The 6 roles of Werner Krauss in Jud Süß (1940)
Our acquisition of an original film script for the film Jud Süss – which was the personal copy of the actor Werner Krauss – has prompted us to add this new page to our film website.
Actor Werner Krauss, famous for his silent film roles, such as the title role in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) and many other films and hundreds of theatre stage performances, played no less than six Jewish character roles in the 1940 anti–semitic film directed by Veit Harlan.
Film historians have retold the way in which Krauss was contracted to appear in this notorious film less than a year after the commencement of WWII. The quotes and details below are taken from some of the 1949 original newspaper clippings in our Collection on the trial of Veit Harlan at which Krauss, amongst other actors, appeared and testified.
After the war, Krauss was charged with offences of being a Nazi, even though he was never a NSDAP member. He was acquitted twice by German de–nazification reviews, but under pressure from the Allies, which then constructed a new panel made up of resistance members, German Communist Party members, Socialists and exiles, he was deemed a "Fellow Traveler" and had a work ban imposed for 2 years as well as a RM5,000 fine. A fine of that size was equal to two year's wages of an average worker at the time.
In evidence given at the 1948 Hamburg trial of Director Veit Harlan for "crimes against humanity" for producing the film, Krauss testified: 'At the end of December 1939 Harlan appeared before me and I argued, for important reasons, as per many previous attempts in the past, to refuse the title role in the film "Jud Süß." '
In January 1940 he received a phone call from Harlan, during which another contracted role was put to him. Terra Filmkunst, the studio responsible for producing the film, requested that he consider the role of Chief Rabbi Löw. He politely declined, as he was not keen to appear in the film. A second letter shortly thereafter arrived indicating that at the request of Reichsminister Joseph Goebbels he was directed to take on the role of Rabbi Löw. A meeting with Dr. Goebbels followed, in which the Minister reiterated all the ways in which Krauss over time had disappointed and betrayed the regime and National Socialism -- working with Jews and Socialists in the Weimar era, having two siblings married to Jews, having a daughter married to a Jew....working with exiled Max Reinhard at the pre–Anschluss Salzburg Festival in 1937 -- but Krauss still resisted, and asked for time to think about it. As he left the meeting, Goebbels warned him, "Think carefully about what you do!"
Having spoken privately to both Harlan and the actor Ferdinand Marian, who himself was arm–twisted -- threatened –- if he did not take on the title role in the film, Krauss knew that he was now in a tight spot. He devised a way in which he hoped to convince Goebbels to move on and find another actor. He told Harlan to relay to Dr. Goebbels that he could not accept the role, as it was only after all a secondary role, and as he felt he could only do so if he was offered all the secondary Jewish character roles, and also a (very considerable) fee of RM50,000. (Harlan's memoirs state that Krauss said "I'll either play the Jewish race or nothing at all.") Goebbels had made it clear over the years that he despised show–off actors who played double roles in film, and found them unacceptable. To Krauss' shock, as well as Harlan's, Goebbels replied that he thought, yes, it was an interesting proposition, and yes, to go ahead with casting him. The rest was history, as they say.
"When you were with Goebbels, you felt like a child walking through a dark forest as it crackles along the path." –– Werner Krauss, 5 März 1949, Hamburger Abendblatt.
"The time of Hitler demanded political consciousness. It was different to play an evil Shylock under the direction of [Max] Reinhardt in 1921, than to work under the Nazis in the film JUD SÜß. Werner Krauß, who was never a hypocrite, and who was not at all pleased with the sympathy of Hitler, should have realized that this film was not made for the sake of the film, but to create material against the Jews, so that his roles would be misunderstood politically. But here he failed. It was precisely such a brilliant talent that found its limits here." --Herbert Ihering (1888-1977) in Werner Krauß, ein Schauspieler und das Neunzehnnte Jahrhundert, Verlag Nowerk 8, 1997
[Above: The film script owned by Werner Krauss with his notations about each of the six characters he performed in the feature film. ]
From our Film Stills Collection, film lobby cards of four of the Jewish characters Werner Krauss portrayed:
As Rabbi Löw (L.) with Jud Süss Oppenheimer (Ferdinand Marian)
As a Jewish grandfather with his daughter at the window overlooking the Judengasse in the Stuttgart ghetto. A particularly reviled scene post–1945, as it suggests a sexual encounter between family members when the grandfather commands " Get dressed, Rebekah."
As the Jewish kosher butcher in the ghetto, with his bloody apron. Many audience members would have been horrified to be reminded of kosher slaughter methods, which were banned by the Third Reich.
As State Secretary Levy, the right–hand man of Jud Süss, and his enforcer within the Duchy of Württemberg.
In addition to the four roles above, Krauss also played the lesser non–speaking roles of a member of the congregation at prayer in the synagogue scene, and that of an old woman who appears on the ground floor of the Süß residence. These roles are confirmed by comments by Krauss quoted in the post–war biography by Wolfgang Goetz, as well as by film historian Susan Tegel in her book on the film.
Left: The very rare "Programm von Heute" Rabbi Löw postcard for the film; and the Italian film postcard for Werner Krauss when the film was released in Fascist Italy to great acclaim. Both cards from our Collection.
Our Collection has no fewer than seven 1940/41 original posters of the film which are to be found in our Poster Gallery. The index page showing all seven posters/fotobusta can be found via this link.
The film, with English subtitles, is available from International Historic Films, Chicago, USA here.