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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Sunday afternoon

20 09 2015

Do not put on icy hot just after getting out of the shower.

Lotion out of the shower makes sense: you’re naked, and your pores are wide open and ready to soak in that moisturing goodness.

Pores wide open and ready for mentholated cream? Not so good.

Lesson learned.

~~~

“Planned Parenthood is profiting from [women’s] pain and that’s what we’re standing up to,” said Lila Rose, who founded Live Action when she was just a teenager and has been working to discredit Planned Parenthood for years, said at the rally last Thursday.

Extending that logic:

  • Oncologists are profiting from [cancer patients’] pain. . . .
  • Pain specialists are profiting from [pained peoples’] pain. . . .
  • Rehabilitation centers are profiting from [injured peoples’] pain. . . .
  • Hospices are profiting from [dying peoples’] pain. . ..

I’m sure you can come up with your own.

h/t Wonkette

~~~

I haven’t read Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands (it’s on the list!), tho’ I understand it’s been generally, although not universally, well-received, and have read only a few reviews of his lated book, Black Earth.

Thus caveated: While I have no beef with the contention that Stalin was as great a criminal-against-humanity as was Hitler, and that it is useful to compare the Nazi and pre-Khrushchev Soviet regimes, I am skeptical that the great crimes of Hitler, et. al. are the same as those of Stalin, et. al.

I am even more skeptical that the Bolsheviks, bad as they were, were somehow also responsible for Nazi crimes.

~~~

Funny how back pain can migrate into leg pain.

I don’t know what happened—is a pinched nerve even a thing?—but my minor back problems flared up earlier this week, then decided to migrate down my right leg for the weekend.

Oddly, however, while sitting or standing upright is painful, walking isn’t that much of a problem, and running is completely fine.

The bike, however? Fuggedaboutit.

Anyway, I had to take my food scraps to the Greenmarket in Grand Army Plaza yesterday (and yes, I really did have to, as my little bin was full-up), so decided to hoof it instead of either biking or taking the train. It was not a comfortable walk (made worse by blisters—honestly!), but it was completely worth it, for not only did I unload my food scraps, I was able to score my most favorite fruit of the fall:

The cortland apples are back!

So even tho’ I looked bad enough waiting for the 2 train home that a woman stopped and tried to convince me to sit down (“Thank you, but really, no it feels better to lean against the wall than sit”), the five pounds of apples I scored was totally worth it.

I just hope next week I’m well enough to bike for my apples.





History is an angel being blown backwards

6 06 2011

Finally finished Richard Evans’s The Third Reich at War. Yes, I already knew the ending, but still, so, so satisfying.

Not everything about it satisfied. The Nazis grew ever more fanatical as the Reich’s prospects worsened, and so many—tens of thousands—of people were killed by the SS as the Allies pushed the Eastern and Western fronts ever closer together. And the Soviet soldiers, pfft, they raped their way west—gang-raped their way west. American and British forces also abused and raped civilians, but like nothing on the scale of the Red Army.

Given what the Germans had done on their march into the USSR, what the Red Army did was hardly a surprise. Still.

And too many Nazis escaped, either through subterfuge and help from an anti-communist official in the Vatican or because they were useful to the victors or by killing themselves. They—Hitler, Goring, Goebbels, Himmler, Borman, among too many others—escaped judgment by a shot to the head or a literal poison pill. They got to control their own deaths, just as they controlled the deaths of tens of millions of people.

They did not get what was coming to them.

Two further thoughts: One, while I have mentioned that I am under all circumstances opposed to the death penalty, I am not in any way exercised by the penalties imposed on those brought to trial. However problematic the juridical underpinnings of a victor-imposed war tribunal, I think it was better to have had the various trials than not; is no justice to be preferred to rough justice? (This is a real question, actually, tho’ I ask it only rhetorically, here.)

That my desire to have kept these anti-human genocidaires alive for the sole purpose of tormenting them—forcing them to live in a fallen world, a world where Germans are not the Master Race and Jews and Slavs and leftists and every so-called inferior would be in a position to look down with contempt and derision upon the Leader and his ilk—does point to my less-that-exalted moral position regarding the death penalty and these men. As with the suicides, the death penalty seems too easy a way out.

Second, I felt a great and unexpected rage at those alt-historians and pundits (Niall Ferguson and Pat Buchanan, for example) who spin out fantasies of woulda-coulda-shoulda and call it scholarship. I enjoy alt-history—Robert Harris’s Fatherland is a fine weekend read, and I’ve got Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America on my shelves—but I don’t treat it as anything other than what it is: fiction.

Even reading Ian Kershaw’s first volume of his biography of Hitler I find myself annoyed by his asides of but for this and had this judge not or if only the police had: Hitler wasn’t sent back to Austria to serve in the imperial army and he was allowed to enlist in the Kaiser’s force and the judge didn’t deport him after the beer hall putsch, etc. Again, the woulda-coulda-shouldas get us nowhere beyond dismay, exasperation, and not a little bit of unreflective smugness: We know better.

Maybe time does not constrain us in other quantum realities the way it does so here, in this reality of the 21st century, but since we do live within time, pretending that we can overcome the winds which blow us into the future is just that, pretending—or pretense, if you call it scholarship.

It’s also cheap, intellectually and morally. It’s one thing for, say, military tacticians to say if you had done X rather than Y in this battle, that might have opened up possibilities for Z—to say, in other words, that something limited can be learned about a specific event—but it’s quite another to assert with authority that had the British not joined the battle against the Hapsburgs and Ottomans and Hohenzollerns, say, that Imperial Germany would have imposed a cautious authoritarian rule over Europe, contained or otherwise short-circuited the Bolshevik Revolution, allowed the British to keep its empire, stymied the rise of the Americans, and oh, by the way, prevented the rise of Hitler, the Nazis, and the conflagration of WWII.

It’s quite another, in other words, to spin a whole counter-history which makes it seem as if the abattoir that was Europe in the first half of the twentieth century was, oopsie, all a big mistake, one which could be erased by hopscotching back to 1914 Britain and whispering in the King’s ear. History is made of chalk; let’s erase and start over.

The problem is precisely that history is made of chalk: There is nothing indelible in what happens, and we remember only because we remember. We have to chalk and re-chalk and re-chalk again the contours of our deeds if they are to remain visible to us amidst those blowing winds.

Six million Jews and however many thousands of Roma and hundreds of thousands if not millions of Slavs were murdered by members of the Third Reich,  millions more soldiers killed and were killed in turn, and hundreds of thousands of innocent and not-so-innocent civilians died because Hitler and the Nazis and a fair proportion of the German population thought it only right that they should run riot over Europe and the world.

These are the facts, tethered to us only by intersubjective agreement that they be treated as facts.

Treat them as pieces in your game of counter-factual what-if and whoops, you loosen the tether and allow the pieces to be scattered, lost. You allow all those people to be scattered, lost, again.