A False Start. The Filming at Theresienstadt of January 20, 1944


  • Karel Margry After the Battle magazine




Jindřich Weil, Kurt Gerron, Anton Burger, Karl Rahm, Ivan Frič, Ghetto Theresienstadt, Theresienstadt. Ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem jüdischen Siedlungsgebiet, Aktualita, Nazi film propaganda, Holocaust film studies.


On January 20, 1944, one day of filming took place at the Theresienstadt ghetto. This can be regarded as a ‘false start’ of Theresienstadt. Ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem jüdischen Siedlungsgebiet, the infamous Nazi propaganda film subsequently shot there during the summer. The essay discusses how it came about, and why the filming, although planned to be the first day of a longer shoot, was aborted after one day. It shows that the shooting was based on a script that was different from the one later written by Kurt Gerron. It identifies the probable scriptwriter – Jindřich Weil – and shows, by analysis of his three surviving scripts, that the filming of January 20 followed the second of these. It describes the actual filming on a cold wintry day in the ghetto. It tracks the disappearance of Weil’s film papers after the war and, shows how when they finally resurfaced after 15 years, they were wrongly interpreted before being buried again in archive collections. The article  presents the only remaining visual images of the shooting but, because of misinformation provided by the cameraman who preserved them, these 18 film stills have for decades been wrongly thought to be secretly made images showing the true misery of the ghetto rather than what they actually were: deliberate products of Nazi propaganda. It discusses the reasons why the cameraman chose to do this.




How to Cite

Margry, Karel. 2017. “A False Start. The Filming at Theresienstadt of January 20, 1944”. Apparatus. Film, Media and Digital Cultures of Central and Eastern Europe, no. 2-3 (April). https://doi.org/10.17892/app.2016.0002-3.54.

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