Erntedankfest (LFS 00248 4)


Events filmed or related



Thanksgiving Day in Lahr


Thanksgiving Day 1936, handing over of the harvest gifts on the judgment place in Lahr / Decorated single carriages and waiting spectators around the judgment place (v. E.). Parade of HJ and BDM. Harvests on long tables.


Reference / film number :  LFS 00248 4
Date :  1936
Coloration :  Black and white
Sound :  Mute
Timecode :  00:03:30
Running time :  00:03:30
Reel format :  16 mm
Genre :  Amateur movie
Thematics :  Identity, Traditions, Local festivals, Rural life
Archive :  Haus des Dokumentarfilms

Context and analysis

“Thanksgiving Day 1936. Handing over the harvest gifts on the judgment place” - the writing at the beginning of the film calls up the Christian tradition of Thanksgiving. But the train of horse-drawn carriages parading along Friedrichstrasse in Lahr appears in the next picture between two uniformed men: Nazi men give the view of the event - and the amateur filmmaker repeats this view, filming the event from the perspective of those who took possession of the harvest festival for the National Socialist Party.

Already in 1934, Adolf Hitler had decreed that the first Sunday after the day of Michaelis end of September is a public holiday - Thanksgiving Day. The Nazi regime took part in Thanksgiving to highlight the importance of the peasantry for the empire. The rural way of life formed the basis of the blood and soil ideology, and the Reich harvest festival on the Bückeberg near Hameln was - alongside the Nazi Party rally and the celebration on May 1st - one of the central major events for staging the Nazi ideology.

The decorated single-horse carriages open, but the Christian ritual, in which the believers thank God for the gifts of the harvest, is occupied by the self-portrayal of a party that visually transforms public space into a space of rule. The horse-drawn carriages go with the traditional peasant society, but Thanksgiving Sunday has become the stage for a party that profaned the Christian rite for its own purposes.

The camera follows this staging in particular with pans, traces with eye movements what is represented in the medium of a festival that is about to lose its original meaning. Repeatedly a swing ends on the party men in uniform - one of them raises his arm to greet Hitler as he drifts past. The bystanders glide past, stand in front or as a gathering in the background, they are extras in a political performance or they - as representatives of the harvest celebration - have their own small role in it. The celebration itself is the medium that holds the different and the incompatible together in its performance - and lets the old symbols and ritual acts merge into a new, deceptive resonance room. A young man is holding a microphone. The new cult is that of the racial myth, which displaces the Christian rite - and thus the churches - from public life.

Once again it is a pan that hastily passes over a small group of party people - a manager gives a short speech that is recorded with a microphone. Young women from the Federation of German Girls come into view, standing in strict order with flags, followed by a group of SS men in black uniform. The judgment place in Lahr has become a scene of the National Socialists - the long table with the white tablecloth, the table for the harvest gifts, flies past inconspicuously. What happens in the scene follows new directing instructions, which are based on a different text: the narrative that stands in the background is that of the racial myth, the projected identity of an Aryan community.

Representatives of the harvest festival come half-close into the picture after a cut and are welcomed by party people. The footage shows the Thanksgiving celebration as a new scene in which the roles are redistributed. The main speech of the party leader with microphone takes place not only in words, but above all in the visual space of the gestures of power. The pan in the half-near, which begins with the speaker, shows a party event, at which the carriage stands in the background for Thanksgiving Sunday.

Then the film does what the professional films show about the Nazi major rallies: it shows the event from above, from a window, a kind of bird's eye view, in which the crowd merges into a visual unit, if the arm rhythmically welcomes the Hitler salute several times is raised and everyone pauses for seconds. Finally, the youth organizations marched on, and the Hitler Youth and a never-ending group of the Federation of German Girls also made their appearance.

At the end there is what belongs to a Thanksgiving Sunday, which was hardly to be expected in the small film. Suddenly people are crowding around the harvest, the long table is moving into the center in close-ups. Basket after basket glides past, loaded with fruit, bread, flour and flowers and adorned with a few swastika flags, which also shows that the Nazi state captured everyday life. The panning along the table repeats itself - the abundance of what can be seen is practically scanned in the gaze of the camera.

Reiner Bader

Places and monuments


  1. This film analysis is still in progress. It may therefore be incomplete and contain errors.