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Nazi home movies
October 26, 2006 2:56 AM   Subscribe

A 10 minute home movie taken by an SS officer has been discovered in an English church. It shows SS officers and secretaries relaxing in the summer of 1942 in southern Russia. The last couple of minutes shows footage from a slave labor camp in that area. The footage was taken at the height of the German success in Russia, a few months before the turning point in the Russian campaign - and probably the turning point in the Second World War.
posted by bobbyelliott (51 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fascinating. Such an odd atmosphere - 'Here I am enjoying a cup of tea, here's a pretty secretary doing some typing, here's some untermenschen slaves...'

And you have to love the reason why they remained undiscovered for decades: None of Mr Whitton’s films were ever viewed because no one could work the 16 mm projector he also left to the church.
posted by jack_mo at 3:36 AM on October 26, 2006


here's a pretty secretary doing some typing,

I know. Now I totally have a crush on some dead Nazi typist chick.
posted by Optamystic at 3:47 AM on October 26, 2006


the nazi's used realplayer, it all makes sense.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:47 AM on October 26, 2006


A T72 in the middle of this movie would have made it perfect.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:09 AM on October 26, 2006



A T72 in the middle of this movie would have made it perfect.


A time travelling tank?
posted by gwildar at 4:38 AM on October 26, 2006


the nazi's used realplayer, it all makes sense.

Heh. My thoughts exactly. I converted it to FLV and uploaded it to youtube, if anyone perfers that. link
posted by Rhomboid at 4:40 AM on October 26, 2006


A few thoughts:

-the internet is the coolest thing in the world
-there are plenty more interesting tidbits squirrelled away; this is just the tip of the iceberg
-now is a good time to be alive
-being a slave labourer sucks: did you see the guy get creamed by the rolling log?
posted by Meatbomb at 4:57 AM on October 26, 2006


I think sgt serenity wanted to see a T34/76
posted by Meatbomb at 4:58 AM on October 26, 2006


Heh. My thoughts exactly. I converted it to FLV and uploaded it to youtube, if anyone perfers that. link
posted by Rhomboid at 4:40 AM PST


Wonder when it'll show up on video.google.com as an iPod?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:00 AM on October 26, 2006


as an aside, hasn't the beeb been making noises about these great open codecs they are developing (dirac or whatever), yet they still seem to be pushing the realmedia and making drm deals with microsoft. wtf, british dudes?
posted by dorian at 5:19 AM on October 26, 2006


-being a slave labourer sucks: did you see the guy get creamed by the rolling log?

Yeah, but I was thinking how happy the Nazis looked -- life must have been easy for the slave-owning classes as long as you didn't pull a strolling or pointing muscle.

It's a good thing the Nazis didn't have time to perfect that self-propelled haystack you can see being tested at 2:27. That, my friends, could have turned the tide for them.
posted by pracowity at 5:23 AM on October 26, 2006


Ok , a time travelling tank : ) it would be great if the car being unloaded just drove over that nazi givin clicks and tuts as well.
This whole thing is filled with a sense of the soviets comin over the horizon for me.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:37 AM on October 26, 2006


Rhomboid, thanks for taking the time to convert that.

> This whole thing is filled with a sense of the soviets
> comin over the horizon for me.

Spoiler!
posted by jperkins at 5:57 AM on October 26, 2006


Hate RealPlayer? Real Alternative. (Note: If you have RealOne or any official RealPlayer installed, I highly recommend wiping your drive and/or uninstalling it and thoroughly scrubbing your registries and/or running a good antivirus/malware program like NOD32 or Panda AV. Real Alternative will still work otherwise, but, damn, speaking of Nazis, you really don't want RealOne hooked into your system.)
posted by loquacious at 6:03 AM on October 26, 2006


Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Realplayer.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:09 AM on October 26, 2006 [2 favorites]


ordinary guys, being bastards.
posted by bonaldi at 6:14 AM on October 26, 2006


Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Realplayer.

DRM, DRM, über alles!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:26 AM on October 26, 2006


Did I see a Russian girl bearing a breast at around 2:45 in the video? Did anyone else see that?
posted by ob at 6:34 AM on October 26, 2006


Wow, didn't notice that...
posted by daninnj at 6:41 AM on October 26, 2006


RealEin?

ob, do you mean that hand that's actually covering her breast as she's resting against the pitchfork.

Oh yeah... I went back and looked. I'm sad...
posted by symbioid at 6:42 AM on October 26, 2006


The original clip plays fine in Media Player Classic for me. FLV always looks more pixellated than it needs to be.
posted by meehawl at 6:52 AM on October 26, 2006


All those happy smiling Nazi's! It's good to be the evildoer.

