Downfall

I finally watched Downfall. That’s the movie about the last days of the Third Reich, a couple of scenes from which form the basis for all those Internet Memes where Hitler is talking about how much meat there is in a meal from Taco Bell. It is actually quite a good movie. If you were worried that you might end up being sympathetic with the poor Nazis hiding out in their bunker as the
“Russian Army” approaches, with constant shelling in the background, don’t worry. The script has them mention little tidbits like the Holocaust and such often enough that you are reminded to continue to hate most of them. Well, there’s a couple that were sort of just doing their job, and then there are the children. That was pretty gruesome.

I have no idea how accurate the movie is at the level of fine detail. If it is accurate, I have to say that Herr and Frau Goebbels were real jerks, and I’m not sure which one was more of a psychopath. I also wonder what would have happened if the American and British armies were bearing down on Berlin instead of the Soviet army. With the Soviets, it was personal, some of the leaders in Hitler’s government having initially cut their teeth on killing off socialists.

I remembered while watching the film that I know someone who met Albert Speer. Two people actually. I had the vaguest acquaintance with a professor at Harvard, but I mostly knew his son, who worked for me for a while, and also, ended up marrying (for a short time) my closest friend. The dad (the professor) had some academic reason to interview Speer. He was a linguist. This was probably after Speer was released from prison and was living in England. My friend was a little kid when this meeting took place; he got to go with Dad to work, and work was visiting with this famous Nazi.

Anyway, back to the film. One of the things you almost certainly know going into it is that many of the officers, as well as Hitler and his girlfriend Eva, kill themselves. So there is a lot of that. German officers making sentences and punctuating them with shots to their own heads.

“I will not surrender. Bang” … “I am not going out there again. Bang”

… and so on and so forth.

Then there is this great moment that happens. Hitler and Eva decide to get married. So their sitting at a table. The guy doing the marriage ceremony is sitting at the opposite side of the table. And, he’s starting out with the official, required Third Reich marriage ceremony.

He asks if both parties are true Aryans, and if they can certify that there is no Jewish ancestry. He gets dirty looks. He asks for ID. Someone says “This is the Fuhrer sitting here.” He gets on with the ceremony.

Heil LOL Hitler.

Here’s one of the better Downfall Memes:

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Photograph of the top of Hitler’s Bunker in Berlin by KatieJean97

Comments

  1. #1 Markita Lynda
    The Internet
    June 27, 2012

    Hitler was so shaky there at the end that it’s possible he got a loyal lieutenant to shoot him.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    June 27, 2012

    Interesting. In the movie SPOILER ALERT ..

    ….

    he and Eva Hitler go off on their own, and later they are dead, shot in the head and there are poison capsules expended on the floor. But I’m pretty sure you hear only one shot. But of course, in a movie, they have to come up with only one plot and stick with it. Even if ambiguity is left in it would be difficult to reference all the different hypotheses that must emerge for something like this.

  3. #3 Ian Kemmish
    June 28, 2012

    The Allied armies might have reached Berlin first if the US General Staff had not vetoed the plan to go through the Brenner Pass after the fall of Italy. One can surmise that they would have insisted on air superiority, which would have left Berlin uninhabitable before the street fighting, instead of afterwards.

    And with the Red Army, it was personal more because, on the road from Moscow, they found what the Germans had done on the road to Moscow, than because of anything the top brass ordered. At least the number of Jewish civilians who perished is capable of being calculated. Not so with the Slavs.

  4. #4 peter
    June 28, 2012

    I grew up in Germany, born in 1949. The ruins of hoses was part of my playground, till some-when in the early 1970’s Frankfurt was declared being officially ruin free.
    I saw the movie and was impressed. From what I learned in history classes in Germany, and reading about the third reich the portrayals were very accurate.
    What was not addressed, maybe to protect russian sensitivities, was the rape of German women during the russian invasion.
    But I guess those are the costs of war.
    And yes, the “folkssturm“ was Hitlers last attempt to take Germany’s future away. “They do not deserve me, so they shall go down“.

