The Consolidation of the German Film Industry – “The Ludendorff Letter”

The Consolidation of the German Film Industry – “The Ludendorff Letter”

The Consolidation of the German Film Industry – “The Ludendorff Letter”

Head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces Gr.Hpt.Qu., July 4, 1917 M.J. Nr. 20851 P.
To the Royal War Ministry, Berlin

The war has demonstrated the exceptional power of photography and film as a means of educating and influencing. Unfortunately, our enemies have thoroughly exploited their lead in this area, causing us severe damage. In the further course of the war film will retain its momentous significance as a political and military means of influence. For this reason it is essential for the positive outcome of the war that film exert the strongest influence in all places where German influence is still possible. Thus, we must examine

1. how this influence can be achieved and
2. what means are to be used.

On 1. In film, the bolstering of German propaganda efforts must extend
a) to the influencing of the film supply in neutral third countries and
b) to the unification of the German film industry, setting broad, uniform targets for the systematic, energetic influencing of the masses in the interest of the state.

On a) Aside from the enemy film industry, the Nordic Society exercises particular influence in the neutral countries. This society has many first-class cinemas in Scandinavia, Germany, and Switzerland. Thus, for German propaganda the Nordic Society is a force that could create great damage merely by virtue of taking a hostile stance toward Germany. In addition, the Nordic Society is capable at this time of taking films to Russia. Given the present volatile mood of the Russian public, one can barely imagine what this influence could mean if it were exercised in a way friendly to Germany. It should further be considered that in all probability Scandinavia will be the site of the prospective peace negotiations. Now more than ever a special German propaganda effort is required to achieve the effective dissemination of information and clear up perceptions which might be detrimental to the peace agreement. For this reason it is an absolute necessity for the prosecution of the war that a way quickly be sought to directly influence the Nordic Society. The simplest and best method would be to purchase the main share of the Nordic Society. If that proves impossible, a different form of affiliation must be attempted, consisting in the greater exploitation of the Nordic Society’s interest in the German film market. Such an agreement will only be possible if German film production can be unified such that it can face the Nordic as a single contracting entity.

On b) Aside from the goal of establishing a contractual relationship with the Nordic Society, there are other reasons for the German film industry to be consolidated to form a uniform whole. The longer the war lasts, the more it becomes necessary to systematically influence the masses within Germany. Thus all suitable propaganda means must systematically be used to achieve success. Film has only occasionally been used to influence the mood of the people. In addition, certain circles are attempting to use film for their own special purposes. Heavy industry has created the Deutsche Lichtspiel-Gesellschaft (German Motion Picture Society), and the Pan-German League has created the Gesellschaft für künstlerische Lichtspiele »Deutsche Kunst« (“German Art” Society for Artistic Motion Pictures), a phenomenon which will inevitably lead to the fragmentation of film’s influence. In addition, the Committee for Motion Picture Reform in Stettin, which is still quite active, has already founded a documentary film society. Each of these groups is attempting to attract the film industry with big contracts, endangering the Bufa’s (Bild- und Filmamt [Photography and Film Office]) ability to carry out its film work. For these reasons as well it is an urgent necessity to consolidate the German film industry to prevent an effective weapon of war from being rendered ineffective through fragmentation.
On 2. What expenditure is required? As only an absolute majority is required to influence a company, it is not always necessary to purchase all the shares. However, it must not become known that the state is the purchaser. The entire financial transaction must be carried out by way of an expert, influential, experienced, reliable private entity (banking house), above all one that is absolutely loyal to the government. In no way should the negotiators be aware who the representative’s actual client is. For a share of about 55% of the corporate capital, about 20 million marks will be required in the case of the Nordic Society in Copenhagen, and about 8 million marks for the German film companies. The German film companies under particular consideration are:

1. Deutsche Bioskop-Gesellschaft
2. Messter-Film GmbH.
3. Eiko-Film GmbH.
4. Projektions A.G.-Union
5. Deutsche Mutoskop und Biograph GmbH.
6. Nationalfilm GmbH.
and others.

When one considers the sums spent for film propaganda in other countries, the above requirements seem quite reasonable. One need only recall that over the course of the last quarter of the year the Entente approved extraordinarily high sums, over 100 million marks, for propaganda purposes, the greater part of which is used for film propaganda.

I regard the realization of the above proposal as an urgent military necessity and request prompt execution on the part of the Bild- und Filmamt. I would be grateful if the decision could be relayed to me in the appropriate form. I would like to add that these are propaganda-related expenses.

pp. Ludendorff

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