually
built, even during the Austrofascist period, the plans were mirrored by the American “New Deal” communities,
which also a; empted to avoid proletarian identi cation through “middle class” housing designed for the
workers on Tennessee Valley Authority dam construction, in the coal industry, and later the defense industry.
To supplement such new possibilities for living in Vienna, the Social Democrats also instituted school
reform, day care, recreational facilities, health services, and other infrastructures, which the party believed would
bring with it a unique anticapitalist revolutionary society of Marxism, technocracy, and democratic principles
rst considered by Social Democratic thinker (and pan-German unionist) O; o Bauer. His democratic
socialism, known as Austromarxism, intended to break down the class system that had been so de ning in the
empire and imperial Vienna. Other Marxist parties in Europe and the Soviet Union were, however, skeptical
about the Austrian hybridization and considered it to be working in support of the bourgeoisie. Its municipal
organizations were by de nition anti-Catholic and the division between Red and Black would conLict rather
bind and represent the city as a whole. It is li; le wonder, that the housing complexes became the strongholds of
the Socialist Schutzbund, and these became the targets for the government and Hemwehr forces during partisan
skirmishes of 1927 and leading up to the bloodshed of the February 1934 Civil War.
From the start, the Social Democrats had mobilized the intellectual and creative power of Vienna for its
goals: Alfred Adler set up counseling centers in the proletarian districts; Robert Musil advised on army reform;



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Adolf Loos, Karl Kraus, and Arnold Schoenberg dra1ed guidelines for an “arts office,” which ultimately became
the Social Democratic Kunststelle (Administration of the Arts) directed by David Josef Bach, and which
launched inLuential music festivals in Vienna. ese included presentations by Arnold Schoenberg, Anton
11Webern, and the Worker’s Symphony Concerts and Choir that intended to recapture the one major aspect of
the city’s international importance not lost in the war or challenged in political debate—its musical prowess.
at promise was not only the goal of Red Vienna but was also behind a move by the Christian Social Party
to create an internationally a; ractive secondary national pole for music and theater beyond the capital that
would also shi1 the geographic identity of the new state westward, to Salzburg, with a permanent Festspiele
(festival) that was rooted in the prewar Mozarteum festivals. Plans for a Festspielhaus (festival theater) was
created as early as 1917, and by the end of the war, theater director Max Reinhardt, author/dramatist/libre; ist
Hugo von Hofmannsthal, German composer Richard Strauss, conductor Franz Schalk, and designer Alfred
Roller founded the Salzburger Festspiele. e festival’s inauguration in 1920 with Hofmannsthal’s drama
Jedermann (Everyman) performed on the steps of the baroque Salzburg cathedral would become an annual
tradition, and the full concert series would be broadcast by Austria’s new X VAG radio network, a Black
institution for the most part. e festival’s rst concert hall was completed in 1925, a; racting the great
conductors and opera performers of the time. e linkage of ritual dramatic performance with the Salzburg
Cathedral sent a clear message regarding the traditionalism and elitism of high art of the Black provinces (rather
than Vienna, even in the corporate state) as “an a; empt to construct a new Austrian national culture from ‘true
12Austrian’ baroque and Catholic sources.” Although the Salzburg Festival was also a prime example of talents
from Jewish background or extraction (Reinhardt and Hofmannsthal) “a; empting to distance themselves from
that aspect of their identities, to nd a universalizing, totalizing experience through theater, and to create a
13measure of inclusivity in this new Austrian cultural identity,” the festival has also been compared to that of
14Nazi Germany’s party congresses in terms of its spectacle of national self-representation.
e public was aware that such cultural rede nition was critical to Austria’s survival. e Social Democratic
Party advertised the 1927 elections on the front page of their daily Arbeiter-Zeitung newspaper as a preparation
for the “struggle for a higher humanity” and a “ba; le against indolence and sclerosis.” What made this so
powerful were the signatories supporting the Socialist views regarding the manifesto of the Austromarxist
“intellectual worker” concept: Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Karl Bühler, Robert Musil, Anton Webern, Egon
15Wellesz, and other artists and political gures. e Christian Social camp a; acked this from two directions:
accusing the Socialists of pandering to bourgeois intellectuals and rejecting these signatories as “true Austrian
intellectuals.” Nevertheless, the “pro-intellectual propaganda” led to the greatest Socialist election success of the
16First Republic.
