March 29, 2005

Hitler in His Bunker

I need to see this movie, Downfall, on the day it's released. Check out that trailer!

Posted by Michael J. Totten at March 29, 2005 01:31 PM

My wife, son (29) and I saw it this past weekend. The movie is riveting! I can't recommend it highly enough.

Posted by: Robert Avery at March 29, 2005 01:54 PM

Great trailer.

Oh, no; not another Hitler is evil movie.
Is Hitler the ONLY evil that Leftists can call evil?

Sudan today? Nah.
Rwanda? Wha? The VERY popular liberal Pres. Clinton said there was NO genocide, so who's to argue with Bill? (slap from Hillary, but nothing else.)
Cambodia's Killing Fields? C'mon -- the Left was protesting the US fighting evil in Vietnam because they ACCEPTED thousands being murdered. (Of course, the Useful Idiots might not have exactly agreed on what they were FOR when they wanted the US out -- maybe like Terri not wanting to be starved to death, while not wanting to be hooked to a machine?)

Posted by: Tom Grey at March 29, 2005 02:41 PM

Oh, come on Tom. Can you find me a leftist who defends Pol Pot, the Hutu militia, and the janjaweed?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 29, 2005 02:44 PM

is it me or does the actor playing hitler look awfully like gerard schroeder?

Posted by: mike at March 29, 2005 02:45 PM

If you haven't already done so you should rent Blind Spot, a documentary by the same director which interviews the real-life secretary whose experiences are the basis for Downfall.
Absolutely riveting.

Posted by: Hunter McDaniel at March 29, 2005 03:00 PM

Michael, when you asked to name any lefty who defends Pol Pot, the mind immediately leaps to Noam Chomsky:

Whether these estimates are right or wrong, no one knows, and no one cares. There is a doctrine to be established: we must focus solely on the (horrendous) crimes of Pol Pot, thus providing a retrospective justification for (mostly unstudied) US crimes, and an ideological basis for further "humanitarian intervention" in the future -- the Pol Pot atrocities were explicitly used to justify US intervention in Central America in the '80s, leaving hundreds of thousands of corpses and endless destruction.

I'd call that something of a "Pol Pot meets Kettle" defense of the Khmer Rouge.

Good old Noam. Never fails to deliver.

Posted by: Mark Poling at March 29, 2005 03:05 PM

(Thanks Mark!)
Michael, I can find LOTS of Leftists who say that those who support Bush's invasion of Iraq MUST support the results, including abuse at Abu Ghraib.

You, for instance -- while most agree that much of the abuse there was wrong.

All strategic policies that are followed have results, good and bad. To support a strategic result implies support for the results, good and bad.

OF COURSE the Left doesn't support the results of not fighting to win in SE Asia, or stopping genocide in Rwanda, or in Sudan. I'm not saying they admit that they honestly support such results.

I'm saying they dishonestly support strategic policies which had these results and then deny responsibility for the results of following their policy. (NO genocide in Rwanda by Clinton; didn't you support him in 96 before Nader in 2000?)

You met Hitch. Ask him. How many civilian SE Asians have to be murdered for the results to show that it was a "mistake" for the US to leave Vietnam? (How does one know one is wrong when supporting a policy? The policy is followed, and the results are much worse...)

Where are Leftists who claim: we should have stayed in Vietnam to fight evil commies? W should invade Sudan and institute regime change?
(Thanks for fine Dean rant on Sudan -- he's absolutely right.) How many non-fighting Sudanese civilians have to be murdered before the Left wants WAR rather than accepting genocide?

The Left's failure to accept responsibility for the results of the US leaving Vietnam w/o victory are corrupting the idea of accountability based on results, rather than intentions. Abdication because of "good intentions" is their all too easy facile refuge.
(Left includes Rather and the MSM)

Posted by: Tom Grey at March 29, 2005 03:37 PM

Tom, Mark -- don't you guys ever get tired of whipping the same old horse?

