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Last Nazi Standing.
February 21, 2005 1:05 PM   Subscribe

Rochus Misch is the last man alive from Hitler's underground bunker. His most recent interview is in light of Der Untergang ["Downfall"], the new German film which portrays Hitler as a man, not a monster. Misch asserts that while factually accurate, the movie fails to capture the atmosphere in the bunker... as if anything ever could. The movie has recieved much critical acclaim and has been nominated for best foreign language film at this year's Academy Awards.
posted by grapefruitmoon (23 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I am not sure Downfall is as pro-Hitler as some media reports (especially in the US) make it seem. not a good movie, but Ganz found an interesting key to play Hitler. Ganz is very, very good. the problem is, as I think AO Scott recently pointed out, how do you play Hitler? depicting him frothing at the mouth is not interesting and historically not entirely accurate. anything else, it seem to open an actor (and a movie) up for a quite ugly form of criticism

of course the problem is, keep in mind that keep in mind that the movie is based on Traudl Junge's memories

the best Hitler-in-the-bunker movie in my opinion remains Ennio DeConcini's Hitler: The Last Ten Days, with Alec Guinness
posted by matteo at 1:27 PM on February 21, 2005


Some hatreds die hard:

Ach, "neo-Nazi." No such thing. What does "neo-Nazi" mean? New Nazi, right? There aren't any. That's just a buzzword. What you have are nationally conscious people, people who say, "my fatherland, right or wrong." My fatherland, nothing more, am I right? You British say it, the Swiss say it, the Israelis say it -- "My country," they say. And I'll fight for it. The Israelis are nationalistic people, they defend their region, they defend their people. They have as much right as anyone.

The whole Iraq war isn't about Saddam Hussein, it's about Israel. Israel can't exist on avocados and oranges! A nation lives from business. They have to have money. And the Americans always pay in. This is just my opinion, but why did they occupy Iraq? Supposedly because of atomic bombs? [Laughs.] In my opinion, Iraq is a wealthy oil region, and with this money they can support Israel. They can't keep pumping their own money in forever.

posted by AlexReynolds at 1:31 PM on February 21, 2005


Salon?
posted by Juicylicious at 1:41 PM on February 21, 2005


Jucylicious : It's where I found the interview. However, it's certainly not the only page linked.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:44 PM on February 21, 2005


What seems to frighten people more than the thought of a Hitler who is pure evil incarnate is that he was just another human being with the same potential that we all hold. Until we acknowledge that kinship with the Hitlers, Bin Ladens and Pol Pots of the world, we will continue to produce and nurture them.
posted by 2sheets at 1:46 PM on February 21, 2005 [2 favorites]


Downfall is absolutely stunning (self-link to my review.) I think you have to be deaf & blind to read it as anything but a condemnation of the Nazi project. 2sheets has it right: it's much scarier to realize that yes, Hitler was human. That said, for those who read German, this piece by Wim Wenders is worth reading. Wenders argues that the film lacks a narrative point of view, mainly because we don't actually see Hitler's death on camera. I disagree, but there it is.
posted by muckster at 1:57 PM on February 21, 2005


What seems to frighten people more than the thought of a Hitler who is pure evil incarnate is that he was just another human being with the same potential that we all hold.
posted by 2sheets at 4:46 PM EST on February 21 [!]


I couldn't agree more. This theory supports that the opposite also holds true. Ghandi, Jesus, or whomever are also just plain old human beings on the other side of the spectrum. Did I just state Jesus was a human? Ducks and runs away really far.
posted by a_day_late at 1:59 PM on February 21, 2005


Lots of people were up in arms about the film here in Germany, but I think such protest misses the point -- namely, that the film portrayed Hitler not only as seen through the memory and eyes of a young uninvolved woman, but also at the end of his powers and sanity. I think you'd need to have someone portray his rise to power and the decisions he made throughout his reign to have the evilness and inhumanity really hit home. But that wasn't what the film was about, and it's not fair to say that whenever you make a film that has Hitler in it, you must make his evil hit home, even if it's about something else.

