The film was seen by 20 million Germans during its original theatrical run. An additional 20 million people in other European countries are estimated to have seen it. It was also shown to all SS inductees at the request of Heinrich Himmler, a policy that was implemented two weeks after the film's premiere.
While the film is only partially based on Lion Feuchtwanger's 1925 historical novel "Jud Süß", as well as Wilhelm Hauff's 1827 novella, neither the film nor the written works correspond to the actual historic sources regarding the actual Joseph Süß Oppenheimer as still accessible at the Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg.
The movie is loosely based on Wilhelm Hauff's short story from 1827. Veit Harlan however never admit any fiction literature sources for his movie. He claimed that the script was based on the law-historical files and the original process documents from Stuttgart. However since everyone who is checking these files has to sign in first, his name is not mentioned there. Also he said, his further sources were, The Meyer Conversation Encyclopedia (Meyers Konversations-Lexikon) and Martin Luthers antisemitic pamphlet "About the Jews and his lies", which was recommended by Goebbels.
Werner Krauss, who played Rabbi Loew, wanted to sabotage the movie by offering to play additionally more minor Jewish roles, knowing that Joseph Goebbels hated double-casting. He hoped that he would be dismissed from the movie. However Goebbels liked the idea, because this would be a way for him to show that all Jewish characters came from the same source. Finally Krauss played 5 additional minor roles in the movie.