Anja Horstmann

The Warsaw Ghetto in the films of 1942

In the spring of 1942 a German camera crew produced film footage in the Warsaw Ghetto. During the month-long shooting, they filmed the people in the streets, the food trade, the housing situation, cultural and religious events and activities to control diseases such as typhus and the detention center of the ghetto. The surviving recordings are fragments in rough cut without sound and have a total playing time of about 63 min. So far there are no indications for the purpose of these shots or who exactly commissioned the film. In order to approach the film as a source and despite the lack of background knowledge the shots are to be considered in two different perspectives: The first perspective focuses on content and selected visual motifs. Here the film is very closely related to the images of Nazi propaganda about ghettos in 1942 and reproduces already well-established structures of perception and instructions. The various shots show the rules and organizational structures of the National Socialist discourse and create a “typical” image of the ghetto. The second perspective which is deemed to be even more significant deals with the question on how the film is made. I will present an approach to this question by an analysis of the visual mechanisms and the involvement of the sequential structure of the medium. To demonstrate my reasoning I will illustrate some shots of the film.