Film Censorship in Germany: Continuity and Change through Five Political Systems

  • Martin Loiperdinger
Part of the Global Cinema book series (GLOBALCINE)


As the German Reich incited two world wars that resulted in its defeats, all through the twentieth century, German history proceeded in turmoil, which did not end with the Anschluss of East Germany to the Federal Republic in 1990 when the Cold War saw losers and winners.1 All the five systems of political rule in Germany were confronted with alternatives and felt a strong need to protect their principles against “the enemy” inside and outside the country. In Germany, as in many countries, film exhibition was subject to precensorship from the beginning of cinematography. Though there was no universally applicable film legislation in Wilhelmine Germany, many films were cut or completely banned in the decade before the First World War. While theater and press censorship were abolished in Germany following the dissolution of the monarchy in 1918, the new Weimar democracy introduced uniform film censorship in 1920 through the Reichslichtspielgesetz (Reich Motion Picture Act). The guidelines of that law were significant for film censorship up to the early 1970s: a pronounced continuity extends from imperial Germany, across the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany, and on into the Federal Republic. The situation in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was fundamentally different, as the state itself had a monopoly over film production.


Federal Republic Motion Picture German Democratic Republic Weimar Republic Interior Minister 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. This chapter is a revised and updated version of Loiperdinger, M. (2002) State Legislation, Censorship, and Funding, pp. 148–157 in Bergfelder, T., Carter, E. et al. (eds) The German Cinema Book. London: BFI Publishing.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Haake, S. (1993) The Cinema’s Third Machine. Writing on Film in Germany, 1907– 1933. Lincoln/London: University of Nebraska Press, pp. 27–60.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    An das deutsche Volk!, Reichs-Gesetzblatt, 153 (1918), p. 1303.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    §32.2 of the draft constitution of February 17, 1919.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    The full text of the Reichslichtspielgesetz is reprinted in Maiwald, K. -J. (1983) Filmzensur im NS-Staat. Dortmund: Peter Nowotny, pp. 248–253.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    On the censoring of Battleship Potemkin in Germany, see Eisenstein, S. and Tisse, E. ([1926]1973) Der Weg des Potemkin durch die deutsche Zensur, pp. 200–207 in Schlegel, H. -J. (ed) Sergej M. Eisenstein: Schriften 2, Panzerkreuzer Potemkin. Munich: Hanser; Kühn, G., Google Scholar
  7. Tümmler K. et al. (eds) (1978) Film und rev-olutionäre Arbeiterbewegung in Deutschland 1918–1932. Berlin: Henschelverlag, pp. 323–369 (including quotations from the censor’s report)Google Scholar
  8. Seeger, E. (1932) Reichslichtspielgesetz: Kommentar. Berlin: Carl Heymann, p. 29. See also http:// Scholar
  9. 7.
    Fisch, S. (1997) Der Weg des Films “Panzerkreuzer Potemkin” (1925) in das Kino der zwanziger Jahre. Speyer: Hochschule für Verwaltungswissenschaften.Google Scholar
  10. 8.
    On the censorship of Kuhle Wampe, see Gersch, W. and Hecht W. (eds) (1973) Bertolt BrechtKuhle Wampe: Protokoll des Films und Materialien. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, pp. 62–66; Kühn et al. (1978), pp. 130–185.Google Scholar
  11. 9.
    Seeger (1932), p. 68.Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    Cited in Becker, W. (1973) Film und Herrschaft: Organisationsprinzipien und Organisationsstrukturen der nationalsozialistischen Filmpropaganda. Berlin: Volker Spiess, p. 70.Google Scholar
  13. 11.
    Cited in Becker (1973), p. 49.Google Scholar
  14. 12.
    Fraenkel, E. (1941) The Dual State. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. 13.
    At the time, Leni Riefenstahl expressed pride at Adolf Hitler having personally approved Triumph des Willens without a single objection, just four days prior to its premiere. Cf. Loiperdinger, M. (1987) Rituale der Mobilmachung. Der Parteitagsfilm Triumph des Willens von Leni Riefenstahl. Opladen: Leske + Budrich, p. 161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 14.
    Wetzel, K. and Hagemann, P. (1978) Zensur: Verbotene deutsche Filme 1933–1945. Berlin: Volker Spiess.Google Scholar
  17. 15.
    Moeller, F. (2000) The Film Minister. Goebbels and the Cinema in the “Third Reich.” Stuttgart/London: Edition Axel Menges, 2000, pp. 153–160.Google Scholar
  18. 16.
    Heimann, Th. (1994) DEFA-Künstler und SED Kulturpolitik. Berlin: Vistas, pp. 123–126.Google Scholar
  19. 17.
    Cited in Gersch, W. (1993) Film in der DDR: Die verlorene Alternative, p. 332 in Jacobsen, W., Kaes, A. et al. (eds) Geschichte des deutschen Films. Stuttgart/Weimar: Metzler.Google Scholar
  20. 18.
    “Für die Entwicklung der sozialistischen Filmkunst in der DDR.” Empfehlung der Kommission für Fragen der Kultur beim Politbüro des ZK der SED. In: Deutsche Filmkunst, 9 (1958), cited by Gersch (1993), p. 334.Google Scholar
  21. 19.
    For a detailed discussion, see Wohland, W. (1967) Informationsfreiheit und Politische Filmkontrolle: Ein Beitrag zur Konkretisierung von Art. 5 Grundgesetz. Munich: unpublished PhD dissertation, pp. 153–189.Google Scholar
  22. 20.
    Cited in Wohland (1967), p. 154.Google Scholar
  23. 21.
    Thiel, R. E. Die geheime Filmzensur, Das Argument, 27 (November 1963), pp. 14–20, reprinted in Bredow, W. von, and Zurek, R. (eds) (1975) Film und Gesellschaft in Deutschland. Dokumente und Materialien. Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe, pp. 327–333.Google Scholar
  24. 22.
    Author‘s translation. See Stephan Buchloh (2002) “Pervers, jugendgefährdend, staatsfeindlich”: Zensur in der Ära Adenauer als Spiegel des gesellschaftlichen Klimas. Frankfurt/New York: Campus, p. 272.Google Scholar
  25. 23.
    Cited in Hack, L. (1964) Filmzensur in der Bundesrepublik, Frankfurter Hefte, 19 (10), pp. 706–707.Google Scholar
  26. 24.
    Garncarz, J. (1992) Filmfassungen: Eine Theorie signifikanter Filmvariation. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Daniel Biltereyst and Roel Vande Winkel 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Loiperdinger

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations