Institute founded in 1938 by the German National Socialist organizations including the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) and Kraft durch Freude (Strength through Joy), in order to control, organize, promote, but also exploit amateur and professional puppet theatre as a propaganda tool.
The objective of the Reichsinstitut für Puppenspiel was to supply Nazi youth organizations on a large scale with standardized and often politically oriented play material (scripts of plays together with the required puppets and instructions for staging them), to coordinate and evaluate the performances of professional companies, to organize the training of puppeteers, and to produce the first films of puppet theatre performances. A preparatory school was established in Berlin in 1939. The puppeteer Harro Siegel was its artistic director and, from 1941, its acting general manager.
Many projects of the institute, such as the one to move into its own premises in Stuttgart in 1940, were hampered by the war. Among the achievements of the institute were the development and manufacture of a series of puppet heads for twenty-four different types of puppets featured in the Katalog: Spiele und Köpfe für das Kaspertheater (Catalogue: Plays and Heads for the Puppet Theatre, 1940), including besides traditional puppets also puppets for propaganda of Nazi ideology (e.g. a doll supposed to represent a Jew). Play scripts matching this catalogue of figures were published in the series Politische Puppenspiele (Political Puppet Plays) and Das Deutsche Puppenspiel (The German Puppet Play). So called Dramaturgische Briefe (Dramaturgical Letters) offered concrete recommendations for the staging. The play equipment was sold between 1939 and 1944 to Nazi youth organizations, but also to the army for their “Frontpuppentheater” (Puppet Theatre for the Front) and professional theatres for obligatory “Politische Zwischenspiele” (Political Interludes). Nearly ten thousand glove puppet heads were sold between April 1942 and March 1943. The Reichsinstitut für Puppenspiel ceased its activities because of the war in the summer of 1944.
- Bohlmeier, Gerd. Das Reichsinstitut für Puppenspiel. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des Figurentheaters [The Institute of the Third Reich for Puppetry. A Contribution to the History of Puppet Theatre]. Brunswick, 1993.
- Bohlmeier, Gerd. Puppenspiel 1933-1945 in Deutschland. Das Puppenspiel im Dienste der nationalsozialistischen Ideologie in Deutschland [Puppetry in Germany 1933-1945. Puppetry in the Service of Nazi Ideology in Germany]. Frankfurt: Puppen und Masken, 1985.
- Siegel, Harro. “Vom Puppenspiel in Deutschland, 1933-1945 (Errinerungen an die NS-Zeit)” [On Puppetry in Germany, 1933-1945 (Memories of the Nazi Era)]. Archiv für Puppentheatergeschichte [Archive for the History of Puppet Theatre]. Ed. H.R. Purschke. No. 2. Frankfurt, 1981.