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David I

Go see "Downfall"

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Originally posted by Michael Dorosh:

</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by Radetzky:

i think michael came right to the point here: the film is worth watching if you know the whole story anyway. most european historians condemned the film as beng too kind to the nazi elite, especially regarding speer and schenck. without any preparatory reading, the film might even be a dangerous thing to watch. for it doesn't try to argue with fascism; indeed, it comes close to underlining its appeal. showing the ss as brave and unbowing defenders of berlin, portraying infamous nazi war criminals as heroic saviours of the civilians (like the film does with schenck)etc

i felt uneasy after leaving the theatre.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but is the same Mohnke in the film - bravely and stalwartly defending Berlin - the same Mohnke whom in June 1944 was murdering unarmed Canadian prisoners of war in Normandy? Even by SS standards he was considered loopy. </font>

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Excellent film. A bit fanciful in parts, but still well worth the time.

As far as the duality of the nazi regime and how it was perceived by different interested parties, I would say that this is what it is. Historical figures are always considered heros or villians by different people at the same time. Genocides are being committed or are being permitted to continue right now as I write these words. No dominant power in history has ever been even remotely innocent. Power corrupts, the powerful commit atrocities and depending on who controls the media those atrocities are either magnified or glossed over.

Take for example the failure of history to give the Soviets the respect they deserve for their accomplishments in WWII. How would we in the west react to a movie portraying Stalin as a hero? Was Zhukov a hero? Was Peiper a hero? And what separates these men from Montgomery and Patton? Is it a coincidence that the winners are always the good guys?

I, for one, want to see these men, the Nazis, portrayed as human beings. Why? Not because I think they were heros, but because I do not think that it is a good idea to simply write off evil acts as the work of evil people. It is far more beneficial to look at what happened/is happening and ask how good people became/become so monstrous.

Anyways, just a few thoughts. No offense meant to anyone.

Cheers

Paul

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Originally posted by jacobs_ladder2:

I, for one, want to see these men, the Nazis, portrayed as human beings. Why? Not because I think they were heros, but because I do not think that it is a good idea to simply write off evil acts as the work of evil people. It is far more beneficial to look at what happened/is happening and ask how good people became/become so monstrous.

Exactly correct.

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Originally posted by jacobs_ladder2:

It is far more beneficial to look at what happened/is happening and ask how good people became/become so monstrous.

I think it is quite an assumption to make that they were 'good' at some point.

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Originally posted by Andreas:

</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by jacobs_ladder2:

It is far more beneficial to look at what happened/is happening and ask how good people became/become so monstrous.

I think it is quite an assumption to make that they were 'good' at some point. </font>

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that's what historians should do: to look things up precisely and without prejudice. but relativism ends at the entrance to concentration camps where officers wrote letters to their loved ones by the cosy light of the table lamp. with the lampshade made of human skin.

it is perfectly acceptable to show that hitler and his villains were obviously human beings. but it is only acceptable to do so for a purpose: to reveal how grotesque the tatty charlatan ruled over the shattered bonehouse. and in that, the film is rather successful.

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Originally posted by jacobs_ladder2:

Take for example the failure of history to give the Soviets the respect they deserve for their accomplishments in WWII. How would we in the west react to a movie portraying Stalin as a hero? Was Zhukov a hero? Was Peiper a hero? And what separates these men from Montgomery and Patton? Is it a coincidence that the winners are always the good guys?

[/QB]

I don't think there'd be a huge backlash against Zhukov being portrayed as a hero, after all wasn't his rising popularity in the West one of the reasons Stalin used to ostracize him after the war?, didn't Eisenhower actually invite him to the US?

I agree Stalin would be a stretch though, but frankly to ask what seperates him from Patton and Montgomery is faintly ludicrous.

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Open's in Oz on April 21. I don't think it's showing at the majors though.

Check out Cornelious Ryan's "Last Battle", for an interesting read about the battle of Berlin (not that much detail about the actual battle), but was interesting about how deluded Hitler became and how he wanted to micromanage every German division (whether it existed or not) on both fronts, without listening to the people who knew.

[ April 05, 2005, 02:37 PM: Message edited by: Prankster ]

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Originally posted by Doodlebug:

Very pertinent observation. I for one have never associated the word good and that regime.

