Jud Süß (or Jew Süss) is the title of several fictional works based on the life and death of the Jewish financier Joseph Süß Oppenheimer (1698–1738).
Different fictional versions
- Jud Süß is the title of a 1925 pro-Jewish book by the German-Jewish writer Lion Feuchtwanger.
- Jew Süss is the title of a 1934 pro-Jewish British film based on the book.
- Jud Süß is the title of a 1827 anti-Jewish novella by the German Wilhelm Hauff.
- Jud Süß is the title of a 1940 anti-Jewish National Socialist film based on the novella. This is by far the most well-known and discussed version.
The 1940 film
Briefly, the narrative consists of the rich Jewish financier Joseph Süß Oppenheimer leading the Duke of Württemberg astray by using large bribes, usury, and other manipulations. Süß uses the gained influence to further enrich himself at the expense of population of Württemberg. He also manages to repeal the law prohibiting Jews from living in Württemberg which causes further exploitation of the population. Increasingly coercive methods is used to control the rising unrest among the people. Another part of the narrative is a tragic love story ending with the suicide of the woman after being coerced into sex by Süß in order to free her husband from prison and torture. Finally the people rebel, the soldiers refuse to fire on them, Süß is executed, and the other Jews are expelled. As the film draws to a close, a citizen of Württemberg, observing the Jews leaving, comments, "May the citizens of other states never forget this lesson."
The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 1940 and earned the top award. The film became a great box-office success in Germany and abroad. The film was also shown for propaganda purposes to various groups.
After the war many of the participants faced various problems due to their participation (including death in a Soviet camp in one case) and the director was charged with "aiding crimes against humanity" from which he ultimately was exonerated by shifting the blame to the dead Goebbels. All the cast members also disclaimed responsibility and claimed they had been coerced. An attempt was made to totally destroy the film which would have succeeded if copies of the film had not survived in Muslim countries. The film is restricted or banned in several European countries.
In comparison, the 1940 anti-Jewish propaganda documentary The Eternal Jew was a box-office failurereference required. The degree to which the more subtle propaganda techniques used in Jud Süß have influenced various forms of subtle political propaganda in later films is unclear as few would admit such an influence after the war.