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Die englische Krankheit [The English Disease]
1941 / 12:57
Directed by Kurt Stefan
Produced by UFA & Reichsgesundheitsführung [Reich Ministry of Health]
Sound, black-and-white.

“Light, Air, and Sun!” Die englische Krankheit [The English Disease] and health education films in the Third Reich

Anja Laukötter (History of Emotions Dept., Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development, Berlin)


The title, 'Die englische Krankheit' (The English Disease) appears in emphatic script over a British flag.
Figure 1. Still, title credit, Die englische Krankheit (1941)

A darkly-lit parade of twisted, deformed people slowly, painfully, marches back and forth over a map of England, as the movie soundtrack sounds anxious notes of alarm. That extravagantly excessive scene introduces the Die englische Krankheit (The English Disease), a 13-minute black-and-white health education film on rickets, produced during wartime, under the supervision of Nazi authorities, by Universal Film AG (“UFA”), the largest German film studio of the time.[1] After a censorship board approved it as suitable for adults and children, it premiered in Berlin in April of 1941.

A scene from the beginning of the film shows an unhappy procession of people of different ages and sexes who suffer from rickets. Behind them looms a map of the British Isles. As the scene goes on, the figures show more and more deformity. Figure 2. Still, Die englische Krankheit. The beginning of the procession. As it goes on, the montaged figures show more and more deformity.

Health education films had then for decades been made and shown in Germany. Shortly after its founding in 1917–18, UFA had set up a special “Cultural Division” to produce “cultural films” on a variety of educational topics.[2] The Cultural Division was started up by Nicholas Kaufmann and Curt Thomalla. Kaufmann directed it and produced many films, along with well-known film industry contemporaries such as Ulrich K.T. Schulz, Wolfram Junghans, Martin Rikkli, and Wilhelm Prager. Between 1918 and 1933, the studio made movies on everything from natural history to zoology, adventure, and dance. The head of the Cultural Division, Nicholas Kaufmann, launched his career, early in the Weimar period, as a producer-director with films that focused on venereal disease, smallpox, and tuberculosis, work that inaugurated the “health education film,” a genre that in Germany and elsewhere continues on to the present day.

The umbrella term “health education film” refers to a variety of motion pictures centered on medicine and hygiene that were produced with the intention of reforming or reinforcing beliefs concerning health, disease, and risk. These films are hybrids that combine fictional or documentary narratives with scientific explanations of how diseases spread and can be cured or prevented. Addressed to a broadly conceived public, in the early and mid-20th century they were usually screened in cinemas before a main feature or in public spaces such as lecture halls the featured film. Their subject matter was often controversial — topics included birth control, prostitution, vaccination, and contagious diseases, for example — and they were often tainted by nationalist, eugenicist, and propagandistic rhetoric.

Produced under conditions of mass mobilization during the Second World War, The English Disease provides an insight into how the health education film genre, and motion pictures in general, fared under the Nazis. It begins with strident propaganda, pumped up with gloomy lighting, disturbing music, and a scene of horror, and ends with sunny scenes of happy children skiing in nature. But it also interweaves scenes about the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of disease. This essay analyzes The English Disease within two overlapping frames. The first explores the film in relation to the health education film genre and its formal elements, techniques of persuasion, and forms of visualization. Given that The English Disease not only explains how one can prevent rickets but also promotes specific remedies, the article highlights the close connection between this particular film and the promotional features of the pharmaceutical industry. The second frame deals with the meaning of rickets in the Nazi era and how things changed after the outbreak of war, in the period going up through the year 1941.


Health education film producers usually hired and worked closely with physicians, who supplied medical expertise and script consultation. In the case of The English Disease, the physician was a woman, Betina Ewerbeck.[3] The author of the well-received novel Angela Koldewy (1939),[4] Ewerbeck, like contemporaries such as Gottfried Benn, Hellmuth Unger, Karl Aloys Schenziner, was both a physician and a successful writer.[5] Angela Koldewy tells the story of a young woman physician fighting for occupational emancipation. Holistic medicine plays an important role: both scientific medicine and the “whole” human being, including social background, are shown to be crucial to diagnosis.[6] The novel also represents, approvingly, the doctrines of “racial hygiene”: the main character heroically refuses to marry her beloved on account of his racial background.[7]

