Titanic (movie, 1943)

Titanic is a German film by Herbert Selpin and Werner Klingler, released in 1943 .

This propaganda film , commissioned by Joseph Goebbels , depicts the sinking of the Titanic , a British transatlantic liner that struck an iceberg in April 1912. Behind the tragedy, the film aims to condemn the greed of the British owners of the ship through the character of Joseph Bruce Ismay who does not hesitate to launch his ship at full speed in the Atlantic Ocean in defiance of security. Conversely, Lieutenant Petersen, a German officer , opposes these methods and saves the owner of the ship in order to make him pay for his crimes in court.

Initially directed by Herbert Selpin, the film is finished by Werner Klingler after the suicide of the first, arrested for criticizing the Wehrmacht . It does not come out in Germany, however, Joseph Goebbels fearing that a disaster film can demoralize the population, then undergoing bombings of the Royal Air Force . He goes out on the other hand to Paris . The film was broadcast in the Federal Republic of Germany in December 1949, but was withdrawn six weeks later following protests by the British occupation authorities. It remains however used in the German Democratic Republic , where it meets a great success.

The film, which is very controversial historically, has yet been recognized by other sides. Thus, the scenes of panic scenes were taken again in the film Atlantic, latitude 41 ° of 1958 . The scenic scenes of the grand salon and the last ball are also interesting.


The film strongly romance the story of the sinking of the Titanic .

The White Star Line , a British shipping company, is in serious financial trouble because of the construction of its latest ship, the Titanic . To ensure substantial profits, its president, Bruce Ismay, decided to launch the ship at full speed in the North Atlantic to win him the Blue Ribbon in disregard of the safety of passengers. He is putting pressure on the captain to encourage him to increase the speed of the liner. Only the first officer Petersen, a German, openly criticizes this idea.

On board are also many passengers: the billionaire John Jacob Astor and his wife, a ruined lord, a young Danish woman and the mistress of Ismay, etc. Petersen tries to seduce Ismay by Sigrid, the young Danish, who also falls in love with the lieutenant, to convince him to slow the race of the ship, without success.

When the Titanic hits an iceberg, the rich passengers behave in cowards and rush to the canoes while Petersen and third-class passengers behave bravely. Ismay and Astor, in particular, use several stratagems to try to find their place in a boat. In the end, when there are no longer canoes, the captain calls everyone to try to save his life on his own. Petersen persuades his fiancée to embark in a boat, and manages to save Ismay to answer for his actions in court. He himself is saved only at the last moment. Indeed, hearing the tears of a child, he starts to rescue him and swims with her to a boat, where he recognizes Sigrid.

In the post-sinking trial, Petersen delivers a speech denouncing Ismay and the misdeeds of British capitalism; yet, the president of the White Star is not sanctioned, and, conversely, Lieutenant Petersen is blamed.

Technical sheet

Unless otherwise stated, this data sheet is based on IMDb 1 .

  • Original title: Titanic
  • Director: Herbert Selpin and Werner Klingler
  • Scenario: Herbert Selpin and Walter Zerlett-Olfenius
  • Production: Willy Reiber for UFA
  • Music: Werner Eisbrenner
  • Photography: Friedel Behn-Grund
  • Editing: Friedel Buckow
  • Country of origin: Germany
  • Language: German
  • Format: Black and white – 1.37: 1 – Mono – 35 mm
  • Genre: Action , drama
  • Duration: 85 minutes
  • Release dates:
    • Paris , Stockholm , Florence :
    •  West Germany :


  • Sybille Schmitz : Sigrid Olinsky
  • Hans Nielsen : st Petersen officer
  • Kirsten Heiberg: Gloria
  • EF Fürbringer : Sir Bruce Ismay
  • Karl Schönböck: John Jacob Astor IV
  • Charlotte Thiele: Lady Astor
  • Otto Wernicke : Captain Edward John Smith
  • Franz Schafheitlin : Henderson
  • Sepp Rist : Jan
  • Monika Burg : Heidi
  • Charlotte Tiedemann-Klein : Luise, young mother


An ambitious and troubled shoot

The film was shot aboard the German ship Cap Arcona .

The Titanic in 1943 is one of the blockbusters of Nazi propaganda intended by Joseph Goebbels , alongside other feature films such as The Baron Munchausen’s Fantastic Adventures of Josef von Báky 2 . The filming takes place during the Second World War , in 1942 – 1943, in Berlin in the UFA Studios . The shots of the ship outside are shot on the ship Cap Arcona , at the time requisitioned as a floating barracks for the Kriegsmarine. By a certain irony of fate, this ship knows a later destiny even more tragic than the Titanic . Indeed, in May 1945, the liner is used, with two other ships, as transport of deportees and bombed May 3 by Royal Air Force planes . The sinking makes a number of casualties uncertain but above 5,000, only for Cape Arcona 3 , 4 .

The film is experiencing a major problem in 1942 when its director, Herbert Selpin argues with screenwriter Walter Zerlett-Olfenius. In his anger, he violently criticizes the army in the presence of officers of the German navy, racing: “Ah, you, with your shitty soldiers, you shitty lieutenant with your army of crap 5 , 6 ! ” . Arrested the next day for his antipatriotic behavior, he was found hanged with his suspenders in his cell on July 31, 1942 7 . Many people, however, according to historian David Stewart Hull, who believe that suicide is only the coverage of a running 8 . The shoot is finished byWerner Klingler . As for the screenwriter, when the news of Selpin’s suicide reaches the film crew, no one agrees to talk to him. Joseph Goebbels is forced to threaten them to suffer the same fate for the filming to resume normally. Similarly, the mention of the name is prohibited Selpin 8 .

The studios are kept where the first copies of the film are also destroyed during a bombing, but luckily the negatives are then stored elsewhere, which allows the film to survive 9 .

Propaganda and respect for history

The avarice of Bruce Ismay, owner of the ship, is according to the film the cause of the sinking.

The film, a true anti-British charge, seeks to demonstrate the responsibility of British and American financiers in the sinking of the Titanic and the 1,500 deaths that ensued, at a time when the Third Reich is grappling with the United Kingdom and the United States 10 , 6 . The film closes with an unqualified condemnation of the avarice and greed of the English:

“The deaths of 1,500 people go unpunished … An eternal condemnation of England’s quest for profit 11 . “

In the film, the disaster leader is the owner of the company Joseph Bruce Ismay , who asks the captain to sail at full speed across the Atlantic to win the famous Blue Ribbon 9 . However, this idea is false since the Titanic could not technically reach the speed of 27 knots necessary to break the record then held by the Mauretania 12 . He is also reversed qu’Ismay sought to influence the course of the ship, with the exception of a possible speed test that has not occurred, the ship that sank yesterday 13 .

Similarly, the central figure is a German officer, Lieutenant Petersen, who is the first officer. This feature was actually exerted by William McMaster Murdoch , and no German belonged to the staff of the ship 14 . The historian Philippe Masson remarked in his book The Drama of the Titanic as bold and heroic behavior Petersen draws heavily on that of the second officer Lightoller 15. During the sinking, the Germanic lieutenant has a heroic behavior, having already opposed the speed of the ship during the crossing. It organizes the rescue of the passengers of third class. He saves a girl locked in her cabin. He eventually saves Ismay for it accountable for its crimes 16 , 17 .

Overall, the British passengers are portrayed as incompetent and greedy, while the Germans are the heroes and victims of the sinking 6 . It is indeed about presenting the superiority of the “German race”. Thus, where the British rely only on technology, Petersen has kept some contact with nature, because of his fear of ice, especially 8 . In the same way, the family values advocated by the Third Reich are reflected in the film. The couple formed by Sigrid and Petersen are opposed to the rejected British models: Ismay travels with his mistress and uses the women for venal purposes, while Astor does not bother to try to save his wife 8 , which is moreover inexact 1819 .

The film also boasts the sense of sacrifice of the Aryan race through the characters and Sigrid Petersen and through a couple of German passengers in third class that refuses to separate 8 . The reuse of the story is pushed to its climax here since this story is inspired by a real couple, the Straus , who preferred to die rather than to separate; Now, Isidor and Ida Straus were, ironic, jews 20 , 21 .



Joseph Goebbels, in charge of Nazi propaganda, judged the film unsuited to the situation of Germany in 1943.

On April 30, 1943, Joseph Goebbels banned its projection in German cinemas. The country is indeed bombarded daily by planes of the Royal Air Force , and panic scenes are not, he said, not able to lift the spirits of the population 17 . Also, for unknown reasons, Goebbels asked that one of the actresses in the film, Jolly Bohnert, never appears in cinema 9 . Moreover, an article in the New German Review suggests that the film could also contain anti-Nazi elements: the fact that certain scenes whose propagandist purpose is obvious have no flavor is evoked as support for this thesis, as well as the choice of certain actors.Sybille Schmitz has been described as “foreign beauty” , which fits poorly with pro-German propaganda. The magazine finally considers the tendency of German heroes to rise against the British as a call to resistance 8 .

The film is however projected to Paris , Stockholm and Florence November 10, 1943, and the Netherlands 8 .

The film was finally screened in the Federal Republic of Germany in December 1949, but was removed from the screens in March 1950 as a result of British protests. It remains however projected in the German Democratic Republic in 1950 , where he made very good entries 22 . The film was published on DVD by Kino Video in 2004 23 , 24 , 25 .


The film has a troubled history, most critics concern his scenario considered caricatural 9 . However, although the film was not widely distributed in the early days, there were several positive reviews about it. The June 1965 film magazine states that it is “very badly filmed cinema”, and attacks the grotesque game of British characters. In contrast, the role of Sybille Schmitz is appreciated, including its appearance in the Grand Staircase that Hull magazine calls “the greatest appearance of cinema 6 “.


If the film has generally been perceived as bad, some items are recognized for their quality 17 . For example, filmmaker Roy Ward Baker reused excerpts from panic scenes in his film Atlantic, latitude 41 ° 9 . Images were also used for the short film Telephone Time 26 , 27 .

Notes and references

  1. ↑ (en) “Complete crew of the film”  [ archive ] , IMDb . Accessed November 22, 2009.
  2. ↑ (in) Pride of the Nazis ”  [ archive ] , Bright Lights Film Journal . Accessed November 12, 2009.
  3. ↑ (in) Trivia for Titanic ”  [ archive ] , IMDb . Accessed November 22, 2009.
  4. ↑ (in) Cape Arcona ”  [ archive ] , The Great Ocean Liners . Accessed November 22, 2009.
  5. ↑ (de) Ach of! Mit deinen Scheißsoldaten, Scheißleutnant überhaupt and deiner Scheißwerhmacht!  ” .
  6. ↑ a , b , c and d (fr) Titanic [ archive ] , French Titanic Association . Accessed November 22, 2009.
  7. ↑ Gerard Piouffre 2009 , p.  292.
  8. ↑ a , b , c , d , e , f and g (in) , ” Analysis of a Nazi Titanic ” ( Archive • WikiWix • Archive.is • Google • What to do? ) , New German Review . Accessed November 15, 2009.
  9. ↑ a , b , c , d and e Titanic (1943) ”  [ archive ] , on Turner Classic Movies (accessed 9 April 2018 )
  10. ↑ (in) Patricia Leavy , Iconic events: media, politics, and power in retelling history , Lanham, MD, Lexington Books,, 207 p. ( ISBN  978-0-739-11519-0 and 978-0-739-11520-6 , OCLC  85018718 , read online  [ archive ] ) , p.  154.
  11. ↑ (in) Memorized quotes for Titanic ”  [ archive ] , IMDb . Accessed November 22, 2009.
  12. ↑ Mark Chirnside 2004 , p.  296.
  13. ↑ (in) Ismay and the Titanic ”  [ archive ] , Titanic Historical Society . Accessed November 22, 2009.
  14. ↑ Mark Chirnside 2004 , p.  135.
  15. ↑ Philippe Masson 1998 , p.  190.
  16. ↑ In fact, Ismay embarked in the last boat left starboard, and this of itself.
  17. ↑ a , b and c Gerard Piouffre 2009 , p.  293.
  18. ↑ In addition, Astor is attributed in the film the title of Lord, that he did not take in the reality, being of American nationality.
  19. ↑ (in) Colonel John Jacob Astor ”  [ archive ] , Encyclopedia Titanica . Accessed December 19, 2009.
  20. ↑ (in) Mr Isidor Straus ”  [ archive ] , Encyclopedia Titanica . Accessed December 20, 2009.
  21. ↑ (in) Straus ”  [ archive ] , JewishEncyclopedia . Accessed December 20, 2009.
  22. ↑ Philippe Masson 1998 , p.  191.
  23. ↑ (in) Titanic (1943) [ archive ] , Filmcritic . Accessed November 22, 2009.
  24. ↑ (in) Titanic (1943) [ archive ] , [[Amazon (company) |]]. Accessed November 2, 2009.
  25. ↑ (in) Titanic [ archive ] , Kino on video . Accessed November 22, 2009.
  26. ↑ (in) Titanic (1943) [ archive ] , Titanic in Film and Television . Accessed November 12, 2009.
  27. ↑ (in) Telephone Time ”  [ archive ] , Titanic in film and Television . Accessed November 12, 2009.

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