German Propaganda Archive Calvin University


Background: Tran und Helle was a popular series of 2-3 minute films shown as part of the newsreel before the feature during the Third Reich. They were played by popular actors Jupp Hussels (Helle) and Ludwig Schmitz (Tran). Tran is the conniving chap always trying to break the rules, whereas Helle is the voice of good behavior. In this episode, Tran returns from a visit to relatives in the countryside, where he talked too much to prisoners of war working on the farm, and tried to buy some butter without using ration coupons, only to end up with a brick. An essay on Schmitz in the pamphlet notes that he had to be careful in public after these films started to appear, since some people confused him with his character, with the result that he got hostile reactions from people who recognized him on the street.

There are some episodes with subtitles available on YouTube. Search for “Tran und Helle.”

The source: Jupp Hussels, Tran und Helle: 14 Hussels-Schmitz-Filme in Wort und Bild (Leipzig: Verlag Hermann Hillger, about 1941), pp. 35-42.

Tran und Helle

Prisoner of War

Tran und Helle cover

The cover of the booklet, which includes a total of 14 episode summaries. along with brief articles on the series and the two lead actors. I translate one of them on this page.

Tran und Helle

Tran: I feel great after my vacation with my relatives.

Helle: You seem not only to have recovered, but to have gained some weight.

Tran: You bet! My clothes are bursting at the seams. — But wait, I’ve forgotten to mail this letter.

Helle: What sort of a letter?

Tran: Ah, from a prisoner of war.

Helle: A prisoner? Are you crazy?

Tran un Helle

Tran: Huh? There were prisoners of war working on the farm. I became good friends with one.

Helle: And now you’re playing mailman?

Tran: Mailman? He was really a nice guy, and his German was great. He just couldn’t quite manage our Rhineland dialect.

Helle: Else you’d have told him some pub jokes.

Tran: You bet! But he wouldn’t have understood them. There were better things to talk about. He asked me about all sorts of things!

Helle: Well! I hope you gave him the right answer?!

Tran: I told him every thing I knew.

Helle: Really?

Tran: You mean it wasn’t OK?

Helle: Amazing! I’ve never meet such an ass as you.

Tran und Helle

Helle: don’t you know what he could do with that information?

Tran: He can’t do anything. He’s a prisoner!

Helle: You’ve got as much good sense as you’ve got hair. Do you really think POWs are so innocent? We know from the last war that the enemy has covert methods to provide prisoners with ways to hurt us.

Tran: What could he do to us?

Helle: For example, they get pastries that have incendiary devices inside. They get cigarettes with instructions on committing sabotage. They get secret information in packages of chocolate.

Tran: Why, the dog didn’t say anything to me about that. What do I do with the letter?

Helle: I’ll take it to the proper place.

Tran und Helle

Helle: Look, we all have to know that they are using every possible way to damage our economy, to destroy our harvests and our livestock.

Tran: Regarding livestock! I brought along a few pounds of butter. Somebody sold it to me at the train station. — I had to pay a bit more, but it didn’t take any ration coupons. — Good grief! It’s a brick!

Helle: Serves you right!

Moral: People are bad. But an animal, my dear friend, will never cheat you. Even a cow will never sell you bricks instead of good butter.

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