I thought the film was well-acted and an interesting document, but sentimentally told -- not sentimental about the Nazis, but about German national pride in general, something which is still considered extremely shameful by the Germans in my circles and which is celebrated pretty much only by the right-wing radicals. Since I feel that's more what the film was about, I think it's appropriate that it shows Hitler at his most human, as well as debased, crawling around underground, having shot German national pride to hell.

(This is not to say I believe Hitler was solely responsible for the atrocities of WWII; I'm just responding to what I felt was the film's sentimentality toward German national pride, which was definitely MIA after the war, deservedly so).
posted by sninky-chan at 2:02 PM on February 21, 2005


And I hear they recently uncovered secretly recorded tapes of Hitler admitting he once smoked pot.

A double reverse Godwin with a twist of lime!

I've had the misfortune of meeting a few people in my lifetime who could have become new Fuhrers if given the opportunity (mostly they lacked the initiative to turn their sociopathy against more than a few people). The cliché about "the banality of evil" is terribly apt from my life experience.

Maybe that's why some MeFites think I'm too easily offended.
posted by wendell at 2:04 PM on February 21, 2005


The world has already lived through a thousand Hitlers of different colours and shades. Make of that what you will. The difference between all of them would be their ability to get people behind their cause and how much pot they smoked during their rise to the top.
posted by Kleptophoria! at 2:30 PM on February 21, 2005


You can't change a story, just by blathering on about it, and make it into something other than what it was.

Ironically, Hitler was a highly successful example of exactly that. Too many regimes have been, and are.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:38 PM on February 21, 2005


I'm no historian, but as I understand it, Hitler had several people helping him load jews onto the trains and such. I might be way off base here, but I think others were involved. Whether Hitler had supernatural powers I don't know, but his minions keep fighting Superheroes even today.
I think charisma is a very underrated, misunderstood trait. Why do we expect Hitler to somehow be abusing dogs & children? Not overtly of course, but it's a sort of subliminable understanding that if your evil you must be thoroughly reprehensible. And for some reason us good people here can spot evil right away, while you poor deluded fools there are taken in by it.
(yes I spellchecked, yes there is sarcasm)
posted by Smedleyman at 2:45 PM on February 21, 2005


The whole Iraq war isn't about Saddam Hussein, it's about Israel.

Well, the Iraq War seems to not be about whatever was said officially said in the run up or has been officially said as reasons afterword.

Oil, water, Israel, having bases in the area, test subjects for new weapon systems, a way to transfer wealth to war profiteers - any or all of them may be true.

As long as there is a lack of truth from governments, theories will try to fill the void of truth. And some of these theories some people won't like. Like you don't like the Israel one. I don't like it as a 'this explains it all!' grand unification theory, but that doesn't mean bits of the various theories on 'zionist control' are not true.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:19 PM on February 21, 2005


rough ashlar : I do hope you realize that the passage you quoted was orginally said by a Nazi... which gives the anti-Israel bias a whole different level of meaning.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:28 PM on February 21, 2005


It's always a mistake to view historical events solely through the lens of today's knowledge and today's values. Something which tries not to do that is actually a great contribution. (Not sure that "Downfall" is that, of course.)

Anti-Semitism is important here. Anti-Semitism was pervasive in Europe during the rise of Hitler, and Hitler was by no means unique in his views on the subject. One can easily show that Germans were not particularly more anti-Semitic; certainly, Germany did not have the recent history of pogroms and widespread social and economic disabilities for Jews which could be found elsewhere.

In terms of a-historicism, a large part of how we regard anti-Semitism is because of the Holocaust illustrating where it could lead. A contemporary simply could not see it that way, nor, consequently, see the Nazis the way we do now. The transformation of general European anti-Semitism into the Holocaust was a great example of the slippery slope -- something which happened not at once but by degrees, no single step of which so outraged the conscience as to arouse effective opposition, but which in the aggregate produced something of unthinkable obscenity.
posted by MattD at 3:30 PM on February 21, 2005


The interview was fascinating.

I think charisma is a very underrated, misunderstood trait. Why do we expect Hitler to somehow be abusing dogs & children?

