Outbreak of the war
End of the war

Although cinematography was of increasing economic importance, for a long time there were no uniform regulations concerning the conditions and content of performances. For that reason, conflicts between authorities, morally concerned audiences and cinematograph operators were inevitable.

The new Gewerbegesetz [Trades Licensing Act] of 1907 made no mention of cinema, which remained covered by the Vagabunden- und Schaustellergesetz [Vagabond and Fairgrounds Act] of 1836. it was not until 1912 that a regulation was decreed specially for cinematographic businesses, which finally treated the cinema as an autonomous form of entertainment.

Approval of content was based on the 1850 Theatergesetz [Theatres Act] or an 1852 decree forbidding immoral performances. The authorities interfered above all in response to complaints by indignant citizens protesting against indecent and wanton performances. From 1898 films were monitored locally by a policeman who was present at the projection.

The increase in cinematographic offerings called for a more permanent regulation. In 1907 the first regional censorship was introduced in Vienna, which allowed the police to forbid performances in advance. Film material could even be destroyed following a complaint. In 1909 accompanying texts and publicity material were also monitored by the police. A regulation by the Ministry of the Interior in coordination with the Ministry of Public Works recommended in 1912 that the censorship decisions of the Viennese authorities should be followed, but there were other regional censorship offices in the Monarchy ¬– in Linz, Innsbruck, Graz, Salzburg, Klagenfurt, Trieste, Zadar, Prague, Brno, Lemberg (Lviv), Ljubljana, Opava und Czernowitz (Chernivtsi).

Political censorship was stepped up with the start of the First World War. Films with military and political content were now often forbidden. In December 1914 an official memorandum forbade the presentation of films from ‘enemy states’. Already imported films from the ‘enemy territory’ could be performed provided that the company insignia and indications of the country of origin were removed. In 1915 a censorship office was established in the Austro-Hungarian War Archive, which verified the content and political message of all military films.

Political censorship was lifted on 30 October 1918 by decision of the provisional National Assembly. Film censorship remained in force. Standardization remained an issue in the First Republic, and no solution was found at this time, as the provinces were unwilling to abandon their authority in this regard.

Translation: Nick Somers


Ballhausen, Thomas: Geschnitten, Verboten, Vernichtet. Notizen zur österreichischen Filmzensurgeschichte bis 1938, in: Biblos 51 (2002), 203-214

Ballhausen, Thomas/Caneppele, Paolo (Hrsg.): Die Filmzensur in der österreichischen Presse bis 1938, Wien 2005

Contents related to this chapter


  • 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?

  • Aspect

    On the eve of war

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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

    Monitoring & control

    Everyday life in the Habsburg Monarchy was characterised by propaganda, monitoring and control, as can be seen by the many blank spaces in the daily newspapers and deletions in private correspondence and telegrams. At the same time an attempt was made in texts and audio-visual media to whip up general enthusiasm for the war. Not even the youngest inhabitants of the empire remained untouched, and the influence of the state was also felt in the schools of the Monarchy.