On one of the first really nice spring days here in Toronto, it feels a bit dark to be writing about suicide. On the other hand, the world instantly became a better place without Hitler in it, so, at the risk of sounding callous, maybe this post isn’t quite so dark after all.
If you ever want to get a sense of how the German army must have felt in the final days of World War II — the Allies closing in, Berlin in ruins, and utter despair at every turn — watch the movie Downfall. It’s as dark as dark gets, but it’s brilliantly acted and realistically produced. There is no Hollywood here. German actor Bruno Ganz plays the paranoid, delusional Hitler to a T, right down to his jangled nerves and twitchy hands.
A good, full-length version of Downfall has become trickier to find on YouTube. I managed to locate a playlist of all the parts together in the first link below. Note: Some parts were ‘not playable in your country’ (Canada), while others were. You might have better luck. For a sampling of the movie, the two clips farther down under “We’re leaving” (both playable) give you a real sense of the futility faced by the Germans, and how, in the end, Hitler basically threw them under a bus — and took the easy way out.
Downfall (Der Untergang) — in German with English subtitles: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgXs8EKlGi7C8iNJdAWGbYZgPVnNZraPL (approx 150 min)
“We’re leaving.” These two riveting clips from Downfall show us the incredible mass exodus (i.e. files being thrown out of windows) of Nazi headquarters in Berlin; the second shows us the quiet desperation inside Hitler’s bunker. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IA7tDtpBqWg&list=PLgXs8EKlGi7C8iNJdAWGbYZgPVnNZraPL (8 min, 19 sec) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR5q0ajW8Ko (5 min, 53 sec)
An interview with Hitler’s maid (subtitled) This sweet little 92-year-old woman has a menorah in her kitchen and a framed Christmas card from Hitler in the living room. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bqBiu45onyY (14 min, 57 sec)
The Nazi Officer’s Wife This documentary is based on the book; it’s narrated by Susan Sarandon. Austrian Jew Edith Hahn-Beer describes growing up in Vienna, then being forced into hard labor during WWII. She later manages to obtain fake German identity papers, and eventually meets and marries a high-ranking German officer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0mOA1KAZME (1 hr, 37 min)
The man who refused to salute Hitler This is an odd little story about a man who refused to salute Hitler, and what happened to him. (You could probably watch the first 15 seconds, then skip ahead to 1:30 — while interesting, it’s a bit long-winded and probably could have been told in half the time.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyHvAiG0GtY (4 min, 12 sec)