An excerpt from our book on the film The Crew of the Dora (Besatzung Dora, 1943 forbidden).
Karl Ritter's private diaries from May 1942 to August 1943, which have never been published, or translated into English before, follow the Dora film from conception to completion and then its ban by Dr. Joseph Goebbels in late 1943. Over 50,200 Sütterlin words from Ritter's diary have been translated for our book – a fascinating first–hand historical account! We thank the Ritter family for allowing us access to this priceless diary and to share it with readers for the very first time.
In October 1942 Karl Ritter took 42 film crew and actors into the USSR to film scenes for his military air reconnaiossance film at a Luftwaffe base in Gostkino, near Luga, some 136 kilometers south of the on–going Battle of Leningrad, in Leningrad Oblast. They remained there for nearly a month, working on the film.
On the German Wehrmacht train to which the film team's three carriages were coupled, the dangerous 'Partisan Line' between Pleskau and Luga transversed deep forests and scrub, where ambushes and Partisan attacks were well–known and frequent.
Here is some short paragraphs from his diary entry of 5/6 October 1942 as the train traveled through the Partisan Line that night:
5 October, Monday. On the trip to the East! (6th Day.)
Pleskau is a giant train station, the air attack this evening was on the big bridges over the Welkaja River. There were some dead and wounded soldiers.
Two formations of Ju52’s pull away from above the train station. Nearby the cavalry polish their pistols.
Weather remains grey. Nearby pistols still being polished, a swarm of M109’s pull away above us towards the northeast. The sun comes out. We are stopped for an appallingly long time on this goods train nears Pleskau. We help the gentlemen putting together their disassembled pistols.
We travelled through the Partisan area. The machine guns were loaded, the pistols at the ready, the Make–Up man Lehmann got a MP18 (submachine gun). The locomotive driver recommended attentiveness, and complete blackout. The area around is tangled woods, suitable for excellent sabotage. Ammunition also hangs on the train. I eat an evening meal with Hannes and Heinz in our compartment: ersatz coffee, cheese, rye bread, butter. We stop at 5:45pm, start again at 5 minutes to 7. Completely dark. A creepy area. We play six fresh, cheerful games of ‘66’ from 7:30pm until 12:15am. From time to time the train stops in the misty night. Junghanns comes around midnight and brings frightful news. The train had stopped repeatedly because the tracks had been mined. First the mines always had to be cleared away. We are 25 kilometers from Luga. Hannes comes in from outside – 2 Partisans had been caught laying mines just 5 minutes ago.
We are supposedly in Serbianka. We’ve stopped playing and discuss the Partisan question in the dark compartment. Then we prepare for bed. Heinz climbs up. Heedlessly, we sleep.
6 October, Tuesday. Arrival in Luga!
At 5:50am, our train stops in Luga! We stand awhile, Schlagge stands as sentry, says that a paratrooper was taken into custody on the tracks, who stated that the tracks are contaminated with mines, therefore the long delay.
note: Hannes in the excerpt above is the actor Hannes Stelzer, Heinz is Ritter's son and the Dora cameraman, Schlagge is the Ufa Sound engineer and Junghanns is Herbert Junghanns, the film's Production Manager.
You can read the entire amazing wartime history of the making of this propaganda film shot on the Western Front in France, in the Soviet Union's Oblast Leningrad, and in Fascist Italy between June and November 1942, on active war fronts, in our book. The book is available via International Historic Films in the USA, as well as on Amazon.com and ebay.
The Table of Contents of the Dora book is shown here if you scroll to the very bottom of that web page.
A page from the book associated with the diary excerpts above:
Dora book Illustration #43 – The Partisan Line between Pleskau and Luga, as drawn by Karl Ritter in his diary, on 5 October 1942.