The African “Wacht am Rhein”

The review in the Leipziger Volkszeitung, one of the official dailies of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, is instructive for pointing out the emphases in Ross’s lecture as well as for criticism characteristic of a left-wing audience.

After the Hamburg premiere, the first screening in Leipzig of Die erwachende Sphinx was a special event, probably because Ross’s book publisher, the Brockhaus company, resided  in this city. The cinema was transformed into an “ethnographic museum” with exotic props to which a “real negro” welcomed the guests.1 Ross apparently framed the screening with a strong colonial mission (see Serving colonial revisionism).

The review, after complimenting the information density of the images, gives a critical summary of the show as a whole. It is not just the musicians’ lack of professionalism (by playing either an unsuitable melody to a given scene, or reinforcing nationalistic and colonialist overtones with ‘Wacht am Rhein’ and ‘Deutschland über alles’) that the anonymous reviewer lambastes. The main source of disappointment is Ross’s changed attitude. Instead of showing an “ethnographic” film and endorsing the criticism of German colonial aspirations (colonialism being “the fate of the white race”), Ross, and with him the film company, support “imperialist propaganda”.2

Katalin Teller

Anonymous. [Die erwachende Sphinx]. Leipziger Volkszeitung: 1927 Oct 3; 34 (231); [8],

Topic: Race
Case: Speaking engagements


1 Sf. Das Kino als Völkermuseum. Film-Kurier: 1927 Oct 12; 241. [n.d.]. Apparently this marketing gimmick was effective enough to publish a detailed report of this spectacular premiere in a Hungarian liberal daily, the first time Ross was featured in a Hungarian newspaper: Anonymous. Az ébred? szfinx [Die erwachende Sphinx]. Pesti Hírlap: sz. 1927 Oct 19; XLIX (évf., 237); 16. See Library.

2 Wolfgang Weisl, one of Ross’s colleagues at ‘his’ daily Vossische Zeitung of Berlin, hatrshly criticized the book’s racist and imperialist arguments; see Wolfgang Weisl Dr. Colin Roß: Die erwachende Sphinx. Neue Freie Presse: 1927 Sep 18;  32631; 24. See Library.

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