Regarding southeast Asia,I just found an interesting website that I know nothing about, that contains this article "Should the U.S. apologize to Vietnam?" It makes the imporant point that for the most part we didn't know what the hell we were doing there. It was amateur hour.

Given that incompetence, and given the strategic irrelevance of Vietnam in the Cold war, which became obvious during the course of our fighting ther, just how many more Americans should we have been willing to sacrifice to somehow save the Vietnamese and the Cambodians from tyranny? Another 50,000? How about two or three hundred thousand? And how many more Vietnamese should we have been willing to kill? Am I being an irresponsible leftist for even raising such questions?

Posted by: markus rose at March 29, 2005 04:46 PM

Do you foam at the mouth and rant at liberals and leftists everytime you see a movie that portray the Nazis as being evil?

Posted by: Frydek-Mistek at March 29, 2005 04:53 PM

Markus, I admit Chomsky-bashing is hardly sporting, but the challenge was out there...

On the other hand, while the high-level execution of our policies in S.E. Asia may have been "amateur hour" (thinking about LBJ's micromanagement of theatre operations makes me cringe) our basic instincts were correct; nothing was quite as dangerous to humanity at the time as Communism.

Let's face it, command economies kill. Externally, sure, but more effiently internally. The bloodiest horrors of the 20th century share one common denominator; somewhere in the nomenclature you will find a derivative of the word "socialism".

None of this excuses the mess we made of the Vietnam War. For what it's worth, I think Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon should get equal credit for the botch it became. Frankly, the Best and the Brightest of that generation don't look that smart anymore.

And the fact that Noam Chomsky is still treated with respect (and in some cases downright awe) by people who should know better doesn't reflect well on our own "Best and Brightest".

Posted by: Mark Poling at March 29, 2005 05:20 PM

Markus: Should the U.S. apologize to Vietnam?

Should we apologize for showing up or apologize for pulling out? That depends on which Vietnamese person you ask.

Or do you mean we should apologize for not winning? That seems to me the best bet, but it would be mightly strange to make that apology to those who beat us.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at March 29, 2005 07:00 PM

Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw thinks the movie's excellent, too.

Posted by: neo-neocon at March 29, 2005 07:34 PM

Tom - your comments are somewhat bizarre, there seems to be an assumption in your remarks that a movie about Hitler is made at the expense of a movie about some other horror of the 20th century and is politically motivated. Can it not just be a movie about a major 20th century figure, made because its a final episode of his life?

Posted by: pjw at March 29, 2005 10:02 PM

The ability of some at this website to turn any conversation, even one about Hitler's final days in a bunker, into a strawman assassination of the mainstream left amazes me. What's the conversation supposed to be about? Does it even matter? Bill Clinton must be compared to Noam Chomsky. This is much more important. What good are Nazis when you have Democrats to bash?

Posted by: Grant McEntire at March 29, 2005 10:53 PM


And speaking of Nazi-fuckheads, the head of the Aryan Nation wants to reach out to al Qaeda. I would laugh if it only didn't make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up:

That line near the bottom about his "non-Islamic cells" being "in place...and ready to fight" ought to be enough justification to ship his ass off to Guantanamo, as far as I'm concerned.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at March 29, 2005 11:03 PM

Grant, hope that rant wasn't aimed at me. The persistent problem I have with BOTH parties is that they don't do enough to toss out the nuts. Chomsky is the left's loss-leader. The right-wing nutjob sobbing over Schiavo's breathing corpse is the counterpoint. (Sorry, don't remember the name right now.)

While good-intentioned people might listen to either, I wouldn't give either of them a quarter at a subway stop. But one gets respect from outlets I want to trust.

So that's the one I go after full-bore.

This isn't right v. left. This is what flavor of madness gets a pass. Personally, I'm opting for neither.

Posted by: Mark Poling at March 29, 2005 11:24 PM

I've disagreed with Norm Geras on Holocaust fatigue before, so yes, I plead guilty to a bit of thread hijack. (I did say the trailer was great.)

