Heimkehr (Original Title)

"Spring 1939. In Aa small town in Poland, German minorities are the victims of ever-increasing hatred and violence. When Poland is invaded by Hitler, all Germans are rounded up and await execution. Based on true events, Gustav Ucicky's stylishly directed Heimkehr (Homecoming) and is one of the most intense Nazi propaganda pictures ever made. It belongs to the overtly nationalistic Heim ins Reich (Back Home to the Reich) genre of films so popular with German audiences during the Third Reich, wherein homesick Germans living abroad long to return home to Hitler's new Reich (""Just think, Germans all around us, good old, warm German soil, at home among your own, to the homeland again.""). Ucicky had already made the first of these back-to-the-Reich propaganda pictures, Flüchtlinge (Refugees), starring Hans Albers, in 1933. Heimkehr's dialogue is outspokenly anti-Polish and anti-Semitic (""The time will one day come, when we shall live among Germans, and when one enters a store, no word of Yiddish or Polish will be spoken, but only the German tongue."").

Technically an Austrian picture, Heimkehr was produced by Wien-Film, a Viennese studio that had been German-controlled since 1936. The film was shot in Vienna, with extensive location work in Poland, and took nearly seven months to shoot. It stars popular Viennese actress Paula Wessely, one of the Führer's favorite actresses, and her husband, Attila Horbiger. The picture was premiered at the Venice Film Festival on August 31, 1941. Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels awarded it the rare Film der Nation (Film of the Nation) prize when the film opened in Berlin at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo on October 23, 1941. Heimkehr was immensely popular with audiences, was critically acclaimed, and ran in Reich cinemas for 15 months. After the war, it was seen as a major propaganda effort to justify Hitler's invasion of Poland.

1h 34min
March 15, 1941
Additional materials
Behind -The-Scenes, Miscellaneous

The Post-War Fate of the Polish Actors

Pictorial Report on Polish Atrocities

Admin comments

Regardless of your point of view, this film is very moving and disturbing to watch.

"It should however be pointed out that the pogrom-like assaults (including murder and manslaughter), the increasing ethnic hostilities and the aggressive nationalist policy of the Polish state, which was also directed against other minorities (or in this particular then-part of Poland rather majorities) such as Ukranians, Jews and Belorussians, is based on well-documented facts, which are given little attention or downplayed by many historians today for mostly political reasons. As the war came closer, the hostilities on both sides increased. There are many scenes, such as an incident at a movie theater when the Germans are forced by an angry crowd to sing the Polish national anthem which may actually be fairly realistic portrayals of the atmosphere in certain parts of the country and the loyalty conflicts endured.

Other now rather forgotten facts of the prelude to the war are shown as well, such as the mobilization of the Polish army as early as March 1939. A Polish propaganda poster which can be seen in one scene, that calls for a Greater Poland reaching as far as Berlin and further is authentic as well. After the outbreak of the war several Thousands of German civilians were interned and massacred throughout Poland."

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