by Jan-Christopher Horak
Cut, no. 26, December 1981, pp. 39-41
Directly influenced by the revolutionary Soviet films of the twenties, as well as a radical tradition in Berlin's arts and theater, the work of the Prometheus Film Collective attempted to fuse documentary agit-prop and proletarian melodrama, fictionalized documents, and documentary fiction. Furthermore, a number of Soviet-German co-productions and the groundbreaking distribution of Soviet Films in Western Europe demonstrated the collective's cross-fertilization efforts. Yet the collective also manifested the struggles and sensibilities of Berlin's leftist culture. Best exemplified by such artists as Heinrich Zille, Käthe Kollwitz, John Heartfield, and Georg Grosz, the theater of Brecht, Erwin Piscator, and Slatan Dudow, as well as the popular Workers International Relief Press, this culture practiced a radical critique of Weiner society through new, experimental forms.
That Weimar Germany's Marxist film/art movements are virtually unknown outside Germany, and barely acknowledged in the Federal Republic, may lie in the (for bourgeois liberal critics) uncomfortable fact that this tradition is indivisibly connected to the cultural policies of the German Communist Party (KPD). Part I of this history, then, will attempt to outline the Prometheus Film Collective's first tentative steps towards achieving a synthesis of documentary and fiction. Part II will analyze in detail the culmination of these efforts in the collective's most successful film, MOTHER KRAUSE'S JOURNEY TO HAPPINESS (1929).
On November 9, 1918, the Spartacist Karl Liebknecht proclaimed the German Soviet Republic, two hours before Gustav Stresemann a few blocks away called out a parliamentary democracy in the name of Social Democray at the time the Social Democrats under Friedrich Ebert (majority Socialists, Independent Socialists, Spartacists) controlled close to 50% of the German electorate. But Ebert, whose love for the Fatherland had led him to throw the SDP's support behind the Kaiser's "defensive war" in 1914, now called upon the counterrevolutionary Freikorps to maintain law and order. Six months later, with Liebknecht and Luxemburg murdered in Berlin and Kurt Eisner, leader of the shortlived Bavarian Soviet Republic, murdered in Munich, the reactionary status quo was reestablished.
Out of the rubble arose a newly formed KPD in the early twenties which developed into a tightly knit, hierarchically structured party machine, dedicated to social revolution through radical obstruction in the Reichstag. Under this policy, unemployment, working conditions, housing, health, social privilege, and militarism became the immediate social issues with which to raise class consciousness and politically engage the proletariat. Outside on the streets an extremely active party corps organized strikes, walkouts, and demonstrations as well as worker's theaters, lecture evenings, film viewings, and garden festivals. The active harassment of the KPD through the police and the reactionary judiciary, culminating in the "Bloody May" of 1929, only substantiated the continuing threat to the ruling classes posed by a politicized proletariat. The ultranationalist and fascist Right, on the other hand, were treated with kid gloves, as evidenced by the fact that of the 354 political murders committed by Rightists in the first four years of the Republic, only 24 were even prosecuted and only 1 solitary assassin served his full sentence. 
After the failure in 1919, the revolutionary artists and intellectuals realized the importance of intensifying class struggle in various arts and media. The elements of popular culture, the daily press, the publishing houses, the film and theater industry, controlled by monopoly capitalist and militarist interests, functioned as weapons against the working class. It was necessary, then, to meet the ruling class on its own turf, seize the means of production, and turn then against those in power.
Nineteen twenty saw Erwin Piscator's Proletarian Theater produce the first agit-prop play, "Russia's Day," a collectively written piece advocating solidarity against the international white terror.  By the mid-twenties, Piscator was experimenting with multimedia agit-prop, using a montage of slides, posters, film, and theater in such productions as Leo Lania's "Economics," Alfons Paquet's "Storm Floods," and Ernst Toller's "Hurrah, We're Alive." At the same time a large number of local nonprofessional workers' theater groups, e.g., "The Red Rockets" and "The Red Megaphone." sprang up, all modeled on the Soviet agitki "The Blue Shirts," whose tour of Germany had been highly successful. Most of the theater groups were at least unofficially connected to the KPD through various organizations, most notably the Workers International Relief (Internationale Arbeiter Hilfe), under the directorship of Willi Münzenberg.
