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Hans Westmar (1933)

This Nazi propaganda film purports to show the story of a Nazi Storm Trooper named Horst Wessel--here called "Hans Westmar"--who took part in street brawls and assassinations in Berlin in ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Emil Lohkamp ...
Hans Westmar
...
Kuprikoff
Heinrich Heilinger ...
Camillo Ross
Irmgard Willers ...
Agnes
Otti Dietze ...
Mrs. Salm
Carla Bartheel ...
Maud
Gertrude De Lalsky ...
Mrs. Westmar, Hans' mother
Grete Reinwald ...
Klara
...
Landlord
Heinz Salfner ...
Maud's father
Robert Thiem ...
Georg Beyer
Arthur Schröder ...
Menart
Hanns Heinz Ewers
Carl Auen
Richard Fiedler
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Storyline

This Nazi propaganda film purports to show the story of a Nazi Storm Trooper named Horst Wessel--here called "Hans Westmar"--who took part in street brawls and assassinations in Berlin in the 1920s and 1930s against Communists and other opponents of the Nazis, and was killed by Communists not long before this film came out. Written by A.Nonymous

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Biography

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Release Date:

1938 (Austria)  »

Also Known As:

Hans Westmar - Einer von Vielen  »

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

(Tobis-Klangfilm)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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History: made in the streets, sanitized in the studio
9 July 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Warning: this film is Nazi propaganda.

'Hans Westmar' is a near contemporary account of the street battles (Strassenkämpfe) between Nazi and Communist militias in Berlin in the late 1920s. As history told by the victors, it recounts mostly real events, altered to fit the 'official truth'. As a result, you need some backstory to understand the film.

In the mid 1920s, Berlin was the epicenter of Communism in Germany, and the Nazi presence in the city was negligible. Then Josef Goebbels, heretofore editor of a regional party newspaper, accepted the position of party leader in Berlin. He organized Brownshirt units (die Sturmabteilung or SA), instigated Strassenkämpfe, and struggled to take over the city.

'History is made in the streets,' the club-footed dwarf ranted to his followers. In this case, he was right. The Nazis came to control Berlin's streets, if not its ballot boxes– a success critical to the victory in the national elections of 1933.

'Hans Westmar' began as a biopic of Horst Wessel. At age 21, Wessel led the SA unit in Friedrichshain, Berlin's toughest slum and the reddest district in the 'Red City'. He recruited from the Communists, with considerable success. The real Wessel was like Sid Vicious– both were musicians of sorts. Both shacked up with ex-prostitutes. Both were charismatic, reckless, obnoxious, and both became unwitting martyrs– Wessel was assassinated by communists in January 1930.

This film was made a few months after the takeover, when the victorious SA had served its purpose. Its hard drinking, hard partying henchmen were unruly, undisciplined, and uncontrollable.

At the same time, the recently elected Nazis wanted to appear 'responsible'. The cinematic result is an uncomfortable compromise– Horst Wessel didn't lend himself to a makeover. 'Hans Westmar' recasts Wessel as a model of virtue, but the 1920s the Nazi appeal lay in its ruthlessness, not its virtue. Imagine the punk rockers of the 1970s, but organized and with a political agenda.

At the same time, the film shows Brownshirts picking fights– which didn't fit the image the party wanted to project once in power. Retitled 'Hans Westmar: one of many– a German destiny from the year 1929' the film saw limited release. Any interest lies in how the Nazis recast history and in a few unique scenes.

'Hans Westmar' takes pains to show that the SA cooperated with police and did not use weapons. Training included 'sport exercises', not martial arts. The SA men in the audience must have been laughing up their sleeves.

Theater audiences thought the funeral scene was newsreel footage. Police limited the funeral train to a few horse drawn wagons, and the swastika was forbidden. Communists attacked, stealing the wreaths from the coffin. Additionally, scenes of SA rallies and Strassenkämpfe give a chilling sense of the Zeitgeist.

The nightclub scene gives you some idea of what a 20s Berlin nightclub might have been like. In the nightclubs, ladies appeared naked on stage, you could get any kind of sex for money, and cocaine was the drug of choice. But the film condemns the nightclubs only for ethnic mixing. Given the openly homosexual SA leadership and the party's amoral tactics, audiences would have seen through any moral condemnation.

A more accurate film might depict civilians caught between two evil movements. Only atrocity would be the victor.

'Hans Westmar' would not have been shown at all after June 1934, when the SA leaders were eliminated and the SA was disbanded. What happened to the stormtroopers? Because of their street fighting experience, many wound up in the battle of Stalingrad. They died miserably.


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