Eternal Forest

Eternal Forest

Ewiger Wald (Original Title)

"The Nazi production, Ewiger Wald, remains one of the most unique and beautiful motion pictures ever made!""

Germans have been obsessed with mountains and forests since time immemorial. Nazi ideologues often celebrated the National Socialist movement as a religion of nature. Hanns Springer's Ewiger Wald (Eternal Forest), a semi-documentary released in 1936, is a deeply profound statement of religious faith. Its first ten minutes are a literal hymn to nature and rural rootedness, depicting forests through the seasons, a visual metaphor for birth, death, and rebirth throughout the ages.

We see the Germans—self-contained, segregated people—conquered by Roman invaders, metaphors for all foreigners. Christianity then arises, seen as but another foreign incursion. Burials in hollowed-out tree trunks signify rebirth through the sacred soil—the Blut und Boden (blood and soil) so central to Nazi theology. From the blood-soaked soil springs spiritual rebirth and the strength of the Volksgemeinschaft (people's community)—eternal, unchanging. These are fascist aesthetics; for many who embraced Nazi ideology, its appeal was mainly religious — specifically a religion of nature, one of profound beauty and moral rectitude, a vision of humanity as part of nature. War and violence — defense of the Heimatland—are part of the cycle of human existence. Martial strength is given visual power through shots of harvesting, which symbolize fecundity. Shots dissolve from plants to soldiers' legs to tall trees—the potency of forests as a crowd symbol.

Storm clouds arise and WW1 takes its bloody toll. The soil has been enriched by spilled blood. But spring blossoms bring the promise of new life, and the camera cuts sharply to swastika pennants, marching SA troops, and a Nazi rally, followed swiftly by shots of new crops being planted. The meaning is inescapable: Out of the devastation of WW1 comes the spiritual rebirth of Germany through National Socialism.

Ewiger Wald is quite simply one of the most unique and beautiful motion pictures ever made. Although produced by Nazis, or those sympathetic to the National Socialist movement, it cannot be seen, in fact, as a propaganda film, but, rather, as an article of profound religiosity. It is a Nazi picture, but one about faith—powerful, sincere, clean, and moral. This, then, is the promise that National Socialism offered at its inception; this is the pure idealism that swayed a nation long before the skies darkened."

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