“Here is Germany” (1945)
Directed by Frank Capra
United States War Department
Here is Germany was a 1945 propaganda documentary film directed by Frank Capra. Like its companion film, Know Your Enemy: Japan, the film is a full-length exploration of why one of the two major Axis countries started World War II and what had to be done to keep them from “doing it again”.
The film opens with scenes of everyday life in Germany, described by narrator Walter Huston. It shows people such as housewives, mailmen, farmers and policemen at work, and notes that these people weren’t so different than us, and seem like people Americans can understand. Anthony Veiller then interupts with “Or can we?”, as the film then switches to a montage of Nazi concentration camps and piles of dead bodies. The narrator notes that this isn’t the only time that Germany has unleashed war on the world, stating that while its generation fought the “Nazis”, its fathers fought the “Huns” (pejorative term for Germany during World War I), and its grand father remembers the “Prussians”. The narrator claims that its was all part of the same German lust for conquest.
Going even further back 150 years, the film informs us that while America, Britain, and France were forming their democratic traditions, Germany was a group of 300 medieval feudal states, not one of them with a constitution or parliament. The film traces the rise of Prussia from Frederick the Great through Bismarck, telling the audience that the Prussian state was dominated first by aristocratic landowners, militarists and state officials, later joined by the big industrialists. This development of a military industrial dominated state climaxes in World War I. When the above mentioned elements knew that they were beaten, according to the film, they put the democratic parties in charge in order to discredit the new republic. Once that was accomplished they found a stooge in Hitler, who would finally destroy the Weimar Republic with the addition of a 5th pillar – criminals.
The film depicts the Third Reich entirely from this perspective, seeing Nazism as simply a continuation of the aggressive German tradition, and then merely a façade for the military-industrial complex. The Nazi persecution of Jews is not explicitly mentioned, but in the initial sequence of Nazi atrocities it shows the bones of “men, women and children: sent to be exterminated in a German death factory.”