The City Without Jews

San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Sunday, July 22, 7:00 pm, Castro Theatre
Tickets on sale now. SFSFF members will receive a promotional discount code to unlock the Member price.

SFSFF is thrilled to partner with the Jewish Film Institute to present this important rediscovery in its international premiere at the 38th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Believed to have been lost until a copy was discovered in a Paris flea market in 2015, this silent gem from 1924 was painstakingly restored by Filmarchiv Austria—Austria's national film archive. THE CITY WITHOUT JEWS will be accompanied by Sascha Jacobsen and the Musical Art Quintet performing a score by Jacobsen that blends classical music with Ladino roots.

In the mythical republic of Utopia things have gone sour. The economy is stagnant, the currency has become worthless, protests by the hordes of unemployed workers are growing by the day. The ruling party turns to the usual scapegoat for the nation's problems: the Jews. The chancellor, after giving an oily speech along the lines of "some of my best friends are Jews," proposes to expel all Jews from Utopia. A notorious anti-Semitic capitalist offers to give Utopia a $100 million loan. Thus thinking they have been saved, Utopia breathes easy. But before long the bubble bursts. Without Jews to work in its factories, buy its consumer goods and spend money on travel to Utopia, the country finds itself in a bigger hole than ever. Now the parliament votes to invite the Jews back.

The movie is based on the 1922 novel of the same name by Hugo Bettauer. The film adaptation by director Hans Karl Breslauer was accompanied in 1924 by sanctions by the National Socialists and in 1925 Bettauer was shot dead by a Nazi. The rise of the Nazi party in Austria precipitated the annexation of Austria resulting in the expulsion and murder of Central European Jews in the Holocaust.

In hindsight, it's not hard to see that the film's tongue-in-cheek post-WWI "expulsion" foresaw the all-too real "extermination" of Jews in WWII. Filmarchiv Austria has restored the previously lost conclusion and other missing scenes that depict the murderous anti-Semitism in Vienna in the wake of the Great War.