Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ms. Hen reviews DOWNFALL and meditates on the importance of learning history

Directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel

This film was on Ms. Hen’s Netflix list for a long time, and she finally watched it. She feels that it’s not always the right time to watch a Nazi movie, but she did, and she was enthralled as a hen could be.

The film is about Traudl Junge, Hitler’s secretary and the final days of World War II in the bunker in Berlin. At the beginning, Junge was chosen from five girls by Hitler to be his secretary. She was warned by her family not to get involved with the Nazis, but she wanted to do something with her life. She was 22 when she was hired.

Fast forward to April 20, 1945. Hitler is in a frenzy: the generals and advisers in the bunker scream at each other about military tactics, and they know they are going to lose the war. Bruno Ganz dominates the film as Hitler; he seems to have Hitler’s quirks and mannerisms. It’s not often that Hitler is portrayed in films; he’s usually a character in the background, but here we come to see him.

One of the background characters complained that Hitler was a non-smoking vegetarian, in that place and time that was abnormal. Not everyone who surrounded him was pure evil, and a lot of the people didn’t know what was happening in other parts of Europe. Eva Braun took care of Junge, and she was kind to her, because she knew Junge was young. Braun wanted to spend her last days partying, and she did, until a bomb hit the building where the party took place.

One of the most moving scenes of the film was when Goebbels’s wife poisoned her children and killed them all. She had complained that she didn’t want to live in a world that did not have National Socialism. After she had killed her children, she calmly sat down to play a game of Solitaire, as if nothing had happened. She and her husband died the next day: he shot her, then himself.

Traudl Junge was not arrested for her involvement with the Nazis. She was dismissed because she was a juvenile. But there were other young people who did know, like Sophie Scholl, who was executed by the Nazis for distributing literature about the atrocities, which was portrayed in the film SOPHIE SCHOLL, THE FINAL DAYS.  Another film that relates to this period in time is A WOMAN IN BERLIN, about the disturbing after effects of the end of World War II. The beginning and the end of DOWNFALL show the interview with Traudl Junge. The companion film to this, BLIND SPOT, HITLER’S SECRETARY, is the interview with her in its entirety.

Ms. Hen couldn’t understand why these people would follow this lunatic and do whatever he said, and kill millions of people. Some things will always be a mystery, but we can learn about them and try not to make the same mistakes again. Even though we wish this could be true, it hasn’t been. We just have to keep forging ahead, and try to teach future generations history.

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