How cute could an actress be

Friedrich Knilli: I was Jud Suss. The story of the film star Ferdinand Marian.

It was the role of his life. Joseph Suss Oppenheimer called Jud Suss. At the personal request of the head of propaganda Goebbels, the actor Ferdinand Marian concludes an unfortunate pact with the powerful of the Third Reich. In 1940 the Viennese actor took on the title role of the Jew Oppenheimer in Veit Harlan's anti-Semitic inflammatory film JUD SÜSS. Even if after strong resistance and sabotaged test recordings, as he later justifies. And von Goebbels sweetened it with a well-endowed compensation for pain and suffering. In the film itself, however, Marian did his best. In this demagogic piece of work, director and co-author Harlan tells how the rich Jew Suss uses the opulence of the late Baroque regent Karl Alexander von Württemberg to extort concessions for his outlawed fellow believers. In return for the generous financing of the ducal debauchery, Suss demands: Swabia must lift the ban on Jews.

O-TON MARIAN IN "JUD SÜSS" "I will open the door for you all. You will go in velvet and silk. Can be tomorrow, can be the day after tomorrow. But it will be!"

Client Goebbels was more than satisfied with the result and awarded the film the title "State-politically valuable". In his diary, which he already kept with a view to publication, the patron of the German film JUD SÜSS enthusiastically praises:

"A really great, ingenious achievement. An anti-Semitic film as we can only wish for it."

Because in an infamous way JUD SÜSS legitimized the expulsion and murder of the Jews and successfully stirred up hatred and the willingness to use violence against them. But for the Süß actor Ferdinand Marian, the dream of every actor turned from the big leading role to a nightmare that would accompany him for seven years until his early accidental death in 1946.

Ferdinand Marian was born Ferdinand Haschkowetz on August 14, 1902 in Vienna. The son of an imperial and royal bass player and a singing professor tears away from home after abandoning his engineering degree and makes do with odd jobs as a house servant and musician. Without any acting training, he started as a small actor in Graz. He works his way up and succeeds in classics like "Wilhelm Tell" and the "Robbers". This is followed by engagements in Trier, Aachen, at the Hamburg Thalia Theater and at the Münchner Kammerspiele. 1934 the first small film role as a worker in DER TUNNEL. Finally in 1939 the offer for the title role in JUD SÜSS. Marian refuses and pretends not to be able to perform the part. In test recordings he plays as badly as he can. With success, right up to a personal conversation with Goebbels, which Marian put on record after the war:

"Of course, Goebbels knew [...] that my request was not for artistic reasons, but for ideological reasons. He finally said by banging his fist on the table: [...] Harlan vouches for your suitability this role. That's enough for me. I need the film. Right now. "

And according to Marian, the chief propagandist continued:

"Such films are now being produced continuously. [...] From today on, everyone has to work. You are the first."

Marian was courted and celebrated under the Nazis, successful in the cinema, on the radio, on the stage. After the war, ostracism and professional bans followed. Today his name only says something to older Germans and movie buffs. His film role of Jud Suss, however, has survived him as the epitome of cinematic inflammatory propaganda. In his day, tall and dark-haired Marian embodied the role of the villainous but elegant womanizer like no other. Smart and dangerous at the same time, with a view of the bedroom through reptilian eyes. He gave the bon vivant that he was in private life: Ferdinand Marian loved women and delicatessen. He was almost addicted to the stimulant coffee.

In his roles for stage and cinema, Marian personified the stranger and outsider again and again, behind whose charming smile and gentleman manners lurk coldness and calculation. This predestined the actor to embody the enemy from outside and the enemy from inside on the screen. For example the typical Englishman in the anti-British propaganda strip OHM KRÜGER. And finally the career and power-conscious Finance Council in JUD SÜSS. Marian convinces in this role of his life both as a bearded cliché Jew in a caftan and as a climber willing to assimilate, adorned with robes made of gold and silver and a white powdered wig.

In his Marian biography, the Berlin literary and media scholar Friedrich Knilli traces in detail how the actor became an early victim of typecasting. Before 1933, Marian played many small Jewish roles on stage, including an Ahasver and an Iago with a Levant-Jewish background. Knilli constructs an unconscious and fateful striving for the actor to play the role of Jud Suss. At the same time, the author uses the notorious name and markets his book under the attention-grabbing title: "Ich war Jud Süß". The first-person form is symptomatic of the ultimately unscientific proximity of the retired media professor to the object of his reflections, which is the result of more than thirty years of research and employment.

"I became so familiar with Marian that I spoke to him on the phone in a dream, called him Papa and gradually stopped talking to him. Today he is just Ferdl and a kind of friend, and I his Ben Matlock, his tireless lawyer."