While the Christian Social Party did not mobilize intellectuals and artists in the political manner of the
Social Democrats, they had managed to keep control of and even strengthen their traditional institutions:
17universities, state theaters, and radio, and to use them as ideological conduits to the mainstream public. e
Blacks also a; racted their share of important gures, including Jewish talents, most of them a; ached to these
institutions, which included Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Max Reinhardt, Anton Wildgans, Alma Mahler, Max
Mell, and two important n de siècle writers, Hermann Bahr and Richard von Schaukel. By the 1930s, authors
18Franz Werfel, Josef Weinheber, and Heimito von Doderer had moved to the Catholic Right. e Black front
subsequently established their own “arts office” to counter the one from Red Vienna, the Kunststelle für
christliche Volksbildung (Arts Office for Christian Public Education). Association with one of the two camps
also politicized publishing houses. Some artists, however, managed to survive and maintain their readership and
even fame without advocating an association with either camp in their art or publically—the Jewish Leo Perutz
and the Catholic Alexander Lernet-Holenia, who were literary colleagues and friends, were two such artists.
Such acts were not only reactions to successes on the Le1. e Christian Social Party had built its postwar
19ideological stance around historian Richard von Kralik and his “German and Christian ideals” that had been
formulated before the war. He had even gained the endorsement of Vienna’s popular and populist
nineteenthcentury mayor, Karl Lueger, the cofounder of the Catholic Social Party, considered a highly problematic gure
today given his brilliance as a city planner, his status as a signi cant conservative politician, and his antisemitic
rhetoric. Kralik posited that Catholicism was the only true Weltanschauung not only for Austria, but also for the
Western world. Celebrated by writer Hermann Bahr, Kralik called on Catholics, ethnic Germans, and political
conservatives to act in unison as counter-revolutionaries against socialism, democracy, and capitalism.
On the more practical level, the Christian Social Party countered the Arbeiter-Zeitung with their own organ,
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the Reichspost, which by its very name demonstrated its traditionalist, even antirepublican ideals. e
LeoGesellscha1, a society for Catholic academics founded in 1892 and originally “headed by Heinrich von Srbik,
20an ardent German nationalist [and] led by followers of Karl von Vogelsang, a Catholic social theorist” was
the intellectual heart of the party. Additionally, there was Kralik’s Gralbund, an association of romantic Catholic
writers and poets. Also crucial to the party’s cultural movement was the authoritarian corporate social and
economic philosophy of Othmar Spann, and the revisionist Catholic-nationalist historian Hans Eibl, who
argued that the Central Powers, not the Entente and President Wilson, had liberated the Jews and Poles from
the yoke of Czarism, whereas the Entente had actually le1 much of Central Europe in chaos, a
thoughtprovoking de ance of the victor’s control of historical mythos. Regre; ably, he also advocated the annexation of
Austria to Germany as a reward to both countries. Joseph Eberle’s journals, the monarchist Das neue Reich and
his later Die schönere Zukun , which were arrogantly dismissed by Karl Kraus as blatantly unintellectual,
actually had a wider popular readership than Kraus’s own Die Fackel and were “among the largest intellectual
21publications in interwar Europe” attracting “leading conservative writers, academics and politicians.”
Kralik, who demonized Jews and socialists and permanently fused the “good Catholic” with the concept of a
“good German,” rejected the League of Nations as an “arti cial liberal construct,” which was surpassed by the
Habsburgs and their Holy Roman Empire. Habsburg nostalgia and possible restoration also became the aim of
Ernst Karl Winter’s Österreichische Aktion (Austrian Action) and monarchist Hans Zessner-Spitzenberg—
testimony again of the diversity of the coalitions that emerged in the era. Although the moderate Black editor of
Das neue Reich, Johannes Messner, advocated a revived Habsburg monarchy, he openly called for a dictatorship
to replace the First Republic if the imperial route failed. e Catholic Austrian antimaterialist Geist (intellect,
spirit) that ba; led the socialist’s arti cial and atheistic “intellectual worker” was the philosophical basis of the
party, but the movement as a whole was also claimed and inLuenced by pan-German nationalists like Alois
Hudal, Oswald Menghin, and Joseph Nadler, who advocated the end of an Austrian state. Janek Wasserman
persuasively argues that, “instead of Catholic conservative and German national Lager vying with one another
for bourgeois support, a relatively uni ed “black” bloc existed, spearheaded by radical Viennese thinkers. . . .
