Soldiers of German Wehrmacht in Strasbourg visiting the Cathedral. Loading of confiscated consumer goods and household items on trucks.
German Soldiers visit the Strasbourg Cathedral; Pan across the city; Driving with a car through the city; Soldiers load bicycles from a truck; Soldier, in the background bridge; Driving cars over a makeshift bridge; Pan across war-torn houses; Pan through interior (dark); Room with confiscated household items; Soldier drags sewing machine; Soldiers load trucks with household items; Officer and soldiers in front of a building; L'Aubette, Place Kleber with monument by Jean-Baptiste Kleber; Schild <Advice center of the NSDAP Dep. Mother and Child>; Office, men at desk; Soldiers get in car; Pan through office (dark); Sign <parlor>; Swivel through room with bed and sink; Soldiers with spades go across the yard; Shield <field post office No 33971>; Soldier as a guard at the entrance to a factory; Soldiers with spades; Men with bare torso at work; Soldier caresses dog; Interior (dark).
Context and analysis
A facade looms in the semi-darkness until the pan ends on the church tower. It is the west facade of the Strasbourg Cathedral, whose Gothic forms are condensed in an upward striving. The camera seems to repeat this movement, but what initially appears to be ambiguous in the abundance of the facade pattern quickly turns out to be a gesture of the winner: German soldiers have occupied Strasbourg - the image of the cathedral as well as the view from the tower then become a trophy in the visual.
Driving through the city also becomes a gesture of power: the cyclists in front of the military car are virtually targeted through the windshield. Cinematic techniques have their origins in military techniques that served to clarify the terrain - this thesis by Paul Virillio is vividly understandable in this short amateur film from the western campaign, which began on May 10, 1940 and ended a few weeks later, on June 22, with the Capitulation of France.
On September 1, 1939, the Second World War began with the attack by the German Wehrmacht on Poland. France and Great Britain then declared war on the German Reich, but this was followed by a period of the 'seat war', during which the warring parties only observed each other. On May 10, 1940, the "Fall Yellow", planned by Hitler and his general staff, occurred, the invasion of German troops in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The "Fall Red" followed at the beginning of June: In a blitzkrieg with combined tank and air operations, the Germans proved superior to the Allied defense strategy and already took Paris on 14 June. The Compiègne armistice was closed on June 22.
The Liebfrauenmünster in Strasbourg, which attracted the attention of the German occupiers in 1940, is one of the most important cathedrals in the history of architecture. Built from the red sandstone from the Vosges between 1176 and 1439, the building was first designed in the Romanesque, then in the Gothic style. With its 142 meter high north tower, the cathedral was the tallest building in the world from 1647 to 1874 and the tallest building completed in the Middle Ages. The young Johann Wolfgang Goethe saw his view of true art realized in Liebfrauenmünster and in 1773 dedicated his essay "Von Deutscher Baukunst" (From German Art of Construction) to one of the church's architects, Erwin von Steinbach.
Strasbourg had been evacuated at the beginning of the Second World War. Until the occupation by the Wehrmacht troops in June 1940, apart from barracked soldiers, there was no one in the city. The sea of houses of this abandoned city glides past in the view from above and finally binds itself to the view of soldiers, who can be seen in rear view, standing on top of the church tower. Images become prey: images in which the visible becomes an object, as well as in the cityscapes, which flit past in the car and curdle again and again into total shots: a flight of streets with cranes, the Rhine landscape, a makeshift bridge and ruins of destroyed houses. But for a few seconds the city also appears as a picture within a picture, taken through two openings in a dark room - and eludes the 'male' view of the victors by disappearing almost in the distance.
The claim of the documentary becomes noticeable when it is now the turn of the accommodations: the lounge with the fully occupied tables and the sleeping places, carefully turned away. When trucks are unloaded, more and more looted goods are carried towards the camera. The semi-darkness that envelops the scene - in the hall with the abundance of things piled up, this "picture" of a looting appears even more than what it is.
The Nazi state was essentially a new form of administrative control over life, which is now establishing itself in the occupied country. Multiple pans go through dark rooms that are not specially illuminated for shooting. It shows the uniformed figures at the desks like in a Kafkaesque scenery. Recordings of the "Heilstube", the ambulance room, develop into a small scenic sequence, in which a cut on the gesticulating patient in bed is framed by glances at the supervisor in the anteroom.
Not only in the interiors, the pictures always have surreal features, also in the courtyard of the “Feldpost No. 33971 ”borders the documentary with the fictional. A pan glides over a row of standing soldiers, a front view shows the lounge area with field kitchen like a film set in geometric shapes. And the soldier who lovingly pats the dog in front of his hut is part of the fiction that the National Socialists designed of himself - shown in an amateur film that documents the occupation of Strasbourg. Reiner Bader
Places and monuments
Virilio, Paul: Krieg und Kino. Logistik der Wahrnehmung, Frankfurt / M. 1989.
Straßburger Münster (https://de.m.wikipedia.org).
- This film analysis is still in progress. It may therefore be incomplete and contain errors.