Propaganda Disguised as Historical Biography,
7/3/2015 3:56 AM
DIE ROTHSCHILDS AKTIEN AUF WATERLOO or THE ROTHSCHILDS' SHARES IN WATERLOO (1940) was the first anti-Semitic film produced by the Nazis. Unlike their virulent 'documentary' THE ETERNAL JEW, it's propaganda disguised as a historical biography but nowhere as skillfully inflammatory as JEW SUSS, another historical 'biography' that had a stronger impact on audiences than the other two films released the same year. Goebbels produced these three films as a reaction to earlier foreign versions with the same titles that were sympathetic to Jews.
The film begins with Erich Ponto, the most recognized cast member who was a popular character actor seen in DAS MADCHEN JOHANNA (1935) and DIE FEURERZANGENBOWLE (1944) and after WWII in THE THIRD MAN (1949), cast as Mayer Rothschild, the head of the banking family, making a deal to hide the Mayor of Frankfurt's 600,000 pounds in England from Napoleon and with the help of his sons Nathan in England, and James in France, the family uses this money to build their fortune and finance Wellington's army. Nathan is first seen violating the Sabbath to further the deal and later treated with disdain and blackballing by the snobbish members of the British Stock Exchange when he attempts to ingratiate himself into their business and social world because he's 'not one of them', i.e., a Jew and worse, a foreign one. After Nathan seizes the opportunity to give a rival's wife a ride in his carraige, her husband coldly asks he if wants to be reimbursed and a surprised Nathan says politely "You're trying to insult me." The husband replies: "No, Mr. Rothchild. I'm just trying to prevent you from losing." a dry dig about how Jews stereotypically must be making money every minute of the day.
Nathan frets over his risky wheeling & dealing with England and the anti-Napoleon French, and eventually he makes a fortune unlike his brother James's negotiations with the French Chief of Police who must receive high kickbacks for them to do business. Nathan ruins his enemies by spreading the wrong news about the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo to manipulate stock market prices. The Mayor's money is safely returned with a bill for the Rothschild's handling fee and he questions James in how much more they really made off him as "nothing is more disgusting than one pickpocket telling lies to another." The film ends with the Commissioner of the Treasury and a victorious Nathan showing him a map of the world and connects the cities where his family's banks are located by drawing a hexagram then superimposed with a flaming Star of David. The closing title tells us: "By the conclusion of this film, the last of the Rothchilds have left Europe as refugees [due to WWII]. The struggle against their English accomplices, the British plutocracy, continues."
Not only is ROTHCHILDS anti-Semitic, it's equally anti-British as outlined in scattered titles. The film's production history should be noted as the film's original title was lengthened later when the film was re-edited: "Beyond its indictment of "Jewish" intrigue and avarice, THE ROTHCHILDS aimed to show the 'Judafication' of British society at Rothschild hands, and thus demonstrate why, in Goebbels' words, Britons had become "the Jews among Aryans." Yet the film's dramatic conventions did not always mesh with its racial politics, and when the film was released in July 1940, German audiences were left unclear as to just who they were mainly supposed to hate. Goebbels had it pulled from distribution; a year later, a much-revised version, purged of any conceivable sympathies for its British characters, was released. The revamped movie was renamed THE ROTHCHILDS' SHARE IN WATERLOO" and this is the only version available.
Even in the film's existing state, it's not as anti-Semitic or anti-English as you would expect, something the filmmakers miscalculated with mixed results. You do feel some sympathy for Nathan who's continuously snubbed by his rivals and when the Commissioner of the Treasury questions their motives in denouncing his actions, he advises them not to be prejudiced because Nathan is Jewish and sends them away. At this meeting the Commissioner seems sympathetic to Nathan's plight which goes against the film's propaganda intent or should audiences think it's a sign of his naivety and a warning for them not to trust Jews but at the film's conclusion we learn he's not naive because he's seen with Nathan who's gloating over his victory, meaning the Commissioner was shrewd in surmising who would be the better moneymaker to help England and most likely himself as the English go hand-in-hand with the Jews as stated in the end title quoted above. However not all the English are portrayed badly. You will probably feel more sympathy for the lower classes who lose their savings when their banks fail. There's also a subplot concerning a decent young man who wants to marry a broker's daughter but is rejected by her father because he isn't wealthy and is hired by Nathan not for altruistic reasons but to acquire favorable military info. The handsome couple is protected by an Irish woman who constantly speaks her mind against English hypocrisy and Nathan's flattery as Nazi films fantasized the Irish as their anti-English 'allies.'
THE ROTHCHILDS' SHARES IN WATERLOO is a provocative costume picture heavy on plot and dialog so you might have to see it more than once to follow the monetary and political intrigue: There's also a love story nicely fitted into the plot to make it appeal to a wider audience. This DVD has very good video & audio quality except for some softness during the last ten minutes but I've noticed that in other prints.
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