Like the ideologues of the Italian movement, Black Viennese intellectuals endeavored to create a new
conservatism that drew on Austrian traditions, German nationalism and modern critiques of parliamentary
democracy and capitalism. . . . eir ideology represented a new phenomenon, one visible elsewhere in Europe,
22which wedded traditional values with new conceptions of nationalism, racism and militancy.”
is untenable collusion of Catholic conservatives (including Austrian nationalists and monarchists) with
German nationalists (that would also pact with National Socialism) standing against Austrian unity and
sovereignty for the sake of Black transcendence over Red would consume itself as it cleaved into forces that
actively opposed one another a1er the rise of Hitler in Germany. But for the moment, the Black militia of the
Heimwehr was protecting the status quo of Austria’s existence (if not the republic itself) from the threat of an
imagined Bolshevik revolution fostered by the Reds, whose militia, the Schutzbund, equally feared a reactionary
coup.
is fraught situation easily devolved into actual conLicts from its ideological ones. In January 1927, in the
Burgenland provincial town of Scha; endorf, a war veteran’s group with Heimwehr connections shot into a
crowd of Schutzbund members, killing an invalid and a child, and injuring ve others. e resulting
“Scha; endorf Trial” as it was known, would lastingly destabilize the republic. Held in Vienna in June of that
same year, the accused three shooters pled self-defense against a mob of Schutzbund members, and were
acqui; ed by the jury, which had ignored the evidence contradicting the claim. e Social Democratic
leadership rst a; empted to ignore the growing fury of the party membership. With the publication of an
enraged editorial in the Arbeiter-Zeitung, a spontaneous march by thousands protested the lack of justice and
the “killing of workers.” e police were not able to control the crowds that moved on the Vienna Justizpalast
(Palace of Justice) and set it on re. e federal government, fearing revolution, allowed the police to use
rearms to end the siege. eir shots into the crowds of unarmed protesters resulted in eighty-nine dead and
over a thousand wounded—a catastrophe immortalized in the climax of Heimito von Doderer’s novel Die
Dämonen (Demons) (1956).
What li; le cooperation between the Black and Red camps that had existed now evaporated in a
demonstration of violent activity that shook the nation. e Heimwehr gained in popularity as a bulwark of
tradition and Catholicism against the more imaginable threat of revolution and mob rule. Its militia was
fractious without a coherent program due to the rivalry of its leaders and demonstrated the various divisions in
the Black movement and the major split between Habsburg monarchist and German national wings. e Social
Democrats had advocated violence to resist unconstitutional coup a; empts from other parties in their Linz<


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Program of 1926, which was understood by the opposition as a radicalization of Socialist politics and even as a
call to Soviet style revolution. In response, the Blacks created the Korneuburg Oath in 1930, inLuenced by
Othmar Spann’s corporatism, acknowledging the principles of fascism, and advocating the overthrow of the
state and its democratic structure to save the Volk from decay brought on by both Marxism and capitalism. e
state would be represented not by party members but by leading members of the Stände (status groups or
estates)—the basic organization of the corporate state or Ständestaat (State of Estates) of postrepublican
23Austria. This move was understood by the Red camp as one into political radicalism by the Blacks.
What followed was a strike against the democratic state by the Heimwehr in 1931. Undaunted by Hitler’s
failed Nazi putsch in Munich in 1923 and obviously identifying with Mussolini’s successful march on Rome
the previous year, the Styrian provincial branch of the Heimwehr led by pan-German Walter P rmer a; empted
to take control of the province and march on Vienna. Without support from the population or any other
Heimwehr unit however, the putsch a; empt collapsed in its second day. e camps had in fact achieved their
ultimate ideological balance in an Austrian state that would now nd itself more threatened by the second
economic disaster since the end of the war and a New Order in Germany.
THE CATHOLIC CORPOX TE STATE
e 1929 Great Depression and Hitler’s rise to the Chancellor of Germany in January 1933 undeniably
transformed both camps, as the parties considered their positions with respect to his ideological innovations.
e Social Democratic Party, which had long favored union with Germany, was forced to drop this goal, given
Germany’s National Socialism, as did true Christian Socials. Black pan-Germans desiring annexation either
moved to the German Nationalist parties, primarily the Austrian Nazi Party, or remained where they were, in an
a; empt to inLuence the Catholic conservatives. To many from all parties, the immense rise of unemployment
between 1929 and 1933 suggested the collapse of capitalism and the opportunity for a Red national victory.
