The average American today knows very little about German film during the Nazi era, and even animation scholars may not know what German animation existed between 1933 and 1945. Such a gap in cinema studies reflects a larger problem in the United States ' perception of this crucial period. Fifty years after the Second World War, many Americans naively accept simplistic stereotypes of the Nazis, such as the demonic fiend whose appetite for sadistic cruelty is matched only by his ravenous, perverse sexual appetite (who inhabits such dramatic works as Visconti's The Damned), and the bumbling fool, somehow quaintly charming (popularized by such comedies as "Hogan's Heroes"). A similar simplistic notion of the era itself--everything from 1933 to 1945 was Na zi, everything before and after wasn't--clouds and weakens our perception of one of the most tragic and dangerous episodes in human history. By distancing the Nazis into the stereotypes of demons and fools, we can comfortably say, "they weren't like us," and by containing them so solidly in a particular time slot, we can assure ourselves that "it can't happen here." Yet the complex truth about the Nazi era is considerably more menacing.
While undoubtedly some Nazi demons and some Nazi fools did flourish, many Nazis were average German citizens who bought into an existing fascist scheme--and many German citizens were never supporters of Nazism, and actively attempted to resist the govern ment's fascist rule. Germany, after all, had been a brilliant intellectual, scientific and artistic community for two centuries before the Nazi era, and, during the 1920s in particular, Germany had played a leading rôle in the intellectual and artistic a vant garde, as well as producing many of the finest, most respected films of the era. Not every creative, intellectual person could leave the country.
Similarly, while the Nazi party legally ruled Germany for only twelve years, from March 1933 until May 1945, the Nazi party existed as a minority party throughout the 1920s--Hitler was jailed in the early 1920s for terrorist activities. When the Nazis s eized power over the German government through a virtual coup d'état in 1933 (they were not elected by a majority vote, remember: Hitler was appointed by the senile Hindenberg, and the burning of the parliament building gave an excuse for martial law), ma ny Germans believed that they could never pull it off, that they would fall from power very quickly. After the disastrous inflation of the 1920s and the Great Depression of the 1930s, Germany had not really recovered from World War I, and unemployment ho vered over six million--the same figure, ironically, that is usually given as the total number of people executed in the concentration camps. If the Nazis were to stay in power, they had to perform an economic miracle, which many thought such a radical f ringe group (rather like our Ku Klux Klan) could never do. But the Nazis did remain in power, and it was precisely their economic success that lured many average citizens to lend them increasing support.
The first few years, however, were still tenuous. The mass arrests of gypsies, homosexuals and "political dissidents" (socialists, communists and fringe religious fanatics like Jehovah's Witnesses) went unchallenged by many "nice normal" German citizens who rather thought "those people" probably deserved to be gotten rid of.1 New jobs created by the absence of those minorities, and by the flight of many people to refuge in other countries, helped cure unemployment, as did the beginning of the massive p ublic works projects such as the building of a freeway system and the new "People's Auto" (Volkswagen) factories. And the 1936 Olympics brought a windfall influx of hard currency from millions of tourists. It was only after 1937--after four years of pro paganda indoctrination and 4 years of increasing economic growth--that the Nazis could launch major anti-semitic campaigns, or the harrassment of catholics and protestants who resisted Nazi policies.
The German Film Industry during the Nazi Era The Nazis intended the German film industry to play a key rôle in their economic recovery. The international success of German films had brought in enormous amounts of foreign exchange during the pre-Nazi days. Although quality productions could also c ost millions of marks, the risk was worth it if some resulted in great box-office profits. Therefore, the film industry was placed under special surveillance, to make sure that all vital talent was kept and used to the maximum. In the first days after t he Nazi takeover, everyone had to register with an appropriate "union" (remember, Nazi means "National Socialist German Workers Party"), so that each person could be monitored through weekly and monthly reports to local and regional offices. For the film industry personnel, this meant that you had to continue doing whatever you were doing--scriptwriting, editing, costume-making and so on--or explain why you were falling behind in your work. This vigilant guard duty was necessary: as in the bohemian mili eu of stage (and screen) for centuries, many of the film world people were eccentrics and liberals, leftists and radicals, homosexuals and free lovers, lavish in use of liquor and drugs, fond of parties and extravagance. Very few were Nazi sympathizers: even in the 1937 "Degenerate Film" catalogue Film "Art," Film Cohen, Film-Corruption, the desperate authors could list only a handful of minor names as "good Nazis."2 Key talent had to be pampered and coerced. As some industry-related people fled, other s were forcibly promoted to fill their jobs.
