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The Rothschilds (film)

The Rothschilds
Directed byErich Waschneck
Written byGerhard T. Buchholz
Mirko Jelusich
C.M. Köhn
Produced byC.M. Köhn (line producer)
StarringSee below
CinematographyRobert Baberske
Edited byWalter Wischniewsky
Music byJohannes Müller
Distributed byUFA
Release date
  • 17 July 1940 (1940-07-17)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryNazi Germany

The Rothschilds (Die Rothschilds) is a 1940 Nazi German historical propaganda film directed by Erich Waschneck.

The film is also known as The Rothschilds' Shares in Waterloo (International recut version, English title). It portrays the role of the Rothschild family in the Napoleonic wars. The Jewish Rothschilds are depicted in a negative manner, consistent with the anti-Semitic policy of Nazi Germany. The 1940 film has a similar title and a similar plot to a 1934 American film, The House of Rothschild, starring George Arliss and Boris Karloff, that presented the Rothschilds in a more positive light. It is one of three Nazi-era German films that provide an antisemitic retelling of an earlier film. The others, both released in 1940, bore titles similar to films released in 1934: The Eternal Jew was a documentary-format film with the same title as the 1934 film and Jud Süss was a drama based on a 1934 film adaptation of a 1925 novel.

Plot summary

As William I, Elector of Hesse refused to join the French supporting Confederation of the Rhine at its formation in 1806, he is threatened by Napoleon. In Frankfurt, he asks his agent Mayer Amschel Rothschild to convey bonds worth £600,000 he has received from Britain to subsidise his army to safety in England.

Rothschild however uses the money for his own ends, with the help of his sons, Nathan Rothschild in London and James Rothschild in Paris. They first use the money to finance Wellington's army in Spain's war against Napoleon, at advantageous terms of interest. In a notable coup, in 1815, Nathan spreads the rumour that Napoleon had won the Battle of Waterloo, causing London stock prices to collapse. He then bought a large quantity of equities at the bottom of the market, profiting handsomely as prices rose once the truth about the battle emerged. In a decade, the Rothschilds have accumulated a fortune of £11 million by using the Elector's money.

Nathan returns the original capital to the Elector, plus only a small amount of interest, keeping the great bulk of the profits for the Rothschilds, and plans to formalise a Europe wide network of family led financial institutions.

The film ends with a declaration that, as the film is released, the last Rothschild has left continental Europe as a refugee and the next target is England's plutocracy.



Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels

Adolf Hitler believed that film was a potent tool for molding public opinion and the Nazis first established a film department in 1930. Three years later, on their rise to power, Propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels took an interest in using film to promote their philosophy and agenda and insisted that the role of the German cinema was the "vanguard of the Nazi military".[1]

The Nazis had hoped for a surge in antisemitic sentiment after Kristallnacht but, when it became clear that most Germans did not share such views, Goebbels ordered each studio to make an antisemitic film. While Hitler preferred presenting this agenda directly in films such as Der ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew), Goebbels preferred a more subtle approach of couching such messages in an engaging story with popular appeal.[2]

Saul Friedländer suggests that Goebbels' intent was to counter three films whose messages attacked the persecution of Jews throughout history by producing violently antisemitic versions of those films with identical titles.[3]


  1. ^ Eisner, Lotte H. (29 September 2008). The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt. University of California Press. p. 329. ISBN 978-0-520-25790-0. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  2. ^ Rees, Laurence (9 January 2006). Auschwitz: A New History. PublicAffairs. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-58648-357-9. Retrieved 8 November 2011.
  3. ^ Friedländer, Saul (1 April 2008). The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945. HarperCollins. p. 20. ISBN 978-0-06-093048-6. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
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The Rothschilds (film)
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