Jürgen Fauth’s debut novel Kino is the story of Mina Koblitz, granddaughter of Klaus “Kino” Koblitz, a famous film director in Nazi Germany. All photos appear on Tulpendiebe, a website created in memory of Klaus Koblitz and named for his most famous lost film.
Tendentious art can also be great art.
excerpt from Kino by Jürgen Fauth
We began shooting Pirates on the day of the Reichstag fire: I was so busy it barely registered. Politics didn’t concern me, not until a month later, when the NSDAP announced the formation of the Reichs-Film-Kammer and invited the elite of Germany’s film industry to a meeting at Hotel Kaiserhof. This was March twenty-eight, nineteen thirty-three. You can look it up in a history book.
Everyone who was anyone was there that night at the Kaiserhof: Albers, Fritsch, Veidt, Jannings, Lorre, Dietrich. The walls were lined with goons in uniforms, and many of the assembled actors, directors, and producers arrived in party uniforms. Lang was wearing one, and he’d pinned on some sort of medal he’d won in World War I. He was in bad shape, pale and haggard. He’d gotten divorced from Thea von Harbou after he found her in bed with an Indian prince by the name of Ayi Tendulkar. The entire city had laughed about it for weeks. His new movie, Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse, had been held up by the censors for months, its future uncertain.
Like Lang, I came alone. Reichspropagandaminister Goebbels, the limping lying crippled sack of shit, came in flanked by stormtroopers, Prince Wilhelm August of Prussia, and Count Wolf Heinrich Helldorf. Some Arschloch from the Reichsverband der Lichtspieltheaterbesitzer gave a speech. I didn’t listen until Goebbels got up to speak. He moved like one of Lang’s actors, with brisk, controlled gestures that might as well have been counted off by a metronome. It was chilling. He called himself “an impassioned devotee of cinematic art” and assured us that he did not want to put boundaries on anyone. I might have sneered if it hadn’t been for the SA men. “Tendentious art can also be great art,” he said, and then he singled out five movies for praise: Edmund Goulding’s Love, Battleship Potemkin, Trenker’s Rebel, Die Nibelungen, and Tulpendiebe. It was incredible: three of these movies were directed by Jews, Potemkin glorified the Bolshevik revolution–and Tulpendiebe? Goebbels liked my film? How was this possible? How dare he!
But I admit–I was also intrigued. Did Goebbels’s taste trump his ideology, or was this just one more blatant attempt at manipulation? But to what end? I needed to know what this meant, for my movies and for my future.