In 1924 a film titled "The City Without Jews" premiered in Vienna. The movie was an adaptation of a novel by Hugo Bettauer, who viewed it as a dark satire of what unchecked racism could lead to. In the novel, a fictional city named Utopia orchestrates a round-up and forced exile of all of the Jews who inhabit the city, making them scapegoats for all of the problems that have left residents frustrated. . However, after the quality of life deteriorates and services begin to fail, the city fathers issue a mea culpa and request that the exiles return to Utopia (which is an obvious metaphor for Vienna). The film was directed by Hans Karl Breslauer. It won acclaim but its legacy was to be defined by ironies and tragedies. Bettauer wrote the novel to denounce anti-Semitism even though he had already converted to Christianity. He would be murdered by an anti-Semite a year after the premiere of the film. The director of the film would never make another movie and join the Nazi party in 1940, although he may have done so because of political expediency since Nazi Germany took over the nation, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler, in the "anschluss", or annexation, of 1938. At the time the film premiered Adolf Hitler was serving a jail sentence for his failed coup against the Weimar Republic. While in jail, Hitler effectively used his status to become a martyr to ultra right-wing fringe groups who were growing increasingly militant amidst the economic catastrophe that was engulfing Germany. After Hitler was elected to national office, he would wait out the death of the beloved elderly president von Hindenburg. Upon von Hindenburg's passing, Hitler established himself as dictator and appealed to desperate people who would willingly cede their civil rights to a strongman who promised he could fix everything. One of the first casualties of the Nazi regime was freedom of speech. The propaganda ministry forbade the public display of any film or published work that might be viewed as undermining the totalitarian nature of the regime. Thus, "The City Without Jews" was pulled from circulation. This was not surprising, given the fact that the movie and its source novel predicted exactly what the Nazi government had in mind for the Jews of Europe: forced evacuations and ultimately mass exterminations.
"The City Without Jews" was presumed to be a "lost" movie until 1991 when an incomplete version was discovered and screened at the Vienna Film Festival. However it lacked its powerful final sequence in which the Jews are invited to return to Utopia. The Daily Beast reports that last year a complete version of the movie was improbably found at a Paris flea market. The Film Archive Austria is raising funds to protect and preserve it, as the movie existed on highly flammable nitrate stock. Those behind the effort to completely safeguard the film also feel the movie has an unfortunate parallel in today's world where hate crimes and intolerance of minorities is on the rise.