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This 7 minutes footage on youtube purports to be from 1939 in Breslau, Germany (today Wrocław, Poland). In it we can see

  • The banks of the Oder/Odra
  • A random boy cycling in the streets
  • Some military guys hanging out "near the border"
  • A boy and his grandpa making a picnic in the open near a lake
  • Some cars (barely) crossing a huge puddle
  • Horse mounting "during free days"
  • What appears to be the result of a major road accident and a wounded person
  • Some earthworks/construction
  • What appears to be some early form of Autobahn

Some road signalisation, nice tramways, a cinema poster and a C&A logo are also visible.

Why I wonder whether this footage is real:

  • Colour footage before the war was, extremely uncommon to say the least
  • Even if state-of-the art colour filming was possible at that point, it would have been used for a major event (such some NSDAP propaganda) and not for filming random things, unless those were just a test.
  • It would have been the only colour footage of pre-war Germany ever, thus it would have been pretty famous, and would not be just another random Youtube video.

Screenshots as requested by LangLangC:

screenshot1 screenshot2 screenshot3 screenshot4

  • 11
    There is plenty of WW1 and WW2 footage that has been colorized. Here is an example. There are example movie clips about half way down the page. – Weather Vane Jul 15 at 10:03
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    The first comment under the linked video points out a C&A logo (seen on a tram) and says "a large English chain of clothing stores." This is incorrect, as C&A was founded in The Netherlands and opened a store in Berlin in 1911. Its head offices are in Brussels and Düsseldorf (and no longer trades in UK). – Weather Vane Jul 15 at 10:35
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    Those aren't "some military guys hanging out", that's a Reconnaissance Staff at the border, visited by the commanding officer. And from there on virtually all the remaining footage is of military context. You wouldn't see a civilian (of that time) filming recon units at the border, soldiers riding in their spare time, or a crashed military truck. Which makes the cameraman part of the military as well, probably high-ranking, putting the whole film being actual color footage in the "possible" range at least. Perhaps some raw material to be edited for propaganda purposes later. – DevSolar Jul 15 at 10:44
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    My grandfather, at 38, was drafted explicitly for his experience in "technicolor". He followed a few days behind the invading allied army as a photographer. Certainly, anything film technology was highly sought for the WWII war effort. – fredsbend Jul 15 at 16:40
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    Japan had color video in the 30's, although this was largely forgotten until probably about 20 years ago. Then color video surfaced from both the 30's and 40's, which was used to produce an excellent documentary from the Japanese perspective, Japan's War in Colour. It can presently be viewed on YouTube here. – Panzercrisis Jul 15 at 23:56
87

Yes. It is real, and filmed originally in colour, as is, not colourised later.

General Edwin Graf von Rothkirch und Trach, the author of this clip, (alternative version to the one in question) was an avid amateur photographer and movie maker. As such he followed the developements of colour motion picture technology, which was invented in the 19th century, but made very practical with kodachrome and in Germany with Agfacolor, tested for film at the summer olympics of 1936. And earlier cinematic colour movie in Ufacolor were Das Schönheitsfleckchen 1936 and Bunte Tierwelt 1931

The quality and accuracy of colour reproduction look like a perfect match for the technology, which is 'in colour' but ever so slightly 'off'.

enter image description here enter image description here

So from 1936/37 onwards, German film amateurs had access to the first three-layer colour films in the form of Agfa and Kodak reversal films in 16mm format, a short time later also in 8mm format. For example Eva Braun, a trained photo lab technician also used Kodachrome narrow film as early as 1938.
(src, example on
YT default picture for Eva Braun Home Movies, Part 1/4 (Including Hitler & the Nazi's, color film) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQUp-yJMcm8
Youtube: Eva Braun-Reel 1 of 8)

Note that colour film was not only more expensive than black&white, its availability in Germany was ever rarer after the start of the war in 1939 and after 1944 in practice no longer 'on sale' with stockpiles in private hands running out.

The movie clip in question itself is often discussed on Polish websites:

Grzegorz Sanik: "Wroclaw Breslau in 1939 on film", eloblog history, March 14, 2015

Polarfilm - Farbaufnahmen Breslau 1939 Poldi is a diminutive of Leopold. The boy who rode a bicycle around Breslau is Leopold Graf von Rothkirch, son of the Commander. Together with his father, they go on a horse ride later. Poldi, like his father also fought during World War II, served in armored units. They both survived the war. Edwin died in 1980 and Leopold died in 2009. (src, src linking to the info below)

The German Wikipedia entry for the general has this to say:

Private films From 1932 to 1945 von Rothkirch filmed his private and military career. The shots, some of them even in colour, usually reach the quality of the newsreel footage of that time. The shots, also in private life, were, if possible, even rehearsed before. During the war, Rothkirch is usually seen in the pictures himself. He seems to have had a subordinate who took the pictures. Although he was only deployed in the Reich and occupied territories until early 1942, he had himself filmed like a commander of front troops at victory parades and other occasions. The private films were made available to the NDR by his son Leopold and, having been edited for documentary purposes, were used in the NDR production "Graf Rothkirchs Krieg - Privatfilme eines Wehrmachtsgenerals" in 2005.

enter image description here

More examples like this on Youtube: Wir im Krieg - Privatfilme aus der NS Zeit - Doku, a list of related documentaries and original air dates for Rothkirchs Krieg, and a collection of more authentical 'filmed in colour' private movie clips, some from before the war, in "Jahre des Untergangs | Doku Farbfilme aus Bayern 1939-45" BR Fernsehen 30.04.2020, 04:25 Uhr (relevant quote at 01:55, freely online until 03.05.2021), and another collection on Youtube: Farbfilme aus dem Dritten Reich

An analysis of the places shown in the clip with some 'then and now' comparisons in Polish language – although with one user in comments claiming it to be "in black and white original" – is on Breslau 1939: Nowe fakty (WIDEO) (Breslau 1939: New facts (VIDEO))

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  • 9
    It's just incredible - for me those pre-war times were only known through black-and-white photographs which makes us percieve it as very remote past times. Seeing it animated in colour seems so much more real, and much closer to us in the scale of time. Seing that "heimat" that got so much fussed about, animated in colour, what a shock. – Bregalad Jul 15 at 21:28
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    @Bregalad That effect is really eery when applied to the First World War, some photos even in real colour made back then – LangLаngС Jul 15 at 21:37
  • Thanks for the info - impressive but since it's just still picture it's not as impressive as motion & colour combined. – Bregalad Jul 15 at 21:44
  • @Bregalad twistedsifter.com/2015/04/… will really freak you out then :) – Asteroids With Wings Jul 16 at 8:58
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    @Bregelad Peter Jackson used his contacts to digitally restore, repair and colourise most of the UK Imperial War Museum's WWI footage. Part of this was given a foley soundtrack to create the documentary film They Shall Not Grow Old which is one of the rare films to have a Rotten Tomatoes rating over 99%. If just seeing jerky colourised film from then is impressive, your mind will be utterly blown by film digitally restored to modern quality with them actually talking/singing/working/whatever for the camera. – Graham Jul 16 at 10:59

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