Film still for "Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder"

Lost Films

There are still a handful of films that, according to current information, have not been transferred over. We want to draw attention to the missing films of the DEFA film stock. At the same time, we hope to find clues about this film material.

If you have any tips or suggestions regarding the films listed below, please send them to:


In the summer of 1965, directorial graduates from the German Academy for Cinematic Arts in Potsdam-Babelsberg Dieter Roth and Egon Schlegel made their diploma film KNIGHT OF RAIN. The film tells the story of a young man, who, against his father’s will—a social sciences professor—refused to study and chose instead to “become acquainted with life” by touring through the country on his motorbike. In the leading roles: Wolfgang Pampel, Wolfgang Winkler, Annette Woska; camera, Peter Milinski; production manager, Horst Hartwig. Originally, the feature-length film was to be co-produced with DEFA; however, after the Eleventh Plenum of the Central Committee of the SED, production was stopped and the estimated 1,700 meters of shot and edited film were destroyed. Only the script remained. Nevertheless, daily reports from the department head were found and brought in. The DEFA Foundation is looking for more traces of the film, especially: scene and work photos, but also other material. 

More about the film:
 Schmetterlinge im Regen. Drei DEFA-Filme, die 1965/66 verboten und bis heute nicht aufgeführt wurden (54 KB)


Film still for “Mutter Courage und ihre Kinder”


(Dir.: Wolfgang Staudte, 1955) Photography: Eduard Neufeld

For a long time, the DEFA Foundation has been looking for the material from the 1955 planned film by Bertolt Brecht and directed by Wolfgang Staudte, MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN. Started on August 18, 1955, the film project did not begin under favorable conditions because Staudte and Brecht’s artistic versions collided. Work was stopped after about 14 days of shooting, which had already cost about 1.4 million Marks. About 21 minutes of CinemaScope and color shots with actors Helene Weigel as Mother Courage, Simone Signoret as field prostitute Yvette, as well as Bernhard Blier and Erwin Geschonneck, were allegedly available in the late 1980s as study material in the DEFA Studio and the Academy for Film and Television in Potsdam-Babelsberg (HFF). After that, all traces were lost… In addition to some photos and scene designs by Max Douy and Oskar Pietsch, and costume figurines by Walter Schulze-Mittendorf, only a few color test shots by the cameraman Bruno Mondi were realized in the early stages of the project in 1949.

More about the film:

Dorett Molitor: On the creation and existence of the scenography collection at the Filmmuseum Potsdam. Insight into the production and design of the failed film project “Mother Courage and Her Children” (1955) by Wolfgang Staudte, in:, Nr. 1, 2014 (4.83 MB)


The 1979 DEFA feature film by director Leonija Wuss-Mundeciema, PLANKTON OR THE WONDER OF ADAPTATION (PLANKTON ODER DAS WUNDER DER ANPASSUNG), is also being searched for. The short expensive film (Camera: Otto Hanisch; Production Manager: Hans Mahlich)—about 40 minutes long and costing about 480,000 Marks—describes the conflicts of a young scientist (Klaus Brasch), who, upon returning home from studying abroad in the Soviet Union, is confronted with a mix of practices and self-glorification at a GDR institution. He fights against it alongside his Polish girlfriend (Malgorzata Potocka). The film was created in the artistic working group Babelsberg, and other roles were played by Michael Christian, Sylvester Groth, and Katrin Martin.

In January 1980, a copy of PLANKTON was allowed for use in studio cinemas and movie clubs. Leonija Wuss-Mundeciema, who, as a master student under Sergej Gerassimow at the Moscow WGIK, had to wait a long time for this debut and recalls a screening followed by discussion in Schwerin. It is possible that PLANKTON, combined with the two short films THIS EVENING AND TOMORROW MORNING (Dir. Dietmar Hochmuth) and SMOKE BUT NO FIRE (Dir. Helge Trimpert), was part of a collection program entitled “DEFA Workshop.” According to a handwritten note in the approval files, the film’s approval was extended for another five years in 1985.

Today, every trace of PLANKTON is missing. Neither the copy nor the negative have been preserved. This is all the more regrettable, as there are very positive acclaims of the film in the studio acceptance. Ulrich Weiß spoke of the “unconditionality of one’s own expression in order to say what moves the creators.” Hans Kratzert sums it up as an “honest film that resonates because it touches on questions and problems that we often overreact to very quickly.” Among the sharp critics of the film were DEFA General Director Hans Dieter Mäde, who characterized the main protagonist as a “bad-tempered object of processes, one affected by events.” He only gave studio approval out of political reasons, giving Film Minister Horst Pehnert the last word about use of the film PLANKTON.


The DEFA Foundation is looking for the 1952 film ZACHA-RIAS by Bruno J. Böttge. Böttge created this silhouette film after caricatures from the satirical magazine “Frischer Wind.” Work on the film took place in the DEFA department for popular science films. Not only did Böttge direct the film, he also wrote the script and did the camera work. ZACHA-RIAS was never set to sound and was an experiment shown only internally and intended to contribute to the DEFA animated film production on a large scale. The merely 35 Meter short film belonged to the early anti-west propaganda films. It has been noted about the film’s contents: “Anton listens to the radio. He turns on the transmitter Rias, listens, and marvels. In doing so, he grows dog ears.” All ZACHA-RIAS materials are considered lost.

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