Opfergang centers around a positively posh and prissy protagonist Albrecht Froben (played by Harlan regular Carl Raddatz), the less than homely heir of a wealthy shipping company based in Hamburg, Germany. Honestly, I already knew the film was inherently tainted when introduced to the character of Herr Froben, a man who – despite his wealth and prestige – is certainly no charming gentlemen, hero, nor scholar, let alone a dashing Aryan Übermensch of the racially pure sort but the radically repellant Mr. Raddatz; a rat-faced fellow with a thick little Richard mustache, hence why grisly Goebbels probably could identify with the character. After all, if it were not for their power and prestige, neither of these men would have been able choose from the frisky and foxy Freyja of their wildest, Teutonic dreams. Also, like the little Döktor, fab Froben has a keen weakness for the ladies, especially when it comes to Nordic buxom blondes that look like they could have given him quite the beating, so naturally both men became Aryan adulterers; indubitably a mortal sin in the Fatherland. Despite his rather frail frame, Albrecht is an anti-intellectual and worldly adventurer of sorts who has traveled to the former German Afrikan colonies and Japan, which has given him a new lease on life of ceasing the moment and whatnot. Although Froben is married to a seemingly introverted, intelligent, stoic beauty named Octavia (played by Irene von Meyendorff aka Baroness Irene Isabella Margarete Pauline Caecila von Meyendorff) who his oddball orientalist cousin Matthias is semi-secretly madly in love with (he has an out-of-place portrait of the dame in his room of oriental knickknacks) and whose Latin name he finds to be quite annoying, to his dismay but also delight, he discovers that he is really in love with an extroverted Swiss miss of the extraordinarily and similarly extroverted and adventurous sort. Unfortunately for Albrecht, the love of his life is terminally ill, on top of the fact that he has a faithful wife.
Although described as a film with various subtle National Socialist themes, most specifically the virtues of selfless death and sacrifice – which is symbolized by Albrecht’s acceptance of Äls’ illness and subsequent death, as well as his commitment to staying with the mismatched wife he does not love – Opfergang is more a cinematic work of curiously creamy and cosmopolitan crème de la crème society than a cinematic work innately equipped with a nasty and nefarious expression of Nazi ideology. In fact, with its prominence of an unfaithful philandering posh protagonist, wealthy yet hedonistic families and bastard children (Äls has a fatherless daughter), colonialist cosmopolitan characters (Albrecht is an active member of German Colonial Association and his cousin Matthias a bookish orientalist), and glaring glorification of the anachronistic German aristocracy (NS was supposedly a vehemently völkisch ‘people’s movement’ glorifying personal merit over inborn and unearned class distinctions), Opfergang hardly seems like the sort of film that would have been enjoyed by the everyday brownshirt Wehrmacht soldier or worker after arriving home from the drudgery of civil service and cracking open a bottle of Krombacher Brauerei, but the sort of cinematic vision that would have been designed for the delight of high-ranking National Socialist party leaders and officials, thus making it no surprise that Joseph Goebbels – who knew the tide of war had changed and his end was very likely near – wanted to keep the film for himself so that no other people aside from the Führer himself could so thoroughly and perceptively identify with the film.
As explained by his elderly children in Harlan – In the Shadow of Jew Süss, Veit Harlan idolized and worshiped his wife Kristina Söderbaum’s beauty, even if she was ‘sacrificed’ in a number of his films, including Opfergang; a work that most certainly seems like a tribute to the lead actress’ penetrating pulchritude, if not annoying and seemingly adolescent-like acting. Incidentally, Harlan’s first wife, Dora Gerson, a Jewish actress and cabaret singer, perished in Auschwitz with her family, not to mention the fact that two of the filmmaker’s daughters would marry Jewish men, one of which converted to the Hebraic faith and inevitably committed suicide in 1989. Harlan's niece Christiane Susanne Harlan would also ironically marry Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey, Eyes Wide Shut); arguably the greatest Jewish filmmaker who ever lived. Thus, it goes without saying that Veit Harlan has a number of Jewish grandchildren and great-grandchildren, among various other non-Aryan ethnicities as depicted in Felix Moeller’s documentary. Of course, with the sort of familial degeneracy featured in Opfergang, it seems only fitting that Veit Harlan's family's future turned out the way it did. Needless to say, Harlan ultimately sacrificed his own progeny's ability to lead a normal life with his legacy as a blacklisted filmmaker, most specifically because of Jew Süss, which is a shame because if Opfergang was as half as decent as I expected it would be, it might have been worth it. Of course, not all sacrifices are sanctified.