However, a chance occurrence shrewdly utilized rather than any political planning was the act that nally ended
the Republic. On March 4, 1933, all three of the parliamentary presidents resigned a1er a stormy session in the
legislature, leaving no one to call order or adjourn the meeting. e conservative Federal Chancellor, Engelbert
Dollfuss, a rural born and devout Roman Catholic who had previously been Minister of Agriculture and Forests,
had led a coalition government as chancellor since 1932. Dollfuss took advantage of the confusion arising from
the resignations and utilized an obscure emergency powers act from World War I that was still on the books as
his procedural justi cation to claim that parliament had, in fact, suspended itself. is law also included a
deferment of freedom of assembly designed to keep protests off the streets. Dollfuss followed these measures by
officially banning the Le1ist Schutzbund, the Austrian Nazi Party, and the Communist Party, all forces he
believed existentially threatened independent and Catholic Austria.
Dollfuss’s new Bundestaat (Federal State) would function as a single party/national front corporate system
based on Spann’s economic philosophies (among others), and was modeled somewhat a1er Mussolini’s
24state. To that goal, a national unity organization, the Vaterländischer Front (Fatherland Front) was created,
which would coordinate all aspects of society, culture, economy, and government without the threat of a
multiple party system, which would, given the extremely divergent views embodied in the parties available,
purportedly destroy Austrian sovereignty and its unique Austrian nature.
Dollfuss sought a re-Catholization of Austria and rejected National Socialism for its paganism and racism.
He considered Austria to be the “be; er” Germany and hoped to reawaken the spirit of religious/cultural
supranational transcendence in a new universal Holy Roman Empire that would transform and include the
Germans and the non-German Central Europeans as well. is “Austrian Ideology,” one based in Catholic faith,
reactionary in its models and goals, and built around what Austria had been and what it had lost, inhibited any
true national front cohesion, particularly since the state had banned the Le1. e result instead was a one-party
system made up of various conservative, Catholic, and elitist class aspects of the society. While the regime was
designated “Christian,” it was also “German [along the concept of the Holy Roman Empire of the German
Nation] and Social.” Dollfuss’s “Austrian Ideology” and one-sided nationalism were perhaps the rst seeding of
the concept of an Austrian Nation, which would ultimately emerge in the failed twel1h hour a; empt to forestall
German invasion and Nazi annexation in 1938. e concept would return much evolved in 1945 as a
democratic and mostly secular nation-building concept for the Second Republic.
e clerico-authoritarian regime was commi; ed to the social teachings of the Rerum Novarum, the 1891
Encyclical Le0er on the Condition of the Working Classes by Pope Leo XIII, and the 1931 Encyclical
Quadragesimo anno by Pope Pius XI, and sought a de-proletarianization of the working class, which was
supported and legitimized by the Catholic Church. However, despite the regime’s antidemocratic tendencies,
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the state was also “never fully fascist but remained ‘semi-fascist’ and not the least because the church constituted
25something of a barrier against full fascism.” e corporate system, comprising estates representing different
sectors of the economy, never materialized beyond decorative symbolism, institutional offices, and
nomenclature.
Unlike actual mass movements in Europe that had a period of struggle and an ideology to propel it forward,
Austria’s Fatherland Front and its pseudo-fascistic paraphernalia, which supposedly articulated the Austrian
Ideology, was ultimately, as Tim Kirk sees it, “directionless,” particularly following Dollfuss’s assassination by
Austrian Nazis in a failed putsch in 1934: “ e Fatherland Front had no period of political struggle from which
to retire. Its initial membership was built up by absorbing organizations rather than enlisting individuals and it
26never really mobilized authentic popular support for the regime.” Gerald Botz nds the Austrian regime far
more comparable to the authoritarian governments of Portugal, Greece, and Spain than to Italy and its
militaristic dream of a new Roman Empire. He also indicates that the dissolution of the Heimwehr and its fascist
leadership, along with other organizations found unsuitable to the far more bourgeois and bureaucratic
authoritarian phase of Dollfuss’s successor, Kurt von Schuschnigg, resulted in a “ Defaschisierung”
27(defascism). Ulrich Kluge instead associates the regime’s political Catholicism, Habsburg nostalgia, and
baroque spectacle to conclude that the new state a; empted to become a form of “modernized neoabsolutism,”
one that functioned on a provisional level “with the national objective of overcoming the country’s immediate
28crisis.”
