Confessions of a Nazi Spy

Confessions of a Nazi Spy
Confessions of a Nazi Spy

Theatrical poster
Directed by Anatole Litvak
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Jack L. Warner
Robert Lord
Written by Leon G. Turrou (articles)
Milton Krims
John Wexley (screenplay)
Starring Edward G. Robinson
Francis Lederer
George Sanders
Paul Lukas
Music by Max Steiner (uncredited)
Cinematography Sol Polito
Ernest Haller
Editing by Owen Marks
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) 6 May 1939
Running time 104 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget USD$1.5 M

Confessions of a Nazi Spy is a 1939 American spy thriller film and the first blatantly anti-Nazi film produced by a major Hollywood studio prior to World War II.[1] The film stars Edward G. Robinson, Francis Lederer, George Sanders, and a large cast of German actors, including some who had emigrated from their country after the rise of Adolf Hitler. Though the film can be seen as propaganda, it was based on the articles of former FBI agent Leon G. Turrou, who had been active in investigating Nazi spy rings in the United States prior to the war, and lost his position at the Bureau when he published the articles without permission.[2]

Despite its controversial subject, the film was a major worldwide box office hit for Warner Bros. and won the year's National Board of Review award for Best Film. Confessions of a Nazi Spy was banned in Germany, Japan, and many Latin American and European countries.[3]

Scenes from Confessions of a Nazi Spy are shown in War Comes to America, the last of the Why We Fight propaganda film series.



Dr. Karl Kassel (Paul Lukas) comes to America to rally support for the Nazi cause among German-Americans. He instructs his audience at a German restaurant that the Führer has declared war on the evils of democracy and that as Germans, they should carry out his wishes. Kurt Schneider (Francis Lederer), an unemployed malcontent, joins the cause and eventually becomes a spy for the group. A letter written by Schneider to a liaison in Scotland is intercepted by a British Military Intelligence officer (James Stephenson), leading to the ring's downfall.

FBI agent Ed Renard (Edward G. Robinson) is assigned to the case, and is able to capture Schneider and extract a confession. Through Schneider, Renard is led to Hilda Kleinhauer (Dorothy Tree), then Kassel's mistress Erika Wolff (Lya Lys), and eventually the ringleader himself. While the FBI manages to capture many members of the ring and their accomplices, several, including Kassel, are secretly spirited back to Germany, but some ultimately face a worse fate there.

The character and event portrayed by Ward Bond as an American Legionnaire is based on an actual event that occurred in late April 1938 when approximately 30 World War I American Legion Veterans stood up to the Bund in New York City during a celebration of Hitler's birthday. The veterans were severely beaten and later Cecil Schubert, who suffered a fractured skull, was personally recognized by Mayor La Guardia for his bravery.

In 1946, Robinson appeared in a post-war anti-Nazi film, The Stranger.



  1. ^ Joseph D'Onofrio. "Confessions of a Nazi Spy". 
  2. ^ Fox, John (FBI historian) on Turner Classic Movies broadcast, 24 July 2008
  3. ^ Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust, 2004 documentary film, Daniel Anker

See also

  • The Stranger (1946 film)

External links

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