Despite the fact that about fifteen hundred people from the German film industry did manage to flee the country over an eight-year period--and the presence of many of these exiles in Hollywood would leave a lasting mark on American film style--it was nev er easy to leave Nazi Germany.3 No one was allowed to take money out of Germany; unless you had connections in a host country, or foreign bank accounts (as some film people who had been involved in co-productions had), you might not be able to leave. I f you had a large family, you probably could not leave, since a complete family leaving at once would be too obvious. Although Fritz Lang was fond of saying that he fled Germany the very day that Propaganda Minister Goebbels offered him the job of produc tion head at Universum Film AG (UFA) Studios, his passport reveals that it took twenty-five different official stamps and a whole year's time before he could finally leave for America.4 Nor was it unusual that the Jewish Lang should be courted for a majo r film industry job at the very time anti-semitic employment policies were being announced; so hypocritical were the Nazis about money, that they would, for example, force a Jewish director like Reinhold Schünzel to make film after film (including the dev astatingly subversive Victor and Victoria - Viktor und Viktoria, 1933) just because every one of his films was a money-making hit. Schünzel and his family were not able to escape until 1937.5
The question of animation in the Nazi era has been largely ignored or even falsified. In many texts and film rental catalogues, the dates for films such as Fischinger's Composition in Blue (Komposition in Blau, 1935) or Reiniger's The Stolen Heart (Das gestohlene Herz, 1934) are given as 1932 or 1933, as if to suggest that they had not been made in Nazi Germany. Similarly, sound films by the Diehl Brothers (Ferdinand, Hermann and Paul), Ladislas Starewitch, Paul Peroff and others are available in silent prints which can discreetly be listed as from the 1920s, even though they were actually produced in 1937 or 1941 in Germany. In fact, Starewich's Reynard the Fox (Reinicke Fuchs, 1937 and Le Roman de Renard) although it was largely shot in Paris around 1930, has been completely ignored in discussions of "the first feature-length animation film" because it finally received its finishing funds from German sources (since Goethe had written a classic version of the Reynard legend) and had its world premiere in Berlin in April 1937--still eight months before Disney's Snow White (December 1937).6
In fact, dozens of animators worked in Germany before and during the Nazi era, including such relatively forgotten names as Kurt Wiese, Otto Hermann, Hans Zoozmann, Lore Bierling, Toni Rabolt, Harry Jaeger, Kurt Wolfe, Kurt Kiesslich, Curt Schumann, Kurt Stordel, Richard Felgenauer, Bernhard Klein, Paul Peroff, the team of Hedwig and Gerda Otto, the team of G. Wölz & G. Krüger, the team of Schwab and Gerhardt--as well as such slightly better-known figures as Louis Seel, The Diehl brothers (who made more than fifty puppet films), Rudolf Pfenninger, Wolfgang Kaskeline, Lotte Reiniger, and the Fischinger brothers--Hans and Oskar.7
Only one of these people seems to have been able to leave the country. Oskar Fischinger emigrated in February 1936, but he made three of his best films in Germany during the Nazi era: Circles (Kreise, 1933), Muratti Gets in the Act (Muratti Greift Ein, 1934), and Composition in Blue. He also made several other films, and was denied the right to make a color abstract film Squares (Quadrate, 1934). Circles and Composition in Blue were made in defiance of the Nazi policy on "degenerate art" and only rel eased with some danger and some difficulty, involving the heroic cooperation of a number of sympathetic, anti-Nazi critics, especially those centered around Dr. Anschütz's Color-Music Congress in Hamburg (there were four: 1927, 1930, 1933, and 1936), and the Waterloo Theater in Hamburg, which managed to keep an "alternate" film club open until they hosted the 1939 premiere of Hans Fischinger's abstract animation Dance of the Colors (Tanz der Farben).8
Lotte Reiniger and her socialist husband Carl Koch made seven films in Germany between 1933 and 1935. These films continue Reiniger's previous style, using opera and fairy tales in general, but it is also easy to see in a film like The Stolen Heart how the filmmaker has carefully tuned the allegory so that it reads as an anti-Nazi, resistance fable: when the wicked miser robs the village of its joy in music, the instruments of joy themselves fight back by creating even more musical enjoyment. Under the ruse of going on a vacation to Greece in 1936, Koch and Reiniger attempted to emigrate to France or England. They were denied any permanent status in either country, so they traveled back and forth between the two every few months from 1936 until the ou tbreak of the war in 1939, when they were declared "enemy aliens" and refused refuge in either France or England. They then chose a job (arranged by Jean Renoir) in Italy rather than return to Germany, but a few years later, when the Allied troups first landed in Italy, the retreating Nazi occupation army forcibly evacuated Reiniger and Koch back to Germany, where Reiniger was forced to work on an animation film even as bombs fell and troups invaded Berlin.
Other animators may have managed to flee Germany but, in any case, emigration was not necessarily a panacaea.9 Before 1933, Bertold Bartosch had fled to Paris, but in 1940 the invading Nazis destroyed St. Francis, a pacifist film he had been working on for nearly a decade, along with other original negatives of his, including that of his masterpiece, The Idea (L'idée, 1932), which fortunately survived through one release print in England.