29For the present discussion, we must remember that, among the signi cant “free spaces” that remained in
the social and cultural construction of that Austrian new order was in cinema. While censorship certainly
increased, and distribution and exhibition were absorbed into the new state organizations replacing those from
Red Vienna, the industry itself remained privatized. It was never nationalized or used as a totalized propaganda
organ as in Germany and Italy. It remained open to international style (including Hollywood) and transcultural
impulses beyond the rare Catholic propaganda lm, the prerequisite pride in Austrian culture, and the
problematic positioning against Nazi cinema and German political pressure. Austrian cinema of this era allows
us unusual latitude in comprehending the tastes and desires of lmmakers and spectators of the authoritarian
state, particularly in dealing with concepts of identity, gender, class, social order, and in approaches that served
filmic necessity rather than strict political ideology.
During Dollfuss’s rule by emergency decree, fear-based violence nally exploded between the two camps in
Austria’s brief civil war, which raged in skirmishes between the militias of the two parties from February 12 to
16, 1934. e ba; le began in Linz, when the police entered a Social Democratic worker’s club to search for
weapons and were met with gun re ordered by the district commander of the Schutzbund against the wishes of
the party in Vienna. This action had a domino effect, and for three days fighting between the Schutzbund and the
combination of the army, the police force, and the Heimwehr in Upper Styria, in the Danube Valley, and
ultimately in Vienna, immediately framed the Social Democratic Party as a revolutionary cadre openly utilizing
its militia against the state and its Volk.
Vienna’s Social Democratic mayor Karl Seitz was arrested, and government a; acks on the large Red Vienna
apartment projects, were particularly bloody. e architecture of the Karl Marx-Hof and other workers’ housing
enabled ghters to barricade the projects, which would function as fortresses and where authorities feared
weapons would be stockpiled. e official casualty list for the three days of ba; le was 137 dead Schutzbund
members (although, given the civilian targets, it is assumed the number was far higher) and 128 army, police,
and Heimwehr members. e total wounded amounted to nearly one thousand. e result of this needless
bloodbath was the banning of the Social Democratic Party and the arrest, imprisonment, and even execution of
30involved Schutzbund members who had not Led the country. At the same time, the Social Democrats joined
the underground presence of the other banned parties and reorganized as a more revolutionary cadre. In
response, the regime opened political detention camps at Wöllersdorf in Lower Austria in 1933 and at
Kaisersteinbruch in Burgenland in 1934. e prisoners were typically Communist and Austrian National
Socialist members. A1er February 1934, the Wöllersdorf camp also interned Social Democrats and Schutzbund
31members.
e adoption of a new constitution on May 1, 1934, by Dollfuss before a parliament now stripped of Le1ist
participation remolded emba; led Austria into a Christian Corporate State with a gurehead presidency and a
32dictatorial chancellorship. e Fatherland Front would be the organizing “non-partisan” single party of
national unity, despite its obvious partisan consistency of the Heimwehr and the Christian Social Party, and<
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Dollfuss’s goal of re-Catholization of Austria as a primary aim of his regime. e reputation of Red Vienna had
been based internationally on the large modern housing estates. Dollfuss now used these to proclaim the death
of socialism in Vienna by removing their original names or renaming them to underscore Catholicism or
enshrine gures of the corporate state. e Karl-Marx-Hof quickly became the Heiligenstädter-Hof (named
a1er the district Heiligenstadt, which translates as “holy city”) and which the government promoted in heroic
33counterrevolutionary terms as “ e Fall of the Red Fortress,” whereas the Friedrich-Engels-Hof was simply
abbreviated to evoke a religious reference as Engels-Hof (Angel’s Court).
e assassination of Chancellor Dollfuss on July 25, 1934, in a failed putsch by Austrian Nazis, gave
Dollfuss’s vision li; le time to consolidate itself openly. His successor, Kurt von Schuschnigg, was no admirer of
Mussolini or of the external aspects of control Dollfuss had found essential. e ve-day ba; le to rout out
known Nazi cells throughout Austria resulted in over two hundred deaths on both fronts. e tensions brought
on by these ongoing conLicts would never abate during the existence of the regime. Social Democrats, who
would have been staunch allies in this campaign against Austrian Nazism, were officially silenced.
