The City Without Jews

image from the film The City Without Jews

image from the film THE CITY WITHOUT JEWS

Based on the controversial and best-selling novel by 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 anti-Semitic 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.

With live original music composed and performed by world-renowned klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals and celebrated silent film pianist Donald Sosin.  (Cornell Cinema previously hosted the duo with The Ancient Law (1923) in 2018.) Their performance is made possible by the Sunrise Foundation for Education and the Arts.


Violinist/composer Alicia Svigals is the world's leading klezmer fiddler and a founder of the Grammy-winning Klezmatics.  She has worked with violinist Itzhak Perlman, the Kronos Quartet, playwrights Tony Kushner and Eve Ensler, poet Allen Ginsburg, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Debbie Friedman and Chava Albershteyn.  Svigals was awarded a Foundation for Jewish Culture commission for her original score to the 1918 film The Yellow Ticket, and is a MacDowell fellow. With jazz pianist Uli Geissendoerfer, she recently released Beregovski Suite, a recording of contemporary interpretations of klezmer music from a long-lost Soviet Jewish archive. Website: 

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. He has taught music at MUM and performed with community members for silent films at the Sondheim Center and other Fairfield venues. He and his family live in northwest Connecticut. Donald is currently touring with Alicia Svigals, performing her score for The Yellow Ticket and their collaborative score for The Ancient Law, The City Without Jews, and The Man Without a World. Website:

Cosponsored by the Sunrise Foundation for Education and the Arts, the Cornell Council for the Arts, the Jewish Studies Program and the Wharton Studio Museum.

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