Almost all the animators who worked in Germany between 1933 and 1945 had been making films before, and most continued to make them after. Germany managed to maintain an economically sound animation industry, largely because of advertising films. Before World War I, in 1911, Polish-born Julius Pinschewer had pioneered the use of animated films as advertising in regular movie theaters, where projection of graphic slides had been used previously. Pinschewer believed that if a film were entertaining, the audience would pay attention and respond positively to the product. Therefore, he commissioned films from the best animators (including eventually Guido Seeber, Walther Ruttmann, and Lotte Reiniger) and allowed them a leisurely three or five minutes in w hich to develop some charming story or graphic idea. So successful was Pinschewer that his films were sold and re-sold in countries all over the world, usually adapted to other products by simply changing the wording of the advertising slogan. The Jewis h Pinschewer fled to Switzerland in 1933 and took with him several of his favorite animators, including Rudi Klemm, but he also left many behind.10
German Animation during WWII Until 1937, Germany had been well-supplied with popular American-made cartoons. American productions had reigned supreme since the "Felix the Cat" and "Out of the Inkwell" series had appeared in the 1920s, and had impaired the expansion of the German ca rtoon industry.11 Propaganda Minister Goebbels had paid Disney good money for "Mickey Mouse" shorts, "Silly Symphonies," and Three Little Pigs (1933) but he balked at the high price Disney asked for Snow White and refused to pay it. Goebbels predicted that Snow White would be a flop, and when it turned out to be a sensational hit, he set about trashing it in a series of well-planned critical attacks in the German press. The criticisms stressed how the pure German tale had been polluted by addition of Hollywood kitsch, and were quick to point out (and re-point out frequently) that the British censors had banned Snow White for younger children because it was too violent and frightening.12 In addition, Goebbels issued a general call to German animators to step up their production of color animated films for children, and specifically commissioned a live-action feature film of Snow White (Schneeweisschen, 1939) to be made by the nature-documentarian Hubert Schonger, with "documentary" fidelity to the ori ginal Grimm fairy tale version (ironically, since most of the German märchen originals contain far more violent and frightening details than any American version--text or film). This "genuine German" Snow White turned out to be an awful bore (and awkward ly made), but never one to admit a mistake, Goebbels commissioned seven other live-action fairy tales (three of them feature-length) from Schonger, along with three short combined live-action and animation films, and four drawn color fairy tale cartoons-- all, apparently, of a decidedly second-rate quality, both in imagination and execution.13
The Diehl brothers, who had been making a variety of romantic and lyrical puppet films earlier, were encouraged to turn their attention to folkloric subjects, which they did with such charming fables as The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse (Die Stadtmaus und die Feldmaus, 1939), Puss in Boots (Der gestiefelte Kater, 1940), and Sleeping Beauty (Dornröschen, 1942). They also managed to break out of the cycle with a rather chilling Max and Moritz (Max und Moritz, 1941), based of Wilhelm Busch's original ni neteenth century comic strip, from which the later "Katzenjammer Kids" was derived. The Diehls render the disgusting pranks of these two evil children in such grotesque detail that it is difficult not to read the film as a protest against the willful and petulant carnage of the Nazi overlords.
Thirty-five-year-old Hans Held, who had come from the theater to being an assistant director for live action movies at the Bavaria Studios (he specialized in design and color consultation), was pressed into the production of animated films and produced a rather nasty thirteen-minute film, The Troublemaker (Der Störenfried, 1940). The film demonstrates--in good mock-Disney style--how the weaker animals of the forest can band together to drive out the fox--all in specific militaristic imagery (such as for mations of birds which dive-bomb the fox).14 Some sources list a second Held film, Unity Makes Strength (Einigkeit Macht Stark, 1941), but this might well be an alternate title for The Troublemaker.15
There were other productions as well; Kurt Stordel, for example, produced two very popular cartoons about "Purzel the Dwarf."16 But the trickle of cartoons produced by German studios was not enough to cover for the loss of Disney and other American prod uct. To rectify the situation, an official ministry plan of May 1941 called for the establishment of a strong German animation industry capable of producing not only a continuous flow of color cartoon shorts, but also feature-length animated films. At t he behest of this goal, all able animators were commanded to step up their production and focus on theatrically viable entertainment cartoons.17 Among the animators called into action at this time was Hans Fischerkoesen, who was among the most distinguis hed animators remaining in Germany between 1933 and 1945.
The Case of Hans Fischerkoesen Hans Fischer was born May 18, 1896, in Bad Koesen, near Naumburg (with its famous cathedral), on the road between Leipzig and Weimar. Because Fischer was such a common name in the film world, he would later add on the name of his birthplace in order to distinguish himself from the others. He was a delicate child, plagued by asthma, so his parents allowed him and his sister Leni to indulge their taste for fantasy and spectacle by creating puppet shows and home entertainments. After basic schooling, Len i and Hans attended the Leipzig Art Academy together. Leni stayed with Hans and worked with him on many films.
