Posted Saturday, May 17, 2003

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Saturday, May 17, 2003


Illustration from David Irving:
"Hitler's War" (Millennium Edition, 2002)

"...a new low in the history of television. .. And then it gets worse."

WHEN Hitler tries to bed Eva Braun in the new CBS miniseries, we witness a new low in the history of television. And then it gets worse. Not the sex, which the movie-makers will insist is only there to show how Hitler had major problems in that area as well.

As vulgar as this endeavor is, and "Hitler: The Rise of Evil" spans four hours (Sunday and Tuesday, from 8-10 p.m.), spicing up documented history with invented scenes in order to make "fact-based" entertainment is truly hideous only if you recognize it as disrespectful to Hitlers's victims, living and dead.

Because the CBS deed is done, and there are plans to shove it into classrooms as well, some may be tempted to shrug it off as being, at least, an effort on a significant figure. But there's no shrugging off the cynicism of a work that hijacks truth and manufactures distortions the ways this one does -- all in the service of producers with their own political agenda. When the miniseries sticks to known events in post-WWI -- from speeches against Jews and the humiliations of Versailles to putsches and political machinations -- it does a serviceable job of showing how Hitler exploited an emotional and unstable climate and the weaknesses of other politicians to maneuver himself into the post of chancellor.

As Hitler, Robert Carlyle is able to make us forget his role in "The Full Monty," although even if you can stomach the idea of anybody "playing" Hitler, he doesn't seem nearly as repellent as old images of the real one.

Perhaps that's deliberate here. Because the people who made this movie, while not excusing Hitler, want to show that he wasn't the main problem. We were; that is to say, the people who didn't speak out when there was still time to stop him. This message is driven home in the portrayal of heroic journalist Fritz Gerlich (Matthew Modine), who, after an initial fascination with Hitler, came to see the threat he posed, wrote about it and paid with his life. What the program does not say -- what it deliberately hides -- is that Gerlich was not alone. Indeed, he is a totally (if unfairly) obscure figure in history because so many other people, journalists included, did speak out against the budding Führer.


TO HAVE acknowledged that, however, would have spoiled the ultimate message of "Hitler" -- which is that post-9/11 America is a carbon-copy of post-WWI Germany, and that by sanctioning a bogus war on terror the way we do, out of fear and with silence, we are doing it all over again.

The message becomes crystal-clear in a string of fabricated dialogues near the end of the movie. Thus, after the 1933 burning of the Reichstag, we hear Hitler saying, "The terrorists have opened fire, and we will fire back." When President Hindenburg (Peter O'Toole) protests that attempts to curb freedoms would "override the constitution," Hitler replies, "These are troubled times... the constitution cannot anticipate them. A national monument has been destroyed. Our democracy is under attack; if we are to wage war on these foreign infiltrators, certain civil rights must be suspended"

Never mind that the real Hitler had been ranting against the idea of democracy for years. To ram their point home, the producers also dish up a supposed plot orchestrated in the West to gain control of German oil interests, and a conversation where a Hitler deputy laments about all the detainees, "we can't try them and we can't release them," and Hitler muses, hmm, "camps, what about those camps?"

Get it now? What's hard to fathom is why CBS and the Canadian production company that made this movie fired executive producer Ed Gernon for making a few remarks to an interviewer about the climate of fear in America -- which is his right -- when the movie they've made is many times more explicit in its America-equals-Nazi Germany theme.


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CBS revises "Young Hitler" script, plans donation to charity
"Hitler" Exec Producer Fired Over Remarks
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