Review of Jud Süß

Jud Süß (1940)
Sweet
5 October 2010
"Jud Süß" is overall a well-made, sometimes brilliant, occasionally hammy, movie. It's plausible that it served its intended function, to promote antisemitism, beautifully in its time. The movie came out in 1940, about one year after the beginning of the war, about five years after the Nuremberg race laws, and about two years before the Wannsee Conference. Considering the enormous, fanatical hatred of the Nazis against jews, the movie's antisemitism comes across as surprisingly subtle. Flanked by the occasional antisemitic outburst ("There are no hostels for jews in Stuttgart") the movie builds a convincing psychogram of a perpetrator and leaves all its great performances to its antiheroes, while the good guys come across as pale, square and boring.

The movie is surprising in many aspects and allows perplexing insights into the Nazi mindframe. The faulty emperor (played by Heinrich George) is described as fat, vain and sybaritic (in his fantasy uniform he's the spitting image of Goering) and also as a militarist and a megalomaniac, who has lost contact with the needs of his people (Hitler comes to mind). When Süss is eventually hanged, he comes across not so much as a monster but as the scapegoat that Wilhelm Hauff, the author of the original novella, described him as.
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