We do what we’re told, told to do

4 01 2017

Downfall was very satisfying.

Like every other person with an internet connection, I’d seen all of the dubbed parodies of Bruno Ganz’s Hitler in the bunker, but not until tonight did I finally watch the real (well, as-filmed) scene.

There are a fair number of things which I am just not in the mood for, namely, anything in which women have to put up with shit or where shitty people are coddled, and I don’t know that I could deal with even a really good noir flick in which the good are vanquished.

I want the shitty people vanquished, and, really, there are few people shittier than Nazis.

That said, it was discomfitting having some sympathy for Traudl Junge, Hitler’s young secretary. No, she didn’t kill anyone, but she was excited to work for a man who had dragged Germany and much of Europe into an inferno, and stayed with him to his end. That later in life she came to see that she willed her own ignorance does not erase her responsibility for that will. You can’t volunteer to work for Hitler and come away innocent.

Anyway, Ganz was terrific as Hitler, and if he seems histrionic in the role that is likely because by all accounts that’s how Hitler was in life. Ulrich Matthes, who played Goebbels, didn’t really look like him, but he captured his weaselly-ness; Corinna Harfouch, as Magda Goebbels, also doesn’t much resemble her character, but she was magnificent in her fanaticism.

And while I don’t know if it was only Magda who killed their six children, as was portrayed in the film, it seemed fitting that Joseph is depicted as shirking this duty, and thus deserving of her contempt.

Some critics thought the film too sympathetic toward its characters, and there’s something to that: Junge, Schenk, Haase, and Mohnke each come across, in her or his own way, as not thoroughly corrupted. Speer, on the other hand, seems appropriately self-interested, and Eva Braun, as determinedly frivolous. I did feel bad when Blondi the dog was killed.

But I don’t know that there’s much danger of the film’s distorting Hitler’s, for lack of a better word, reputation. If you don’t know much about him or the war, you’d probably find Downfall boring and not worth the two-and-a-half hours it takes to get through those last 10 days of Hitler’s life: as good as Ganz’s performance is, it won’t resonate if you know little about what had happened outside of and before the bunker.

And if you do, and you come away saddened at Hitler’s and the regime’s end, then Jesus Christ you are a terrible (or, at best, a terribly deluded) person and I’d prefer it if you never read my blog again.

As for me, I had some sympathy for the German women (knowing what the Soviets would soon do to them), but was otherwise, as mentioned, thoroughly satisfied by the Nazi downfall.

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3 responses

4 01 2017
dmf

can’t muster a whole lot of interest in that group at the top, more interested in all of the rationalizations on the part of the civil society.

4 01 2017
absurdbeats

Ian Kershaw covers some of this in The End, and Theodore Abel’s Why Hitler Came to Power includes excerpts of statements of men who joined NSDAP. Richard Evans also talks a lot about the “coordination” of German state and society at both the end of The Coming of the Third Reich and The Third Reich in Power.

I’ve got (but haven’t yet read) Victor Klemperer’s I Will Bear Witness as well as some of Count Kessler’s diaries covering his time in both the republic and under the Nazis. I’d like to get hold of Louise Solmitz’s diaries.

Anyway, from what I have read, the response was a combination of support, apathy, and fear. The price of dissent was high, so most who were not directly targeted kept their heads down/went thru (w varying degrees of sincerity) motions of support. And Hitler remained very popular until very late in the war: those who didn’t like specific Nazi actions tended to say something along the lines of “if Hitler knew about this, he’d denounce it!”

Decent (oft-abridged) source of primary docs at German History in Documents and Images: http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/home.cfm

5 01 2017

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