But Hitler is the focus of attention because he was evil -- and Western Civ. allowed itself to fight evil, then. Since then the Left has mostly wanted good results without fighting -- Unreal Perfection. So I don't need another evil Hitler movie; I want more evil Commies killing innocents in Vietnam movies. Evil Hutus killing Tutsis. And evil (minority) Tutsis treating Hutus like scum from 10 years earlier.

We should apologize to the world for not winning in Vietnam, once we started (in 1956 or so?) to interfere militarily; the apology should be to stay in Iraq until democracy wins there.

If the Vietnam tactics were terrible, the strategy of fighting evil was still right.

Grant, when I say the Left supported a policy of leaving Vietnam, you say this is a strawman???

Marcus Am I being an irresponsible leftist for even raising such questions? No -- you're irresponsible for not being willing to honestly answer those questions yourself. They are actually good questions, but Leftists who ask them really just want to shut everybody up.

In fact, my point was that the Left's main answer to their problem of fighting evil is ... more Hitler movies!

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at March 30, 2005 04:21 AM

Tom: "No -- you're irresponsible for not being willing to honestly answer those questions yourself. They are actually good questions, but Leftists who ask them really just want to shut everybody up."

And rightists who instead of answering throw them back at the leftist who asks them are usually trying to evade the fact that they are extraordinarily difficult questions to answer, and people of good faith and intellect can find themselves on opposite sides in their responses.

Posted by: markus rose at March 30, 2005 07:13 AM

ok folks back to the subject. the movie brings to life what your imagination may have thought the "bunker" was like. it requires however, that you had already done the reading. history students will love it. everybody else will wonder why it was made. the next "che" movie will have lines around the block because it will be fiction.......

like scenes in das boot it appears the germans knew how to party!

Posted by: patrick neid at March 30, 2005 08:45 AM

Sorry to report some disappointment with the film Downfall. I went in with high hopes, but was unimpressed. I'd like to explain why:

If you're going to make a movie about Hitler's final days in the bunker, or if you're going to go see this movie, it's because you're going to find something new... a new insight, new information, etc. Yet Downfall had nothing new, not a surprise, not a unique angle or insight. If you had asked me to simply imagine what had happened in the bunker based on my vague impressions of history, I would have come up with this movie.

Secondly, some medium-specific gripes: if you're going to make a movie about Hitler's final days and Berlin's fall, it's gotta be pretty hard to make it boring. Yet with indistinguishable characters and no stakes or questions in the script to create suspense, they accomplished just this. Also if you're going to make a movie in a bunker, you know ahead of time it will be drab and dreary. You might want to think about some way to work with that.

Thirdly, there was this girl cast as Hitler's secretary, the main character (the secretary whose testimony was the source of the script and of the film Blind Spot). Sure, she can start out innocent and cute. But after 2.5 hours of witnessing horror and degredation and terminal tension, she's as perky and fresh-faced as the first frame. She comes out of nightmare tableaus and bats her eyes and smiles like Shirley Temple.

Fourthly, what about the whole Nazi thing? It's a tricky issue - are you required to condemn these people or let them condemn themselves? What if you narrow the scope of your examination so far that the context is lost? Although I'm dubious about demanding certain responsibilities of filmmakers, I simply found that Hitler isn't Hitler when you only see his personal relationships, not his greater actions or the consequences to the world. When you only see him talk about glory and beauty, you don't see the torture and murder of those standing in its way. When you see a group of people united by loyalty and nationalism, you don't see the cult of hatred that bound them to their leader. Hitler was the only character in the film who once mentioned Jews, and when he did, his secretary looked up with shock and horror as if it's the first she'd heard of them - and I find that moment of the film ridiculous. It's a comfortable amnesty to the whole civilian population. One might argue that it shows that this could happen anywhere, and that lesson is necessary, but it's not here - what's suggested here is that the typical German didn't know about the anti-Semitic engine carrying the Nazis to power.

