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Posted Tuesday, August 24, 2004
David Irving, the British revisionist right-wing historian, once declared: Hitler is still big box office.

[images added by this website]

London, September 14, 2004


Media angst over Hitler hype

From Roger Boyes in Berlin

ADOLF HITLER made an appearance in the mass circulation Bild newspaper yesterday, the fourteenth day in a row that the Nazi leader has figured in its columns in what amounts to an unprecedented marketing campaign for an indifferent film about the dying days of the Third Reich.

The film Der Untergang (The Downfall) is not due to go on general release in Germany until Thursday, but already it has been hailed -- almost exclusively by commentators and correspondents who have yet to see the film or read the script -- as a bold break with tradition. It claims to show Hitler for the first time as a human being rather than as a caricatured monster.

If the advance publicity is to be believed, a typical scene shows Hitler patting the shoulder of his secretary, Traudl Junge, after she nervously messes up a piece of typing. "Let's try that again shall we," says the kindly dictator.

The script, co-written by the producer Bernd Eichinger, leans heavily on the naive memoirs of Frau Junge, who barely understood what was happening in the bunker or, indeed, in Germany at large.

Historians have yet to be let loose on the film since they, too, have been kept out of the cinema; the Munich premiere was crammed with celebrities who predictably gave Herr Eichinger, their producer and friend, a standing ovation.

Rafael Seligman, the author of a recent book about Hitler, delivers at least one serious reservation: there is no clue in the film as to why Germans should have supported such a crumbling, pathetic figure. "It doesn't show the connections and relies instead on a picture of the morbid, scalding dictator and his gang. As a result, Magda Goebbels, murdering her own children (right), arouses more emotions than dry, factual history books."

This was a rare critical voice. The selling of The Downfall -- and of Hitler -- has been more smoothly professional than the production of the film itself. A combination of Der Spiegel magazine, Bild and Herr Eichinger -- the producer was spotted with the media chiefs at Berlin's fashionable Borchardt restaurant planning out the marketing strategy -- projected the film into the centre of a national debate. The state television network ARD, which put up €14 million (£9.5 million) for the production, played along, slipping a big dose of Hitler into its schedules.

When the film opens this Thursday, state television will also show a documentary on the making of The Downfall to remind Germans that this is a national event: Hitler's return as a human being, just in time for the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

The selling of Hitler has long been regarded by Germans as a British speciality. German ambassadors to London regularly complain about the apparent British obsession with Nazis and history teaching that puts too much emphasis on the Third Reich.

Yet Hitler sells most effectively in Germany. Media experts calculate that Spiegel magazine-covers featuring Hitler -- the last was three weeks ago -- can add 100,000 additional readers.

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David Irving comments:

I wrote a few weeks ago, "The eventual rehabilitation of Adolf Hitler in history is proceeding apace, unhindered by the pigmy efforts of his detractors; while the true story of Mr Churchill and his wanton destruction of his country's own Empire and subservience to the interests of the United States, birth land of his mother and of the parents of several of his ministers, will eventually become a commonplace to students as well."

Bild's long series on the final days of the Führer has taken on absurd dimensions, rather as if the bunker was breaking news. One recent trailer in the newspaper read: "Coming up on Monday in Bild -- Hitler poisons his dog Blondie."

David Irving, the British revisionist right-wing historian, once declared: "Hitler is still big box office." That cynical dictum seems to have been taken to heart by German media managers.

Herr Eichinger, the 55-year-old producer whose father fought on the Russian front, clearly believes that he has a national mission and that justifies his elaborate marketing strategy. His logic, however, is sometimes fuzzy. The war, he said in an interview this week, "threw the whole German people (volk) into a trauma. A nation has to be capable of making a film about such a trauma."

Most Germans in public life are more cautious about using the volk term, which was abused by the Nazis.

But the critical confusion is that the film-maker blurs the distinction between the traumatised Germany of 1945 and today's far more sophisticated and multicultural German society.

© Copyright of Times Newspapers Limited 2004.


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Two new films show that Germans are learning to confront Hitler's legacy | Germany breaks the Hitler taboo
German Government tries to ban Hitler's book Mein Kampf | Simon Wiesenthal Center also tries to ban book from giant Internet bookstores | Internet comment on antisemitism provoked by such bans | Amazon still banning sales at request of German justice ministry | Mein Kampf voted one of the 100 books of the 20th century -- banned from Frankfurt book fair | Swedes tried, failed to ban Mein Kampf | Czech Mein Kampf Publisher Sentenced (2004) | charged
Günter Grass breaks taboo, writes of sinking of liner Wilhelm Gustloff with 8,000 dead in January 1945
Florida-style poll Konrad Adenauer tops German TV viewers' Popularity Poll (Some Restrictions Applied)
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