ONE STATE, ONE FRONT, ONE LE ADER—T WO FILM INDUSTRIES
Prior to his assassination, Dollfuss had understood and acted on the value of lm in reassigning Austria’s
representation and in strengthening a frontist mentality. He had a; empted to reinvent the Austrian lm
industry landscape along nationalist lines but without actual nationalization of the industry. e new regime
decreed that all lms must be shown on Austrian-made equipment. Weekly newsreels were to be Austrian
productions promoting the country’s achievements, to emphasize sovereign Austria against pan-German
concepts of Nazism. To this end, the government founded the Vaterländische Ton3lmgesellscha (Fatherland
Sound Film Company) that absorbed the Österreich in Bild und Ton (Austria in Image and Sound) newsreel and
culture film productions run by the Selenophon Company, but left feature production privatized.
Official censorship was decreed on March 9, 1934, and all independent lm organizations and societies
associated with political parties or movements (mostly Social Democratic) were replaced by a large
statecontrolled umbrella alliance, the Österreichische Filmkonferenz (Austrian Film Conference). While not
representing centralization of the industry as in Germany, the association was a form of Ständestaat “estate”
responsible for representing the lm industry in Austria and abroad, as well performing mediation between
different branches of the industry. e Ministry of Education and Ministry of Trade, as well as government
departments responsible for nancing and censorship would advise the alliance. e Catholic Church was
strongly included in this hierarchy. Vienna’s Cardinal eodor Innitzer so praised the idea of an organization to
guide lmgoers that in October 1934 the Institut für Filmkultur (Institute of Film Culture) was born from an
earlier Catholic youth culture group. A new semiofficial cinema publication, Der gute Film ( e Good Film),
would enable the church to propagate its input regarding lm production and review and critique lm
presentation in Austria.
e institute also set the criteria for topics and scripts that might be made into Austrian lms in the service of
the “Christian, German and corporate state.” It created a rating system for Der gute Film that divided lms into
ve categories: (1) Films of general artistic or technical acceptability were rated “valuable entertainment”; (2)
those of limited artistic or technical acceptability were rated “conditionally valuable entertainment”; (3) lms
that were generally well made but without particular cultural or ideological value were rated “non-objectionable
entertainment”; (4) lms of a problematic thematic, artistic, or technical nature were to be “viewed with
reservation”; and (5) lms of li; le artistic or technical value or with negative cultural and/or ethical effect were
34“to be avoided.” e nal two categories were used to stem the Lood of American imports and to lter out
35Nazi propaganda. Not surprisingly, many lmmakers questioned the regime’s criteria of a “good” lm and
thus also the institute’s authority. Since the journal was not a state publication but one issued by the church in
support of its values, and because the government did not have the ability to enforce its will beyond basic
censorship, Der gute Film was an a; empt to add credibility to the regime’s relationship with cinema by being
critical and artistically demanding, even of lms promoting state ideology. Interestingly, this made the daily
press reviews o1en more supportive of independent lm (those not following Nazi racial standards in order to
be exported to Germany) and more patriotic regarding all Austrian productions than the church publication.
Beginning in March 1933, Germany, Austria’s largest lm market, officially refused to release Austrian lms
that used Jewish or alleged anti-German/anti-National Socialist talent. Of the fourteen Austrian lms in
distribution at the time of the first National Socialist German film industry guidelines (March 1933 to February
1934), ve were blocked from release, and one was pulled from distribution. e three lms that had already
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been sold to German distributors, Abenteuer am Lido / Adventure on the Lido (Austria 1933), Frühlingsstimmen /
Voices of Spring (Austria 1933), and Wenn du jung bist, gehört dir die Welt / When You Are Young , 8 e World
Belongs To You (Austria 1934), were rejected in an evasive manner that provides particular insight to the
process. e new arm of the German Propaganda Ministry, the Reichsfilmkammer (Reich’s Film Chamber)
known as the RFK, Latly dismissed Paul Fejos’s well-made Frühlingsstimmen due to its alleged “poor quality.”
The real reason for its rejection, however, was the fact that operetta composer Oscar Straus, who was Jewish, had
composed some of the film’s score.
