Hektor wrote:There were legislation, made statements and I'd say also propaganda against Jews against prior to WW-II. I don't think this is anyhow in dispute. The NSDAP wasn't a monolithic block, not to speak of National Socialists in general. So if the decision maker in the HJ wasn't that fond of Jews, he may have used of that propaganda extensively, while other members of the HJ did not experience it that way. I am saying this, because I frequently run into the argument of NS so and so said so and so, hence "so and so was THE policy of the Nazis". They are assuming that the NSDAP and it's sub-organisations were a monolithic block.
Under Hitler, I believe it was National Socialist policy to arrest, try, convict, and execute Germans who killed a single Jew; and Germans were even sent to jail for slapping a Jew.
Distribution and Actual Reception
If intended response is easy to gauge from the film's contents and its treatment by a controlled press, it is just the opposite when one turns to actual reception. This question is particularly important in discussing such a notorious film, particularly as so many have used this film to prove the average German's support for the Final Solution. The actual record of initial response, while by no means complete, suggests how simplistic it is to argue that the virulent message of DeJ represents the attitudes of the typical German in 1940.
After 1938, it has been asserted, no cinema owner in Germany dared deny the booking of a film which received the proper sort of rating from the Nazi propaganda hierarchy (the so-called Praedikate). The distribution of DeJ disproves this assertion. More curious, given the idea of this film as the ultimate statement of state-directed anti-Semitism, is its failure to receive more than the second-best rating. This meant it was free of the normal entertainment tax and inexpensive to rent, and was distributed through the Gaufilmstellen, owned by the Nazi Party. The Ministry of Propaganda, in a surviving letter to cinema owners in Hessen-Nassau, noted the value of special youth screenings:
Youth attending schools will not see this film in school-groups. Instead they will see it as Hitler-Jugend in special Filmfeierstunden organized by the local HJ-groups. Each HJ-group will be informed directly and asked to communicate with the cinema owners to find a date for such a screening. 
These screenings usually took place on Sunday, and included group singing plus 'enlightening' lectures. The SD (Security Police) reported such meetings as effective in small towns, and useful in creating enthusiasm for those soon to enter uniform as soldiers. The film was shown to members of the military; two prints were sent to Luxembourg; two were sent to Cracow, on 22 February 1941. Two prints now in the Danish Filmmuseum came from a wartime German military camp in Denmark. The film was shown in Lodz (renamed Litzmannstadt) in early 1941. But no systematic records survive as to how many persons in youth groups saw the film, nor is there evidence of this film's total distribution within the military .
Commercial distribution within Germany was disappointing. The Berlin premiere, 28 November, was the start of the sort of run which has a simple description: flop. Peter Bucher checked actual screenings for Berlin, as listed in the Voelkischer Beobachter, with published reports claiming 66 theaters in Greater Berlin the first week; 30 more, the week after. The actual results for a city where the Jewish issue was particularly salient are instructive: 29 November 1940--36 cinemas; 3 December--20; 6 December--18; 10 December--15; 13 December--1 . Mind you, such a film seems a singular addition to family celebrations for Christmas. The euphoria Nazis felt about Germany's domination of Europe in December 1940 can scarcely have suggested the need to attack the Jewish influence allegedly holding back German greatness. Our best estimate suggests that no more than one million persons paid to see the film, and hence Goebbels quickly turned to non-commercial distribution.
Secret SD reports provide additional evidence as to what German viewers thought of the film. In several towns 'only the politically-active sector' saw the film; the 'typical' film-going audience stayed away. There was 'word-of-mouth propaganda' against the film and its 'realistic' way of presenting material. Attendance fell, sometimes 'very quickly' in northwestern Germany, southwestern Germany, and in Austria. If we deduct those who essentially were obliged to attend or be seen attending the film, there was audience interest only where one had earlier seen orthodox Judaism, such as Berlin and the East. The SD reports noted specific complaints about the full-length version: 'the loathing of the subject itself and the slaughter-scenes' led to an 'exceptional "strain on the nerves" '. That this film followed the enormous success of the anti- Semitic feature film Jew Suess led others to consider 'new, even more extreme documentation' of the Jewish problem 'not necessary'.