Münzenberg, a member of the (PD Central Committee, had been asked in 1921 by Lenin to establish the WIR in an effort to coordinate various food projects for the starving Soviet. Officially an independent organization, the WIR soon supported workers' strikes in sixteen countries, including the United States. By establishing a "red mass media combine," Münzenberg also set the WIR the difficult task of breaking the bourgeois mass media's monopoly on information dissemination. It was precisely because of financial instability and judicial harassment that such radical leftist magazines as Heartfield and Grosz's Die Pleite (1919) soon folded. A stronger base of financial support was evidently needed.
In 1925 the WIR paper expanded to become the Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (Worker's Illustrated). Produced by working-class photographers and writers, the AIZ soon boasted a circulation of over 500,000 readers. A year later Münzenberg acquired the ailing Welt am Abend (Evening World) and raised its circulation from 3,000 to over 100,000.  By 1931 the WIR controlled the AIZ, Welt am Abend, Berlin am Morgen (Berlin Morning), Der Eulenspiegel (a humor magazine), Der Rote Aufbau (Red Construction), Der Arbeiter Fotograf (Worker Photographer), and Der Weg der Frau (A Woman's Path), as well as a publishing house, New German Publishers (Neuer Deutscher Verlag). Unlike the KPD's party organ, Die Rote Fahne (Red Flag), Münzenberg's publications could use the talents of leftists and liberals to mix radical politics with a free "boulevard press" style of journalism. Offering artistic and literary contributions to broaden their base of support, the WIR publications soon acted as spokesman for numerous leftwing factions. The WIR was soon nicknamed the "Münzenberg Combine," controllers of the giant Ufa film studios and a publishing empire. Münzenberg countered:
The development of a class-conscious film collective, however, proved more difficult, possibly because of the extensive financial means necessary for production. Not that the KPD wasn't aware of the vast propaganda possibilities of the most popular mass media. At the Independent Socialist-KPD Unification Congress in 1920, Klara Zetkin pointed out:
Not surprisingly, it was Willi Münzenberg who took the first steps in realizing a Marxist film policy. In 1922 he founded the Reconstruction and Commerce, Inc. (Aufbau Industrie and Handels A.G.) to buy Soviet distribution rights for German films. Two years later the WIR financed the establishment of the Mezhrabpom-Russ in Moscow, which soon began production of such Soviet classics as Prozanoy's AELITA (1924) and Pudovkin's MOTHER (1926). Münzenberg's WIR pamphlet, Conquer the Film! (1925), outlined guidelines for a practical film propaganda, while shortly before Münzenberg, Richard Pfeifer, and Emil Unfried founded the Prometheus Film Company. A merger of three firms had brought about the new film unit: Reconstruction, the Deka-Schatz Co., which had just produced a short about the Red Fighters League, and the Prometheus, a KPD-owned unit which had produced one short, NAMELESS HEROES (1925). The Prometheus was registered at the Bureau of Commerce on February 2, 1926, with a capital investment of 10,000 Reichs Marks. Ironically, while these very capitalistic-sounding methods guaranteed a legal basis for operation, since the studios and labs were in the hands of bourgeois entrepreneurs, the internal structure of the Prometheus remained collectivist.
Responsible for cinematography and direction on almost all of the collective's early shorts, Piel Jützi was unmistakably a guiding force in the Prometheus. After arriving from Heidelberg, where he directed a few cheap westerns and detective films, Jützi received a camera from Münzenberg in 1922 to shoot WIR events in Berlin. Others working for the collective included the directors Albrecht Viktor Blum, J. A. Hübler-Kahla, Carl Junghans, and Slatan Dudow; the writers Bela Balazs, Leo Lania, Bert Brecht, Ernst Ottwalt, Willi Doell, and Jan Fethke; the set designers Carl Haaker and Robert Scharfenberg; the composers Paul Dessau, Hanns Eisler, and Edmund Maisel; the actors Holmes Zimmermann, Hertha Thiele, Lisi Arna, Gerhard Bienert, and Friedrich Gnass. If one includes all those who offered their services for one project or another, practically everyone in Berlin's radical arts community contributed. Their work usually went unpaid because of chronically lacking funds.
Soon after its founding, the Prometheus released, in conjunction with the Mezhrabpom-Russ, the first German-Soviet co-production, SUPERFLUOUS HUMANS (1926), directed by Alexander Razumni. Although the cast included such popular stars as Werner Krauss, Heinrich George, and Fritz Rasp, the story of boring small-town petit bourgeoisie was so ineptly directed that not even The Red Flag could muster up any enthusiasm. The Prometheus also produced two fictional shorts, KLADD AND DATSCH (Jützi) and MIRACLE OF LOVE (Samuelson). The use of popular stars in these productions indicated that the Prometheus hoped to achieve box office success in order to survive in the capitalist film market. Piscator, too, complained that he was forced to use stars in his political theater since a working-class audience alone couldn't subsidize his productions.  The Prometheus was in fact only applying the strategy of the Münzenberg press, i.e., mixing propaganda with a popular format.
