A Lost Film Stolen By Nazis Has Been Recovered

By Kristi Eckert | 1 month ago

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The World War II Nazi-occupation of Germany was inarguably one of the darkest periods in the entirety of human history. The Nazi regime and inhumane violence that erupted and perpetuated because of it left both people and societal relics lost to time. The constructs that innately come out of freedom of expression were choked under the oppression of fascism. However, a film protesting the fascist government that was produced during the height of World War II, that was thought to have been destroyed upon its seizure by the Nazi’s was unexpectedly uncovered and subsequently restored. The lost film will make its long-awaited and well-deserved world premiere at the 65th annual London Film Festival. 

The lost film is titled Europa and was originally created by polish husband and wife Stefan and Franciszka Themerson. According to The Guardian, the film-making duo developed the film entirely out of their small bedroom in Warsaw, Poland. Inspiration for the film came directly out of a poem by the same name written by Anatol Stern in 1925. The film itself is meant to depict the steep decline of humanity’s moral compass following the Nazis’ infiltration of Poland. It is a progressive social commentary that highlights one of the bleakest parts of the war. 

Even though the lost film was thankfully rediscovered by chance, it was thought by both film connoisseurs and even the Themersons themselves that Europa, along with the other four of the couples’ films were destroyed. When the couple moved from Poland to Paris in 1938 they decided to leave all of their five films in the care of the Vitfer Film Laboratory. However, after the Nazis raided the Laboratory in 1940 it was thought that everything they had confiscated was immediately obliterated. The Themersons died in 1988 believing this to be true. 

europa 1931 lost film

Over thirty years after the couples’ death in 2019 it was discovered that the long-lost film had actually been found in Germany in the 1990s and was being held by the Bundesarchiv (The German Federal Archives). Upon discovering that the Bundesarchiv had an intact copy of Europa, The Commission for Looted Art in Europe arranged for the film’s complete restoration. The lost film now has a permanent home at BFI’s Master Film Store, where it will be perpetually preserved. 

The lost film, Europa, along with additional recovered pieces of the Themerson’s other films will premiere during the London Film Festival on October 6, 2021, at BFI’s Southbank location and be projected to a live audience for the very first time in over 80 years. 

The expert restoration and preservation of the lost film, Europa, serves not only as a remarkable reminder of the unthinkable fallacies of World War II but also as a poignant message to those looking to take a closer look at the social outcries of the time. World War II has been and continues to be extensively covered in modern film. Saving Private Ryan is just one of many World War II focused films that continue to garner interest and attention despite it initially being released in 1998. Additionally, J. Michael Straczynski is currently working on his upcoming World War II dramaThe Flickering Light.