Rudolf Perak, who scored the film, worked on several feature films during the Nazi period.[8] Gerhard Müller, the director of photography and another old hand, worked on many short documentaries since the early Weimar period. Perak and Müller had previously worked together at least twice before, on Stored Sun Energy (1934) and Creeping Poison: Burden of Humanity (1936).[9] Both films were produced jointly by UFA and the pharmaceutical firm Bayer to promote drugs such as Aspirin (then still a brand name), Atebrin (a new anti-malarial drug), Vigantol (a vitamin D preparation) and anti-syphilis remedies.[10] Although neither film was especially propagandistic, the collaboration of the two men on a number of film productions during the Nazi period suggests that both belonged to a network of well-connected film professionals.

Kurt Stefan, the director of The English Disease, was perhaps the most prominent of those involved. His first film, Hot Flag (1935), a patriotic big-budget salute to the German navy, was seen widely.[11] In 1939, Stefan collaborated on the propaganda feature The Fight for Greater Germany (1939).[12] A year later, the UFA board asked him to direct a dental hygiene film, a project that culminated in Health is not an Accident (1940).[13] The year after that, he began work on The English Disease.[14] The members of The English Disease’s production team, then, had plenty of experience in a variety of cinematic forms (from advertising to agricultural films) and, more specifically, experience working with medical topics in this medium. They were not only well-established and well-connected professionals but had embarked upon their film careers during the Nazi period. The exact nature of their connections to the Nazi party and regime remains an open question, but the details of their careers strongly suggest that they had some affiliations.[15]


The English Disease deals with rickets, a commonly recognized problem in the 1940’s. Rickets (riquets in French, Rachitis in German) was identified and named in the middle of the seventeenth century by two Englishmen, Daniel Whistler and Francis Glisson. Two centuries later, the disease was considered to be a children’s disease, caused by poor nutrition and poor air.[16] The colloquial name “English disease” originally derived from the fact that it had been first identified by an Englishmen. In the late nineteenth century, the name took on a political resonance, was increasingly linked to the problems of industrial capitalist society. Dire living and working conditions, reduced exposure to sunlight, and polluted and stuffy air were believed to cause the disease.[17] Industrial capitalism deformed children, especially the sons and daughters of impoverished working people. Rickets thus became the object of social critique and a theme of Lebensreform (“life-style [health] reform”).[18] The treatment and prevention of rickets increasingly seemed to be one of the many responsibilities of the welfare state.

Around the end of the nineteenth century, the standard treatment for rickets consisted of sunlight and cod liver oil. These were later supplemented by ultraviolet radiation and irradiated milk. In 1927, two of the largest pharmaceutical companies, Merck and IG Farben, developed a vitamin D treatment in the form of Vigantol, a commercial product that came to dominate the German market for many decades.[19] Vigantol was promoted in pamphlets and advertisements published in medical journals (fig. 10) as well as popular media. Meanwhile, Bayer and other pharmaceutical companies produced a number of promotional films featuring the product, such as Vigantol (1933) and the aforementioned Stored Sun Energy (1934).[20] In the Nazi period, Vigantol was presented as not only a medicine but also a natural remedy.[21] Even though the therapeutic use of the product was well-established, new concerns about an increased number of cases of rickets arose in the 1930s, an anxiety that the Nazi regime addressed with particular vigor after the outbreak of the Second World War.


Given the Third Reich’s ongoing war mobilization effort, it is hardly surprising that The English Disease opens with strong political statements. The film’s opening sequence shows a fluttering Union Jack and the title of the film (fig. 1). Over a silhouetted map of Great Britain, a male voice states that “England claims the sad honor for itself that rickets is more widespread there than anywhere else”.[22] As the camera zooms in, a cross-fade shows a procession of people walking in line, left to right, right to left, and back to front, all suffering from rickets (fig. 2). Some require walking sticks; others are hunched; still others go half-naked, to better demonstrate their deformed bodies. “This illness”, the narrator continues, “was used in the First World War by England as a means of conducting warfare.”[23] The accusation —that Britain is not only a diseased nation but practices biological warfare —uses the film’s opening moments to score Nazi war propaganda points at a time when the two powers were battling fiercely in the air over England and Germany and on the ground around the Mediterranean.[24] This was not, however, the first German film to promote anti-British themes. The short documentary Gentlemen (1940–41), a film that was released with the support of the Deutsche Wochenschau GmbH dealt with the supposedly unethical behavior of Englishmen at war, also claimed the British used rickets as a weapon.[25] The anti-British line was part of a broader state film policy. The Nazi regime financially underwrote domestic film productions — some entirely propagandistic, but others, like The English Disease, with incidental, opportunistic propaganda messages — while limiting the importation of foreign films, and embargoing British and American films in particular.