In 1927 this policy of hiring leftist artists to make popular films with a socially critical tendency continued with Eckstein's THE FOREIGN GIRL, Balazs' ONE PLUS ONE EQUALS THREE, Bernhardt's SCHINDERHANNES (1928), and Leo Mittler's HARBOR DRIFT (1929), the latter three films starring the very popular actress, Lisa Arna. While conforming to the popular demand for sentimentality, melodramatic plotting, and stars, these films were for the most part far more honest in their depiction of social reality than the Ufa's fetishistic fantasies. HARBOR DRIFT, for example, included documentary scenes of jobless workers in Hamburg, while SCHINDERHANNES told the story of a seventeenth-century German rebel.
Next the Prometheus established a subsidiary, the Weltfilm, for its noncommercial distribution. Through the Weltfilm, working-class organizations were supplied with the Prometheus's activist films, as well as selected socially critical films of bourgeois producers. Addressing social issues more directly, or reporting WIR/KPD organized events, the Weltfilm's short documentaries and fictional shorts provided a political context for the Prometheus's feature films. THE RED FRONT MARCHES AGAINST WAR AND FASCISM (1927, Jützi), RED PENTACOST (1928, Junghans), and 100,000 UNDER RED FLAGS (1929, Weltfilm) were simply newsreels. Interestingly, RED PENTACOST included a fictional scene involving a Frau Lehmann organizing sleeping quarters for Red Front Fighters League delegates. THE RED CAMERA (1928, Hubler-Kahla) was commissioned as a (PD election film while FACTS (1930, Blum) and BLOODY MAY (1929, Jützi) sandwiched agitation between advertising for the AIZ and The Red Flag, respectively. Shorts such as KLADD AND DATSCH (unemployment) concentrated on one particular issue in a semidocunentary, semifictional manner with varying degrees of success. Other films in this vein were CHILDREN'S TRAGEDY (1926, Jützi, juvenile delinquency), THE DEATH MINE (1930. Jützi, working conditions), and HOW THE BERLIN WORKER LIVES (1930, Dudow, housing). Of CHILDREN'S TRAGEDY the historian Jerzy Toeplitz wrote: "The proletarian environment remains a mere backdrop for a naive fable of a young runaway." 
The Prometheus also continued co-producing with the Mezhrabpom, releasing Fedor Ozep's THE LIVING CORPSE (1928), starring Pudovkin and Maria Jacobini. Despite occasional montage sequences connecting church, state, and judiciary in a conspiracy against liberalized divorce laws, however, Ozep's pacing pointed towards an emphasis on abnormal psychology rather than social repression. As played by Pudovkin, Tolstoy's hero suffered much Weltschmerz at the hands of bourgeois morality and decadence (prostitution, pornography) but gave the audience little chance to analyze the concrete historical reality. Another co-production. SALAMANDER (1928, Gregori Roshal), co-scripted by the Soviet Minister of Culture, Anatoli Lunacharski, was banned in January 1929 because it was supposedly anti-German. Starring Bernard Goetzke, the film related the persecution of a German university professor studying salamanders because he advances a theory of social evolution in the face of hereditary Prussian Junkerism. A happy end had the professor emigrate to the Soviet Union, a fate which became reality for many a few years later.  Both SALAMANDER and THE LIVING CORPSE were co-photographed by Jützi.
It was not the first time the Prometheus ran up against the reactionary judiciary's attempted censorship maneuvers. Already in May 1926 the German courts slapped an injunction on Eisenstein's POTEMKIN. After numerous court battles, and strong public support from liberal critics, a shortened version was introduced to German audiences.  Later the Prometheus distributed TEN DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD, STORM OVER ASIA, THE GENERAL LINE, BED AND SOFA, EARTH, THE BLUE EXPRESS, etc. Over forty Sovkino/Mezhrabpom productions were distributed by the Prometheus between 1926 and 1931. It must be admitted, however, that some of these films, directed by such older-generation directors as Tarich, Razumni, Gardin, and Protazanov, could hardly be called revolutionary.
