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Dedication of a Memorial to German Police

Dedication of a Memorial to German Police
US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Courtesy of the Bundesarchiv
View this Newsreel

tags: law enforcement propaganda visual art

type: Newsreel

After Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party took control of the German government in January 1933, Nazi authorities began filling the leadership posts of the German police with politically reliable appointees. Like other German civil servants, however, the vast majority of rank-and-file German police officers remained in their posts even as the regime changed.

Although most German police were willing to serve the Nazi regime as faithfully as they had served the Weimar Republic (1918–1933), many Nazis viewed police from the Weimar era with deep suspicion. The Nazis despised the democratic Weimar Republic and hated what they saw as its weak and “degenerate” culture. Nazi ideology falsely claimed that the Weimar Republic had been illegitimately founded by Socialists, Communists, and Jews who had betrayed Germany during World War I. Because of this hostility, many members of the Nazi Party believed that German police who had served the Weimar Republic could not be trusted to help carry out Nazi policies.1

Nazi propaganda attempted to ease these tensions and link the German police symbolically to the new regime. In publications and elaborate public events, the police were depicted as an important pillar of the Nazi regime and the protectors of the so-called Volksgemeinschaft (German racial community). These events included dedication ceremonies, commemorations, and festivities such as the “Day of the German Police,” which built on Weimar-era traditions of festivals meant to improve public opinions of police.

The featured propaganda film shows a dedication ceremony for a large bronze memorial to two Berlin police officers who were killed by Communists during the years of the Weimar Republic.2 Created in September 1934 as a newsreel by the large German film company, UFA (Universum-Film Aktiengesellschaft), this was likely shown at movie theaters before the feature film.3 Large swastika flags decorate the square, which Nazi authorities had renamed after a member of the Nazi SA (Sturmabteilung, or “Stormtroopers”) killed by Communists in 1930.4 Honoring both the SA and the police at this site helped Nazi propagandists build the impression that these two organizations had a shared history and a common enemy. This film shows one of several such attempts to commemorate Nazis and German police together.5 

Many individual officers and police departments were eager to display their reliability to the new regime. German police sought to establish their place among the military and security forces of Nazi Germany, which were routinely celebrated in Nazi propaganda.6 Many young German men preferred to join the German military or the SS, leaving German uniformed police forces struggling to find recruits. Local police precincts organized many of their own events and festivals in order to improve public relations and attract new trainees.7

 This was particularly true of the so-called Nazi "old fighters," who had participated in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch that ended with a deadly shootout with Munich police.

On August 9, 1931, officers Paul Anlauf and Franz Lenk were shot by Communists in Bülow Square in Berlin. Their deaths became an important piece of the Nazi campaign to reinterpret Weimar-era police deaths as part of a long, common struggle against Communism. To learn more about police and political street violence in the Weimar Republic, see the related Experiencing History item, Police Responding to Demonstrators in Berlin.

UFA began producing newsreels in 1925. Under the Nazi regime, UFA newsreels became a powerful tool for spreading official Nazi propaganda. To learn more, see Klaus Kreimeier, The Ufa Story: A History of Germany’s Greatest Film Company, 1918-1945, translated by Robert and Rita Kimber (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999). 

The murder of SA member Horst Wessel became an important part of Nazi propaganda. To learn more, see Daniel Siemens, The Making of  a Nazi Hero: The Murder and Myth of Horst Wessel, translated by David Burnett (London & New York: I.B. Tauris, 2013).

A monument to Horst Wessel was later erected here as well, but both memorials were melted down during World War II as resources grew scarce in Germany.

To learn more about public ceremonies involving the German police and the Nazi regime, see Jonathan Dunnage and Nadine Rossol, "Building Ideological Bridges and Inventing Institutional Traditions: Festivities and Commemorative Rituals in the Fascist and Nazi Police," Crime, History & Societies, 19, no. 1 (2015): 89–111.

These police-sponsored public events included sports, parades, children’s games, and lectures about safety. These activities developed a more military tone during World War II. German police departments in Nazi Germany also held frequent public fundraising events designed to improve public perceptions of the police.

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"Unveiling of a police memorial at Horst Wessel Platz in Berlin. Three years ago, the police captains Anlauf and Lenck were murdered by communists not far from this spot.

They do not depart in the physical fight – you risk your life for Germany’s survival and greatness, in glad, full possession of awareness – no, they were murdered insidiously, assassinated. We dedicate a silent tribute to the memory of all our fallen comrades."

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Ein Ehrenmal der Polizei auf dem Horst Wessel-Platz in Berlin enthüllt. Unweit dieser Stelle wurden vor Drei Jahren die Polizei Hauptleute Anlauf und Lenck von Kommunisten ermordet.

Nicht in wehrhaftem Kampf – im freudigen Vollbesitz des Bewusstseins für Deutschlands. Bestand und Größe setzt du dein Leben ein – ziehen sie; nein, sie wurden hinterrücks ermordet. Dem Andenken aller unserer gefallenen Kameraden widmen wir ein stilles Gedenken.

 

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Courtesy of the Bundesarchiv
Accession Number 2004.740.1
RG Number 60.4027
Source Number 2705
Date Created
September 1934
Duration 00:01:34
Sound Yes
Videographer / Creator
Universum Film AG
Language(s)
German
Location
Berlin, Germany
Moving Image Type Newsreel
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