THE CITY WITHOUT JEWS (Die Stadt ohne Juden)
Directed by H. K. Breslauer, 1924
Cast Eugen Neufeld, Hans Moser, Anny Miletty, Johannes Riemann, Ferdinand Mayerhofer, Mizi Griebl, Karl Tema, Hans Effenberger, Gisela Werbisek, and Armin Berg
Composers Donald Sosin and Alicia Svigals
Based on the controversial and best-selling novel by Hugo Bettauer, H.K. Breslauer’s 1924 film adaptation of The City Without Jews (Die Stadt ohne Juden) was produced two years after the publication of the book, and, tragically, only a brief time before the satirical events depicted in the fictional story transformed an all-too-horrific reality.
Set in the Austrian city of Utopia (a thinly-disguised stand-in for Vienna), the story follows the political and personal consequences of an anti-Semitic law passed by the National Assembly forcing all Jews to leave the country. At first, the decision is met with celebration, yet when the citizens of Utopia eventually come to terms with the loss of the Jewish population—and the resulting economic and cultural decline—the National Assembly must decide whether or not to invite the Jews back. Though darkly comedic in tone, and stylistically influenced by German Expressionism, the film nonetheless contains ominous and eerily realistic sequences, such as the shots of freight trains transporting Jews out of the city.
The stinging critique of Nazism in the film is part of the reason it no longer screened in public after 1933 (all complete prints were thought to be destroyed). Now, thanks to the discovery of a nitrate print in a Parisian flea market in 2015, as well as to the brilliant restoration efforts of the Filmarchiv Austria, this previously “lost” film can once again be appreciated in its unfortunately ever-relevant entirety.
NOTES ON THE SCORE:
The edition of this film features an ensemble score by Donald Sosin and Alicia Svigals, who also may be available to perform their score live upon request. If you are interested in possibly having Donald and Alicia perform live at your venue, please do let us know in the ‘Additional Comments’ section of the screening request form.