The next scenes of The English Disease intensify argument. With the sufferers of rickets still cross-faded across the screen, the camera zooms into a copy of a left-wing British journal, Foreign Affairs: A Journal of International Understanding, and picks out the following paragraph of an article:

We tried to make our enemies unwilling that their children should be born; we tried to bring about such a state of destitution that those children, if born at all, should be born dead; that if they were born living their parents should have nothing to wrap them in but paper and no milk to feed them with; that if they grew up they should be more or less deformed by rickets; and that if ever these poor little devils reached the school age they should be too physically starved to be able to avoid becoming mentally stunted as well.[26]

With the paragraph still in the background, two sentences are highlighted and translated into German: “we tried to make our enemies unwilling that their children should be born . . . that if they grew up they should be more or less deformed by rickets; and that if ever these poor little devils reached the school age they should be too physically starved to be able to avoid becoming mentally stunted as well.”

Those words are excerpted from “The Future of Blockades—Part II,” by W. Arnold Forster (uncredited), an article published in 1920.[27] Forster discussed the history and consequences of blockades, arguing for international control by the League of Nations. A comparison of the paragraph shown in the film with the original article reveals a key omission (figs. 3 and 4). The original paragraph opens with the claim that “we tried, just as the Germans tried, to make our enemies . . .”

A picture of a printed paragraph in English that appears to endorse British wartime actions that deliberately spread rickets (quoted in part in the essay).
Figure 3. The quotation as cited in Die englische Krankheit (1941)
The printed paragraph in English as it originally appeared in Foreign Affairs: A Journal of International Understanding (September 1920) did not endorse British wartime actions that deliberately spread rickets (quoted in part in the essay).
Figure 4. The quotation as it originally appeared in Foreign Affairs: A Journal of International Understanding (September 1920).

The omission of the phrase “just as the Germans tried,” presents the German people, and by extension the Nazi regime, as a purely victimized and peaceful Other. The second omission leaves out the context of the excerpted quote from the original article. While Forster admitted that blockades were deliberately utilized by the war’s participants to generate outbreaks of diseases such as rickets, he concluded by questioning the practice, arguing that “we have got to have the sympathy to understand what it meant to all those millions to see their children die, and what it felt like so to starve for year after year . . .”[28] The quotation, as cited in the film, then, is deliberately misleading, aimed at fostering resentment against the British.


Having framed rickets in this manner, The English Disease shifts entirely in tone: the film turns to an explanation of the effects of the disease upon the body. In this part the presentation of the disease (explaining cause, symptoms, and preventive measures), techniques of persuasion used (from repetition to contrast), and various forms of visualization (drawings, animations, and so on) are similar to films made in the late Wilhelmine and Weimar periods.

The new section begins by showing how the disease is manifested in the deformed legs of children. A physician uses his finger to highlight the deformation of the lower leg of a young child. An X-ray then shows the disease’s effects on the body in greater detail. The technique of using different types of images to illustrate the same phenomenon is repeated: next we see footage of a deformed body part, this time a swollen arm, a doctor digitally highlighting the nature of the deformation, and then an X-ray of the part. The X-rays visualize the body’s interior, function as scientific evidence of the medical diagnosis, serve to persuade the viewer of the film’s (and professional medicine’s) scientific objectivity — a technique often used in European and American health films from their beginnings in the 1910s.[29]

Throughout The English Disease, viewers are presented with “compare-and-contrast” visual arguments. Health education films often presented before-and-afters of health and sickness, advisable and inadvisable courses of action, or simply black-and-white footage contrasted with color.[30] For example, film footage of a swollen arm is contrasted with an X-ray of a healthy arm (fig. 5). Later on, the “compare-and-contrast” is used to advise on how and how not to deal with the issue of a baby’s exposure to sunlight, as well as to underline the importance of vitamin D.[31]

A scene in the film shows a pair of x-rays to compare two arms, one normal, the other with rickets.
Figure 5. Still, Die englische Krankheit. X-rays comparing two arms.

