The Journey to Tilsit

The Journey to Tilsit
Directed by Veit Harlan
Produced by Helmut Eweler
Franz Tappers
Written by Hermann Sudermann (novella)
Wolfgang Schleif
Veit Harlan
Starring Kristina Söderbaum
Philip Dorn
Anna Dammann
Albert Florath
Music by Hans-Otto Borgmann
Cinematography Bruno Mondi
Edited by Marianne Behr
Distributed by Tobis Film
Release dates
2 November 1939
Running time
90 minutes
Country Nazi Germany
Language German

The Journey to Tilsit (German: Die Reise nach Tilsit) is a 1939 German drama film directed by Veit Harlan and starring Kristina Söderbaum, Philip Dorn and Anna Dammann.[1]


Elske faithfully loves her husband Endrik as he is seduced by a foreign schemer, Madlyn. Madlyn persuades him to murder Elske and run off with her. He lures Elske into the boat as a prelude to drowning her, but is unable to carry it out. When they reach the shore, she flees to the city, and he follows to plead for forgiveness. They return, and a storm blows up while they are in the boat. Endrik gets ashore, but believes Elske to have drowned. He reacts with anger to Madlyn, but learns that Elske did survive.



Elske, as is typical for Kristina Söderbaum's roles, is a model of patient, virtuous and old-fashioned wifehood and of pure and healthy Aryan stock, stemming from her country living, whereas her rival is Polish, promiscuous, and city-dwelling, an obvious product of "asphalt culture".[2] Her victory reflected a need to avoid temptation to adultery, when many families were separated.[3]


The film is a sound remake of the silent film Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, which was based on Hermann Sudermann's short story "The Excursion to Tilsit", from the collection with the same title. Harlan maintained it was a true film, whereas Sunrise was only a poem, and it did avoid the symbols and soft focus of that film for more realism. It was shot in Memel, where the action takes place.[4] It included almost all the changes that Sunrise made to the original story, including the change to the ending.[5]


Magda Goebbels ostentatiously left the premiere, owing to the accidental resemblance between it and her own situation, where Joseph Goebbels carried on with the Czech actress Lída Baarová.[4] (It was similarly resolved, with the actress being sent back to Czechoslovakia, and Hitler himself informing Goebbels that there would be no divorce.)[4]


  1. "New York Times: The Trip to Tilsit (1939)". NY Times. Retrieved 2011-07-17.
  2. Cinzia Romani, Tainted Goddesses: Female Film Stars of the Third Reich p 84–86 ISBN 0-9627613-1-1
  3. Cinzia Romani, Tainted Goddesses: Female Film Stars of the Third Reich p 20 ISBN 0-9627613-1-1
  4. 1 2 3 Cinzia Romani, Tainted Goddesses: Female Film Stars of the Third Reich p86 ISBN 0-9627613-1-1
  5. Derek Hawthorne, The Journey to Tilsit: A Song of Two Movies


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