In a comedic routine, British comedian Eddie Izzard states, “Adolf Hitler is a homicidal f***head.” The movie, “Downfall” showed that not all in Hitler’s Germany accepted this as gospel. The movie detailed the last days of Hitler and his Nazis regime with Hitler’s secretary Traudi Junge narrating the opening scene. Junge admitted at the end of the film she should have known more about the crimes of her boss but she, like many Germans, choose the ignore what was occurring. During the movie, she told Eva Braun that Hitler was a caring man in private but he said such terrible things in public. Somehow, she never seemed to connect his public utterances with what was happening around her. Even at the last hours, Hitler hold over the Germans was complete. Young children fought to the death and preferred suicide to surrender and elements of the SS were executing the elderly, who refused to fight for their Fuhrer.
Hitler reviewed the war room maps and moved troops that didn’t exist. And his General knew that the cause was lost but they didn’t have the courage to say so. German soldiers, including members of the Hitler’s youth, were sacrificed to buy just little more time for a regime that controlled a few blocks of Berlin at best.
Eva Braun was depicted as the lady in waiting as she entertained the inner circle. Beneath the surface of this apparently fun loving woman was a dedicated Nazis who wanted to die with her Fuhrer. She had been the loyal girl friend, sitting in the background and only at the end did she receive her Fuhrer’s hand in marriage.
Propaganda Minister Joel Goebel and his wife, Magda, couldn’t imagine a world without Hitler and his National Socialism ideology. They don’t even want their own children to be part of just a world, so they kill their own children before ending their own life. There was one surreal scene where Himmler asked an aide whether he should give Eisenhower the Nazis salute or shake his hand as he negotiated Germany surrender. Or there was Goering, who usurped Hitler’s power at a time that the Reich ceased to exist. You had Nazis leaders vying for power in an Empire that was shrinking by the second.
Hitler was an old man whose handshake consistently, and who erupted in temper tantrums. He blamed the German people and wanted to institute a scorch earth policy to ensure that the Allies inherit nothing but ashes. When Albert Speer told Hitler to allow the Germans a chance to rebuild and end this policy of destruction, Hitler retorted that the Germans proved to be weak. Goebels and Hitler concluded that the strongest Germans had already died and those had survived didn’t deserve mercy.
Albert Speer, in one last act of mercy, told Hitler to his face that he had not carried out Hitler’s orders but Hitler allowed Speer to leave his bunker alive- much to Speer surprise. At Hitler’s end, we saw a man who can’t admit a mistake and blamed all around him for his own failures. Germans was forced to suffer Hitler’s hubris after his death but many Germans were like Junge in that they refused to see what was in front of them. Only after the war were they forced to confront the reality of Nazism.
Downfall showed us the human side of Hitler and his aides. And left us with the question, how could real people hated so much and be so wiling to destroy an entire civilization to fulfill their evil intent?
The History channel showed the consequence of Hitler’s vision as they presented a whole week of the key events of both Eastern and Western Front. The special told the story through the eyes of the soldiers on both sides and presented an excellent first hand view of the war. We heard from the Russian soldier, who raised the flag on top of the Reichstag at the end of the battle for Berlin and we heard from a British soldier, who admitted that in one battle, “very few prisoners were taken” after a popular officer was killed.
While most Americans know the events that shaped the Western front, there is very little known about the Eastern Front and yet vast majority of the European war casualties occurred there.
The war between the Soviet Empire and Germany Third Reich was a war of annihilation. Germany war was not just against the Soviet armies but Soviet people. War crimes were committed on a large scale and the Russians returned the favor when they moved west toward Berlin. Rape and plunder was a common day happening on the eastern front and the civilian population was not spared. At the end, the German peopled suffered the recrimination of the war that their leaders started.
The authors of the special viewed both fronts as separate entity. The Eastern Front was a war to the death between two totalitarian dictators whereas the Western Front was a war of liberation. The difference can be seen in the war upon citizens. On the Western Front, there was very little war against civilians during the ground war. The Russians, on the other hand, showed little regard toward the German civilians. Hitler’s war of complete destruction came back to haunt the German people as the Russian returned the favor during their march to Berlin.
As the war moved toward the end game, the average German soldier decided it was better to be captured by the Americans as oppose to the Russians. German General Wenck’s attempt to extract enough of the German 9th army and delivered them to the Americans was the last major German military operation. Ordered to help the besieged Berlin, he ignored Hitler’s order and decided to rescue his fellow soldiers.
The special came up with a few nuggets such as Stalin own plans to make war on Hitler. The German attack was a preemptive attack against the inevitable conflict and caught Stalin flatfooted. The special also highlighted many of the Allies mistakes that prolonged the war in the West as the bombing of the monastery Monte Cristo, which proved to be of no strategic value
May 9th, 1945, the war in Europe finally ended as silent fell upon all of Europe. The war in Europe did not end World War II for the Japanese would continue to fight for another three months. 60 years later, memories fade. Germany is a democracy while Russia is juggling between being an autocratic state and democratic reform. The European Union attempts to unite Europe under a socialistic bureaucratic empire and we face a new war of terror by yet another alien ideology.
Even the Cold War is vanishing from our collective memories and the sacrifice of the World War II is as much ancient history as the Roman Empire. The movie Downfall combined with the History channel week long special on Hitler’s war reminds us of the crucial years that changed a world and created a new Superpower- the United States.Powered by Sidelines