SD reports indicate that the film seemed effective to confirmed Nazis, who considered it a 'most impressive document', and 'more enlightening, convincing and impressive than many anti-Jewish writings.' Ardent anti-Semites liked what they saw, but others, even enthusiastic Nazis, had quite different responses. In western Germany but also in Breslau, 'single spectators often left the cinemas in a disgusted mood'. The comment suggests that more than a 'few persons' held such views. When the SD reported comments such as 'We have seen Jew Suess and we have seen enough of this Jewish filth!', it seems clear that DeJ was failing to achieve its objective .
Friedrich Knilli has argued that Jew Suess offers a mixture of 'sex and crime to the unpolitical viewer', which is important in understanding its box-office appeal. It has dramatic values and first-rate stars which make it a film which offers far more than vitriolic anti-Semitism. On the other hand, DeJ hammers away relentlessly on anti- Semitism, something an unpolitical viewer would find objectionable, to say nothing of those who simply did not hold such extreme views. Marlis Steinert, among others, has analyzed the attitude of the German people during War War II, and concludes that in assessing popular support for Hitler, 'anti-Semitism did not play the decisive role that, without any doubt, it had in Hitler's ideology' . The material relating to actual distribution of DeJ confirms her thesis.
The film, through its editing, invites the viewer to move from revulsion over the ritual slaughter of innocent animals to Hitler's own prophecy as to what should be done about those who slaughter animals in so brutal a fashion. Hitler, obsessed with anti-Semitism, may well have meant what he said. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that Goebbels had the annihilation of European Jewry in mind, or that DeJ intended viewers to accept literally the idea of the mass extermination. When DeJ was in gestation, the Final Solution meant deportation to Poland, and then, in 1940, deportation to Madagascar .
What might the meaning of DeJ be, if not to turn citizens into indulgent mass murderers? Contemporary English commentators considered the anti-Semitic propaganda of 1940-1941 a type of Ersatz-propaganda, intended to fill space in lieu of victory over England. One must remember that discussion within interested political and administrative hierarchies inside Nazi Germany as to the Final Solution changed dramatically during the extended period when DeJ was in production. None of this debate is apparent in the release print.
DeJ uses the medium of film to create a logical, scientific documented explanation for anti-Semitism as state policy, but does not in any way argue for the Final Solution. Goebbels insisted on an overwhelming number of facts and figures to force on viewers the validity of the thesis that Jews are responsible for all that was wrong in German society. Had DeJ argued for the emotional integrative patriotism of Triumph of the Will, its creative impulse might be recognized more easily. But DeJ has a conspiracy to lay bare in a relentlessly negative way. Those seeking escapist fare simply refused to accept such a litany of negativism.
In the evening of October 16, 1939, Hippler presented about 30 minutes of rushes, showing alleged Jewish ritual slaughter of cows, calves and sheeps to Goebbels. Although Goebbels himself had ordered these recordings to be cruelty to animals, he was nevertheless deeply shocked at what he saw.
He wrote in his diary the next morning:
Scenes so horrific and brutal in their explicitness that one's blood runs cold. One shudders at such barbarism. This Jewry must be annihilated.
Goebbels showed these rushes to Hitler and others present at Hitler's dinner table on October 28, 1939. According to his diary they were all "deeply shocked." And in estimating the effect on Hitler one should not forget his attitude towards animals: he was a lover of animals and almost religiously vegetarian.
To Adolf Hitler these scenes - and later the whole film, in which they were used as the emotional climax - can only have reinforced his paranoid anti-Semitism and his latent wish to exterminate the Jews.
When the "Führer" finally approved the film on May 20, 1940, it must have - as a visualized and structured externalisation of his own, more vague thinking - become identical with his own "social construction of reality."
As a means of social communication the climax of this film can only be understood as the "Führer"'s unspoken, yet incontrovertible Sentence of Death upon the Jews. Or to use the conceptual notion of Robert Jay Lifton: When Hitler approved the film, he crossed the "Threshold of Genocide." . . .
For a number of reasons - some of them are very briefly presented in my summary - this analysis has made me suggest a very precise chronology with three key moments:
a) Hitler's final approval of "Der ewige Jude" on May 20, 1940, as the moment, which provoked the Holocaust decision.
b) Hitler's visit to Wervicq on June 1, 1940, as the moment, where he took the Holocaust decision.
c) The official capitulation of France on June 22, 1940, as the moment, where he invested Himmler with the responsibility for carrying out the genocide.
I am well aware of the fact that this chronology seems to be in severe conflict with the explanatory frame-works which have evolved from many years of intense scholarly debate on the issue.