863.4061 All Quiet/15

The Minister in Austria (Stockton) to the Secretary of State

No. 412

Sir: Referring to my telegram No. 122, of November 5, 1931, 5 p.m., I have the honor to inform the Department that in the latter part of September Mr. Sam Spiegel, of Universal Pictures Corporation, telephoned me from Berlin that after his company had agreed to a few cuts, the German Government had permitted the exhibition of the film All Quiet on the Western Front to the general public. He also requested me again to take up the matter with the Austrian Foreign Office.

When I urged Dr. Schober to use his influence to have the picture released in Austria, he informed me that he would immediately ask Dr. Felix Frank, the Austrian Minister in Berlin, for a report on the situation in Germany. Dr. Schober has frequently assured me that [Page 873] he was not opposed to the film being shown in Austria if its exhibition was being freely permitted in Germany. It was some time before the report was received from Dr. Frank. However, on October 27, Dr. Schober advised me that he had received a favorable report from Berlin, which he had already transmitted to Herr Winkler, the Minister of the Interior. I told him I had heard that Herr Winkler had for some time vigorously opposed the release of the film, and he admitted that he had received the same impression. The matter was finally brought up at a meeting of the Ministerial Council held on November 3, and Dr. Schober sent me the following aide mémoire, dated November 4, which was received at the Legation November 5, the date of my telegram referred to above.

“At the Cabinet meeting held on November 3rd a report was read out by the Minister of the Interior on the position regarding the film ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ and the question was discussed of whether or not this film should be released.

“It was established that in view of the disquietude existing especially among the ‘National-Socialist Party’ and considering that in the event of the film being released fresh disturbances might occur the Government is not in the position to remove the ban on that film at present.

“This does not imply, however, that the film might not be released at a later date.”

The Austrian Government has had such a difficult time since the collapse of the Credit-Anstalt, with balancing its budget, the Heimwehr uprising of September 13, the presidential election, negotiating for a loan, and with the issuance of the exchange regulations, that I can readily understand how it was loath to take up any matter of a controversial nature. However, as the present situation is somewhat more tranquil I had hoped in view of Dr. Schober’s favorable attitude, that the ban on the exhibition of the film might be removed.

The decision of the Ministerial Council can be taken as evidence of the Government’s extreme caution not to do anything which might cause the slightest disturbance. Although the National-Socialists are not strong in Austria, nevertheless the Minister of the Interior apparently feels that they are powerful enough to create a state of disorder which the Government is reluctant to have to cope with at this time. The statement in the aide mémoire to the effect that it was not to be implied from the Ministerial Council’s decision that the film might not be released at a later date is the same reply I have received from the Foreign Office ever since this troublesome matter was first brought up last January.

If the Austrian Government seriously believes that there might be trouble in the country if the ban on the film were removed, in my opinion the decision was a wise one.

Respectfully yours,

G. B. Stockton