Prior to the outbreak of World War II, Nazi Germany attracted tourists from around the world curious to see life in the "new" Germany firsthand. One of the most notable of these travelers was Julien Bryan, an American filmmaker whose work was popular in newsreels. He spent much of the late 1930s in Germany documenting everyday life under Nazi rule. Bryan took footage depicting political meetings and university lectures, crowds at markets, and children at school—as well as this 1937 film of a German amusement park.
The opening shots of this film demonstrate the degree to which Nazi symbols had become visible in places of leisure and entertainment. The amusement park is captured on a busy day, with dramatic gates framed by several Nazi banners. Shots of the crowds show several men in uniform, including a lengthy scene of what is apparently a policeman, likely visiting with some guests or his own family.
Bryan's film points to the simultaneously pervasive and at times subtle influence of Nazi rhetoric and ideology in German society in the 1930s. The Third Reich's intense interest in modernization is reflected in images of rides built in the shape of zeppelins or a race track named after the recently completed Autobahn highway.1 A shot of a balloon vendor shows a racist caricature of a black child. Images of the crowd show what appear to be mostly middle-class German families taking in the sights and sounds of the park.
Bryan's film offers a rare perspective on Nazi Germany—independent of official Nazi propaganda—at the height of its economic and military development. Moreover, Bryan claimed that his approach aimed to "take people as he found them, not as he wanted them to be."2 This effort to capture daily life makes the film an important resource for understanding citizens' encounters with Nazism.