All these activities were commercially successful up to a certain point. Even critical failures like Gardin's POET AND TSAR (1927) or Protazanov's MAN FROM THE RESTAURANT (1927) earned handsomely.  In 1926-1927 the Prometheus produced nine films and distributed sixteen features and shorts, allowing than to raise their capital assets to 100,000 Reichs Marks in the fiscal year 1928. On paper at least, the Prometheus appeared to be one of the financially more solvent producers in Germany. In its best year, 1928-1929, the Prometheus produced or co-produced fifteen films and distributed as many Soviet and (a few) American films,  a small figure compared to over 500 films sold by the Ufa in the same period. Unlike the WIR's other enterprises, though, the Prometheus still suffered from a chronic money shortage. Münzenberg constantly ran into trouble with Soviet export commissars because he would cover the collective's expenses with hard currency profits from Soviet rentals and then pay the Soviets in rubles taken from the Mezhrabpom coffers.  With the introduction of sound, production costs skyrocketed because the Tobis-Klangfilm, the owner of all German sound patents, extorted high fees to protect its monopoly. Thus, the collective had to limit itself to educational shorts and to importing a few Soviet features. In January 1932, shortly before filming concluded on Brecht's KUHLE WAMPE (1932, Slatan Dudow), the Prometheus went bankrupt, forcing the directors to complete the film independently.
A number of economic and political issues affected the collective's demise. First, the Prometheus was forced to comply with the so-called "Kontingentgesetze, an import quota system which forbad German film companies from importing more films than they themselves produced. Thus, the Prometheus's main source of income, the Soviet film rentals, was severely limited. Secondly, without their own exhibition outlets, the Prometheus was at the mercy of German theater owners, many of whom refused to screen "Bolshevic" films. Others feared reprisals from Nazi hoodlums. Much of the press remained cool, others openly hostile to the Prometheus. The liberal Lichtbildbühne usually guardedly praised the films and the centerist Der Film opted for mixed aesthetic reviews, leaving the right-wing Der Kinomatograph to warn against communist propaganda. As early as March 1927, the Hugenberg-owned Kinomatograph noted:
The ultra-right-wing Germania went even further, describing MOTHER KRAUSE'STRIP TO HEAVEN as an amalgamation of "whores, criminality, food and drinking orgies, communist demonstrations" and "dirt in the name of art." 
Finally, by mid-1929 the Prometheus was taking a much more rigid stance in regard to the production of popular films, i.e.. only films with a clearly Marxist tendency were supported. The Prometheus's more stringent propaganda efforts surely had their roots in rising unemployment, the economic depression, and the KPD's conviction that the Social Democrats, in alliance with the bourgeois status quo, were attempting to wipe out Germany's radical left. First, the Red Front Fighters League, a coalition of KPD and leftwing SPD, was forbidden. Then, in the first days of May 1929, the SPD police chief of Berlin, Zörgiebel, slapped a ban on all demonstrations. On May 1, 1929, the police opened fire on unarmed demonstrators, before barricades could be erected in Berlin's "red" Wedding district. A ban on the KPD seemed imminent, although it was not until Hitler seized power that the KPD was outlawed. In this situation of intense class struggle, clearly defined ideological lines had to be drawn.
HUNGER IN WALDENBURG (1929, Piel Jützi), a feature documentary on living conditions among the starving miners of lower Silesia, was released early in 1929. The film was financed by the Popular Association for Film Art (1928), a leftist coalition dedicated to "people's cinema." Besides offering "culturally valuable films for little money," the Association published a magazine, Film und Folk.  Its board of directors included Heinrich Mann, Käthe Kollwitz, Erwin Piscator, Bela Balazs, and G.W. Pabst. Its production efforts through the Weltfilm included a documentary on a German workers delegation in the Soviet Union, CLEAR ACROSS RUSSIA (1928, Arthur Holitscher), and compilation of Soviet newsreels, IN THE SHADOW OF MACHINES (1929). The Association's most ambitious project, HUNGER IN WALDENBURG, developed out of WIR-connected activities: profits were earmarked for miners' families in Waldenburg, one of Germany's most economically depressed areas.
Although the film from Leo Lania's script suffered major censorship cuts, it still exposed capitalist exploitation in its most brutal forms. Using nonprofessional actors, the film's montage intertwined documentary scenes with the fictional story of a young unemployed miner: Part I: living conditions among the miners; Part II: capitalist bankers and Junker landowners — a young worker moves into the district; Part III: a class-conscious worker introduces the worker to a miner's widow after inducing him to return some stolen goods; Part IV: dark, dingy apartments — a man hangs himself, a landlord demands rent; Part V: unable to pay, the widow faces eviction — in an ensuing fight between the landlord and the worker, the young man is killed. 