Because of his asthma, Hans could not serve as a soldier during World War I, but he did work in army hospitals near the front lines, where he experienced the grotesque inanity of trench warfare. He dreamed about making an animated film, The Hole in the West (Das Loch im Westen, 1919), which would expose the War Profiteer as the real cause of war--and the real manipulator of victory and defeat. When the war ended, Fischerkoesen returned to his family home and spent months drawing about sixteen hundred sequential images that made concrete the dream (or rather nightmare) vision he had experienced in the trenches. He took the drawings to a Leipzig movie company and paid them (a borrowed) seven hundred marks to shoot them onto film, but as it turned out, the company was near bankruptcy and had never shot single-frame material before. Hans lost that money, but he persevered to build his own animation stand out of a wooden margerine crate and shot the film himself. Fischerkoesen himself described the film as a political cartoon brought to life, and it certainly suggests something of Bartosch's The Idea, made a decade later. Fortunately, a Leipzig film distributor bought The Hole in the West cartoon from Fischerkoesen for three thousand marks, so he was a ble to contine making animation films.
He made a successful advertising film, Strolling Peter (Bummel-Petrus, 1921), for the Leipzig shoe factory Nordheimer, which led to a two-year contract with Julius Pinschewer, after which he established his own Fischerkoesen Studio in Leipzig to speciali ze in advertising films. Fischerkoesen was perfectly suited to the advertising industry; he had an irrepressible sense of humor, a good sense of musical rhythm, and a charming, flexible cartoon style, as well as the obsessive concentration necessary to w ork exhaustingly until an animation production was perfected in every detail. He also had the knack for seeing a pun or twist in some old saying, common situation or popular song which would fit right in with a product. He philosophized about advertisin g, proposing that the "if-then" formula (if you use this product, then this will happen; if you have this problem, then this product will help) was the best format for a succinct, cogent ad.18
In 1931, a Leipzig newspaper celebrated Fischerkoesen, "the darling of audiences," with a full-page article entitled "Watch out, Mickey Mouse, Felix the Cat, and Co.!" which contains delightful images of a cow with a lyre built into her horns, a bull in a tuxedo, and an enchanting art-deco-style Kangaroo ballet--all popular cartoon figures from his ads.19 By 1937, when he won both first and second prize at a Dutch-sponsored international competition for advertising films (the runners up included such lu minaries as George Pal and Alexander Alexeieff), Fischerkoesen had made around one thousand publicity films. Unfortunately, all but a few of his pre-war films seem to be lost, or languish unidentified in collections that do not consider advertising films important.
For many years, Hans Fischerkoesen managed to keep his production confined to the kind of commercial work he did so well. But after the ministry plan of May 1941 was enacted, the Propaganda Minister, through the UFA studios, had demanded that he move hi s staff and studio from Leipzig to Potsdam, where he would be near UFA's "Neubabelsberg" studios, to be available for consultations and special effects work for UFA features and documentaries. When the forty-five-year-old Fischerkoesen, loathe to become any more closely involved with Goebbels than necessary, protested that he did not really have the talent to invent ideas for story films, he was assigned to work with thirty-five-year-old Horst von Möllendorff, a popular Berlin newspaper cartoonist who ha d just been "drafted" to work as a gag man for the new German cartoon industry.
An Aside: Möllendorff's "Authorship"? Möllendorff received "story" credit on three films I have seen: Fischerkoesen's Weather-beaten Melody (Verwitterte Melodie, 1942) and The Snowman (Der Schneemann, 1943), and a film called Wedding in the Coral Sea (Hochzeit im Korallenmeer, 1945), which w as animated by Jiri Brdecka during the last year of the war in Prague. How much Möllendorff actually contributed to these films seems a moot point to me. Fischerkoesen's two films are sheer masterpieces, thoroughly witty and inventive (in exactly the sa me ways his many advertising films are), and often the weight of the story is carried by graphic brilliance and astonishing small details; the bare bones of the story ideas (a bee finds an abandoned phonograph in a meadow, or a snowman hides in a refriger ator in order to experience Spring) hardly tells why they are such wonderful films.
The Brdecka Coral Sea is regarded by the Czechs as a Czech film, since not only Brdecka, but also Eduard Hofman, Stanislav Latal, Josef Kandl, and Jilis Kalas worked on it (all of whom would continue in Czech animation production after the war). The fil m is a nice, pleasant piece, well-animated, but overall neither terribly clever or witty--the story, in fact, is painfully simple: a pair of fish are about to get married when an octopus steals the bride, so the fish cooperate to get her back. Nor is it very original, in that Friz Freleng's 1935 cartoon Mr. and Mrs. is the Name has basically the same story and style (replete with sunken ship), except that the Warner Bros. "star," Buddy, is the hero instead of a boy-fish.20 Fischerkoesen also made a thir d cartoon, The Silly Goose (Das dumme Gänslein, 1944) based on his own story, which is again humorous, vivid and touching.21 The fact that the Fischerkoesen films (and remember that Hans' sister Leni was an omnipresent collaborator) demonstrate a consis tent wit and inventiveness, while the Möllendorff film made in Czechoslovakia lacks those very qualities, suggests to me that Möllendorff may have been merely a functionary, and his contribution to the Fischerkoesen films was negligible; the credit for th ese masterpieces rests with Hans and Leni Fischerkoesen.