  5. #5 peter
    June 28, 2012

    ruins of “houses“ – of course.

  6. #6 Art
    June 28, 2012

    I’ve concluded that it was very personal for the Russians because they got the worse of what humans could do to other humans from both sides. Hitler lost the good will of the populations through maltreatment and atrocity. And when they turned against him he doubled down on the atrocities.

    Stalin maintained loyalty by being just slightly less bloody to the Russian people than the Germans. That, and a constant series of purges, political indoctrinations, enforced bravery, and the threat of being put into a punishment battalion and use to, among other nasty and suicidal jobs, clear minefields by marching across them . Stalin, of course, justified this cruelty as being necessary to fight an existential threat. I suggest that Germany was blamed for inhumanity on both sides.

    Hitler set up the situation that allowed Stalin to prosper and took the blame for his methods. The war for Russian soldiers was extraordinarily grim. Suggested reading: “Ivan’s War” by Catherine Merridale. 2006.

  7. #7 dean
    June 28, 2012

    Think about the numbers. The United States lost about 400,000 soldiers, killed or missing, while the Soviet Union lost roughly 11 million (some people estimate the number was higher). Estimates of the number of civilians lost range up to 20 million. Also, remember this:

    The German invasion of the Soviet Union was the only attack during the war employing the concept of Einsatzgruppen (tasks forces) which followed just behind the attacking forces with specific orders from Hitler to kill, “… all potential leaders of society (meaning to wipe out the intelligentsia), all communists, Jews, Gypsies, guerrillas, saboteurs and those capable of resistance.”This written policy of annihilation was also given to three million German soldiers just before the attack on June 22, 1941.

    Note: the Russian soldiers, and resistance, did nasty things to the Germans too. It was not a good thing to be taken prisoner by either side.
    The Russians had good reasons to be pissed at the Germans, and the Germans had good reason to be scared of them.
    Final comment: my father-in-law was with the Allies who met the Russians at the Elbe. He said he came away feeling very glad he had been fighting Nazis instead of the Soviet army. “They scared me” was his comment.

  8. #8 dean
    June 28, 2012

    And I bunged up the blockquote. My apologies. I blame lack of preview, age, and aliens, in that order (with aliens in a very distant third place).

  9. #9 Greg Laden
    June 28, 2012

    Blockquote fixed.

    A friend of mine from way back was in the Luftwaffe as an aircraft mechanic. He ended up in the Ukraine during that famous winter when all the oil froze. As a mechanic, he remembers that especailly well.

    He also remembers his units arrival as being seen as a sort of liberation for the local Ukranians. Then, that Einsatzgruppen you mention came along. They were very diligent in searching for saboteurs, so good in fact that everybody became a saboteur. They would burn the houses down to see if there were munitions hidden in them. If the house burned without any explosions the homeowners were innocent but homeless in the middle of the winter. If something blew up they were shot. I believe the very famous photograph, titled “The last Jew in Vinnitsa,” of the grim looking man sitting next to a pit already lined with bodies with the soldiers looking on while a Einsatzgruppe soder holds a pistol to his head is from the Ukranian site of Vinnitsa.

  10. #10 dean
    June 28, 2012

    Thanks.

    Your friend must have been a fascinating source of information – if he were willing to talk about the experience. Quite the lucky man to get home.

    When I was in high school, the husband of the woman I had for American and world history was from Russia. His father had served in the Soviet Army during the war, in a tank division. Whether he was a tanker or attached infantry I forget. He lived through the war unscathed, and went home to his wife and young family, just outside Moscow. You probably see where this is going. One night, a couple months after he was home, there was a knock at the door. Three very polite but intensely serious men came in, told the father to pack a small bag, and away they went. Never seen, or heard from, again. Shortly after that the mother managed to get herself and her two young ones away from town, through the countryside, and away from that particular iteration of a madman’s hell. They finally made their way to the States.

    When I hear my students, some co-faculty, or family members (my side and my wife’s side) commenting how President Obama has led us to Communism or a Nazi state, I think about these snippets of history and marvel at what stupendous assholes the complainers are.

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