And where do you suppose all the manpower came from? We are not talking about a handful of "evil" men here, but a much larger group. Thousands. Tens of thousands if you include the Waffen-SS. Do you imagine that Hitler and his goons fashioned them all in some underground lab?

Where did all these "evil" men come from? Where are they all now? Did Hitler hit "evil" paydirt in post WWI Germany? In other words, if he had risen to power in an economically devastated United Kingdom would he have been unable to find the same wealth of shear "evil"?

Yes, the Nazi's did horrible things. Care for a list of horrible things done by the good guys?

Cheers

Paul

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Originally posted by Liddell-Hart:

I don't think there'd be a huge backlash against Zhukov being portrayed as a hero, after all wasn't his rising popularity in the West one of the reasons Stalin used to ostracize him after the war?, didn't Eisenhower actually invite him to the US?

I agree Stalin would be a stretch though, but frankly to ask what seperates him from Patton and Montgomery is faintly ludicrous.

Two things. One, are you aware of the reputation Zhukov was able to garner himself after Khalkin-Gol? Any idea how he got it?

Two, I was not comparing Stalin to Montgomery and Patton. My question was simply an open-ended one. What separated Stalin, Zhukov and Timoshenko (for example) from their contemporaries in the west?

Cheers

Paul

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Originally posted by jacobs_ladder2:

Yes, the Nazi's did horrible things. Care for a list of horrible things done by the good guys?

Yes, please do provide one. Please point out when you do so where you see the US/British equivalent of the Einsatzgruppen formations, and where the destruction camps were located in the USA and Great Britain. Any information about US/British 'destruction through labour' programmes, human experimentation, and hostage killings would also be appreciated.

I would also like to point out that we are talking about the movie here, not about Nazi Germany in general, and that I took your remark about good people becoming evil to refer to those who are the topic of 'Der Untergang', i.e. the Nazi leadership. If you meant all German war criminals, then that is a different story, and you should have been clearer.

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dear sirs

let's stick to criticizing the film, alright? it is a stunning, compelling piece of work regarding some of the actors, especially bruno ganz. he masterfully displays the mental decrepitude and physical decline of hitler in a chillingly authentic way. the set is adequate and convincingly done and the events are reconstructed dramatically. so the film has enormous emotive power.

but its explanative power is lacking severely. and that is where i made my point: if someone like ian kershaw left the cinema "gripped by the film", that's fine. he knows better anyway. but anyone not being an expert of the third reich is vulnerable to the trivialisation and moral insensitivity of entertainment films. and downfall comes very close to these.

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i was taught that history was not created by one man but by many and you won't get a better understanding of the things that happened by focusing on hitler. the film does capture the third reich when it is on its knees and the hollowness of its ridiculous propaganda and made-up belief system. But it also portrays the Germans caught up in the fighting in berlin as hitler's victims too, just fighting to survive and i think it's very dangerous if you get into the territory of the germans feeling sorry for themselves. especially regarding the fact that a lot of the heroic defenders shown were war crimnals of the first order.

but the most severe drawback of the film is:

it's a piece of entertainment. look at eg the queasy approximation of a happy ending to the film. and that's why the film is a "mega-hit" (qb bernd eichinger) with 5 million admissions in germany alone. and to go easy on the ss-villains

is not a good idea then. would you like to see a film about treblinka done by jerry bruckheimer?

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I would disagree with your points. The film most certainly doesn't clean the hands of Germans, or portray other Nazis as Hitler's victims. If you think that way, well, I watched it and had no such doubts. I would find it even impossible to come to such conclusion, given that the film ends with Hitler's secretary admitting that they all were to blame, and should have done something earlier; and that is one of the central messages of the film, that the devils and angels among us don't have horns or halos around their heads, indeed they could look all too human, and therefore we should not allow ourselves be tricked into false sense of security like Germans were in the 1930's when they failed to understand what a disaster was brewing up just because the wolves would happen to look like sheep. The kettle of Berlin is like a worldly purgatory where they have to pay for their earlier sins (and the film also portrays how the Nazi elite wanted to drag other Germans to hell with them). After all, we all - and Germans in particular - KNOW what the Nazis, not just Hitler but they all, did, but it is all too easy to assume that you can recognise evil by looks - and from this conflict between what we know about these people and how human they appear rises the realization of how important it is to stand up for our rights.

