Outbreak of the war
End of the war

After the war – the National Film Headquarters: managing the past, warning about the present, and promoting new ideas

The National Film Headquarters (Staatliche Filmhauptstelle) became the most important producer of critical non-fiction and scientific and instructive films in the first years of the young Republic. Its repertoire also include good entertainment films promoting the small state of Austria.

After the end of the First World War and the establishment of the First Republic, the future of the film material and the War Press Office facilities had to be considered. In December 1918 representatives of universities, the Urania in Vienna and the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt spoke in favour of retaining the institute under the new political circumstances.

The wishes of the education lobby were acceded to. In March 1919 the institute (now directly answerable to the State Chancellery) was reformed under the new name Staatliche Filmhauptstelle (FHS). Its tasks were described as follows: ‘The FHS will primarily make films required for scientific and educational purposes, so as to promote popular education and welfare, advertise German Austrian interests of all kinds at home and abroad, in particular by publicizing non-commercial undertakings, and encourage tourism, domestic commerce, agriculture, technology and industry and the like.’

The FHS also produced ‘entertainment films of high artistic merit’, notably the successful series by the comic duo Cocl & Seff. The subjects dealt with in the FHS films were varied. The production lists issued by the authorities had headings ‘science’, ‘geography’, ‘medicine’, ‘crafts, technology, commerce and industry’, ‘agriculture’, ‘gymnastics, dance and sport’, ‘history’, ‘natural history’ and ‘feature films’. Popular and public education institutions were provided with films at low cost, while the domestic cinema operators rarely included FHS films in their programmes – unless they were explicitly entertaining.

For the most part, the FHS served to promote the new young republic in various ways. The film Das Kinderelend in Wien [Child poverty in Vienna] (A 1919) subsidized by the US children’s aid campaign showed vivid pictures of the consequences of war and the plight of the Austrian population, particularly children, and was designed to elicit further assistance. Medical films like Die unblutige Reposition einer angeborenen Hüftverrenkung durch Adolf Lorenz [The bloodless repositioning of a congenital hip displacement by Adolf Lorenz] (A 1922) recorded important work and progress by the Vienna University of Medicine on celluloid and were intended to show scientific achievements originating in Austria.

Translation: Nick Somers


Moritz, Verena: Experimente, in: Moritz, Verena/Moser, Karin/Leidinger, Hannes: Kampfzone Kino. Film in Österreich 1918–1938, Wien 2008, 33-54

Thaller, Anton: Rudolf Walter und die Cocl-Film, in: Krenn, Günter/Wostry, Nikolaus (Hrsg.): Cocl & Seff. Die österreichischen Serienkomiker der Stummfilmzeit, Wien 2010, 63-93

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    After the war

    The First World War marked the end of the “long nineteenth century”. The monarchic empires were replaced by new political players. The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy disintegrated into separate nation states. The Republic of German Austria was proclaimed in November 1918, and Austria was established as a federal state in October 1920. The years after the war were highly agitated ­– in a conflicting atmosphere of revolution and defeat, and political, economic, social and cultural achievements and setbacks.


  • Aspect

    War and art

    Many artists, intellectuals and writers welcomed the outbreak of the First World War. They saw it not as an apocalypse but as the opportunity for a change for the better. As such they joined in the patriotic fervour of the first weeks and months of the war. What motivated them not only to devote their artistic energies to the fatherland but also to take an active part in the fighting? How were anti-war sentiments articulated by artists? What other forms of relationship were there between art and warfare during and after the First World War?

Persons, Objects & Events

  • Object


    All Quiet on the Western Front was released in 1930. It was the film of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel of the same name about the experiences of a soldier during the First World War. Remarque’s book and the film adaptation are classic anti-war statements. Alongside the patriotic, glorified heroic epics and “authentic” documentation of service for the fatherland, this was just one way in which the First World War was portrayed in literature and films – a medium that had come into being only twenty years before the outbreak of war.

  • Object

    Shortages and poverty

    When the population reacted to shortages of bread and flour in January 1915with panic buying, the Kriegs-Getreide-Vekehrsanstalt [Wartime Grain Trade Department] introduced ration cards. Individual quotas were determined and handed out on presentation of bread and flour ration cards. But even the allocated rations became more and more difficult to supply, and the cards became worthless.