Join us for a special screening of the historic silent film The City Without Jews accompanied live with original music composed and performed by klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals and silent film pianist Donald Sosin. The screening will be followed by a conversation with UC San Diego Professor Emerita Cynthia Walk, UC Berkeley Professor Philipp Lenhard, and the musicians.
In person at The Magnes Collection, 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA
5:00 pm: Doors open, light refreshments available
5:30 pm: Program begins
Based on the controversial and best-selling novel by Austrian-Jewish writer Hugo Bettauer, H.K. Breslauer’s 1924 film adaptation of The City Without Jews (Die Stadt ohne Juden) was produced two years after the publication of the book, and, tragically, only a brief time before the satirical events depicted in the fictional story transformed into an all-too-horrific reality.
Set in the Austrian city of Utopia (a thinly-disguised stand-in for Vienna), the story follows the political and personal consequences of an antisemitic law passed by the National Assembly forcing all Jews to leave the country. At first, the decision is met with celebration, yet when the citizens of Utopia eventually come to terms with the loss of the Jewish population—and the resulting economic and cultural decline—the National Assembly must decide whether or not to invite the Jews back.
Though darkly comedic in tone, and stylistically influenced by German Expressionism, the film nonetheless contains ominous and eerily realistic sequences, such as the shots of freight trains transporting Jews out of the city. The stinging critique of Nazism in the film is part of the reason it no longer screened in public after 1933 (all complete prints were thought to be destroyed). Now, thanks to the discovery of a nitrate print in a Parisian flea market in 2015, as well as to the brilliant restoration efforts of the Filmarchiv Austria, this previously “lost” film can once again be appreciated in its unfortunately ever-relevant entirety.
The program will include a welcome by Austrian Consul Isabella Tomás, live original music composed and performed by world-renowned klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals and celebrated silent film pianist Donald Sosin, and a conversation with Professor Emerita Cynthia Walk, UC Berkeley’s DAAD Visiting Associate Professor of History and German Philipp Lenhard, and the musicians.
The performance is made possible by the Sunrise Foundation for Education and the Arts.RSVP
If you have any questions about accessibility or require accommodations to participate in this event, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at (510) 643-2526 with as much advance notice as possible.
About the musicians
Alicia Svigals, violinist/composer and a founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics, is the world’s foremost klezmer fiddler. Alicia almost singlehandedly revived the tradition of klezmer fiddling, which had been on the brink of extinction until she recorded her debut album Fidl in the 1990’s. In May 2023, Svigals was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by the Jewish Theological Seminary for “extraordinary contributions to the arts and Jewish life.” Website: aliciasvigals.com
Pianist/composer Donald Sosin grew up in Rye, NY and Munich, Germany. Since 1971 has performed his silent film music at Lincoln Center, MoMA, BAM, the National Gallery, Yale, Harvard, and major film festivals here and abroad. He records for various DVD labels: Criterion, Kino, Milestone, Flicker Alley and his scores are heard frequently on TCM. Website: oldmoviemusic.com
About the speakers
Cynthia Walk, Associate Professor Emerita of German Literature and Film Studies at the University of California, San Diego, received her Ph.D. from Yale. Her research has focused on modern drama, theater, and film with publications on intermediality, race, and ethnicity in Weimar cinema. She also worked on the restoration of Jewish-themed films from the Weimar era and contributed to the restored version of “The City without Jews”.
Philipp Lenhard, DAAD Associate Professor of History and German at the University of California, Berkeley. He specializes in modern German and Jewish history and has recently published a new history of the Frankfurt School (in German).
Isabella Tomás is the Austrian Consul in San Francisco and Co-Director of Open Austria.
Sponsored by the Magnes, the Austrian Center at the Institute of European Studies, Berkeley Center for Jewish Studies, the Department of History at UC Berkeley, the Department of German at UC Berkeley, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Goethe Institut San Francisco, and Open Austria/Austrian Consulate San Francisco.