It's interesting how the workers seem to be smililing and seemingly happily working and they are slaves. I wonder if it was staged at all. They were told to smile.

On an aside...There's a great book about being a soldier in the Russian Army during WW2 called "Ivan's War." It's fascinating. I'm so glad I'm not a soldier in a war. Any war. Just watched Deer Hunter the other day too. And hearing about this Iraq War. Ug. War sucks. For the soldiers, for the civilians, for the POW's, for the slaves.
posted by aacheson at 8:21 AM on October 26, 2006


Rhomboid: Thanks for putting it on YouTube

- Your BBC-blocked Friend in China.
posted by trinarian at 8:31 AM on October 26, 2006


Thank you Rhomboid
posted by speug at 8:34 AM on October 26, 2006


damn! the Nazis used Windows!
posted by matteo at 8:38 AM on October 26, 2006


I don't see much difference between the Nazis and the elite class today, barring the Holocaust.
posted by disgruntled at 8:40 AM on October 26, 2006


I was surprised at how normal everyone looked. Doesn't look like a war. Also the fragility of the vehicles. And the Russians looked well-fed and generally not too unhappy.
posted by stbalbach at 9:20 AM on October 26, 2006


Thanks bobbyelliott and Rhomboid!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:29 AM on October 26, 2006


I don't see much difference between the Nazis and the elite class today, barring the Holocaust.

Give it time, right? We haven't yet reached the dire economic straights that Germany did and a substantial dive for us is inevitable at this point.
posted by sonofsamiam at 9:41 AM on October 26, 2006


Did anyone else get the sense that the guys in the white uniforms were marching around in their long-johns? Like they over-slept and didn't have time to get dressed, so the pulled on their boots and grabbed their belt and hat and were off to oppress some Russians.
posted by quin at 9:50 AM on October 26, 2006


Also, where are the other four and a half minutes? I bet they were edited out because that's where all the really kinky stuff was. Haystack on haystack action, shit like that.
posted by quin at 9:55 AM on October 26, 2006


Thanks, bobbyelliott. After I watched this film, I went back and watched these films. Then I thought about fate and ordinary people living during terrible times. Then, I looked at my reflection in my monitor...
posted by taosbat at 10:07 AM on October 26, 2006


I don't see much difference between the Nazis and the elite class today, barring the Holocaust.

I don't see much difference between a paper clip and an architeuthis, barring one being a humongous ink-squirting cephalopod.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:40 AM on October 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


Freaky seeing Nazis doing banal, everyday things.

Think I'll go read a book that highlights the Russians kicking their ass.
posted by aerotive at 10:47 AM on October 26, 2006


ob, do you mean that hand that's actually covering her breast as she's resting against the pitchfork.

Oh yeah... I went back and looked. I'm sad...
posted by symbioid at 9:42 AM EST on October 26


Well thanks for doing so. I must have been imagining it. Obviously I saw the two secretaries and thought 'Naughty Nazis' and that was it.
posted by ob at 11:41 AM on October 26, 2006


You don't know that these guys are "Nazis," that is to say, ideologically commited party members. They're probably draftees, stuck with garrison duty, enjoying fixing their cars, and hoping the whole thing is over by winter. They probably see their "slave laborers" as liberated workers -- after all, it's not like the Russians were making big salaries from their collective farms. If you stripped the film of all Nazi or German references, you'd might think it was a film of a bunch of happy Soviet soldiers amid the local peasantry.
posted by Faze at 11:43 AM on October 26, 2006


If you stripped the film of all Nazi or German references, you'd might think it was a film of a bunch of happy Soviet soldiers amid the local peasantry.

The Russians did lots of terrible things themselves that were atrocious, but at least they didn't have friggin skulls on their uniforms. Like they say nobody thinks of themselves as evil; but skulls man, what were they thinking?
posted by bobo123 at 12:05 PM on October 26, 2006


If you stripped the film of all Nazi or German references, you'd might think it was a film of a bunch of happy Soviet soldiers amid the local peasantry.

Except these "happy Soviet soldiers" killed 25 million "local peasantry".
posted by bobbyelliott at 12:11 PM on October 26, 2006


why the hell does this insert itself into all my FF tabs, its like it burns through any tab put "on top" of it.

Fascinating. The banality of evil, indeed.
posted by Rumple at 12:12 PM on October 26, 2006


The Russians did lots of terrible things themselves that were atrocious, but at least they didn't have friggin skulls on their uniforms. Like they say nobody thinks of themselves as evil; but skulls man, what were they thinking?