A Closer Look at the Films Among the specific things that Goebbels mandated for the new German cartoon industry was the development of "three-dimensional" effects that could compete with Max and Dave Fleischer's stereo-optical process (which combined model sets with cel animation) or Disney's multiplane camera (which filmed several layers of cels), both of which had been lauded in the American and European press. Fischerkoesen had already been using, in his advertising films, a simple multiplane-type effect derived from the multi -layered glass animations that Reiniger had used in the 1926 animated feature The Adventures of Prince Achmed (Die Abenteuer des Prinzen Achmed) (and that Bertold Bartosch, who had worked on special effects for that feature, continued to use in his exquis ite half-hour tragic allegory, The Idea). Fischerkoesen had also been working with puppet and model animation, and could hardly have been ignorant of Oskar Fischinger's brilliant simulation of a deep-space traveling boom shot around the Muratti cigarette s parading towards the Olympic stadium in his classic ad film, Muratti Gets in the Act..
The opening sequence of Weather-beaten Melody demonstrates a bravura mastery of both the multiplane and stereo-optical processes--and a meaningful use of depth, following the flight of a bee down from the sky, flying through twelve layers of grass and fl owers in a meadow, and circling around an abandoned phonograph which lies, puzzlingly for the bee, in the middle of the meadow. Behind this long traveling point-of-view sequence is also the assumption that the bee is a personage worthy of following, and in fact she turns out to be adventurous, resourceful, perceptive, talented, witty, and friendly, among other admirable, even noble "human" characteristics. Fischerkoesen demonstrates these personality traits in little episodes characteristic of his style : she uses dandelion seeds as parachutes for a joyous free ride, and when her game of tossing a blueberry ends in disaster (the overripe fruit bursts over her head) she meticulously wipes herself clean on a daisy petal. Fischerkoesen also delineates her p ersonality with unexpected complexities. For example, is she jealous of the hedgehog who takes over her place as "phonograph needle" while she is away sharpening her stinger, or is she merely exasperated at the confusing quality of his multi-needle picku p? The very idea of ambiguity was anathema for the Nazis, who could only hope to maintain their fascist program by enforcing strict, unbending codes of behavior, and absolute, inviolable "ideals and truths." Precisely because of its technical brilliance, Weather-beaten Melody could contain quite a bit of forbidden material. Ironically, inherent in the "stereo" animation techniques, as Fischerkoesen uses them, lies the most subversive metaphor: a sense of freedom of movement, an affirmation of the multi-l ayered nature of reality--of ambiguity and change--which demands (even subconsciously) that the viewer think for herself and consider other things as valid as the subjective self-- something truly forbidden by Nazi doctrine as the most dangerous action of all.
To fully appreciate Fischerkoesen's daring, one must remember that the Nazis had forbidden Jazz and Swing music as an Afro-Judaic plot to undermine traditional German culture. The catalogue of the 1937 "Degenerate Film" catalogue contained an anti-Jazz spread entitled "Africa Speaks...?" which stigmatized "Al Jolson-Rosenblatt" among other black and black-face jazz musicians, and the 1938 "Degenerate Music" exhibition had on its cover the image of a black saxophone player wearing a Star of David. Detle v Peukert chronicles how the swing movement became a key symbolic rebellion, while the British film Swing Under the Swastika documents the sad and ironic fates of Jazz musicians during this period.22
In this context, the discovery of an abandoned phonograph takes on new meaning, especially when the record left on the turntable is a swing number with lyrics that say "the week wouldn't be worthwhile without a weekend when we can get away to enjoy natur e." Near the phonograph lies an "abandoned" clasp from a woman's garter belt (with a "lucky" four-leafed clover growing out of it!), which suggests that the interrupted picnic that left behind the musical instrument had also involved erotic play--somethi ng also strictly forbidden by the puritanical Nazi codes. So from beneath the charming surface of this cartoon emerges a subversive message: women, far from the unNatural Nazi-designated stereotype of "children, church and kitchen," can escape into Nature to be self-reliant and adventurous, erotic and free--they can rediscover or revitalize a suppressed world of forbidden joy in music and friendship between diverse creatures who may be brown or white, frog or caterpiller--or even a pair of ladybug beetles who may be a same-sex couple. Especially compared to many American cartoons of this same period (profligate with gratuitous violence and racist/sexist stereotype victims), the entire community of animals depicted in Weather-beaten Melody are peaceful, f riendly, fun-loving, imaginative and altruistic--quite the opposite of the Nazi requirements for a dedicated Aryan citizen.