After showing off some manifestations of rickets, The English Disease demonstrates the causes and consequences of disease through illustrations of body parts (fig. 6) in which animated pictograms of minerals like chalk (a dark circle), phosphor (a white circle), and vitamin D (a white triangle) move around the screen, instructing audiences on the importance of the interplay of these minerals.[32] This is linked to an image of the deformed back of a young boy practicing gymnastics in a natural setting as the narrator explains: “when bone growth is arrested, rickets can no longer be cured. The doctor can do more than attempt to relieve the pain.”[33]

A still from the film shows an animated pictogram of the top of a bone where growth occurs.
Figure 6. Still, Die englische Krankheit. An animated pictogram.

The camera then shifts its gaze to a young girl’s back, introducing the next section of the film: the consequences of the disease for women. The technique of contrast is once again deployed, this time through a comparison of a “normal female pelvis” and a deformed one (fig. 7). The silhouettes of the two pelvises are superimposed to emphasize the difference between the two and to introduce the topic of potential birth problems.

Superimposed outlines of a normal and rickettsial pelvis showing that the normal one has a significantly wider birth canal.
Figure 7. Still, Die englische Krankheit. Superimposed silhouettes of a normal and rickettsial pelvis.

In the scenes that follow, both the symptoms of the disease — sweating at the back of the head, the softening of the skull — and the means of preventing them are identified visually. This is accompanied by an enumerated list, another technique often used in health education films — “first requirement: the infant must be breastfed by the mother for as long as possible!”[34] — while the camera shows a woman breastfeeding her baby.[35] As the narrator continues with the next point — “spending time outdoors is vital for infants and small children!” —a mother takes her baby out of a carriage and exposes it to the sunlight. Dangerous sun exposure (the whole, naked body) is contrasted with healthy exposure (the head is covered).[36] In doing so the didactic character of the film becomes once again clear.


A bit of war rhetoric re-appears in the last third of the film. As the film summarizes prevention practices (“light, air, sun—these are how to make war on rickets!”), we see nurses with children dancing ring-around-the rosy in a garden. The camera pans from diseased young children lying in their beds to healthy young children happily playing in the fresh air and sunlight (fig. 8). The film goes on to instruct the viewer on the importance of nutrition in the prevention of disease. The film explains the value of vegetables and salad, showing how they must be prepared, and again uses an animated diagram and pictograms (the provitamin is represented by black circles and vitamin D by a white triangle) to illustrate how the interior of the body processes good and healthy food. This sequence uses modern professional medicine, represented by the nurses (as well as the pictograms, x-rays, and the health education film itself) — the ideas and icons of Lebensreform (“light, air, and sun”, as well as nutrition) , a political movement that had previously been a staple of progressive Weimar medicine — to claim a fusion of scientific and holistic medicine as a Nazi principle, medical science that helps return the Volk to a state of natural health.[37]

Films from the pre-war Nazi era such as Stored Sun Energy (1933) or Robert Koch (1939) often made use of slogans like “light, air, and sun” to implicitly make political points.[38] The English Disease marks a decisive break with this practice: produced in wartime, it explicitly depicts the Nazi regime as peaceful and ethical — its values embodied in the use of nature to cure disease as opposed to using disease as a weapon. It is in this way that Lebensreform (and holistic medicine) could be linked to the health and warfare politics of the Nazi regime for propaganda purposes.

Children play ring-around-the  rosy in a sunny grass area.
Figure 8. Still, Die englische Krankheit. “Light, air, and sun!” — Lebensreform visualized.