Anyway, when I left the theater, the people I was with seemed depressed, presumably about the tragic end these Nazis had come to (the film doesn't really show anything else), and I realized how powerful it was to remove context. They were actually sad witnessing the defeat of the highest-ranking Nazis and their criminally oblivious or dirty-handed entourage.

For me the real insult of this film was not to attempt dramatizing such a subject, but to do so with mediocrity. I left in high spirits, after seeing Hitler and his wife's bodies burned without dignity or ceremony in a pit of muddy gasoline, at the hands of his scurrying underlings. I felt alone with that feeling at the time, but in retrospect maybe I'm a little relieved.

Posted by: Nate at March 30, 2005 08:54 AM

Is this movies based on the book by Joachim Fest<sic)?

Posted by: Niraj at March 30, 2005 10:29 AM

I saw Downfall this past weekend and found myself wondering midway through 'what is the point of this?' And leaving the theater said to my friends that I'd finally seen a movie as unrelievedly oppressive as The Passion of the Christ. Its only defense seems to be that it is a German film made for Germans, not all the rest of us. Are they playing catch-up?

Posted by: PCR at March 30, 2005 10:31 AM

I always liked Hildegard Knef's book The Gift Horse for a personal view of the fight for Berlin. Her observation of the old veterans, walking along the street and looking up at the kids strung up on the lamp posts for desertion, saying to each other that "folks here sure had their problems," just like they were a couple of hicks visiting the big city, always stuck in my mind.

Posted by: chuck at March 30, 2005 12:12 PM

Great, somebody thinks the film less than stellar -- but I recall Das Boot as fantastic. There IS the issue of humanizing the previously demonized enemy. And perhaps even over-humanizing them.

I guess highjacking a throwaway thread of a movie isn't SO bad. (I'll miss Carlos a bit but agree that he crossed a line. A line I think Kimmit also crossed but that's Michael's call. I think of Kimmit a bit like Michael's earlier, idealistic/ naive PC self, including snarky insults.)

Markus: "trying to evade the fact that they are extraordinarily difficult questions to answer, and people of good faith and intellect can find themselves on opposite sides in their responses."
We can almost agree on this, I think -- but then why are you asking tough questions, really? Most PC folk seem to just machine-gun-mouth questions and think that proves they're right. Bah.

Ask me any one quantitative question and I'll try to answer it. Here's mine for you: How many American soldiers can die in a successful Op Iraqi Freedom for Bush to have done a good job?

(You've seen my answer before, 2500, about the WTC casualties. At 1500, he's getting a 93, an "A".)

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at March 30, 2005 02:48 PM

One should also view the dvd "Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary."

It is a documentary about a young lady who stayed with Hitler until the very end. To say that she was naive would be an understatement. Hitler behaved like a mild mannered chief excutive when surrounded by his female employees.

Posted by: David Thomson at March 30, 2005 09:52 PM

Tom, please, for the love of God, tell me you don't have a formula for calculating the President's grade based upon how many body bags come back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Tell me you just pulled that number out of thin air, okay. Otherwise...well...damn. Seriously. Damn.

And sorry if I overly jumped you and that other guy's shit about hijacking the thread to bash Democrats, the other day. I was in a mood. Don't get me wrong, it still pisses me off and it's always gonna piss me off to hear people speak of Bill Clinton and Noam Chomsky as if they're one in the same, but I was in an extra snarky mood.

About the context of what you were saying, though: You fault the liberals for not standing up to evil in the world. You also say you want to see more movies about Rwanda. Fault the postmodern-European-left for the UN not stepping in to stop the genocide back then, but don't just blame liberals for America's inaction. Clinton should have done more. I'll be the first to tell you that. That having been said however, had he tried, do you really think the Republicans would have gone along with it? Be honest. You're either an idiot or a liar if you're thinking about telling me they would.

