Saturday, 2 June 2018

Hitler: The Rise of Evil (5 Stars)

In my last review I said that this is the best film ever made about Adolf Hitler. I'd like to repeat that, while explaining what I mean. Many of my friends still don't understand who Hitler was. They don't understand why people voted him into power. 70 years after the end of World War Two we're still being bombarded with anti-Hitler propaganda that makes it impossible to know the truth about him. We know what he did. He killed six million Jews. That makes people think that the Germans voted for him because he was a racist. That's not true. If Hitler had gone on the radio saying "Vote for me so I can get rid of the Jews" he would have been lucky to get even one seat in the German parliament.

This film, which was originally made as a two-part mini-series, leaves us in no doubt that he hated the Jews. He held speeches against the Jews in the early 1920's, but this was no longer emphasised in the 1930's. The main policy of his party was always the rejection of the Treaty of Versailles. This was something the German people wanted. This is why they voted for him. Another important policy was the suppression of Communism, which most Germans associated with anarchy.

When you watch this film, don't just concentrate on Adolf Hitler, however admirable you might find Robert Carlyle's performance. Watch the people around him and how they react to him. Watch how everyone falls victim to Hitler's charisma. Even the reporter Fritz Gerlich was initially fascinated by Hitler before turning against him. Ernst Hanfstaengl, on whose memoirs most of the film is based, was totally swept away by Hitler's persona. For him Hitler was the man who could make Germany great again.

The question I have to ask myself, and I hope my readers will ask themselves the same question, is whether I would have voted for Hitler's party in the 1930's. I might have voted for him in 1930, and I would almost certainly have voted for him in 1932. As a typical German I would have blamed the Treaty of Versailles for the poverty and starvation in the country, and Hitler was the man promising a change. Naturally I would have regretted my vote a few years later, but in 1932 I would have thought he was the best choice. That's the problem with democracy. We have to make a decision based on insufficient information.

I've read a lot about Hitler over the years, but one thing I've never understood is why he fell out with Ernst Röhm. They were close friends in the 1920's. Some writers suggest that it was Hitler's other allies, in particular Hermann Göring, who turned Hitler against Röhm. Other writers suggest that Hitler broke with Röhm because he wanted to organise a military putsch instead of waiting for an election victory. I'm not happy with either opinion. This film shows that Hitler was disgusted by Röhm being a homosexual, which was certainly true, but it wasn't reason enough to have him executed. It probably had more to do with the Georg Bell affair, but I don't know enough about it. I had never heard of Bell before watching this film, but he must have played an important role in the Nazi Party in the early 1930's.

If you want to learn about Hitler there's no way around reading books about him. I also recommend reading "Mein Kampf" before you start talking about what you think he thought. However, this film is a good place to start, and it will only take up three hours of your time.

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