The last scenes of the film move even further in this direction, outlining the measures taken by the regime to fight rickets: the preventive health institutions established by the Nazi system and the “natural” remedy, Vigantol (see figs. 8-9). The viewer is shown scenes of nature in autumn and children skiing, as the narrator explains that in winter exposure to sun is insufficient to prevent rickets. “For this reason, the Reich health authorities’ [disease] prevention measures must be implemented throughout Germany. Advisory sessions will be arranged for every mother and child, and every infant will undergo a detailed examination.”[39] Nurses again appear, this time weighing and measuring infants; a physician meanwhile examines a baby. “In order to prevent the English disease, every mother in Greater Germany will receive vitamin D in the form of Vigantol.”[40] Special techniques, including the use of sunlamps for infants and twins, are also presented. Finally, the film illustrates how mothers should allot and dispense medicines to children.[41]

As discussed earlier, The English Disease composer Rudolf Perak and cameraman Gerhard Müller had both previously worked on films that centered on Vigantol.[42] In these films the production process of the promoted pharmaceutical and its applications are highlighted. Visually, the films utilize close-up images of the pharmaceutical product or panning shots of the production process that underline the high scientific and technological standards. The films are a highly professionalized form of advertisement — as one can see in figure 10, a pamphlet on Vigantol from 1935 from the pharmaceutical giants Bayer and Merck.

The English Disease is different. It never directly shows Vigantol and the product’s name is only mentioned a few times in the narration. While we see its application when a mother is depicted adding Vigantol drops to baby food, the medicine bottle lacks a label (fig. 9). The re-use of filmed scenes or images from earlier films was commonplace at the time, and Stored Sun Energy would have been an obvious potential source for borrowing, but The English Disease only uses material generated for its own production. The absence of a visual sign specifically representing Vigantol as a remedy in The English Disease suggests that it is not so much the drug that cures but the concerted actions of a modern medical system with a holistic approach to the care of its people. Vigantol therefore becomes a natural remedy linked more to holistic medicine than to the pharmaceutical industry. The film is thus not an advertisement for a pharmaceutical product but an advertisement for a political system based on progressive institutions.

A woman applies Vigantol to a child's legs.
Figure 9. Application of the “natural” pharmaceutical Vigantol; from a pamphlet on Vigantol from 1935 by pharmaceutical giants Bayer and Merck.

The film’s last triumphal scenes celebrate the institutionalized scientific knowledge of the modern medical professions (physicians and nurses in Mütterberatungsstellen or mothering advice centers), medical-industrial technology (such as sunlamps and Vigantol), and the determined activism of the Third Reich. We see happily applauding children (signifying approval of the film’s visual and spoken messages) and active young adults running into the sea to bathe, as the narrator, referring back to the opening propaganda section, declaims: “National Socialist Germany is making sure that the English disease will never again become a German disease.”[43]

Vigantol pamphlet published by Bayer and Merck in the journal Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift (1935). Courtesy of the Institute for the History of Medicine, Berlin.
Figure 10. Vigantol pamphlet published by Bayer and Merck in the journal Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift (1935). Courtesy of the Institute for the History of Medicine, Berlin.

Disease is thus once again identified with foreign political systems while the Nazi regime is presented as a modern system committed to taking wide-ranging measures to ensure the health of its population.


To summarize: engaging in a close reading of the film The English Disease, this article has shown that the Nazi regime did not reinvent health education films altogether but rather merged continuities and differences within this visual culture into its own ideological and politicized format.[44] In drawing on a structured presentation of the disease, techniques of persuasion, and a visual style developed in health education films from the Weimar Republic and the early Nazi era, the film utilizes established filmic conventions of public campaigning and transforms them to its own ends. The film thus mirrors visual and narrative structures that were already integrated into German film culture and familiar to German society.

This article has moreover attempted to demonstrate that the outbreak of the Second World War and mass mobilization led to an intensification of propagandistic rhetoric in films such as The English Disease. On the visual level, we can see that the film draws on imagery which explores the connection between bodily culture, health, and nature to underscore a new “modernism” that oscillates between Lebensreform, holistic medicine, social hygiene, traditional remedies, and industrial products such as Vigantol. At the same time, highly aestheticized images of the inner processes of the body drive this argument even further: the idealized healthy body becomes the subject of a political system. We can also read the narrative content of the film and its allusion to both early health education films and its framing of the political system (including the health system and war practices) of the Nazi regime in this vein. The film opens and ends with references to these systems, deploying words and images that link the “enemy of disease” with political enemies and the health of the German population with the “correct system”. In doing so, the film makes explicit that questions of disease and healthy bodies were not so much social as political issues. In this sense, the healthy body becomes nothing more than a political instrument of the Nazi system.