Clinton intervened in Bosnia and Kosovo and the Republicans fucking flipped out about it. Bush has since steered them in a more liberal-humanitarian, interventionist direction. I thank God for that everyday. But don't just sit there and pretend that conservatives have always acted this way. The impulse to intervene in the world in order to do good works on behalf of the poor and oppressed is NOT a conservative tradition. It is a liberal one. That liberals seem so opposed to the idea as of late is mostly stemming from the simple fact they distrust the motives of a conservative President. Every poll under the sun STILL shows greater support for a foreign policy based on democratization and the advancement of human rights among Democrats than among Republicans. As so far as you go about comparing Democratic Presidents and the Party in general to the likes of Noam Chomsky: yes, in the face of credible evidence to the contrary, I would indeed call that a strawman.

Posted by: Grant McEntire at March 30, 2005 10:14 PM

"That having been said however, had he tried, do you really think the Republicans would have gone along with it? Be honest. You're either an idiot or a liar if you're thinking about telling me they would."

You are correct. Bill Clinton does not deserve to be compared to Noam Chomsky. And yes, a number of Republicans disgraced themselves during the Balkans tragedy. They did not want Clinton to stop the slaughter. George W. Bush is not an "Old Republican." This is why so many of them supported John Kerry last November.

Posted by: David Thomson at March 30, 2005 11:55 PM

Isn't there a big difference between Das Boot and Downfall when talking about "humanizing the enemy"? Hitler and his clique were truly criminals who do not deserve the smallest bit of our sympathy, but ordinary German naval officers were not all Nazis by any means. They were mostly not moral heroes but I don't think it's ridiculous to see them to some extent as victims of circumstance.

On a slightly related note - anyone interested in this topic should look into a new book by a German academic named Goetz Aly - the title is called "Hitlers Volksstaat" (Hitler's Peoples' State) and I think it will be out in English next year. His thesis should provoke both the left and right - he has gone to incredible lengths to demonstrate to what extent the Nazi State was financed by plunder, robbery and slavery. And to what extent the Nazis basically bribed the German people to go along with them. The "Socialist" in National Socialist was no joke: Hitler lowered taxes on the German working class (while raising taxes on the rich) and provided the working and middle classes with a huge array of benefits - health care, subsidized housing, pensions, public work projects, etc. Wary of the lessons of WWI, the Nazi leadership refused to ask the German people to sacrifice during the war - woman did not generally work in factories, food rations were much better than in England, to say nothing of the USSR. Of course the only way to pay for this socialist utopia was to plunder the rest of Europe - which is why the Nazis were inexorably drawn into war. And this may explain what seems to many historians the insane decision to declare war on Russia in 1941, opening up a second front. Aly's most controversial thesis is that the initial impetus for the Holocaust was, in fact, robbery. The Nazi state was almost insolvent by 1938 because the Government had run up a massive deficit paying for all the social programs. The easy answer (with some medieval precedent) - rob all the Jews and transfer their assets to the State, hence Kristallnacht. Just something to keep in mind if you feel even a twinge of sympathy for Hitler in his bunker.

Posted by: Vanya at March 31, 2005 06:39 AM

Grant, there was CERTAINLY a lot of knee-jerk Rep opposition to Clinton's little bombing runs. But the Reps did have Clinton's running away from Somalia; and Carter's little Tehran helicopter embarrassment; and LBJ's Gulf of Tonkin honesty issue.

The paleo-Reps also don't deny the "goodness" of spreading democracy, but question whether it is worth the cost.
If not a formula (yech), then what do you use?

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at March 31, 2005 07:52 AM

"On a slightly related note - anyone interested in this topic should look into a new book by a German academic named Goetz Aly - the title is called "Hitlers Volksstaat" (Hitler's Peoples' State) and I think it will be out in English next year."

Thank you very much. I was unaware of Aly's thesis---but I do find it compelling. This link might be useful:,1518,347726,00.html

Adolph Hitler was a convinced socialist. Liberals often try to hide from this fact. Sharing the wealth instead of making the economic pie bigger inevitably damages a nation. Theft of some sort is mandatory if the system is to survive.

Posted by: David Thomson at March 31, 2005 06:10 PM
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