The film's force was undoubtably diluted by the reactionary censors, who cut all details of wages, mine owners' profits, and exploitive rents. Yet the film documented the alliance of bankers, Junkers, and police.  That more militant winds were blowing in the KPD press was indicated by Willi Bredel's attack on the SPD in his favorable review of WALDENBERG:
The Red Flag, on the other hand, complained that "the workers' existence is sentimentalized and misuses their naturalness for theatrical effect."  Yet they also concurred that Jützi had managed to visualize the totally inhuman living conditions brought about by capitalist repression and exploitation. The mixture of documentary footage and a dramatic situation resulted in a new and effective filmic form.
This fictional-documentary node could be traced back to a parallel development in Piscator's radical theater. In "Despite All" (1925), a documentary stage revue of the years 1914 to 1918, Piscator and John Heartfield interpolated newsreels into the staged-historical scenes:
Two years later, Plscator/Heartfield staged Ernst Toller's revue. "Hurrah, We're Alive." Here the dialectic montage of visual elements within the frame of Heartfield's photomontages found their three-dimensional correlative in Piscator's revolutionary conception of theatrical space. Piscator's dramas, on the other hand, displayed documentary films behind the actors to comment on the action. Thus, "Rasputin" (1927) included a documentary montage directed by Hübler-Kahla (a Prometheus member), while George Grosz fashioned an animated film for "Schweik."
Like Eisenstein, whose "A Wise Man" predates Piscator's work, Piscator and the Prometheus were attempting to formulate a basic Marxist aesthetic grounded in the dialectic synthesis of historical reality and fiction, objective historical reality, and the potential for a socialist construction of that reality. Through the juxtaposition of elements, the audience approached a dialectic synthesis. Such an aesthetic placed heavy intellectual demands on the audience, and the inherent difficulties were never quite resolved.
The Prometheus, however, continued to experiment, albeit on a more limited scale. Jützi's short, THE DEATH MINE (1930), inserted staged footage of the hazardous work in the mine, to frame the scenes of an actual funeral of 102 miners killed in Neurode. Since the owners refused to let the film crew in the mine, the mining accident was restaged for the camera. The film ended with an endless coal train and a montage of miners at work, illustrating that despite accidents and death, the capitalist machine rolls on.
HOW THE BERLIN WORKER LIVES (1930, Slatan Düdow) documented living conditions in the Wedding district of Berlin, where overcrowding, rat-infested alleys, and damp, ancient buildings bred tuberculosis and disease. Düdow compiled documentary and fictional footage in a narrative similar to HUNGER IN WALEDNBURG. Again a working-class family was evicted from their miniscule flat. The father struggles but is arrested as the fat landlord stands by laughing. Through the juxtaposition of images, the crass division between classes was emphasized: proletariat and bourgeoisie, slums and villas, a fat landlord feeding his dog steak and a poor working-class family eating a meager soup. In fact, only a few shots suggested a narrative: a letter of eviction, a family scene with two sick children and a blind grandfather, the father being brutally beaten by the police, and, finally, furniture piled in a trash bin. The nameless workers played themselves and were thus elevated to symbols of their class's struggle. The film ended with the title, "Such is not a life," and was promptly banned by the already predictable censors.
Surprisingly, HOW THE BERLIN WORKER LIVES, like DEATH MINE, only made spare use of titles since these were most likely to come under the censor's scrutiny. The remaining titles were relatively innocuous or ironic, relying for their effect on montage, e.g., "Our Baltic Spa" followed by a shot of children swimming in a fountain. The connections between ruling bureaucratic structures and the bourgeoisie were even more concretely defined: while the police brutally beat a worker, shots of a laughing landlord were intercut. The film ended with a close-up pan around a police helmet, ending with an extreme close-up of the helmet's Prussian eagle as a symbol of the ruling class's autocratic rule. Significantly, the Prussian police helmet appeared frequently in close-ups in Hochbaum's proletarian film, BROTHERS. As a visual answer to the authority of the Prussian eagle, proletarian films often utilized a close-up of a working man's clenched fist, although that particular code went as far back as Griffith.