Knilli also allows his enthusiasm to be uncritical about contemporary sources. He quotes the German press, which has been brought into line, both eagerly and naively, in order to prove the greatness and uniqueness of the actor Marian. The author even goes to play out possible biographical points of contact with his Styrian compatriot Marian, so that little seems to have been missing and Marian would have become his father. This uncritical men's association with the dead, however, has a counterproductive effect on Knilli's request to appear as a lawyer for Marian and to free him from the face of Joseph Suess Oppenheimer:

"Marian couldn't get rid of the larger-than-life face of his repeatedly listed Oppenheimer. Marian's Jew has been hanged and hanged and hanged for half a century, in every single film showing anew, like the martyr in a Catholic Passion Play. The film actor lost through permanent technical reproduction his face. "

It is difficult to understand Knilli's passion, even obsession, for the good, but not gifted actor. This is even more difficult in view of Knilli's attempts to imitate Marian's Viennese diction. Not least because this also leads to some rough slip-ups. Knilli is particularly impressed by the word sex hungry, which he uses both on Marian and his Süß, but also, illuminatingly, on his own mother and himself. So it is not surprising that it was precisely the subliminally sexual Knilli that attracted Marian's portrayal:

"I noticed the double sexual morality of the film. The anti-Semites murder Suss for sexual offenses, with a lust of honesty that makes one downright lustful. From the start, the cameraman looks shamelessly and without fear of consequences at bare breasts and thighs of women and in excited male visages. In order to clear up this double-faced sexuality, I began to collect everything about Suss. "

It is difficult to agree with Knilli's overemphasis on the sexual in JUD SÜSS. However, it is the prerequisite for his interpretation of Marians Süß as a "tragic lover, on a par with the great characters of Shakespeare", as Knilli put it.

"Marian shows the Germans a Jewish lover whose only fault it is to want to be German. Marian thereby achieves that the film can also be read as a tragic love story and not just as a sadistic Himmler order to beat all Jewish concentration camp inmates. His sweet is the cinema icon of a tragic love affair between an assimilated Jew and a German in the middle of the Holocaust. "

In his endeavor to save Marian's honor posthumously, Knilli overlooks the fact that it is precisely in the complexity of the figure that the propagandistic sophistication of Marian's depiction lies.

"The actor Marian does not show the anti-Semitic caricature ordered, but scene by scene and sentence by sentence a Jew who arouses not disgust but pity and compassion."

Knilli complains extensively that "his Ferdl" has been and is repeatedly reduced to the parade role of sweet. However, he does exactly the same thing on the 200 pages of his monograph. A fundamental contradiction of which the author is not aware. For example, Knilli only prints images from JUD SÜSS. Marian's 22 other appearances in the Ufa cinema, on the other hand, hardly interest him as independent performances of Marian's acting, but only with regard to the sweet role. So it's no wonder that Knilli divides Marian's filmography into a "before" and a "after" JUD SÜSS, as if all the other roles were just preparation for the one big performance or its aftermath.

The bottom line is that the image of the Ufa star conveyed by Knilli remains diffuse, both as an artist and as a person. Especially since Knilli can come up with little real news, apart from spicy revelations. For example, that Marian's son couldn't have come from him because Marian was impotent. It remains open what moved Marian in his innermost being. Because Knilli does not succeed in giving Marian's personality a nuanced figure based on the biographical details and role descriptions, which the actor himself understood so masterfully in his performances. Also and not least in the JUD SÜSS, for example when he is physiognomically outed as a Jew by the actuary Faber despite his noble decoration:

O-TON MARIAN AND MALTE JAEGER AS FABER IN JUD SWEETFaber: "Sir, I would like to recommend you not to miss the next post." Jud Süß: "Why? I'm in no hurry, I still have business in Stuttgart. On the contrary, I was just about to find out whether he can recommend an inn to me." Faber: "There are no Jewish hostels in the Stuttgart Residence." Jud Suss: "My compliments on your knowledge of human nature, sir. But I am so indebted to the amiable Demoiselle that she will understand if I fail to answer."

What is commendable about Knilli's book is that it draws attention to anti-Semitic activities on the Internet and places them in the sad history of anti-Semitic figures and motifs. In times of public discussion of right-wing extremist activities, this is more important than ever. Knilli has also put the extensive source material on the Internet. Basically an interesting innovation, but on the one hand no justification for not specifying a single source or evidence in the book itself, as it should primarily stand on its own. And on the other hand completely out of the question if the specified web page does not yet exist. What remains of "Ich war Jud Süß" is the aftertaste of so many autobiographies by model artists and audience favorites of the Third Reich, whether they are called Marika Rökk, Kristina Söderbaum or Veit Harlan. It's about the well-known justifications, sweeping references to the circumstances and, last but not least, the apolitical attitude of an artist. So does Knilli:

"Of all the reasons that persuaded Marian to finally accept the role, the most important one lies in the pattern of constant rebellion and, in the end, always subordinate to authority, which was so deeply ingrained in adolescence."

With this biographical lightweight, Knilli misses the self-imposed goal of giving the actor Marian a different face than that of Jud Suss.

Gertrud Vossen about Friedrich Knilli: I was Jud Süß. The story of the film star Ferdinand Marian. The 200-page volume was published by Henschelverlag Berlin at a price of DM 39.80.