Segments of a pre-Second World War Austrian film that foresaw the expulsion of Jews will be restored thanks to a crowd-funding campaign, after missing reels were found in a Paris flea market.
The 1924 film, Die Stadt ohne Juden, or The City Without Jews, was made by director Hans Karl Breslauer, based on a satirical novel by the Austrian Jewish writer Hugo Bettauer, published two years before. It tells an imaginary, dystopian story of politicians deciding to expel all Jews from a major metropolis – in the book, this was Vienna, but in the film, it was called “Utopia.”
In the book and film, the outcome of the expulsion is disastrous, on economic, cultural and social levels. In the movie, the disaster turns out to have been a dream of one of the characters, an anti-Semitic legislator.
The author, Bettauer, was murdered in 1925, allegedly following calls by the Nazi Party for lynch justice against political opponents. His killer was hospitalized for mental illness and released about two years later.
Less than a decade after the film was made, the actual deportation and extermination of Austrian Jews began.
The film disappeared after World War II; a damaged copy was found in the Film Museum in Amsterdam in 1991. The reels that complete the picture were found by a collector in Paris last year.
About $91,000 was raised to restore the film by the Film Archive Austria in a crowdfunding campaign that concluded this past weekend. The Archive will now digitally transfer the images from fragile nitro-film – which is literally explosive – to modern material.