Another code which appeared repeatedly in HUNGER IN WALDENBERG, as well as in MOTHER KRAUSE and BROTHERS, signified the dire straights of the proletariat by showing a person counting his last pennies at the kitchen table. In both FEW THE BERLIN WORKER LIVES and THE DEATH MINE, shots of unemployed workers were followed by montages of unemployment booklets piling up in government bureaus. Again, the faces pushing the paper in these offices were never seen, only the facades: the system remains impersonal and insensitive to the needs of the proletariat. These shorts, then, attempted to present within a documentary framework the cause-and-effect relations between the suffering of the working classes and capitalism's economic and political structures. Admittedly, the visual codes were extremely simple and rather tentative. These codes were, however, re-enforced through repetition in both fictional and documentary modes. Thus, HOW THE BERLIN WORKER LIVES included a shot of mother Krause in the pawnshop, reprising the images and themes in MOTHER KRAUSE'S TRIP TO HAPPINESS (1929).
This most successful film of the Prometheus film collective will be analyzed in Part 2.
1. Catalogue: Konsentrationslager Dachau, 1933-1945 (Brussels: Comité International de Dachau, 1965), p. 24.
2. Sets designed by John Heartfield. See Ludwig Hoffmann, Deutsches Arbeiter Theater 1918-1933, vol. 2 (Munich, 1973), p. 5.
3. Babette Gross, Willi Münzenberg (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt, 1967), p. 177. This source, though factually correct, must be treated carefully, as Arthur Koestler's supportive forward might indicate.
4. Willi Münzenberg, Propaganda als Waffe, Schriften 1919-1940 (Frankfurt/Main: März Verlag, 1967), p. 169.
5. Clara Zetkin, quoted in Film und revolutionäre Arbeiterbewegung 1918-1932, vol. 2 (Berlin: Henschel Verlag, 1975). p. 55.
6. Erwin Piscator, Theater der Auseinandsrsetzung (Frankfurt/Main: Edition Suhrkamp, 1977). p. 43.
7. Jerzy Toeplitz, Gesehichte des Films, 1895-1928 (Berlin: Henschel Verlag. 1975). p. 443.
8. Jay Leyda reports in Kino that the Soviet authorities only took note of POTENKIN after its Berlin success, where a score by Edmund Meisel was added. Kino (New York: Collier Books, 1973), p. 200.
9. I haven't seen this film. See Proletarische Filme in Deutschland vor 1933 (Munich: UNIDOC brochure), p. 21.
10. Der Kinematograph, November 13, 1927.
11. Jahrhuch der Filmindustrie 1929 (Film Industry Almanac). I haven't been able to identify the American shorts, produced by Educational Films Corporation, New York, except by their German release titles.
12. Babette Gross's description on this point is unclear but it seems that the Soviets were not willing to directly fund the Prometheus's film productions.
13. Der Kinematograph, March 6, 1927.
14. Michael Hamisch, Mutter Krausens Fahrt ins Glück — dialog (Berlin: Henschel Verlag, 1976), p. 161.
15. See Bert Hogenkamp, "Workers' Film in Europe," Jump Cut No. 19 (December 1978).
16. H. P. Manz, Der Realismus, 50 Jahre Deutscher Film (Zurich: Kunstgewerbemuseum, 1966).
17. I've just seen an apparently reedited version of the film, which was distributed in England by Atlas Film. The film opens with a view of a Silesian castle (Junkers), then cuts to a poverty-stricken weaver working in the local cottage industry before his son (Holmes Zimmermann, the only professional actor) announces his intention to try his luck in the coalfields. A montage of working conditions in the pit follows. The young man, destitute and unable to find work, steals a smoked fish. A worker observing the theft persuades him to return it and introduces him to a young widow who takes him in. A montage of overcrowded conditions in the tenements is preceded by the man's timid attempt to sleep with her, which doesn't work out because her three children sleep in the same room. Various workers' families count their pennies to pay the rent. During a fight with the rent collector, the young man is killed. As he falls down the stairs to his death, a rapid montage reviews the main points of the film. (Werner Hochbaum's film of the Hamburg dockworkers' strike of 1896, BROTHER  employed the same effect.)
18. Willi Bredel, quoted in Film und Arbeiterbewegung, vol. 2, p. 86.
19. Alfred Durus. Die Rote Fahne, March 17, 1929. Also quoted in Film und Arbeiterbewegung, p. 82.
20. "Erwin Piscator, Das politische Theater (Hamburg: Rowohlt Verlag, 1963), p. 72. Also quoted in Eckhard Siepmann, Montage: John Heartfield (Berlin-West; Elefanten Press, 1977).