The same spirit of ambiguity and subversive sub-text pervades Fischerkoesen's next film, The Snowman. The opening sequence, as in Weather-beaten Melody, establishes the filmmaker's mastery of creating the illusion of three dimensional space. Behind th e credits are layers of snowflakes, with their elaborate abstract patterns (including pure geometrical circles--all of which justify "degenerate" abstract art as a natural phenomenon!), falling down through the frame. As the credits finish, the viewer fl ies down over a snow-covered twilight village, around the steeple of a church (a stereo-optical-type model), down to a snowman that stands in an open space--just as if we were seeing from the point of view of a snowflake. This point of view is confirmed when snowflakes alight on the snowman in the pattern of a heart--suggesting that he is a creature of feelings, rather than a military/political figure (who would wear medals or insignia), or an ostracized victim (such as the Jews and Gays who wore yellow stars or pink triangles). Unlike the opening of Weather-beaten Melody, which establishes the point of view as that of the protagonist bee, The Snowman's opening sets us up as a visitor/observer of the snowman protagonist. The character of the snowman is more complex and "humanly" equivocal than that of the bee, partially because he is involved in more diverse actions, but also because he operates in a parallel structure which contrasts events in "winterland" with events in "summerland."
In the first episode, the snowman begins to play, by juggling snowballs--a curiously appropriate pastime since he himself is composed of snowballs. His game angers a watchdog, who rushes in barking at him. In his attempts to get away from the watchdog, he squashes the dog into the snow and then laughs at the dog's distress. When, in retaliation, the dog bites a chunk out of his rump, the snowman pelts the dog with snowballs, which finally hurts the dog and gets rid of it. The snowman tries to have fu n again by skating on an icy pond (using icicles as his skates), but finds the three snowballs of his body begin to bounce apart. Soon the ice breaks and the snowman is melted down to a thin skeleton of his former self. He is able to restore himself by rolling down hill until he accumulates his former bulk of snow and, when his torso and head get mixed (just as they did while skating), a crow helps find and assemble his body parts into proper order. A tree laughs at him, as he had laughed at the watchd og, so the crow shakes its coat of snow away as revenge. While the snowman tries to nap, a rabbit attempts to steal his carrot-nose, so he decides to go inside to sleep where it will be safer. As he walks into a nearby cottage, the viewer is treated to a spectacular 180-degree stroll around the stereo-optical building. Once inside, he disturbs a grumpy cat in order to sleep on its couch, and we become aware that many parallel events are occurring within the film.
Because he wishes to experience summer, the snowman hide out in the refrigerator. When he attempts to leave in July, however, his rump has stuck to the refrigerator shelf and he loses a chunk (which he regains by turning down the temperature in the iceb ox). He plays pranks on the chicken and cow, just as he had teased the dog in winterland (yet when he finds that he is freezing a ladybug, he becomes a ski run for her by turning somersaults across a meadow--another dazzling animation feat). After he me lts, singing "how lovely summer is; my heart breaks from happiness," a rabbit eats his carrot-nose (and her bunnies frolic in his hat, as if he had been a magician).
Parallel incidents reveal the complexities of the snowman's character and highlight the ambiguities of the action as a parable: the snowman, an average person with some good and some bad qualities, is trapped in a given environment, winterland. Although it is functional, it is cold and in some ways inhospitable. He reads that there is another place, sunny and free, and arranges to escape to this summerland for some thrilling moments of warmth and freedom, even at the cost of his life, as we hear him gu rgle in the death throes of song, twisting and melting in the hot sun. The dog, crow, cat, ladybug, rabbit, and others are characterized as parallel human-like creatures, which supports an open, thoughtful humanitarian world view that was anathema to the Nazis. The Snowman is also full of beautiful, touching, affirmative and spectacular scenes, such as the long pan across unfolding Spring.