Both Abenteuer am Lido and Wenn du jung bist . . . had been directed by an Austrian long active in German
lm, Richard Oswald, who was not only Jewish but whose lmography was comprised of socially critical and
36antiwar interpretations that the National Socialists had condemned before January 1933. Furthermore, the
two lms starred singers Joseph Schmidt and Alfred Piccaver, as well as Hungarian comic actor Szöke Szakall,
all of whom the RFK branded as “non-Aryan” and thus “unacceptable.” Ironically, the production company of
Wenn du jung bist . . . , the Haas-Film company, founded by Heinrich Haas in 1933, was acceptable to the Nazi
37regime because Haas was considered “Aryan.” Believing that he understood the new limitations on Austrian
lm in Nazi Germany, Haas had even contacted the RFK during the lm’s production and offered it the script
for censorship approval. e RFK insisted on several changes, with which Haas complied, but the central
(racist) criticism focused on Joseph Schmidt, whom it considered too una; ractive to help motivate the
38uninteresting plot.
e Film Agreement of 1934 between Austria and Nazi Germany placed the Austrian lm industry under
strangulating external pressure, especially since the agreement forbade the export to Germany of any Austrian
lm that included among cast or crew “non-Germans” (émigrés from Germany who were declared stateless by
the Nazi regime) or “non-Aryan Austrians.” at this condition speci cally aimed to destabilize the economy
and to “Aryanize” Austrian cinema from the outside was clear to Oskar Pilzer, who served both as the director of
Vienna’s largest and technically cu; ing-edge studio, Tobis-Sascha, and as president of the
governmentcontrolled Austrian Association of Film Production. His Pilzer Group held part or direct ownership in many
Austrian lm companies, including Vienna-Film, Gloria-Film, Viktoria-Film, Walter Reisch-Filmproduktion,
and Tobis-Sascha. Pilzer argued that the ird Reich had set a special standard for Austrian lms but was not as
insistent on the use of “Aryan” talent when it came to other foreign imports:
The Austrian productions featuring Franziska Gaal are not allowed to approach the censors in Germany,
but if such a film were to be produced in Hungary, there would be no trouble at all. Prominent Jews in
French or British films pass through German censorship with ease, but in the case of an Austrian film,
there would be objections to a Jewish third camera assistant. . . . Meanwhile, the Aryan Paragraph (of the
Nuremberg Laws) has been enacted. Now, for example, Herr Reich is allowed to be a producer but not a
director. . . . We must demand that there be no limitations on the use of “Austrians”; only those
39specifically mentioned in the contract should be so avoided.
Pilzer and others in the Austrian lm industry originally believed that the Germans were not targeting Austrian
citizens as such, only ex-German (“non-Aryan”) nationals in Austrian lm, that the Nuremberg racial laws of
40Germany should not apply to Austria, and that Austria would not institute an Aryan Paragraph of its own to
suit Germany.
Unfortunately, Austrian lm did exactly that by conceding to German demands for the sake of lm
distribution. Film credits were edited to remove the “undesirable” names, and in 1935, a new agreement put the
now seriously disadvantaged and dependent Austrian lm industry one step closer toward mandatory
“Aryanization.” Austria was now limited to the distribution of twelve lms annually in Germany through
German companies, whereas Germany could export an unlimited number to Austria. is also marked the
official start of Austria’s dual lm industries, one that continued to answer to the “Aryan” laws of two states, and
the other seeking ways to remaining independent or to circumvent the restrictions placed on talent and content
that these various censorship arms had imposed. is la; er “new” lm industry is particularly interesting as a
way to diagnose the enforcement of legal restrictions in a nongovernmental sector of the Austrian economy.
THE AUSTRIAN INDEPENDENT AND EMIGX NTENFILM
Many Germans and Austrians working in the German lm industry made stateless or unemployable by the Nazi
racial laws immediately headed for Hollywood, but a substantial portion went to Vienna (some to Budapest or<
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Prague) where they could work in German-language lm or because they originally hailed from
AustriaHungary or its successor states, or had connections in Vienna. Since they were subsequently prevented from
working with most major Austrian lm companies that exported to Germany, a secondary lm industry
developed around this talent. ese new companies did not depend on Germany for investment or distribution,
and they rejected Germany’s racial guidelines. e independent Emigranten lm (emigrant lm) that they
brought into being would utilize émigré and Austrian “non-Aryan” talent, coproduce their lms with foreign
studios in multilanguage versions, and market their lms across Europe—a remarkable scheme that rested on
clear limits of governmental control for their industry.