Anja Laukötter is a researcher in the department of the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, where she is working on a book concerning the transnational history of knowledge and emotions in health educational films in the 20th century. After earning her PhD on the history of anthropology and anthropological museums at the turn of the 20th century at the Humboldt University in Berlin, she researched the history of human experiments in the Institute for the History of Medicine, Berlin. She is the author of various publications in the field of the history of science and knowledge, postcolonial studies, visual media (including the history of educational films) and history of emotions throughout the 19th and 20th century.

Captions in German and English provided by Leonhard Link.

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[1] See Klaus Kreimeier, Die Ufa-Story. Geschichte eines Filmkonzerns (Hanser, München, Wien, 2002).

[2] See Christian Bonah & Anja Laukötter, “Moving Pictures and Medicine in the First Half of the 20th Century: Some Notes on International historical developments and the potential of medical film research”, Gesnerus. Swiss Journal of the History of Medicine and Sciences 66 (2009): 121–45.

[3] Harry Waldmann, Nazi Films in America, 1933–1942 (McFarland, 2008), 278. The camera operator was Gerhard Müller. This one-reel educational film is guided and dramatized by film music from Rudolph Perak.

[4] See Dorota Cygan, “Braune Weißkittel. Autopsien populärer Arztromane im Nationalsozialismus,” in Carsten Würrmann & Ansgar Warner, eds., Im Pausenraum des “Dritten Reiches”. Zur Populärkultur im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2008): 139–60, 147. Betina Ewerbeck published three other novels in the postwar period: Semester zu zweit (1949), Für Dich, mein Sohn. Roman einer Ärztin (1951), and Gasbrand. Roman eines Ärzteprozesses (1955).

[5] Christian Adam, Lesen unter Hitler. Autoren, Bestseller, Leser im Dritten Reich (Berlin, 2010), chap. 5.

[6] Adam, Lesen unter Hitler.

[7] For the close, complex and longstanding connection of holistic medicine in German culture, see Anne Harrington, Reenchanted Science: Holism in German Culture from Wilhelm II to Hitler (Princeton, 1996).

[8] See Konrad Vogelsang, Filmmusik im Dritten Reich. Die Dokumentation (Hamburg, 1990), 276; Jürgen Wölfer & Roland Löper, Das große Lexikon der Filmkomponisten. Die Magier der cineastischen Akustik. Von Ennio Morricone bis Hans Zimmer (Berlin, 2003): 398.

[9] The original German titles were Gespeicherte Sonnenergie and Schleichendes Gift – Geissel der Menschheit.

[10] The two films belong to a wider corpus of co-productions by UFA and Bayer, made between 1934 and 1942. See Christian Bonah, “Lehren und Werben. Ein Blick auf einen Produzenten wissenschaftlicher Industriefilme: die Bayer-Filmstelle, 1924–1944,” in: Christian Bonah et al., ed., Das Vorprogramm. Lehrfilm / Gebrauchsfilm / Propagandafilm / unveröffentlichter Film in Kinos und Archiven am Oberrhein 1900–1970. Eine französisch-deutsche Vergleichsstudie (Strasbourg, 2015): 301–14, here 306–11. I thank Christian Bonah for suggesting the links between The English Disease and these films.

[11] The original German film title was Heiss Flagge! See Jan Kindler, “ ‘Unter der Kriegsflagge’. Die Marine im Kulturfilm,” in Peter Zimmermann & Kay Hoffmann, eds., Geschichte des Dokumentarischen Films in Deutschland, Vol. 3 “Drittes Reich” 1933–1945 (Stuttgart: Reclam, 2005): 591-604, 594.

[12] In German, Kampf um Großdeutschland. See: Ramon Reichert, Im Kino der Humanwissenschaften (Bielefeld: transcript, 2007): 203.

[13] In German, Gesundheit ist kein Zufall.

[14] Like many other German directors of health education films such as K.T. Schulz and Nicholas Kaufmann, Stefan continued to be active in the film industry after the Second World War.

[15] The voice-over actor is uncredited. Translation into non-German languages and trans-national circulation of films was common in the Weimar period and but obviously much less so for the wartime productions due to political and logistical reasons. Thus it is not surprising that a translation of the film The English Disease has never been discovered. How the film made its way into the collection of the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda is not known at present.