What a long strange trip eich bein?
posted by hal9k at 12:18 PM on October 26, 2006


Not worthy of a FPP but tangentially related:
Skullfucking in Modern Deutschland
posted by keswick at 12:18 PM on October 26, 2006


That skull shit goes back a lot farther than Hitler's boys. Their Prussian predecessors were wearing the Totenkopf when the US was still a handful of British colonies.
posted by pracowity at 1:12 PM on October 26, 2006


The skull badge dates from the Prussian era, when the modern German state received its pantheon of military heroes in Frederick the Great's wars of conquest.

...Pantheon of dead military heroes. Back then, even Field Marshals lead from the front, on occasion. von Schwerin died with the colors in his hands, rallying his troops in front of Prague.

18th century warfare was about organized violence -- death -- and business was good. The army that does not fear death, but respects its place in warfare, is stronger for it, on some level (but not all).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:12 PM on October 26, 2006


Rhomboid: Thanks for putting it on YouTube

Seconded. And of course thanks to bobbyelliott for posting it. Fascinating stuff.

I don't see much difference between the Nazis and the elite class today, barring the Holocaust.


Get a grip.
posted by languagehat at 3:23 PM on October 26, 2006


Get a grip.

Amen.
posted by matthewr at 3:42 PM on October 26, 2006


Optamystic, where is this cute secretary you speak of?

Hitler visits a lunatic asylum. The patients give the Hitler salute. As he passes down the line he comes across a man who isn't saluting.
"Why aren't you saluting like the others?" Hitler barks.
"Mein Führer, I'm the nurse," comes the answer. "I'm not crazy!"
posted by movilla at 4:10 PM on October 26, 2006


First, the farmers weren't slave laborers. The harvest had to come in or everyone would starve, although it's certain the Wehrmacht would take their cut. What's notable about that crowd is that it's all women and old men -- the young men are a) in the Red Army, b) with the partisans, c) drafted by the Germans and protecting the Atlantic Wall, d) maybe some in the forced labor camp, or e) dead.

The white uniform guys are the equivalent of the Iraqi Army. Probably most of them were executed as collaborators the very next year.

I was surprised at how normal everyone looked. Doesn't look like a war. Also the fragility of the vehicles. And the Russians looked well-fed and generally not too unhappy.

It was an occupation, not a war. The front was hundreds of miles away. I take this as being perhaps Ukraine instead of "Southern Russia" -- if they were that close to the Caspian, that puts them smack dab in the middle of the German summer offensive. This just looked too peaceful, relaxed, and settled. My bet is that the water scenes are the Black Sea or Sea of Azov, and that this is the Crimea or somewhere close. The German war graves dated 1941 suggest it couldn't have been terribly far east.

It's fascinating. I imagine with a combination of scholars it would be possible to identify the locations, starting with landmarks like that church, and from there identify some of the top officers.

Now, the sign in the first shot is very telling. It's for the Höhere (Higher) SS (Schutzstaffel) und Polizeiführer (Police commander) for Russland-Sud (southern Russia) in Einsatzstab Gieseke (Task Force Gieseke), a position in the enforcement hierarchy created by Himmler^. There's a (revisionist site) forum post about this fellow Gieseke, who was responsible for rounding up tens of thousands of Jews, POWs, and partisans and putting them into (at that date) labor camps, but I can't find out much else about him. We don't know whether these guys were in this unit or not, but I wonder if the sign isn't a big clue. (In any case, most of the Russland-Sud region incorporated the Ukraine, not the Caucasus region that the Germans only held from the fall of 1942 to early 1943.)

The first Iron Cross sign at ~1:30 says Deutsche Helden, "German Heroes". The one at ~1:50 says something like "fell for Greater Germany". I tried reading some of the other signs but the quality is just too poor (though perhaps with the original film it is not).

I'll have to dig out my nephew's World War II uniforms book, but it's pretty clear that there are SS and Wehrmacht officers in that last sequence and possibly one more type (in addition to the white uniform guys).
posted by dhartung at 8:02 PM on October 26, 2006


Think I'll go read a book that highlights the Russians kicking their ass.

You might try Antony Beevor's The Fall of Berlin. Strong medicine, though, if all you want is to feel good about Russian retribution.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:34 AM on October 27, 2006


Thanks for that extremely informative comment, dhartung. I had assumed it was the Ukraine, but it's good to have a more knowledgeable person back that up. If you find out any more details, please share!
posted by languagehat at 5:58 AM on October 27, 2006


Well, I've satisfied myself -- it's almost certain that the Germans in the video were heavily involved in exterminating Jews, although the actual killings were subrogated to special units who may or may not have been shown.
No, I didn't want to take the word of a revisionist forum. But I wasn't certain how early extermination began.

