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The Third Reich's Celluloid War: Propaganda in Nazi Feature Films, Documentaries and Television, by Ian Garden

Stroud, England: History Press/Chicago: Independent Publishers Group, 2012. Pp. 284. Illus., biblio, index. $35.00. ISBN: 0752464426.

A critical look at the Nazi use of the moving image for propaganda purposes. 

After a chapter on the importance of propaganda to Hitler and the Nazi regime, and another on the control of film propaganda during the Third Reich, British film historian and critic Garden examines two principal types of movies produced during the Nazi era, films made primarily to serve propaganda and those made primarily for entertainment purposes.  The propaganda films were of several types, depending on their principal theme, that is anti-British, anti-Semitic, anti-American, anti-Eastern European, anti-Communist, pro-regime, and so forth.  Rather than present a catalog of films in each category, after a short overview, Garden critiques several specific films on each theme.  In addition, he devotes a chapter to a comparison of Allied anti-Nazi film propaganda, plus one on German documentary films and on to their use of television, then a very new medium limited to “lounge” presentations. 

Some of Garden’s conclusions will come as a surprise.  For example, in a point made by some other historians of the German motion picture industry during the Nazi era, Joseph Goebbels appears to have been a perceptive critic who could appreciate the skill of Allied film makers, and even urged German producers to measure up to the standards of Mrs. Miniver.   Garden notes that while many of the films may seem quite crude, many others are quite effective, and some are in their way excellent. 

The Third Reich’s Celluloid War will appeal not only to students of motion picture history or propaganda, but also for anyone interested in trying to understand that nature of the Nazi regime.

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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