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‘And Israel watcheth over each’: The Jewish reception of Jew Suss (1934) in Inter-war Britain

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Following Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in early 1933 the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation produced a film version of Lion Feuchtwanger’s 1925 novel Jew Suss. Whilst British censors would not allow any film to openly criticize the Nazi policy of persecution of Jews, it was clear to both the British Jewish and mainstream British press that the historic events depicted in the narrative had a wholly modern resonance. The task of this article is to trace this press discourse in order to understand the contours of the Jewish reception of Jew Suss’ British release. With particular attention devoted to commentary supplied by the Jewish press, the article examines a distinctly Jewish concern with the film as an article of propaganda. Not only was alarm expressed that the film might disseminate anti-Semitic prejudice, its potential to be read as a tendentious promotion of particularist interests was also a catalyst for anxiety. The unease associated with this latter factor should, it is argued, be understood in the context of the widely articulated contemporary trope of the cinema as a Jewish monopoly.
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Keywords: Britain; Jew Suss; Jewish; Jews; anti-Semitism; cinema; propaganda

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of London

Publication date: 01 October 2012

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  • The Journal of European Popular Culture investigates the creative cultures of Europe, present and past. Exploring European popular imagery, media, new media, film, music, art and design, architecture, drama and dance, fine art, literature and the writing arts, and more, the journal is also of interest to those considering the influence of European creativity and European creative artefacts worldwide.
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