862.4061 All Quiet/3: Telegram

The Ambassador in Germany (Sackett) to the Secretary of State

26. End of last week Reichstag passed a motion of Social Democrats supported inter alia by Communists to the effect that Reichstag considers prohibition of film “All Quiet on the Western Front” unjustifiable (see my telegram 140, December 12, noon;28 my despatch No. 654, December 17, 1930, and subsequent reports concerning prohibition of this film).

[Page 315]

[Paraphrase.] The vote was taken during the period of the withdrawal from the Reichstag of the Hugenberg Nationalists and the Nazis, both bitter opponents of the film. This circumstance was fortunate for the owner and producer, the Universal Film Corporation, which has been actively urging the lifting of the ban. The producer expects to urge that the film be reexamined by the censor promptly and released for public showing in the near future.

Intense political controversy has resulted from the mode of withdrawal and censorship of this film. The necessity of maintaining public order has, I believe, involved the Cabinet in unusual reversals of opinion.

I am strongly of the belief that the Reichstag action followed by a showing of the picture in theatres here would have seriously unfortunate results. The Nazis and other extremists of the Right would definitely welcome such a chance of rallying their cohorts. They would also welcome demonstrations involving physical violence as means of keeping up the zeal of their followers.

Attempts to produce this film here might involve a certain amount of anti-American criticism owing to its American ownership and origin. The probable embarrassment resulting to the American Government might lose us the advantage of a growing disposition here to change the film regulations in a manner favorable to American films. This latter is much desired by the Hays people.

If this view which I am venturing to urge upon the Department could be communicated to and urged upon Will Hays29 it might greatly aid him in urging the producer to avoid this new controversy.

I should be glad to be informed how the Department views this suggestion as I am convinced that the matter is one of the greatest importance. [End paraphrase.]

  1. Not printed.
  2. President of Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc.