Museum of the Yiddish Theatre
   
   
          Visit Us            Exhibitions           
Collections            Research            Opportunities            About the Museum            Site Map            Contact Us            Links 
 


 
















 

Welcome to the Movies!

 

   
   
  The Cast:    
       
Jacob Ben-Ami ... Prof. Arthur Levi
Natalie Browning ... Gertrude
M.B. Samuylow ... Spirit of Arthur's father
(The Wanderer)
Ben Adler ... Paul von Eisenon
Jacob Mestel ... Levi family valet
Abraham Teitelbaum ... Arts reporter
William Epstein ... Messenger
Louis 'Leibele' Waldman ...  
Rubin Wendroff ...  

DER VANDERNER YID
(The Wandering Jew)
Directed by George Roland
Written by Jacob Mestel
1933
66 minutes, B & W
Released in the United States on October 20, 1933

The Wandering Jew tells the story of Arthur Levi (Jacob Ben-Ami),  German-Jewish artist who experiences the new German antisemitism when his masterpiece, a portrait of his Polish-born father entitled "The Eternal Wanderer" is rejected by the Berlin Academy of Art, which also asks his resignation as professor. Later in the film the figure in the painting comes to life and tells Levi the story of the persecution of the Jewish people. The film ends with footage of an anti-Hitler rally at New York City's Madison Square Garden and Levi's resolve to bear onward in the face of adversity.

The Wandering Jew is a unique find: the first American feature film to depict the situation of Jews in Nazi Germany, and the only Yiddish-language film of its era to address this subject. The film, which dramatizes the situation of German Jews, was an American-Jewish response to the Nazi regime. It was produced by Jewish American Film Arts at the Atlas Studio on Long Island, NY during the summer of 1933, just months after the Nazi rise to power in Germany. In the wake of the violence of Kristallnacht the film was given a December 1938 re-release under the title Jews in Exile, screening in RKO theaters all over the New York area. The NCJF restoration features new subtitles and represents the most complete version of the film in existence.

-- The National Center for Jewish Films

 

Arthur Levi, an assimilated Jewish painter living in Berlin, dreams that his deceased father, whom he has used as the prototype for his latest work, "The Eternal Wanderer," responds to his own query of "Whither, father," with the admonition, "To the end of the goal....To eternity." As Levi finishes the painting, his servant, also a Jew, questions whether at the present time, when the country is agitated against the Jews, the Art Academy, where Levi teaches, will accept a painting with a Jewish subject. Levi, however, does not believe that current events have anything to do with art. As Levi leaves to visit his sweetheart Gertrude, who is not Jewish, a street orator rages against the Jews and asserts that Germany must be free of them. Later, as a Jewish reporter interviews Levi, Paul Von Eisenen, who calls himself Levi's friend, expresses to Gertrude both his fear for her future should she marry Levi and his own desire to marry her. Gertrude, however, rebukes Paul. Levi, meanwhile, explains to the reporter that the painting depicts the Jew as the eternal wanderer among nations. Levi's servant notices a determination in the eyes of the subject, and when Levi equates the look with the vengeance of his father's God, Jehovah, the servant retorts that a feeling of mercy, rather than vengeance, inspired the patriarch Abraham to open the eyes of brutal, idol-worshipping nations to Jehovah's mercy. Levi cynically points out that religious nations recently sent their sons to horrible deaths in the world war, but the servant argues that the war was not Jehovah's fault and relates Abraham's efforts to avoid a war between his shepherds and those of Lott. After the reporter leaves, Paul casually remarks that he believes the Jews rule the world through an international secret clan, whereupon Levi berates Paul. After Paul leaves, Levi confesses to Gertrude that she brings him greater happiness than his art. The next day, the committee of the Art Academy rejects the painting and discharges Levi from his professorship. Levi, who says that he has made an effort to cleanse himself of his Jewish background, fumes at this turn of events. Paul warns Gertrude that whoever does not join the upcoming attack against the Jews will be crushed, but she again refuses to listen. Levi goes out to view for himself the burning of Jewish books and works. As a Nazi mob throws stones at his studio, Levi, afraid that they will destroy his painting, raises his knife to it, but the painting speaks to him in the voice of his father and admonishes him that the Jewish spirit must not be destroyed because it belongs to all humanity. The "Wanderer" tells Levi that when people don't want the contributions of the Jews, they must be taught to understand, and he relates that the Jews earlier were threatened with destruction during the Babylonian siege of Jerusalem, the Crusades in the Middle Ages, the Spanish Inquisition and the pogroms during the rule of the Russian czars. In the present day, the Wanderer tells Levi, a new order has been established in Russia; Jews are welcome to contribute to the culture of Spain; and in the Holy Land, Jewish cities and villages are blossoming. Gertrude arrives with a warning that Jews are being attacked in the street and that their houses are being burned, and she tells Levi goodbye, saying that although she loves him, she cannot stand up against a whole nation. In despair, Levi asks his father where to go, and the Wanderer predicts that, as in the past, a leader will arise to save the Jews. He relates that Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, and that later, a new Moses, Theodor Herzl, devised a plan for a Jewish Congress in Jerusalem. The Wanderer says that millions of people around the world are protesting against the racial hatred in Germany, and as he proclaims his dream for the Jews to be a nation among nations, Levi, now convinced that the Jewish spirit cannot be destroyed, vows "To eternity!"

-- from tcm.com

Here is a film clip from the movie.


 


 




Cast listings courtesy of www.imdb.com.
 

Copyright Museum of the Yiddish Theatre.  All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright Museum of Family History. All rights reserved. Image Use Policy