The mistake that led the James Bond movie ‘Goldfinger’ to be banned in Israel

Updated onJul 18, 2023 6:46 AM PDT
3 minute read

German actor Gert Fröbe (1913 – 1988), as Auric Goldfinger, stands with a group of actors, as members of the Mafia, including actors Martin Benson and Bill Nagy, on the set of the James Bond series spy film Goldfinger, Pinewood Studios, 14th April 1964. (Photo by Bob Haswell/Daily Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


It turns out that Gert Fröbe, as the unforgettable villain Auric Goldfinger, had a past that was catching up to him.

“Goldfinger” is arguably the most iconic and definitive James Bond film ever released. When it premiered in 1964, a riot nearly ensued in London’s Leicester Square. In the United States, it was running on 485 screens across the country. The Aston-Martin cars driven by the superspy in the film were even exhibited at the 1964 World’s Fair. Film critics fell in love with the movie at an almost universal pace. 

The relatively young state of Israel, however, wasn’t so pleased. It turns out that Gert Fröbe, the movie’s villain, the unforgettable Auric Goldfinger, had a past that was catching up to him. The actor had joined the Nazi party in Germany during its earliest days, at the height of the Great Depression in 1929. The fact that he left the party in 1937 didn’t matter to the Jewish state. A Nazi is a Nazi, no matter how long he publicly claimed to be. 

The movie was subsequently banned in Israel. Israel would end up reversing the ban once it found out a very important piece of information the reporter who uncovered his Nazi connection conveniently left out. Fröbe would be exonerated, and “Goldfinger” would go down as probably the best James Bond movie ever made. 

Israel didn’t discover that Fröbe’s Nazi past was somehow fabricated. In fact, Fröbe had joined the Nazi Party in 1929, at the young age of 16. He stayed in the party through many of its significant milestones, including the party’s rise to power in the Weimar Republic and Adolf Hitler’s ascension to the office of Chancellor of Germany. Even when Hitler consolidated his power to form a one-party state with himself as dictator, Fröbe stayed in. It wasn’t until just before Hitler began absorbing neighboring countries into the German Reich that Fröbe decided he’d had enough. He left the party in 1937. 

He did stay in Germany, working as an actor until 1944, when all theaters were shut down by the state and Fröbe was drafted into the German Army. He would fight for Germany until the end of the war in 1945. By 1948, he was a working actor once more, appearing in German and other European films. He would make more than 100 films over the course of his lifetime. 

1964: Actor Sean Connery poses as James bond next to his Aston Martin DB5 in a scene from the United Artists release 'Goldfinger' in 1964 Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

After “Goldfinger” was released in 1964, his fame hit new heights and he was interviewed in a British newspaper, the Daily Mail. The reporter quoted Fröbe as saying  “Naturally I was a Nazi,” during his life in Germany. While it was true, that’s not what the actor told the newspaper. In the postwar world, still reeling from the effects of the war, Fröbe had to go public with what he actually told the reporter.

​​“What I told an English reporter during an interview… was that during the Third Reich I had the luck to be able to help two Jewish people although I was a member of the (Nazi) party,” he insisted. It wasn’t enough for Israel, who blocked the release of “Goldfinger” inside the country and implored others to do the same. They also banned all of his other films. 

Things were looking pretty bleak for the future of his acting career. Several months passed by until a Jewish man by the name of Mario Blumenau walked into the Israeli embassy in Vienna, Austria to stick up for Gert Fröbe. He told the Israeli government that Fröbe had hidden his mother and himself from the Nazis in Germany, and they would both likely be dead if he hadn’t. Fröbe was telling the truth about his party affiliations and the two lives he’d hidden away during the war. 

The ban was lifted and Israeli protests stopped. “Goldfinger” would not only recoup its production budget but would go on to earn $120 million in worldwide sales, more than $1.1 billion in today’s dollars. It’s still remembered as one of the top 100 British films of all time and one of, if not the best James Bond movies ever made.


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