Is focusing so much on Hitler bad? Well, maybe it'd be, if the film wasn't about the last days of Hitler and the people around him...

As to "entertainment" - I don't understand what the point is here. Are you saying that it is wrong to make non-documentary films about WW2? The thing is, either people watch Der Untergang, or then they'll watch Titanic II. Not that either they watch Der Untergang or then they'll go to library or watch History Channel.

I think you were expecting Downfall to be something totally different, more like a dramatized documentary about the reasons of the fall of the Third Reich, and felt let down. But is that the film's fault? Personally I believe that it's a beautiful work.

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Originally posted by jacobs_ladder2:

Where did all these "evil" men come from? Where are they all now? Did Hitler hit "evil" paydirt in post WWI Germany? In other words, if he had risen to power in an economically devastated United Kingdom would he have been unable to find the same wealth of shear "evil"?

Yes, the Nazi's did horrible things. Care for a list of horrible things done by the good guys?

The use of the term 'evil' helps us to get our heads around what humans are capable of.

As for the Nazis, they combined the latent chauvinism that is probably in every nation, and combined that with centuries old anti-semitism from Central/Eastern Europe, with a good handful of good old fashioned 19th century thinking from the West (Eugenics, the 'State' and militarism).

Yes, given the right conditions any state or people can fall into a fascist state. But Germany's Nazi Party was uniquely German - no other country (in the West) could have done what it did with quite the same remorselesness, coupled with a feeling of indignation and self-righteousness (the Germans always thought they were the aggrieved party in the war, right to the end). You have to look normally outside Europe (Asia / Africa) for such crimes - the Nazi experience offers a lesson in just how 'civilized' the West really is.

I haven't seen the film, but it is right that Germans make their own film about Hitler - it will be good therapy. I for one think it must be very difficult to understand if you are German the criminality of the Nazis with the sheer banality of the leadership of the Nazi Party. Perhaps it will help them put it all behind them.

I don't think any film on this subject could ever be a form of entertainment. The subject is just too queasy for the audience.

[ April 06, 2005, 06:55 AM: Message edited by: blue division ]

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Saw the film this weekend and highly recommend it.

It's a nearly 3 hour long drama, not a documentary. It can't spin off into the background of every character (although I appreciate this board telling me about Mohnke's war crimes on the western front), but it frames the questions of how this happened in a very challenging and productive way.

Frau Junge's real life interview circa 1988 at the end of the film is worth the price of admission.

To see how the Herr and Frau Goebbles, and many other Nazi leaders, couldn't live in a world without National Socialism is chilling. The evil for them was truly all consuming. Their example comes closest to painting how this could happen again.

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To paraphrase John Prine: the film is what it is and it ain't what it ain't.

It is a look into the last days of the World War II in Berlin and is a character driven story of what happened and how the German leaders, especially (but not only) Hitler reacted to those events, and how the events in turn affected those people.

It is not a critcal look at German history, policies and decissions pertaining to the War and pre-war period.

Having seen the film, I do not consider it possible that any reasonable person would come away from the film with a positive view of Hitler or his Reich. Blaming the people of a country for your mistakes & ordering that they pay the full price for them, and the killing of your own children do no assist in establishing any favorable view of the historical figures of the Reich or what they stood for/did.

On the other hand it showed that, as evil as they were, even Hitler and the Nazi leaders had some good and/or human qualities (albeit obviously not enough).

What I do not understand is why so many, mostly those from Europe, appear to automatically react to any suggestion that Hitler and his hinchmen were anything but 100% evil mechanical monsters and that only bad things can be said or shown about them. Speaking as a single individual in the States, who grew up in world where everybody's dad was part of World War II, I remain confident in the people's ability to look at figures such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao, and come to their own conclusions about each of them based on what they each did. There is no reason to embellish history or restrict certain facts (e.g. Hitler loved his dog) from view.

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What I do not understand is why so many, mostly those from Europe, appear to automatically react to any suggestion that Hitler and his hinchmen were anything but 100% evil mechanical monsters and that only bad things can be said or shown about them.

I think to educate people about the dangers of fascism (and the other 'isms' like racism and totalitarianism, you have to describe it in terms other than 'evil'.