Fischerkoesen's third wartime film, Silly Goose, provides another thought-provoking parable. Through the bars of a wooden cage driving on a cart across town, a young goose glimpses the seemingly glamorous allures of city life: among them an exotic parro t, silhouettes in a dance hall, and an elegant fox (stole) with feathers. Back at the farm, while her brothers and sisters receive their schooling in swimming, marching, laying eggs and such, she dreams narcissistically by a pond, swings on the gate like a parrot, uses the plough as a mirror, and creates for herself a pseudo-sophisticated costume by thieving and exploiting her neighbors: a caterpillar stole, a straw bottle-cover hat, pollen powder, a spider-web veil, cork high-heels, and pig-bristle eyel ashes. Her sashay through the barnyard creates mixed anger and astonishment. The gander, however, chooses to woo her instead of her more modest sisters, though she rejects him and wanders off into the woods where she is seduced by a fox. The fox's sini ster lair is run by slave labor--a weasel cranking a spit, a cat on a treadmill that makes xylophone music with dangling bones--and a cagefull of geese wait for slaughter. She manages to escape, and the barnyard animals cooperate to drive the fox away an d free his victims. While, on the surface, this film could satisfy Goebbels' dictum for "blood and soil" films that glorify the German peasant life, Fischerkoesen creates a complex and ambiguous narrative that confuses and contradicts Nazi policy.23 The city is glamorous--especially as seen in a long stereo-optical, multiplane sequence from the goose's point of view--while the barnyard activities are quaint and confining. At the same time, however, the silly goose's exploitation of the barnyard for her costume is mean and thoughtless. When the goose is seduced by the fox, we momentarily hear a crypto version of the old (Yiddish) popular song "Bei mir bist Du scheen," and could think that the villain is being identified as a Jew. Quickly, however, we see that just the opposite is true: the goose herself is being exploited. The fox is using her as he does various other animals, which seems to allude to the Nazis' exploitation of the Jews, as slave labor and prisoners doomed to execution. This sub-tex t becomes even more obvious by comparison with two other German films of the period: Held's 1940 The Troublemaker (in which the fox is a simplistic villain, and the farm animals drive him away in specifically militaristic fashion) and Frank Leberecht's 19 43 Poor Hansi (Armer Hansi) (in which the gratuitous violence that drives Hansi the canary back home rivals the worst of Warner Bros., truly supporting a "blood and soil" ideal). Very much to the contrary, The Silly Goose warns against being seduced by the glamor of fascism, and encourages the viewer to think carefully about home and the city and responsibility--to realize what happens to victims and to do something about it.
So, in these three wartime cartoon masterpieces, we see how Hans Fischerkoesen demonstrated that even at the darkest, most menacing hours of human depravity, men of principle may resist by subverting, with subtlety, the rules and prejudices of the tyrant .
Conclusion At the end of World War II, the invading Russian troops arrested Fischerkoesen (along with all other film personnel) as possible Nazi collaborators. Although he could prove that he was not only never a Nazi sympathizer but actually a member of an underg round resistance group of artists during the war years, he was kept in Sachsenhausen concentration camp for three years before his case was tried and he was exonerated. During that time, he worked in the kitchen, and painted on the walls ironic allegoric al murals of vegetable caricatures, which are now preserved as a national historical monument. As in great animal fables, these kitchen murals play out the daily trials and terrors of prison living, yet provide an ironical perspective by enacting these t raumas through vegetables that we humans would calmly eat without a second thought. A parsnip inspects a carrot for "vermin" (in this case, a worm), while another parsnip stands by, sharpening his knife (surgical or punitive?): is it not absurd that pars nips should be in control of carrots, when they're clearly relatives? Another carrot gratefully showers under a plain faucet spigot, while potatoes, eager for a swim, peel off their own skins and dive into the soup. A procession of happy cucumbers carry a pumpkin on a palanquin, yet they also help each other to slice themselves away on a kitchen "guillotine". These (and other) paintings provided a glimpse of humanitarian warmth in the grim camp where so many suffered and lost their lives.24
By the time Fischerkoesen was finally exonerated and released from prison in 1948, he had shown that he was not a Nazi, but also that he was no communist, so he was not allowed to work in film. Later that year, he and his family made one of those daring nighttime escapes from East Germany, carrying only a camera, and he reestablished an animation studio for advertising films near Bonn in West Germany. I have viewed thirty or so of his post-war ads and have found most to be witty, lively, graphically int eresting, and memorably clever. Certainly, he received critical acclaim: by 1956, he had won major prizes at commercial film festivals in Rome, Milan (three times), Venice, Monte Carlo, and Cannes. He also appeared on the cover of the 26 August 1956 iss ue of the prestigious Der Spiegel, which is Germany's equivalent of the American Time magazine.25 Fischerkoesen continued to make advertising films until 1969, and died in 1973.
In addition to the various written sources cited in these notes, I have also used throughout information from interviews with the following people: Alexandre Alexeieff, Maria Bartosch, Ali Benitz, Thorold Dickinson, Dr. Hans Cürlis, Dr. Hans Fischerkoesen , Elfriede Fischinger, Dr. Leonhard Fürst, Henri Langlois, Gerd Opfermann, Claire Parker, Lotte Reiniger, Paul Sauerländer, and Hedwig Traub. In addition, after this article was written, I was able to corroborate many details by reference to a term paper written in 1985 by Hans Fischerkoesen's granddaughter, Stepahnie McMillan, which is now in the John Canemaker Animation Collection at the Bobst Library of New York University.
1 Details and documents appear in the exhibition catalog Eldorado (Berlin: Berlin Museum, 1984), and James Steakley, The Homosexual Emancipation Movement in Germany (New York: Arno, 1975), among other sources.
2Carl Neumann, Curt Belling and Hans-Walther Betz, Film-"Kunst," Film-Kohn, Film-Korruption (Berlin: Hermann Scherping, 1937). The list of 13 names, none important stars or directors, appears on page 153.
3A list of names appears in Ronny Loewy, Von Babelsberg nach Hollywood: Filmemigranten aus Nazideutschland (Frankfurt-am-Main: Deutsches Filmmuseum, 1987) 8-22.