The HSSPF was Himmler's organization, sort of a FEMA-level agency begun before the war to integrate the SS and local police. (The Nazis liked to have lots of parallel organizations and played them off against each other, as a safety measure, even if the movies reduce all the bad guys to "Gestapo".) The HSSPF was then extended into the occupied territories during the war, and HSSPF commanders at the highest level had broad authority to administer their region. They were not to interfere with the Army, and vice versa. Once an area was invaded, the HSSPF had the responsibility of tracking down partisans/insurgents, isolated enemy military, and of course the greatest threat to Germany, Jews.

Though Himmler's orders were ambiguous: "All Jews are to be shot. Jew women and children are to be driven into the swamps." they were carried out with alacrity. The driving-into-the-swamps generally ineffective and so these Jews were also shot. Commanders were also free to exterminate villages that they judged to be full of untermenschen or criminals. A typical account:

A Jewish shoemaker, his wife, and three-year-old child lived in a village hut. All three were taken by two SS men to their post, where the couple had to clean the rooms. On the way the man and woman were beaten with a club. When the work was done, the family was brought to the edge of the wood ... There [the commander] killed them without much ado, shooting them with his pistol in the neck. The small child ... whom he first led by the hand and then carried on his arm, had to look on when his parents were murdered, [and] started to scream. [The commander] calmed [him] with stroking and words. When the child was calm again, [he was] killed ... with a shot to the neck ... carried on [the commander's] arm.

So, very much like the Schindler's List storming of the ghetto, if you have no other reference point. These HSSPF-controlled SS units were responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Jews in the occupied areas.

It was, in fact, this if-you-will labor-intensive (and all too public) process that led to Himmler et al. concluding that concentration and extermination camps -- the Final Solution -- were the only viable method for cleansing the occupied areas.

The HSSPF, it should also be noted, were essentially a military government and had more duties beyond extermination, and the death squads were generally reassigned once they were no longer needed. I still believe that the white uniforms represent a local militia that was being deputized as the HSSPF consolidated control over its district.

(This was roughly one of the areas where anti-Soviet resistance had been strongest right after the Revolution, and the Germans no doubt recruited on the basis of anti-Bolshevism as well as anti-Semitism.

I also determined that the German communities in Ukraine and Russia west of the Urals had all been relocated to Siberia in 1941. But I wonder, for example, if that was a German-community church, since it did not appear to be at all Russian Orthodox.)

Himmler fantasized that "after the war", the HSSPF would metastasize into a Roman-modelled colonial administration, making way for millions of SS men and their families as settlers, an uber-class above the subjugated peoples, only a fraction of whom were deemed capable of "Germanization". The only thing that is really shocking about this, of course, is that we can't wrap our minds around Eastern Europeans as a "savage" people, but this was of course exactly what Britain, France, Spain, and Holland had all done with their colonial empires then within living memory.

One may thus without much effort mentally translate the verandah scenes to India a generation or so earlier.

I'm unable to corroborate anything about Gieseke for certain. I imagine that he's shown in the video and I also surmise that the commander at the end is his superior on an inspection. Tantalizing is a memo of Himmler's from 1944 that refers to an SS-Brigadeführer Gieseke who is being considered for reassignment along with other SS "generals". I think it's likely this is the same man, although his fief in the Ukraine had long since been overrun by the Red Army.

By the way, cute-secretary admirers, the film Downfall, which is an excellent account of the last days in Hitler's bunker*, depicts a young girl who was innocently hired as Hitler's personal secretary, played by Alexandra Maria Lara (real one not as hot).

* The caveat is that the film takes the difficult-to-swallow moral proposition that all Germans were victims of Nazism as well. To the extent this is true, it may have been a necessary conceit for the making of such a film in Germany, but it places too much culpability on the leadership and too little on the people who enabled them. The secretary, for example, was shocked, shocked to realize after the war that Jews had been mass-murdered.

It is difficult not to have contempt for such people.

Anyway, I found this more troubling than the "human" portrayal of Hitler, which provoked more controversy.

posted by dhartung at 11:12 PM on October 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


But one day I went past the memorial plaque which had been put up for Sophie Scholl in Franz Josef Strasse, and I saw that she was born the same year as me, and she was executed the same year I started working for Hitler. And at that moment I actually sensed that it was no excuse to be young, and that it would have been possible to find things out."

Traudl Junge—Interviewed during the movie Der Untergang (Downfall).

posted by taosbat at 10:07 AM on October 28, 2006


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