Two former employees of the German Terra-Film company, Rudi Loewenthal and Erich Morawsky, opened
the rst of these independent Emigranten lm production houses, the Wiener-Film / Morawsky & Co., in
Vienna in 1934. e popular Austro-Hungarian (Czech) born German lm and theater actor and singer Fritz
Schulz directed their rst lm, Salto in die Seligkeit / Leap into Bliss (Austria 1934), which featured
performances by Schulz, Felix Bressart, and Olly Gebauer. Loewenthal and Morawsky intended to follow the
format and economic model of the original United Artists Company in Hollywood, where the performers were
41essentially shareholders in their lms. While successful for Salto, this innovative nancial structure did not
work for the follow-up lm, Letzte Liebe / Last Love (Austria 1935), also directed by Schulz, which was shut
down in preproduction. However, a member of one of Austria’s important business families, Julius Meinl II,
eventually bankrolled the lm by trading nancial support for his Japanese wife’s (Michiko Meinl-Tanaka)
leading role in the lm. His generosity a; racted major names to the Letzte Liebe project—Hans Jaray, Albert
Bassermann, Oskar Karlweis, and opera singer Richard Tauber. Although the expensive lm managed a return
on its production costs, the experience forced the producers to consider international investment, particularly
Scandinavian partnerships, for future projects. e company never produced another lm, and Morawsky
42emigrated to France in 1936. Director and actor Fritz Schulz made several independent and successful
comedies before he fled to Switzerland in 1938 to work primarily in theater.
Despite its limited success, Wiener-Film Morawsky & Co. opened the doors to what became a secondary tier
of Austrian lm production in the 1930s and which allowed for a “star system” of its own. e independent
Emigranten lm stimulated signi cant careers for leading actors, many of Jewish descent, like Austrian leading
man Hans Jaray and Hungarian-born Franziska Gaal, one of the important but nearly forgo; en comic stars in
German-language lm. Hungarian singer and dancer Rosy Barsony (also of Jewish descent) was able to
continue working in independent productions until she was banned from performance in 1938. Hungarian star
Szöke Szakall, German character actor Felix Bressart, and rotund, former UFA-Berlin comedian O; o Wallburg
all gained wider fame in Emigranten lm. While Szakall and Bressart ultimately transferred their
characterizations to Hollywood, Wallburg Led to Holland a1er 1938, where he survived underground until his
deportation to Auschwitz in 1944. Another Emigranten lm staple was the non-Jewish actor Fritz Imhoff, who
continued his work in Austrian lm a1er the Anschluss and into the postwar period. In doing so, Imhoff was a
rarity among leading non-Jewish performers, many of whom refused to work in an independent Emigranten lm
for fear that it would harm their careers in the mainstream cinema. is fragmentation and mistrust in the
Austrian lm industry, which would stall its economic possibilities, was the very aim of the racial requirements
forced on Austrian exports by the German market.
Hitler’s rise to power was also why Austrian female lm pioneer Louise Kolm-Fleck and her husband and
coproducer, Jakob Fleck, returned to Vienna in 1933 a1er several years of productions in Berlin, where they had
become known as the “ lm couple.” In Vienna, they created four independent Austrian projects (two of these
were considered Czechoslovakian lms for the sake of export quotas) coproduced in Vienna and Prague. ey
were interned at Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps in 1938 but regained their freedom and
emigrated to Shanghai with the help of German-Hollywood director William Dieterle.
ese brief thumbnails suggest the space that Austrian lm under Austrofascism would occupy, a public
arena with constantly shi1ing regulations and strictures, but most importantly, one that also offered some
chance for independent decisions in the way that nationalized lm production in Germany did not. e
following chapters ll in the exact topography of that map, showing the innovation and devotion to lmmaking
that existed on both sides of the political wall, down the middle of the film industry.
NOTES
1. Like the Spanish Falangist-authoritarianism mix, Austrian authoritarianism maintained a strong alignment
with the Catholic Church. It is termed corporate or corporatist in reference to the socioeconomic structure
of major interest groups as representative estates (Stände) within the state such as business, agriculture,