[16] Heiko Stoff, “‘Dann schon lieber Lebertran.’ Staatliche Rachitisprophylaxe und das wohl entwickelte Kind,” in Heiko Stoff et al., eds., Arzneimittel des 20. Jahrhunderts. Historische Skizzen von Lebertran bis Contergan (Bielefeld: transcript 2009): 53–76, 55. See also Heiko Stoff, Wirkstoffe. Eine Wissenschaftsgeschichte der Hormone, Vitamine und Enzyme, 1920–1970 (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2012).

[17] Stoff, “Dann schon”, 56.

[18] The term Lebensreform covers a widespread movement starting at the end of the 19th century including groups ranging from the anti-alcohol movement to the nudist movement. The uniting idea of these different groups is the promotion of alternative life practices.

[19] Stoff, “Dann schon”, 61.

[20] See Bonah, Lehren & Werben, 306–11.

[21] Stoff, “Dann schon”, 64.

[22] In German: “England kann den traurigen Ruhm für sich in Anspruch nehmen, dass dort die Rachitis am stärksten verbreitet ist.”

[23] In German it is: “Und diese Krankheit benutzte England im Weltkrieg als Kampfmittel gegen uns ….”

[24] Richard M. Barsam, Non-Fiction Film. A Critical History (Bloomington – Indianapolis: Indiana University Press 1992), 203. This film could not be located.

[25] David Welch, Propaganda and the German Cinema, 1933–1945 (IB Tauris, 2001): 220-24.

[26] In German: “Wir haben es versucht, unseren Feinden den Wunsch, Kinder in die Welt zu setzen, abzugewöhnen.” And “Sollten sie je das Schulalter erreichen, so würde wenigstens die englische Krankheit dafür sorgen, daß diese armen halbverkrüppelten Wesen geistig nicht mehr aufnahmefähig sein würden.”

[27] The first part of the article called “The Future of Blockades” was published in July 1920. See Foreign Affairs: A Journal of International Understanding (July 1920): 4–5 and (September 1920): 36–38.

[28] Foreign Affairs (September 1920): 38.

[29] Lisa Cartwright, Screening the Body. Tracing Medicine’s Visual Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1995) and “Women, X-rays, and the Public Culture of Prophylactic Imaging,” Camera Obscura 29 (May 1992): 18–54.

[30] See, for example, False Shame (1925–26; original German title, Falsche Scham) and Enemy in the Blood (1930; original German title, Feind im Blut). See also, Joël Danet, “Representation of dangerous sexuality in non-fiction films in the interwar period: A Franco-German comparison,” in Gesnerus: Swiss Journal of the History of Medicine and Sciences 1 (2015; theme Issue — “Screening Sex Hygiene Films in the First Half of the 20th Century”): 39–55 and: See: Anja Laukötter, Listen and Watch: Frauennot-Frauenglück. The practice of lecturing a film and the epistemological status of sex education films in Germany, in Gesnerus 1 (2015) (Theme Issue: Screening Sex Hygiene Films in the first Half of the 20th Century): 56–76.

[31] The visual genealogy of persuasion techniques that make use of X-rays can be traced back to the beginning of the century and the first X-ray images created by radiologist John Macintyre in 1897. Although they had long been used in health education, there was renewed interest in the use of X-ray films in the 1930s. Martin Rikkli’s film X-Rays (1937; original German title, Röntgenstrahlen) was especially well-known. Rikkli, who had worked for UFA since 1928, produced a variety of films aimed, as he put it, at “popularizing knowledge”. In the 1930s, he began producing propaganda films on topics such as the construction of highways and the army. In X-Rays, Rikkli demonstrated the digestion process using highly aestheticized X-ray images of people eating and drinking. The images served a dual function: they were scientific evidence; they showed off the beauty of the body’s interior. Thomas Elsaesser has described Rikkli’s work (including his film on X-rays) as avant-garde in his “crucial role as formal innovators, but also as pioneers in extending the uses and applications of the cinematic apparatus”. See Elsaesser, “Archives and Archaeologies. The Place of Non-Fiction Film in Contemporary Media,” in Vinzenz Hediger & Patrick Vonderau, eds., Films That Work. Industrial Film and the Productivity of Media (Amsterdam, 2009), 19–34. Avant-garde cinema and Nazi politics did not really contradict one another, but instead coalesced around the project of developing a visual culture as a means of providing orientation for the masses. See also Peter Zimmermann & Kay Hoffmann, “Bekannte Regisseure zwischen Avantgarde, Sachlichkeit, Idyllik und Propaganda,” in Zimmermann & Hoffmann, Geschichte des dokumentarischen Films in Deutschland. Bd. 3: Drittes Reich 1933–1945 (Ditzingen, 2005): 110–32, 112.

