Saved From the Nazis: A Silent Film About a Lost Jewish Woman

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 1.13.53 PMMost silent films have been lost due to neglect, improper archival storage, the spontaneous combustion of their highly flammable material, or intentional destruction once the era of sound films would deem the discrete and time-bound “genre” irrelevant and obsolete. Der Gelbe Schein, translated as The Yellow Ticket, a 1918 silent movie set in both St. Petersburg and the Polish town of Sokolowice, was thought to be lost for a different reason—because the Nazis wanted all traces of Jewish culture gone and had allegedly destroyed all surviving copies of this progressive film about Jewish identity and anti-Semitism in Russia. Its leading actress, Pola Negri, wrote of the film in her autobiography, “Its sympathetic portrait of Jews… might even help to spread a little tolerance and understanding.”

 But The Yellow Ticket survived any attempt to destroy it. The film was discovered in a private collection in Holland and now has been digitally restored. The preservation is not without its hints at deterioration—an occasional flickering that plays over the images, reminding us of their impermanence.