Having just watched the 1927 movie for the first time—it is the greatest depiction of the life of Christ I have ever seen—this article in the Wall Street Journal noting its impact on others was illuminatingly reinforcing .
“…Cecil B. DeMille's "The King of Kings,"… viewership was estimated at over 800 million people by 1959. Because it was produced as a silent film, Protestant and Catholic missionaries alike were able to use it for decades to share the Gospel with non-English-speaking peoples. According to DeMille's autobiography, during the Korean War Madame Chiang Kai-shek sent an emissary to DeMille seeking a copy of the film to show in P.O.W. camps.
“The most powerful story related by DeMille about the influence of "The King of Kings" involved a Polish man named William E. Wallner. Living in Danzig (today Gdansk), Wallner saw "The King of Kings" in 1928. Greatly moved, he decided to devote his life to Christian ministry.
“By 1939, Wallner was leading a Lutheran parish in Prague. Shortly after Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia, a doctor in Wallner's parish was sent to a Nazi concentration camp. Wallner shared with DeMille how the doctor, a Jewish convert to Christianity, encouraged his fellow prisoners "to die bravely, with faith in their hearts." As a result, the doctor became a target of Gestapo officers.
“Although struck with an iron rod until one of his arms had to be amputated, the doctor would not be quieted. Finally, as DeMille's autobiography recounts, "one Gestapo officer beat the doctor's head against a stone wall until blood was streaming down his face." Holding a mirror before the doctor, the Gestapo officer sneered: "Take a look at yourself. Now you look like your Jewish Christ."
“Lifting his remaining hand up, the doctor exclaimed, "Lord [Jesus], never in my life have I received such honor—to resemble You." Those would be his last words on Earth.
“Distraught by the doctor's proclamation, the Gestapo officer sought out Wallner that night. "Could Pastor Wallner help him, free him from the terrible burden of his guilt?"
“After praying with him, Wallner advised, "Perhaps God let you kill that good man to bring you to the foot of the Cross, where you can help others." The Gestapo officer returned to the concentration camp. And through the aid of Wallner and the Czech underground, he worked to free many Jews over the years that followed.
“On July 30, 1957, Wallner met with DeMille and spoke about the impact "The King of Kings" had on his life and all who came in contact with him. Wallner ended his account to DeMille by declaring: "If it were not for 'The King of Kings,' I would not be a Lutheran pastor, and 350 Jewish children would have died in the ditches."