Monday, April 07, 2008

PBS: "The Man Behind Hitler" (Joseph Goebbels)


Tonight (April 7) some PBS stations (such as MPT in Annapolis, MD) broadcast “The Man Behind Hitler,” a curious documentary about Joseph Goebbels, directed by Lutz Hachmesiter. (link here). The film is presented as part of the "American Experience" series but seems more like a European (German) film. British director Kenneth Branagh reads the letters and writings of Goebbels, which becomes the entire script of the 86 minute film, which shows startling footage of life in Germany from 1931 until the defeat in Berlin in 1945, both in black and white and color of surprising quality.

Goebbels was one of the primary movers behind Hitler’s ascent to power, and the film makes it sound as if he were one of the architects of the ideology, as a kind of pseudo-religion, even a false “Christianity.” Goebbels had a foot injury as a child and, like Hitler, was apparently a social outcast and seems to have wanted to gain some personal “justice” for that by retreating into ideology. He notes that he is suspected of homosexuality, but courts women aggressively, perhaps for public image. At one point he makes a statement equating propaganda to government, and marvels at radio technology (with television expected to develop even in the 1930s) as a tool for the state to use to control propaganda. The concept was that all speech was controlled by the state, and the people seemed to go along, with their cheers in massive rallies, with shocking ease and emotionality.

The political changes, with the moves against the Jews, came about with surprising speed and suddenness in 1933. The film creates the impression that Nazi Germany was involved in “total war” before the average German grasped what was going on. The film ends with Goebbels death in the assault on Berlin, and actually shows his charred corpse as the last image.

Picture: (unrelated) coal train through Natural tunnel in SW Va.

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