As part of its ongoing Silent Movie Mondays series, Seattle Theatre Group (STG) is offering a special one-night screening of the 1924 Austrian silent film The City Without Jews (Die Stadt Ohne Juden) at The Paramount Theatre on April 15 at 7 p.m.
Directed by H.K. Breslauer, this film predicted the rise of Nazism with its disturbingly prophetic depiction of anti-Semitic leaders attacking and expelling a city’s entire Jewish population. The film is based on the 1922 dystopian novel of the same name by Jewish author Hugo Bettauer, who was murdered by a member of the Nazi Party in 1925.
“The City without Jews is not just an Austrian silent film, it is a strong anti-Nazi statement and a human message,” said Nikolaus Wostry, Deputy Director of Filmarchiv Austria, the organization responsible for restoring the film. “Its restoration was financed by the civil society via a crowd-funding campaign and many supporters from all over the world stated explicitly that they want to take a stand against excluding people and erecting walls.”
Not only are the themes and images of the film relevant, but the story of the film’s creation and journey throughout the years also holds significance. At the time the original novel was published, the scenes depicted inside its pages—the expulsion of all Jews from Vienna—were thought to be inconceivable. However, when the film was completed just two years later, disruptive actions by National Socialists had already begun to take place. It was shortly after the premier of the film that Bettauer was shot and killed by a member of the Nazi Party.
The years that followed the film’s release brought the rise of the National Socialist German Workers’ (Nazi) Party in Austria, and in 1938, Austria was annexed into the Third Reich, leading to the Holocaust and the mass expulsion and murder of Central European Jews.
“For Austria, The City without Jews has another very special importance,” Wostry said. “Vienna was always a center of political anti-Semitism. It was the city where Adolf Hitler found his monstrous inspiration. Filmarchiv Austria, as the National Film archive of the Republik, is therefore especially glad to give a message against instrumenting irrational fears against our fellow citizens.”
Now regarded as one of the most important Austrian productions of the interwar period, this film was believed to have been lost for decades until it was recently rediscovered in a Paris flea market. It was then reconstructed and digitally restored by Filmarchiv Austria in 2018.
STG’s screening of the film will feature the world premiere of a newly commissioned score by German composer Günter A. Buchwald. Buchwald will conduct and perform with an ensemble from the Seattle based non-profit organization, Music of Remembrance. The film will be introduced by Nikolaus Wostry, Deputy Director of Filmarchiv Austria, and a discussion with representatives from local Jewish and social justice organizations will immediately follow the screening.
The film runtime is 90 minutes. Tickets to the event are $10 and on sale now. For more information about the screening, and STG’s Silent Movie Mondays series, visit stgpresents.org.