ZGram - 7/9/2004 - "Hitler taboo about to be broken? Naw!"
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Sat Jul 10 08:24:07 EDT 2004
Zgram - Where Truth is Destiny: Now more than ever!
July 9, 2004
Good Morning from the Zundelsite:
Below is a traditional, mainstream write-up, as you can tell already
from the title. However, the topic is important, and I am running
the article as a Zgram for the record:
New films flout Hitler taboo
Two directors break with tradition as führer moves from cameo role to
Luke Harding in Berlin / Monday July 5, 2004 / The Guardian /
One of the final taboos in Germany is the portrayal of Adolf Hitler
in a central role on screen. He has been depicted sometimes as white
space, but more usually he has little more than a cameo part, often
shot from behind.
But now, nearly 60 years after his death, two lavish German film
productions set in the Third Reich are breaking that taboo. Later
this year and early next German viewers will have the chance to see
two Hitlers - in Bernd Eichinger's spectacular film The Downfall and
in The Devil's Architect, a three-part semi-documentary television
series by Heinrich Breloer.
Both Eichinger and Breloer are accomplished and award-winning
directors, and their projects feature Hitler as a fully formed main
character. The productions have prompted a debate inside Germany as
to whether, with virtually all of Hitler's inner circle now dead,
the Third Reich is now a fitting subject for artistic and
"Obviously Hitler is a very problematic person for Germans," said Dr
Monika Flacke, the curator of Berlin's German Historical Museum. "He
was responsible for world war two and the Holocaust. There is
something to the thesis that if you show him on screen you are in
danger of making him human and therefore sympathetic."
Other cultural commentators believe that with most of those directly
involved in the second world war now dead, the traumatic events of
the Nazi era are finally slipping into posterity. "If an actor can
now play Hitler in Germany that means the Third Reich has become a
part of history. "It's no longer the painful present," said Hermann
Kappelhoff, professor of film studies at Berlin's Free University.
But he added: "I'm not totally convinced by this argument, however."
Frank Schirmacher, writing in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,
added: "This much is clear: both movies break with the traditional
German preoccupation with the Third Reich.
"[They] are the most important historical projects in many years."
The Downfall deals with the final days of the Nazi regime. It will
even show Hitler and Eva Braun committing suicide in his Berlin
bunker on April 30 1945, as Russian soldiers close in. The Devil's
Architect, meanwhile, will show Hitler's relationship with his
personal architect, Albert Speer. Other leading Nazis appear in the
series as well. Himmler, Göring and Goebbels all make appearances
alongside other defendants at the Nuremberg trials. Even Eva Braun
is included, as are minor figures who served the Third Reich as
switchboard operators, cleaners and secretaries.
Breloer meticulously researched Albert Speer, who spent 20 years in
Spandau jail after the war, where he wrote his celebrated memoirs.
The series includes new revelations about Speer, who was also
Hitler's minister for armaments, based on Breloer's discoveries in
Germany's federal archives. They are apparently alarming. The
director met Speer in 1980, just before his death in 1981, and
interviewed 23 people who knew him, including three of his children.
"We see Hitler in a new light," he said.
Hitler's Reichskanzlei, his Berlin chancellery building, was
carefully recreated in a studio in Cologne for the television
series. To prepare himself for his role as Hitler in Breloer's
programme, the actor Tobias Moretti spent hours listening to a tape
secretly recorded in 1942 by a Finnish radio technician. The tape,
discovered only a few years ago, features Hitler speaking in a
Eichinger is also striving for a realistic portrayal of Hitler in The
Downfall. The director said recently: "We are making a grand, epic
feature film. Authenticity is the top priority." In Eichinger's
production Bruno Ganz plays the führer. Ganz is Germany's answer to
Jeremy Irons, and one of the country's most famous actors. According
to reports, he hesitated before taking the role. The film, which was
shot in Berlin, Munich and St Petersburg, begins on April 20 1945 -
Hitler's 56th birthday - with the Soviet army encircling the German
Both films come at a time when the second world war is being freshly
debated in Germany, amid an explosion of memoirs which deal with the
trauma of the Third Reich as personal and family history. One of the
runaway bestsellers of the summer in Germany has been My Father's
Land, written by the journalist Wibke Bruhns, whose father was
executed for his involvement in the unsuccessful July 20 1944 plot
to kill Hitler. "Everybody in Germany has a picture of Hitler in
their minds. Up until now though this has been based on six or seven
documentaries," Prof Kappelhoff said. "These films are an experiment
in something different."
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