Hitler Youth Quex (1933)
Directed by: Hans Steinhoff
Produced by: Karl Ritter
Written by: Bobby E. Lüthge
Screenplay by: Karl Aloys Schenzinger; Baldur von Schirach
Based on: Der Hitlerjunge Quex by K.A. Schenzinger
Music by: Hans-Otto Borgmann
Cinematography: Konstantin Irmen-Tschet
Edited by: Milo Harbich
Release date: 19 September 1933
Running time: 95 minutes
Country: National-Socialist Germany
Jürgen Ohlsen: Heini Völker
Heinrich George: The father Völker
Berta Drews: The mother Völker
Claus Clausen: Bannführer Kaß (Brigade Leader Kass)
Rotraut Richter: Gerda
Hermann Speelmans: Stoppel
Hans Richter: Franz
Ernst Behmer: Kowalski
Hansjoachim Büttner: Arzt (doctor)
Franziska Kinz: Krankenschwester (nurse)
Rudolf Platte: Moritatensänger (carnival singer)
Reinhold Bernt: Ausrufer (barker)
Hans Deppe: Althändler (furniture dealer)
Anna Müller-Lincke: Eine Nachbarin Völkers (Völkers’ neighbour)
Karl Meixner: Wilde
Karl Hannemann: Lebensmittelhändler (grocer)
Ernst Rotmund: Revierwachtmeister (desk sergeant)
Hans Otto Stern: Kneipenwirt (bartender)
Heini Völker is a teenage boy, living in poverty in Berlin, in a one-room apartment. The year is 1932 – the depth of the Great Depression. Heini’s father, a German Army veteran of the Great War, is an out-of-work supporter of the Communist Party who sends his son on a weekend of camping with the Communist Youth Group. Though his son objects, Herr Völker is adamant and sends him anyway. While there Heini finds the undisciplined revelry of the Communists to be distasteful. There is smoking, drinking, and dancing late into the night. Meals are served by cutting hunks from loaves of bread and throwing them to hungry campers who push to get something to eat. Boys and girls play games where they take turns holding each other down and slapping each other on their private parts. Heini runs away and in another part of the park finds a group of Hitler Youth camping by a lake. He spies on them from a distance, and is amazed at what he sees.
The Hitler Youth are working together to make fires and cook a hot dinner. They sing patriotic songs, listen to speeches, and shout in unison their support for an „awakened Germany”. The Hitler Youth members are disciplined and highly motivated, and there is no smoking or drinking. When they catch Heini watching them, they are suspicious, as they know the communists are encamped nearby, and send him away. Too fascinated to stay away for long, Heini soon returns to the hill overlooking the HJ camp and watches as they get up early and run to the lake for a before-breakfast communal swim. Health, cleanliness, teamwork and patriotic nationalism is the image projected. Heini is so enraptured that he starts to practice marching before reluctantly returning to the Communist camp.
When Heini returns to his home singing one of the Hitler Youth songs, his father beats him and signs him up to become a member of the Communist Party. Heini wants nothing to do with the Communists, but he overhears some of them talking, and informs the Hitler Youth that the Communists are planning to ambush them during a march using guns and dynamite. After some hesitation, the Hitler Youth leadership decides to believe the warning and thus save their members from the ambush. Heini becomes a pariah to the Communists, but the Hitler Youth welcome him, giving him the nickname „Quex“ (Quicksilver) in reference to how quickly he takes action and carries out orders. His distraught mother tries to kill her son and herself by extinguishing the pilot light and leaving the gas on in their one-room apartment at night. She is killed, but Quex survives. His father, crushed by what happened, happens to meet with Quex’s Hitler Youth troop leader, Bannführer Kass, when both men go to see Quex at the hospital. After speaking with Kass and with his son, Herr Völker begins to wonder whether his son is right — National Socialism may be better for Germany than Communism.
A recurring character in the film is the Communist street performer. His theme is that „for some people things work out well… but for George they never do.“ The message is that life in Germany may improve for everyone else, but for the working man, George, life won’t be good unless he joins the Communist Party. The Communists bring George in on a plan to hunt down Quex after all the trouble he has caused the Communist Party. Quex is out alone when the Communists come after him, and though he tries hard to get away, he is eventually cornered and fatally stabbed. Other Hitler Youth members, who came running after hearing Quex’s cries for help, find him too late. Quex dies in the arms of his comrades in the Hitler Youth, and posthumously becomes a hero to the National-Socialist movement.
Heini Völker’s antagonist is the communist youth leader Wilde, „a National-Socialist version of the incarnation of the ‘Jewish-Bolshevik’ will to destruction“. The film’s message is characterized by its final words, „The banner is greater than death“.