Original Title: Tannenberg. Historical war drama 1932; 106 min.; Director: Heinz Paul; Cast: Hans Stüwe, Käthe Haack, Jutta Sauer, Hertha von Walther, Erika Dannhoff, Hannelore Benzinger, Karl Klöckner, Franziska Kinz, Rudolf Klicks, Alfred Döderlein; H.P.-Präsens-Tobis-Klangfilm.
East Prussia in the hands of the Russians, Hindenburg’s recall, the Battle of Tannenberg, the annihilation of the Samsonov Army. As a specific scene, an estate on the border, whose landowner tends to Germans and Russians while her husband goes to the front and falls in combat.
August 1914. Massive Russian troops, commanded by General Rennenkampf, have gathered, ready to pour into East Prussia after completing their deployment. Feeble forces in this region face only Count Waldersee’s Russian steamroller, with scarce reserves scattered along the border.
Coincidentally, Prussian Captain Arndt’s battery is located on his own estate. Here, he receives orders to relocate the battery westward to a specific defensive position. His wife, Grete, hopeful for a future German victory, refuses to leave the estate. Similarly, the wife of steward Puchheiten, who serves in her husband’s unit, also stays behind. After bidding a heartfelt farewell to his wife and child, Arndt commands the departure.
Scarcely have the fleeing masses vanished from sight when the first Russian cavalrymen charge onto the estate. They are the vanguard of the Mingin Division, whose commander takes up quarters there.
Hindenburg’s attack commences. The Germans valiantly repel the overwhelmingly superior enemy, gradually forcing them back, step by step, from the occupied homeland. The Arndt battery, accompanied by young Fritz Puchheiten, receives the command to shell their commander’s estate the following morning. This order fills Arndt and Puchheiten with terror, as they are not only expected to destroy their own homes but also to kill their own families in the process. Nevertheless, their loved ones manage to survive, hidden in the cellar, enduring the battle that leads to the decisive defeat of the Russians.
-g.’s review in Film Kurier No. 229 (September 28, 1932)
This film, which has already been released in the Reich, has now premiered in Berlin, leaving a strong impression similar to its previous screenings.
The events are still fresh in our memories: In the early days of August, massive Russian troops flooded the thinly protected border, and the German forces yielded to the pressure. Then, command was given to Hindenburg, who, along with his officers, achieved a strategic masterpiece in the Battle of Tannenberg. They decisively defeated the Russian Narew Army under Samsonov, despite the looming threat of the Neman Army under Rennenkampf just a few hundred kilometers away. The victory at Tannenberg liberated East Prussia and the entire German East from the terrible fate of being a constant war zone throughout the World War. The stakes were high at Tannenberg, and a failure of the audacious plan would have had unimaginable consequences.
The authors Paul Oskar Höcker and Georg von Viebahn, along with director Heinz Paul, successfully portrayed the significance of the Tannenberg days to the film’s audience.
The horrors of the enemy’s invasion are vividly depicted through the endless streams of refugees, with wagons filled with the meager belongings of the peasants congesting all the inland roads. The handover of command to Hindenburg and the initiation of the Tannenberg offensive are shown. The opposing side is also portrayed, revealing their misjudgment of the situation and their conflicts with the war strategy that forcefully pushes the weary and poorly equipped troops forward, disregarding the warnings from frontline leaders.
The days of battle arrive, with poignant moments when German soldiers must witness their own property being targeted by German artillery fire for strategic reasons.
The German plan succeeds, and the defeated Russian general reaches for his revolver.
Heinz Paul portrays the events with clarity, devoid of excessive sentimentality. The narrative serves to characterize the situation and highlight the psychological aspects.
The character of Hindenburg is briefly visible, in compliance with censorship restrictions. The other officers are portrayed in detail, such as Hoffmann, played by the late Hans Mühlhofer, and Ludendorff, portrayed by Henri Pleß.
Sigurd Lohde shines in the role of Samsonov, and Fritz Alberti as Mingin.
Hans Stüwe delivers a commendable performance as a young landowner. Käthe Haack plays a modest and sympathetic German woman and mother, while Hertha von Walther and young Rudolf Klicks also deserve mention.
Viktor Gluck and Georg Bruckbauer handled the cinematography. Robert Dietrich managed the set design, and Ernst Etich Buder composed the music. Sound design was done by Adolf Jansen.
The film was received with great enthusiasm in both theaters and stands as a worthy document of these significant events.