4The claim is quoted in Lotte Eisner's biography Fritz Lang 1976 (New York: Da Capo, 1986) 14-15. The passport is reproduced in Loewy's Von Babelsberg nach Hollywood (27-31). Gösta Werner has written up the incident: "Fritz Lang and Goebbels, Myths and Facts," Film Quarterly Vol. 43 (Spring 1990): 24-27.
5William Moritz, "Film Censorship During the Nazi Era," "Degenerate Art": The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany (New York: Abrams [Los Angeles County Museum of Art], 1991): 184-191.
6Léona and Fran?ois Martin, Ladislas Starewitch (Annecy: Annecy Festival, 1991) 42-43. See also Hans Schumacher, "Starewitch in Berlin," Film Kurier 30 (27 April 1937) n.p.
7Peter Hagemann and Herbert Schulz, Deutsches Trickfilm Kaleidoskop (Berlin: Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek/Annecy Festival, 1979). Reinhold Johann Holtz, "Die Phänomenologie und Psychologie des Trickfilms," Ph.D. diss., Hansischen Universität, 1940.
8After the screening, the theater's permit was withdrawn.
9Paul Peroff, for example, was working in New York during the 1950s, but I have been unable to determine when he left Germany.
10Roland Cosandey, Julius Pinschewer: cinquante ans de cinema d'animation (Annecy: Annecy Festival, 1989).
11The cartoon industry was affected in terms of growth, as opposed to the "art animation" of Fischinger or Reiniger, or the advertising films of Pinschewer and Fischerkoesen, which were not.
12Items on Disney;'s Snow White appear in the trade paper Licht-Bild-Bühne: "Even protests in U.S. about Disney's unreasonable fees for Snow White" (26 January 1938); "Who cares if Snow White is too expensive, since it's so violent" (15 February 1938); "S now White banned in London for under age 14!" (31 May 1938); "Is Snow White even an appropriate subject for a kids' film?" (9 July 1938). The Schonger film was already being promoted as "the real German Snow White" on 9 June 1939, although it did not ope n until October 1939.
13A. U. Sander, Jugend und Film (Berlin: NSDAP, 1944) 26-29. This first live-action film appears to be based on the Grimms' fairy tale, "Snow White and Rose Red," since a second Schongar Schneewittchen appeared in October 1942. Perhaps Goebbels wanted t o avoid immediate comparison with Disney, or wanted to avoid pointing out how gruesome and violent the Grimms märchen really are.
14"Störenfried," troublemaker, had special connotations for the Nazi era children: one of the most pervasive Hitlerjugend posters declared "Drive Out All Troublemakers!". Reproduced on the dust-jacket of H. W. Koch's The Hitler Youth (New York: Dorset, 1 975).
15Reinhold E. Thiel, Puppen-und Zeichen-Film (Berlin: Rembrandt, 1960) 10.
16The two films are Purzel (1939) and Purzel der Zwerg (1942).
17Boguslaw Drewniak, Der deutsche Film 1938-1945 (Düsseldorf: Droste, 1987) 33.
18Erich Boyer, "Auf jeder Leinwand--ein Fischerkoesen-Film," Hobby (September 1955). Arne Andersen, "Hans Fischerkoesen--der 'Walt Disney des deutschen Werbefilms'," Technikum 9 (November 1958): 396-98.
19S. Ceha, "Achtung! Mickey Maus, Felix der Kater & Co." Leipziger Abendpost (5 August 1931): 5.
20Even if this particular Warner cartoon was not distributed in Germany, it is likely that a print was captured during the conquest of other European countries, and Goebbels showed it to his filmmakers in order for them to make a rival German version. Th us the Disney Snow White was screened in 1939 for the students at the Film Academy, and various Fleischer cartoons were in fact shown to general audiences with the names "Kurt Fleischer" and "Carl Fleischer" substituted for the "Jewish" names Max and Davi d. Film-Kurier 21 (28 October 1939): 2.
21Ingrid Westbrock, in her study Der Werbefilm, suggests that Silly Goose was not finished until after the war ("begun 1945, finished 1947," she says), but that cannot be true, since the film was begun immediately after the successful Snowman in 1943, and Fischerkoesen was still in a concentration camp in 1947. Her mistake probably arises from censorship notices, since the three Fischerkoesen cartoons were cleared and re-released in Germany in 1947. Ingrid Westbrock, Der Werbefilm, (Hildesheim, Olms, 19 83): 45.
22Detlev Peukert, Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition, and Racism in Everyday Life (CT: Yale UP, 1987). John Jeremy's 1987 Swing Under the Swastika (BBC) was accompanied by a BBC documentation book in both English and German editions.
23Blood and soil films were just one category in Goebbels' program to commemorate German culture in film.
24The great actor Heinrich George, for example, died there in September, 1946.
25"Minnesang auf Markenartikel," Der Spiegel 10 (29 August 1956): cover, 34 - 40.