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Der Marsch zum Führer

 

The 1940 documentary film Der Marsch zum Führer  was produced by the Reichsjugendführung ( the Hitler Youth Leadership Office ) and premiered at the Berlin Capitol cinema on 11 February 1940.  The official film publication of the Third Reich, Der Deutsche Film reported in its April 1940 issue (the magazine cover is shown below with a still from the film) that "Just a few weeks since the world premiere of the film passed and yet already hundreds of thousands of boys and girls have experienced the deepest emotions."

Although director Hans Steinhoff had been mentioned in early reports as early as 1938/39 in terms of being engaged to oversee this film, he apparently had nothing to do with it in reality. He was far too busy in 1940 with other feature film projects underway during the war to allow him to participate, even had he wished to do so.

The film's director is uncredited. The film runs 44 minutes and is available on commercial DVD today from many sources. IHF in Chicago, USA sells a DVD version which has English subtitles here.

The poster is not a traditional film poster with the film credits and distributor listed. Instead it is one printed in the Gau Westmark region (bordering France) used to promote the screening of the film across many towns and villages with space for the authorities to fill in the place, date and time of when  and where it would be shown. This fill–in–the–blank style poster was only obviously used once, and then torn down and thrown away. 

A book entitled Marschtritt Deutschland by Alfred Schütze was published in 1939 (Marching Germany - we shoot the film of the Adolf–Hitler–march) and the B&W photos shown here come from the book.

This is the only known original poster of the film extant.

 

Our essay on the film can be found at the bottom of this web page.

 

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The extremely rare original Gaufilm handbill for the film:
 
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The Der Marsch zum Führer documentary film

‘When the call  to the Party Days is made, the best boys in all districts gather and assemble for the great march to Nuremberg.’   So begins the NSDAP film The March to the Leader (Der Marsch zum Führer),which premiered in February 1940 in wartime Berlin.  The film was shown throughout Germany to millions of Hitler Youth in districts (Gauen) sponsored by the ‘Gaufilmestelle’ organization, as well as in Hitler Youth Film Hours (Filmstunden) throughout the Reich.

 

The production company responsible for the film was the DFG in Berlin, which also produced other HJ film shorts such as Soldiers of Tomorrow (1941), Our Youth (1940), the feature film Hands Up! (1942), as well as documentary films such as The Eternal Jew (1940), German Lands in Africa (1939), Festive Nuremberg (1937), the famous war film Campaign in Poland (1940) and The Great Time (1938) a film celebrating the integration of Austria into the Greater German Reich. The DFG also produced the eight shorts called Young Europe (Junges Europa) between 1942 and early 1945, covering fascist and Nazi-affiliated youth groups across Europe in an exciting and fast–paced newsreel format lasting about twelve minutes each.  The opening credit music for Junges Europa was the HJ song Our Flag Flies Before Us. The DFG headquarters at Belle–Alliance–Strasse 45, Berlin, was razed after 1945  due to substantial war damage, and little remains today of DFG files or archives. 

 

The annual Hitler Youth March was a major logistical undertaking of the Hitler Youth organization, with over two thousand 16 to 18 year old boys coming as far as 800 kilometers on foot from distant East Prussian cities and hundreds of other German towns and villages to assemble in Nuremberg in time for the Reichs Party Day rallies. There was an obligatory visit to Landsberg prison forty kilometers west of Munich, to honor Hitler’s imprisonment and writing of Mein Kampf during the Weimar era.  The March started in 1935, and ended  in 1938, with the cancelling of the 1939 Party Days due to the outbreak of war. The film was shot of the march leading up to the Party Day Rallies of 5–12 September, 1938, as well as at the Rally itself. 

 

The man behind the film was Alfred Schütze, one of two Reichshauptstellenleiter of the NSDAP’s Film Branch. The film’s evolution was one fraught with delays and major changes in concept.

 

The first concept was a film called ’Marschtritt Deutschland’ (‘Marching feet of Germany’) proposed in January, 1938. Hans Steinhoff, the director of Hitler Youth Quex was mentioned as a possible person to oversee the production. The Propaganda Ministry made available RM150,000, with full cooperation of the Reichs Travel Agency, Reichs Treasurer, Reichs Party Day office, as well as the Reichs Youth Leadership and the German Railways. Steinhoff however did not have anything to do with the film, either in concept, ideas, or production.

 

In December, 1938 the Gaufilmstelle Hessen–Nassau newsletter, Party and Film, printed an article entitled ‘Marschtritt Deutschland’ reporting that the first footage of the film was shot on 15 July that year on Rügen island, and in 27 other locations with Hitler Youth participating for some two months en route to Nuremberg.  

 

The same newsletter Party and Film,  dated May 1939,  reported that the ‘feature length‘ film was being made by the Hitler Youth themselves and excerpts from their work was shown in Vienna at a Reichs Film Day of the Hitler Youth. That same month the official Reichsfilmkammer organ Der Deutsche Film ran a two pge article called ‘Youth gives its opinion: A dream – genuine Experience!’ written by Schütze. 

 

That year Schütze wrote and had published a 175 page book entitled ‘Marschtritt Deutschland – We shoot a film about the Adolf–Hitler–March’  which had photographs and a narrative about how the HJ were producing their own film.

 

Nothing more was heard about the film for many months. The footage was edited down to a length of forty-five minutes, far short of a feature film’s length, and far too long to be a traditional film ‘short’ to be programmed in most cinemas.  The start of the Polish campaign in September 1939 and subsequent outbreak of WWII meant that the film was side–lined.

 

The film’s premiere took place in Berlin at the Capitol theater, on 11 February, 1940, attended by prominent Party officials, including the Gauleiter of Berlin, Arthur Görlitzer, and representing Baldur von Schirach, who was fighting on the Western Front, Youth leader Hartmann Lauterbacher. 

 

In April 1940, Der Deutsche Film magazine put a still from the movie prominently on its cover, and ran an article ‘Youth experiences Film’ in which The March to the Leader was illustrated with two more stills, and the comment that in the few months since the film’s premiere, it had had been taken through all the districts and it ‘had made a deep impression on hundreds of thousands of Hitler Youth boys and girls, and ‘in future years would serve as a witness to the attitude of the Hitler Youth.’

 

In 1944, the NSDAP published a book Youth and Film by Annelise Sander. The book was a history and survey of  youth films produced since 1933, including feature films, documentaries, cartoons, educational films, and films specifically on the Hiler Youth.  The book was suprisingly outspoken about the status of Youth films in the Third Reich, pleading that more such films be produced which would appeal to German boys and girls, which was not being done. It lamented the shortcomings it saw in The March to the Leader, complaining that:

‘The movie lacks a dramatic tension in the overall structure. It lacks pace, continuously stirring music, bold camera looks through sharp outline that would be free from repetitions,  and persuasive individual scenes.’  

The outstanding  821 page reference book on Third Reich documentary films published by Reclam in 2005, edited by P. Zimmermnann and K. Hoffmann, mentions the film only in passing, with no main entry. Dr. Hoffmann reported that virtually no information about the film had been located in the archives, other than the censorship card, which reflected the film’s credits, production, and content. Thus the  Gaufilmstelle handbill and the Gaufilmstelle poster found here in The Gillespie Collection are extremely rare promotional materials. 

 

 

--- William Gillespie, author of Karl Ritter, 2ndedition ©2014and The Making of the Crew of the Dora, ©2016. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Year
1940
 
Director
uncredited (not Hans Steinhoff!)
 
Country
Germany