Quick navigation

Posted Tuesday, August 24, 2004
(You mean, this won't play well in Hollywood?) Critics say the debate is in danger of playing into the hands of revisionists -- those who play down the crime of the Holocaust.

[images added by this website]

London, Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Hitler with Blutfahne


 Germany breaks the Hitler taboo

By Kate Connolly
in Berlin

A DECADES-long taboo was broken in Germany yesterday with the launch of a feature film in which Adolf Hitler appears for the first time in a central role, not as a ranting demagogue but as a soft-spoken dreamer.

The Downfall is a huge shift from the previous tendency in German cinema to show Hitler only as a background figure or a character who does not appear on camera at all.

It tells the story of the last 12 days of Hitler's life in his 25ft-deep bunker in Berlin -- including his suicide alongside his new wife Eva Braun on April 30, 1945 -- while advancing Soviet troops pulverise the city with shellfire.

The production by Bernd Eichinger, a respected director, is likely to cause controversy when it opens in German cinemas next month. It depicts the Fuhrer as an avuncular character with a penchant for chocolate cake, who slides into madness when his lifelong dream of a 1,000-year reich slips from his grasp.

Hitler is convincingly played by Germany's star actor Bruno Ganz, who once acted the part of an angel in the award-winning German film Wings of Desire.

In one scene Ganz depicts him with his hair in his eyes, tears streaming down his cheeks, as he declares: "The war is over."

Hitler is shown stroking his alsatian Blondi and treating his secretary with tenderness and patience.

Until he starts having hysterical fits, Ganz's Hitler talks in a soft, melodic Austrian accent, far different from the barking tone he adopted for his mass rallies. The director said the voice was copied from the single recording which exists of Hitler talking in normal tones.

Mr Eichinger, who also wrote the screenplay, reconstructs the last days of the Third Reich as seen from the claustrophobic and dimly-lit bunker with the help of diary extracts and eye-witness accounts by Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge, who died in 2002, as well as his telephonist, and an officer, Major Freytag [von Loringhoven], who are the last two living survivors.

As well as recalling the unbearable stench of urine, sweat and diesel which dominated the bunker, Freytag described Hitler as a "physical wreck", with a limp, who hid his shaking left hand behind his back, leading to suggestions that he was suffering from Parkinson's disease.

click for origin

David Irving comments:

INTERESTING to note the new style of writing about Hitler and Germany that the London Daily Telegraph's writers now feel they can safely adopt, what with the shameful "Downfall" of Conrad Black, their erstwhile proprietor.
   I wrote a few weeks ago, "The eventual rehabilitation of Adolf Hitler in history is proceeding apace, unhindered by the pigmy efforts of his detractors; while the true story of Mr Churchill and his wanton destruction of his country's own Empire and subservience to the interests of the United States, birth land of his mother and of the parents of several of his ministers, will eventually become a commonplace to students as well."

Shot in Berlin, Munich and St Petersburg at a cost of £9 million, making it one of the most expensive German films of all time, The Downfall has been welcomed by critics for demythologising Hitler -- even before they have had the chance to see it.

Writing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the critic Frank Schirrmacher praised The Downfall for bringing Germany's evaluation of its history into "a new phase".

Until now Germans had been afraid to portray on screen "the man who still dominates the German imagination more than any other figure in history", he wrote.

But the tabloid Bild yesterday posed the question that an increasing number of critics will no doubt ask: "Should a monster be portrayed as a human being?"

Eichinger, the 55-year-old son of a Wehrmacht soldier who fought on the eastern front, said he believed the film would offer an "emotional release" for many Germans still traumatised by the Second World War, even though only one in five living Germans experienced it.

Its release comes at a time when Germans are involved in an intense debate about their suffering in the war.

There have been several popular books and historical analyses of German suffering during Allied bombing of Dresden and other cities, most famously Günter Grass's Crabwalk of 2002. The subject went virtually undiscussed for half a century after the war ended.

bustCritics say the debate is in danger of playing into the hands of revisionists -- those who play down the crime of the Holocaust.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2004.



Related stories on this website:

Two new films show that Germans are learning to confront Hitler's legacy
German Government tries to ban Hitler's book Mein Kampf | Simon Wiesenthal Center also tries to ban book from giant Internet bookstores | Internet comment on antisemitism provoked by such bans | Amazon still banning sales at request of German justice ministry | Mein Kampf voted one of the 100 books of the 20th century -- banned from Frankfurt book fair | Swedes tried, failed to ban Mein Kampf | Czech Mein Kampf Publisher Sentenced (2004) | charged
Günter Grass breaks taboo, writes of sinking of liner Wilhelm Gustloff with 8,000 dead in January 1945
Florida-style poll Konrad Adenauer tops German TV viewers' Popularity Poll (Some Restrictions Applied)
Tide turns against the Shrew German Magazine names Lea Rosh [proponent of Holocaust Memorial] as Most Embarrassing Berliner of the year 2003
The above news item is reproduced without editing other than typographical

 Register your name and address to go on the Mailing List to receive

[ Go back to AR Online Index | Go to Main Action Report Index ]

© Focal Point 2004 e-mail:  write to David Irving