The potential to do these deeds is clearly part of humans makeup, whether we like to admit it or not. Just look at Rwanda and the hundreds of other massacres committed throughout the world over the centuries. Calling something 'evil' suggests (to me) that all of this caused by some external, ethereal entity (evil). It is perhaps more instructive to people to realise that these events can happen to anyone, anywhere given the right set of circumstances. History has shown that ordinary soldiers and civil servants can be caught up in atrocities - and the soldiers are Joe Ordinary, people like you and me. To label them as 'evil' does not explain things - we need to understand how things happen, so we can prevent these catastrophes happening again.

[ April 06, 2005, 09:27 AM: Message edited by: blue division ]

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Originally posted by Andreas:

</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by jacobs_ladder2:

Yes, the Nazi's did horrible things. Care for a list of horrible things done by the good guys?

Yes, please do provide one. Please point out when you do so where you see the US/British equivalent of the Einsatzgruppen formations, and where the destruction camps were located in the USA and Great Britain. Any information about US/British 'destruction through labour' programmes, human experimentation, and hostage killings would also be appreciated.

I would also like to point out that we are talking about the movie here, not about Nazi Germany in general, and that I took your remark about good people becoming evil to refer to those who are the topic of 'Der Untergang', i.e. the Nazi leadership. If you meant all German war criminals, then that is a different story, and you should have been clearer. </font>

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i agree with paul and we should all agree to his last sentence. whether you like downfall or not,

it is a compelling film with strong actors (bruno ganz is absolutely brilliant, but also corinna harfouch as magda goebbels) and you should definitely try to find a cinema playing it.

maybe sergei is right and i expected sth different to see, so i'll think it over and give downfall another chance when it comes out on dvd.

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When I was last on this discussion, there was a dialogue--paraphrased--about how evil people may or may not do good.

Today I came across this short essay. Read it all the way through (5 minutes) and you'll see how it relates to the question above. I think it's very well written.

Life and Death If it's moved down the page, find the article with this title.

Life and death

One morning twenty years ago this month, I opened the front section of the Washington Post and read that my friend Stephen Peter Morin had been executed by the state of Texas for capital murder.

There are two reasons that that sentence, while accurate, felt awkward to write.

First reason: it has been a long time since I thought of Morin as a friend. He was a twisted, manipulative and malevolent person, and if I hate anyone in the world or out of it I hate him.

Second reason: I knew him as Ray Constantine.

But Morin was his real name, and for a number of months in 1981 I spent just about every day with him, generally enjoying his company.

"Ray Constantine" rode up to the front porch of my mother's house on his bicycle one day to ask whether she knew of apartments he could rent. Her current partner is one of my favorite people in the world, but my mother had phenomenally, staggeringly bad judgment in men in those days: by that evening or the next, it seemed, he had moved in with her.

"Ray" was a smooth talker, and closer to my age than to my mother's. My mother had had a string of failed relationships with a string of increasingly sleazy men, the previous one ending just a week or two before. Full of the self-righteousness only a twenty-one-year-old boy with a disintegrating mother truly knows, I exploded at her in mortified fury, telling her that she was being incredibly stupid and allowing herself to be set up for another romantic disaster.

She said he'd be moving in and that I'd better get used to the idea. So I did. "Ray" decided to work his way into my good graces by getting me a job - always in short supply in 1981 Buffalo. He lied his way onto a union painting crew and then vouched for me. I joined the union and worked with him all summer.

Three things about that summer stand out in my mind, aside from the monotony of paint, hauling kegs of tar to roofs, and a story about a ladder that will come a bit later.

The first was heading to DC to the giant march in support of the striking air traffic controllers.

The second was finding out that my mother had ordered a copy of my birth certificate to give to Ray so that he could get ID with a different name on it. I intercepted it in what was likely the luckiest moment of my life.

The third was just before Ray and my mother left for their trip across country in her van. I wandered by her house one humid night - I'd moved out to my own place, what with my union paycheck - and found Ray sweating, attaching carpet to the walls and ceiling of the van. He was struggling to hold the carpet up as he put rivets into metal; I stepped up and helped him.

My mother is a hero, by the way, though she treated her children shamefully in the process. She and Ray went from town to town, San Francisco, Denver, Las Vegas, and into Texas. In each town Ray would disappear for a day or two and then show up again, a worried look in his eyes, insisting they leave town right away. The third or fourth time it happened, she realized she'd heard news in each town of a local woman disappearing and then found murdered. [Mom offers a slight correction to that last sentence in comments, below.]

