THIS CHAPTER seeks to present a comparative examination of the ﬁlm industries in Hungary and Poland from the invention of the ﬁrst motion picture cameras in the 1890s up to and including the Second World War, and the important role played in this industry by Jews from both countries. Throughout the period, Hungary had a vibrant ﬁlm industry, yet, from the end of the First World War, each successive government tried to politicize and shape it. In Poland, government interference was less intrusive until the late 1930s, and Jews continued to play an important role in the ﬁlm industry until the German invasion in September 1939. Nevertheless calls were made to limit the role of Jews. Even though the history of ﬁlmmaking in the two countries was very different, there still remain some interesting historical comparisons to be explored. In particular, this chapter will examine the Hungarian Theatre and Film Chamber (A Színművészeti és a Filmmuʺvészeti Kamara), established in 1938 by the regime of Miklós Horthy in order to limit the number of Jews working in the ﬁlm business in Hungary.
It was during the interwar period that the power of propaganda through the medium of ﬁlm was recognized and utilized by governments in Europe. In 1933 the Nazi government in Germany established the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Chamber of Culture), which included a chamber (a professional organization for regulating members of a speciﬁc profession) for ﬁlm. In 1935 it went further, establishing an International Film Chamber, which twenty-two European nations joined, intended to co-ordinate European efforts under the leadership of Nazi Germany to counteract the inﬂuence of American ﬁlms in Europe.
Jews were at the forefront of developing and building the technologies of ﬁlm and photography. While art historians, critics, and ﬁlm theorists have argued about why this occurred, the sheer numbers of Jews who were pioneers in the ﬁeld of ﬁlm and photography, especially in eastern Europe, was remarkable. Max Kozloff, an American critic and photographer, claims that the Jewish sensibility and talent in these ﬁelds stems from the ‘tension between alienation and its opposite, the sense of belonging’.