Television Under the Swastika

It has always been assumed that the advent of television took place in the darkened living rooms across 1950s America. However, the discovery of 285 reels of film in the Berlin Federal Film Archive shows that the magic box made its public debut many years earlier in 1935 and the invention spawned “Television Under the Swastika.”

Laura's Review: DNS


Robin's Review: C+

The DVD release of “Television Under the Swastika” is an interesting academic achievement for fans of the media and historians of the Nazi era. It is, though, a rather sparse offering considering the copious amount of source material made available. Essentially, the film tells us that the Nazis offered party members and the public (with television parlors) the chance to see vaudeville acts, cooking shows, sports events, interviews and teleplays. It also tells us that this so-called apolitical programming was anything but as everything broadcast was for the sole purpose of promoting Nazi propaganda. As such, though often fascinating, the film is repetitive in its anti-Semitism and intolerance, making it a bit long at 52 minutes. Television Under the Swastika” deserves a footnote in the chronicle of amazing technological achievements by the German people under the iron hand of Hitler’s totalitarian empire. The programs, quite prolific during peacetime, became increasingly scarce as the war dragged on. Besides, the techs needed to produce a TV for every German home were required for the faltering war effort. One of the last broadcasts ­ a public service message to help return amputees to the fight ­ took place in the waning months of 1944. Documentarian Michael Kloft’s DVD release is light on bonus materials with just the doc, the filmmaker’s bio and a WWII film gallery. The target audience, World War II history buffs like me, will appreciate the effort to bring us a piece of the hitherto unknown technological past to new light. The brevity of the DVD presentation makes me wonder what was left on the cutting room floor, though.