In May 1945, with the end of the war and the collapse of the Third Reich, the
entire German film industry came to a grinding halt.
The production companies of the Third Reich Ufa, Universum
Film, Bavaria, Tobis and Terra were dissolved by the allies,
their assets seized and managed until 1953.
In the initial post-war years, the controlling authorities
of the Western Allies ensured that only politically unobjectionable
films were shown in the cinemas. These included, above all,
American productions that had been banned, and hence not
shown, in German cinemas since 1941. In addition, there
were reruns from the entertainment repertory and also so-called
turncoats; films, the production of which had commenced
before the end of the war, but had not been completed until
Not until around 1950 did the Western Allies start granting licences for German
film production companies and thus liberalise the market.
In 1953 the Western Allies handed over the administration of the former film inventory
of the Third Reich to the Federal Republic of Germany.
In the same year, the German parliament passed a law processing and dissolving
the film assets of the Third Reich, aiming at privatisation as soon as possible.
In 1956, the Federal Republic of Germany sold the inventory of films to the newly
founded companies Bavaria Filmkunst GmbH and Universum Film GmbH.
When, in 1965, the Bertelsmann
Group attempted to sell, in the US, the complete stock of films that it had
acquired upon taking over Universum Film GmbH in 1962, the Federal Government,
Bertelsmann and the Spitzenorganisation
der Filmwirtschaft (SPIO - Parent Organisation of the Film Industry) agreed
on the foundation of an incorporated foundation, which was to take over the stock
of films from Bertelsmann and Bavaria.
In January 1966, the foundation named after the director Friedrich Wilhelm
Murnau was founded, with its headquarters in Wiesbaden.
The task of the Murnau Foundation is to preserve the rights to, and material of,
culturally and historically important films, to manage them, to scientifically
evaluate them and make them available to the public.
This task applies in particular to the stock of films owned by the foundation,
which include not only the former film assets of the Third Reich, but also films
from post-war productions by Universum-Film AG, from the period between 1956 and
1961 as well as from Bavaria Filmkunst GmbH, from the period between 1956 and
In the 35 years of its existence, the Murnau Foundation has made an important
contribution towards conserving and distributing the German film heritage.
The foundation assures that historically artistic testimonies of German film history
can be seen in a technically perfect condition and under secured legal conditions
in cinemas, at festivals, on television or in other media.