‘Shock Troop 1917’ Is a Brutal War Film … From 1934

The movie was popular with German nationalists

‘Shock Troop 1917’ Is a Brutal War Film … From 1934 ‘Shock Troop 1917’ Is a Brutal War Film … From 1934
Hans Zöberlein’s 1934 feature film Stoßtrupp 1917 — Shock Troop 1917, in English — depicts German stormtroopers fighting on the Western Front during World... ‘Shock Troop 1917’ Is a Brutal War Film … From 1934

Hans Zöberlein’s 1934 feature film Stoßtrupp 1917 — Shock Troop 1917, in English — depicts German stormtroopers fighting on the Western Front during World War I, slogging from the Aisne to Champagne to Cambrai.

The film is deeply nationalistic — and was hugely popular in its time. Compared to contemporary films such as All Quiet on the Western Front and WestFrontShock Troop 1917 is less pacifist in tone.

The film is based on Zöberlein’s own war experiences and his book Faith in Germany, which featured a foreword by Adolf Hitler. The film is graphic in its action and clearly shows the Stoßtruppen‘s tactics in 1917 and 1918, including infiltration and throwing grenades to clear and cover advances and retreats.

Shock Troop 1917 accurately depicts the effects of artillery fire and charges for destroying bunkers and dugouts. The film doesn’t shy from showing corpses and men being buried alive during barrages. It even highlights the psychological impact of artillery and gas attacks.

The film features German troops armed with Mauser 98AZ carbines and MG08s. Their French adversaries carry Lebels and Berthiers. Late in the movie, the stormtroopers meet British and Canadian soldiers correctly armed with SMLEs and Lewis guns. However, the actors use Model 24 Stielhandgranate rather than period-correct Model 15s or 17s.

Shock Troop 1917 was “lost” for many years and even the currently-circulating reconstruction remains incomplete. Even so, it’s one of the finer examples of war cinema from the period. The film is available at both YouTube and Archive.org.

This story originally appeared at Historical Firearms.


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