[32] For one of the many health education films that used this technique, see Marriage Hygiene (1922–23, original German title, Hygiene der Ehe).

[33] In German: “Ist das Wachstum der Knochen beendet, dann ist die Rachitis nicht mehr heilbar. Der Arzt kann nur noch Erleichterung schaffen.”

[34] In German it is: “Erste Forderung: Der Säugling ist von der Mutter so lange wie möglich zu stillen!”

[35] A typical example can be found in Cancer (1930, original German title, Krebs), a film in which five leitmotifs are formulated. See Anja Laukötter, “ ‘Anarchie der Zellen’. Geschichte und Medien der Krebsaufklärung in der ersten Hälfte des 20. Jahrhunderts,” in Zeithistorische Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary History (Online-Ausgabe, 2010) 7, H. 1: 55-74.URL: Quote, in German: “Erste Forderung: Der Säugling ist von der Mutter so lange wie möglich zu stillen!”

[36] In German: “Der Aufenthalt im Freien ist für Säugling und Kleinkind wesentlich!”

[37] Visual invocations of Lebensreform can be found in earlier films. Films produced in the Weimar era such as The Misery and Salvation of a Cripple (1919–1920, original German title, Krüppelnot-Krüppelhilfe) and Paths to Strength and Beauty (1925, orginal German title, Wege zur Kraft und Schönheit) had already explored the links between bodily culture, health, and nature. See: Philipp Osten, “Emotion, Medizin und Volksbelehrung: die Entstehung des ‘deutschen Kulturfilms’”, Gesnerus 66 (2009): 67–102. See Dorit Müller, “‘Gegen die Überwucherung des abstrakten Denkens’: Wissen und Unterhaltung im Kulturfilm der 1920er Jahre,” Zeitschrift für Germanistik N.F. 14 (2005) H. 1: 76–95.

[38] The full German title is Robert Koch – Bekämpfer des Todes. The film’s world premiere was at the August 1939 Venice film festival Biennale where it won the “Coppa Mussolini” prize for best foreign production. Shortly later the film was shown across Europe, from Berlin, Basel, Oslo, Copenhagen to Athens and Madrid.

[39] In German: “Daher setzen in dieser Jahreszeit in ganz Deutschland die Bekämpfungsmaßnahmen der Reichsgesundheitsführung ein. Jede Mutter wird mit ihrem Säugling in eine Mütterberatungsstelle bestellt und der Säugling eingehend untersucht.”

[40] In German: “Um der Englischen [[Krankheit vorzubeugen // entgegenzuwirken (?)]] erhält jede Mutter im Großdeutschen Reich das Vitamin D in Form von Vigantol.”

[41] The film omits that Vigantol was also dispensed in hospitals and that the mothers who administered it at home were guided by (female) health professionals. See Stoff, “Dann schon”, 64.

[42] Stored Sun Energy (1934) and Creeping Poison: Burden of Humanity (1936).

[43] In German: “Das nationalsozialistische Deutschland sorgt vor, dass die Englische Krankheit nie zu einer deutschen Krankheit werden kann.”

[44] In that sense the article supports the requirement in recent film studies to differentiate the variant spectrum of film production during the regime of the national socialist system. Self-evidently this is not a statement for any form of relativism but for a close look at intentions, practices and aesthetics of these films in their wider context to find out how changes in political systems and the history of these films are interrelated. See Peter Zimmermann, “Zwischen Sachlichkeit, Idylle und Propaganda. Der Kulturfilm im Dritten Reich,” in Zimmermann & Kay Hoffmann, eds., Triumph der Bilder. Kultur- und Dokumentarfilme vor 1945 im internationalen Vergleich (Konstanz: UVK, 2005), 59–73.