There was an uncomfortable period in Texas in December after he found out she'd turned him in to the police, and before they caught him. And then they did catch him, and he went to trial and pled guilty to capital murder and asked for the death penalty. On March 13 1985, after the executioner probed veins for 45 minutes looking for one that wasn't collapsed - raising the ire of the ACLU for a time after - Stephen Peter Morin was put to death by the state of Texas for the murder of Carrie Marie Scott, whom he was attempting to rob.

There's a way in which Scott was lucky: he did not rape and torture her the way he did some of his other victims, some of them in the van I helped him soundproof.

In the van I helped him soundproof.

Morin's last words, as reported by the state of Texas, are a marvel of manipulative sociopathy:

Heavenly Father, I give thanks for this time, for the time that we have been together, the fellowship in your world, the Christian family presented to me [He called the names of the personal witnesses]. Allow your holy spirit to flow as I know your love as been showered upon me. Forgive them for they know not what they do, as I know that you have forgiven me, as I have forgiven them. Lord Jesus, I commit my soul to you, I praise you, and I thank you.

Covering up amoral, murderous violence with a coat of Jesus? Too bad for poor Ray. A little later, with better PR, he could have risen rather high in the Texas GOP.

I find myself unwilling to grant the possibility that the sick **** said a single truthful thing in his miserable life. He sent me a letter from death row, calling me the closest thing he'd had to a brother. I destroyed it after one reading. Who tries to get ID with his "brother's" name on it to use on his murder spree? He told his attorney he didn't remember killing anyone. Why the fake IDs, the soundproofing of vans, the sudden desires to leave town? He wanted to manipulate the cloying, puling conservative Christians in the Texas penal system: what better method than ostentatiously coming to Jesus?

If ever there was a person who deserved the death penalty - and still I do not believe there ever was - Stephen Peter Morin was that person. The world is far better off without him, and I find some consolation in the fact that his putative hopes of forgiveness in the hereafter dissolved into the permanent blackness of non-existence. I only wish he had died before he could have killed Janna Bruce, Sheila Whalen, Carrie Scott, and as many as thirty or more other young women. Twenty years later, and his memory still brings me to a shaking rage.

And yet.

A wooden forty-foot ladder is a heavy thing. Set it against a house on ground saturated by a week of summer rain, and it will tend to slide. Climb that ladder with a two-gallon bucket of paint, and if the ladder is leaning against freshly-primed clapboard three stories up, it will tend to slide quickly. A quarter-century of exploring the precipitous landscapes of the West has thoroughly blunted my acrophobia, but that morning, thirty-five feet up a heavy ladder that was sliding rightward at about half an inch a second, I froze. And watched myself slide.

And "Ray" saw, and got from the yard to the third-floor window in about five seconds. Speaking calmly while he hung out the window, he persuaded me that I was unafraid. His words filled me with an odd strength. He persuaded me that I could take the ends of the ladder I was on - which I could barely lift in the best of conditions - and jump it back to the left and verticality.

And I did it: I pulled back violently on the ladder and slammed it back into place. In reach of the window now, I helped Ray tie the ladder securely to the window frame as I sobbed in relief, then descended on increasingly shaky legs. Ray met me as I reached the bottom, grabbed me in a bear hug, kept me from slumping to the ground.

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Originally posted by jacobs_ladder2:

Take for example the failure of history to give the Soviets the respect they deserve for their accomplishments in WWII. How would we in the west react to a movie portraying Stalin as a hero? Was Zhukov a hero? Was Peiper a hero? And what separates these men from Montgomery and Patton? Is it a coincidence that the winners are always the good guys?

Hey, turn down your moral relativism knob for a second and look at this soberly - evil does what evil is (not the other way around), so a good start would be to look at the underlying moral and philosophical foundations that drove each party in the conflict, and there's your answer.

Besides, you're making a false dichotomy - there is such thing as bad men with hero traits. For instance, were Zhukov and Peiper brilliant and brave men? Most certainly. Were they good guys? Not really. Were they on the good side? Empathically not.

[ April 08, 2005, 12:22 PM: Message edited by: Xipe66 ]

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