Yeah, I was a little surprised at first to hear his report of Hitler as a good boss, but then I realized that my initial reaction was exactly along those lines. Of course Hitler would've been an awesome boss—he would've had to be to be able to achieve that sort of following.
posted by DrJohnEvans at 4:11 PM on February 21, 2005


rough ashlar : I do hope you realize that the passage you quoted was orginally said by a Nazi... which gives the anti-Israel bias a whole different level of meaning.

Yup. And the events of WWII have much to do with Governments not being truthful with its citizens.

And frankly, I'm far more worried about today than the events of 50+ years ago. And the meaning is the same as in the past - violence will happen to people who have nothing to do with creating the problem which leads to the violence.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:16 PM on February 21, 2005


I just can't view Hitler's evil as something only one man could bring to the world.

He cobbled Norse folklore into a fanatic 'blood' identity and seduced the working poor into making him their savior.
He brilliantly fooled the aristocracy into thinking it could exploit him as a puppet and he destroyed them.
Hitler institutionalized anti-Semitism to insure the poor had someone to blame, hate and destroy.
He ridiculed the rule of law as he annexed and invaded every country he made treaties with.
His volk helped him every step of the way.
The one redeeming human act of Hitler (if you can call it that) was to renege on the Soviet non-agression pact and, as it turned out, to fight a war on two fronts. In that, he did show his true human failings, to the world's benefit but at incalculable cost.
Good boss. Jesus wept.
posted by nj_subgenius at 4:46 PM on February 21, 2005


Creepiest part of the interview, for me:
Salon: The murder of the children was terrible, but for every one of them, 1 million Jews were killed with less reason, to say nothing of the many, many others who died at the hands of the Nazis.

Mesch: That may be. But I ask you, if Hitler really did all the terrible things people now say he did, how could he have been our Fuhrer? How is it possible?
It's this sort of inability to look inward for evil that can corrupt any people, any nation.
posted by verb at 5:20 PM on February 21, 2005


Hitler's housekeeper was not at the bunker but she relates
some intresting facts about him,including the books he kept
on his nightstand.
Hitler may have been like that guy in Being There.
posted by hortense at 7:31 PM on February 21, 2005


Re Misch, I'd say the human heart is deceitful above all things, and who can understand it? On the other hand, this guy was not an initiator but a taker of orders, a man heavily influenced by his own upbringing and the times, basically a follower, nothing much more in terms of history. But I like the way he says some of the big events that happened around him seemed somewhat mundane and matter-of-fact because I think this is how things actually work. Screaming generals in the bunker? Maybe, but that certainly sounds more like a movie makers dramatic device to me, somehow Misch's version seems more like life as it's actually lived.

Re Hitler, I always wonder about his thinking around Christianity and the Jewish people. While Germany is the home of Christian Protestantism, I don't think too many would argue he was a follower of the teachings of Christ. Hitler hated, I think, himself, just about any minority group there was, and the Jews, and Jesus was Jewish. So he found himself in the position of having to replace the core belief system of his own people with something else? Something invented by his propaganda minister? No wonder he was so twisted and no wonder his entire enterprise was doomed to spectacular failure after causing incalculable damage, IMHO of course.
posted by scheptech at 8:23 PM on February 21, 2005


scheptech : If you read about Hitler's life, he became involved in Anti-Semitic groups in Vienna long before rising to power in 1933. Anti-Semitism wasn't something invented by his propaganda minister (who, while brilliant, got most of his marching orders from Hitler anyway), it was something that was alive and well in Germany/Austria during Hitler's youth. Hitler just took it and ran with it to its most pyschotic ends.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:55 AM on February 22, 2005


Yes understood, alive and well in the general population and culture already. The invention I was thinking of was the artificial amalgam of elements of pagan Norse mythology, co-opted symbols such as the swastika, ideas about the fatherland, weird notions about ideal racial types. All that mess. My basic point is about Christianity in the home of Protestantism, how that was apparently displaced by this alternate core system of thought promoting hatred of others and mass murder, and how mind-twisting it must have been for them to try and make it all real. I wonder how much of it any of those at the top really believed and what, if any, connection Hitler himself may have made between the Jewish foundation of Christianity and his apparent disregard / hatred? for it.
posted by scheptech at 1:17 PM on February 22, 2005


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