Tenniswettkaempfe (LFS00231)



Tennis competitions in the Lahr city park: games, spectators; Skill exercises with the motorcycle.


Reference / film number :  LFS00231
Date :  1938
Coloration :  Black and white
Sound :  Mute
Running time :  00:04:38
Reel format :  16 mm
Genre :  Documentary
Thematics :  Sport, Tennis
Archive :  Haus des Dokumentarfilms

Context and analysis

The swastika flags also hang on the tennis court. They blow in the background when a mixed pairing ends the game in the first shot of the film at tennis competitions in Lahr in 1938. In the same year, the German Tennis Association, which had previously defended its independence from the Nazi regime, was brought into line.

The camera pans over the net in the first picture, showing of course more interest for the winning couple, who leaves the square with a smile. The young woman with short dark hair waves at the camera - and quickly develops into the main character of the film. A swivel, which also shows the hill behind the tennis facility, is broken off - and the young mixed couple is back on the net with a handshake. The woman with the dark hair is back in the picture, surrounded by male well-wishers. The location is established with somewhat bumpy cuts - and the prices are already set on a checkered tablecloth, the cup with the imperial eagle and swastika is clearly visible.

It was the sensational success of the Daviscup team with the 'tennis baron' Gottfried von Cramm that had given the 'white sport' a special status with the National Socialists. Von Cramm, however, soon fell into disrepute, as he ignored the obligation to greet the state and the leader during receptions and speeches. He was arrested on the pretext of homosexual tendencies, and his career ended early. The German Tennis Association also initially acted self-confidently vis-à-vis the Nazi regime, but in 1938 it was no longer able to prevent synchronization, after its chairman Wilhelm von Schomburgk surprisingly resigned. Von Schomburgk had emphasized in 1935 that "voluntarily exercised sport was a necessary addition to off-road sport" and could therefore not be commanded. But even tennis gradually became a martial and military sport. For the Nazi regime, sport was an instrument of physical exercise and at the same time the opportunity to effectively stage the 'people's community', as the 1936 Olympic Games had demonstrated in the mass media.

The signs of the times are not to be overlooked at the tennis club in Lahr and they condense at the award ceremony. The young lady with the dark hair scurried past the award ceremony first. The male winners, presumably club championships, briefly show the Hitler salute after accepting the award. And after the main winner's speech, everyone stands there with his arm raised.

The tennis court scene has gained contours, the main character has been introduced - and the award ceremony has ended. The documentary, in which the Agfa logo initially suggests a professional standard, observes people who play tennis in their free time: the pattern of the competition loses its dramaturgical meaning with the award ceremony, and the scene can emerge as the scene that one developed their own sense of time. The young woman remains present, moving briefly through the picture in a close-up before the hustle and bustle on the tennis courts comes to the fore. Movements become visible as such, 'intermediate cuts' of casual actions on the net or of the viewers are more than just a filler. A scenery is composed that also includes the background - the hill, the silhouette of the conifers, an elongated house.

There is also an arranged close-up of a hand with tennis balls and rackets, which includes a quick cut to the result lists. The young woman reappears, talking first, then hitting the ball in a kind of movement study against the background of the church wall. The game is on, the film gathers pictures of the tennis facility as a social space and of the surrounding area. The film makes it clear how time flies on this day, in which the woman with the dark hair repeatedly emerges in different situations, is highlighted and belongs to it.

Tennis, 1938 in Lahr. The competitions are shown in pictures that open up to what game can also be in the 'Third Reich'. The recordings of motorcycle acrobatics, which suddenly follow at the end - today we speak of motorcycle stunt driving - at the edge of the picture the viewers are always visible as an amorphous mass. Acrobatic actions on a course alternate with 'stunts', in which motorcycles drive through a fire tire or a paper wall. Presumably it is a guest performance in Lahr - an attraction in which sport has become the show with which the 'people's community' can be staged.

Reiner Bader

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