Strictly Propaganda

  • 1993
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Documentary, Historical, Political

That old standby in tales of Cold War espionage, the German Democratic Republic--Die Deutsche Demokratische Republik to its citizens or East Germany to its foes--is the official sponsor and subject of the clips that make up this compilation documentary. The product of a shotgun wedding between Prussian style and Stalinist content, the Russian-occupied portion...read more

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That old standby in tales of Cold War espionage, the German Democratic Republic--Die Deutsche Demokratische Republik to its citizens or East Germany to its foes--is the official sponsor and subject of the clips that make up this compilation documentary. The product of a shotgun wedding

between Prussian style and Stalinist content, the Russian-occupied portion of what was once Nazi Germany was to be specially groomed as a worthy vassal-state of Stalin's Soviet Union.

From the scenes of women clearing rubble in the streets of nearly levelled cities to the the mass rally celebrating the regime's 40th and last anniversary, this film chronicles the newsreels and instructional films designed to help shape a democratic and socialist German state, as those words

were understood by the more rigid members of what was left of the old German Communist Party after Hitler's rule. To start with, the Germans were to be weaned away from the love of war and weapons, and little boys are shown being encouraged to play with toy horses rather than tin soldiers. There

is also the clumsy segues from the massed singers of the Red Army chorus to the appreciative smiles of German audience members as part of the effort to foster official friendship and to forget the cruelty of the Wehrmacht's assault on Russia or the fury of the Red Army's revenge. Linked to this

ideal, unfortunately, was the required adulation of Stalin, whose name was given to reconstructed city centers and even to a new town.

Exceeding even the Stalin cult in fulsomeness was the lavish praise heaped on Communist Party chief Walther Ulbricht, whose Leninist beard was mismatched to a thin, high-pitched Saxon voice that was easy to parody. A trifle more disturbing, however, is his appearance at a rally of the Thaelmann

Pioneers (a Communist youth organization named for a comrade executed by the Nazis), where the emphasis on athletics and panoply seem a muted echo of the Hitler Youth, and there is a trio of trumpeters who adopt the postures so familiar from the mid-1930s. Buttressing these odd adaptations are the

security men in dark leather overcoats and peaked-caps who smartly flank Ulbricht's entrance.

This compilation features a number of clips designed to prove how nice and cheery were the new People's Police, as if the Volkspolizei, (abbreviated in popular German fashion to Vopo's), were in the same league as the traditional British bobby. Later, a Pioneer unit declares itself eager to

become an adjunct of the Vopo's. Like any modern dictatorship, the East German state promoted the introduction of the young to the fun of being a snoop, spy, and bureaucrat. One young girl, Gudrun, so smoothly conducts a meeting that one must suspect repeated rehearsals or, perhaps, a

second-generation functionary.

Written and directed by Wolfgang Kissel, the film soon shows the democratic, socialist state's emphasis on things military from combat groups made up of loyal factory workers to a fashion show of uniforms cut to the Wehrmacht's contour and color, of which the boast is made that everybody could

recognize the insignia of rank and branch of service. A long way from 1945, when the claim was heard that "we don't want to hear any more commands." The film ends with an anniversary rally in 1989, at which Gorbachev apppears smiling and waving to the masses, who soon revealed exactly how tired

they were of the worst aspects of the German Democratic Republic. Oddly, an instructional film for teachers also depicts the failure of the old slogans and the young's skill at miming acquiescence, but it was apparently too little, too late for Ulbricht's successors. The film's original German

title, Kinder Kader Kommandeure, sums up its theme: "Children, Cadres, Commanders."

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  • Released: 1993
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: That old standby in tales of Cold War espionage, the German Democratic Republic--Die Deutsche Demokratische Republik to its citizens or East Germany to its foes--is the official sponsor and subject of the clips that make up this compilation documentary. Th… (more)

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