Saw “Downfall,” the German movie about Hitler’s last days in the bunker at the end of WWII. Controversial because considered by some too sympathetic to Hitler.
Certainly made me think. Told from the perspective of Hitler’s secretary, who was in the bunker, it naturally made you sympathetic to the people in that difficult spot. You had to remind yourself that they deserved everything they got. The film, rather clumsily, did its bit with a postscript interview that spoke of the fate of the Jews.
Hitler also came off as admirable for his personal courage, and for his intellectual consistency. His basic views did not seem to waver in defeat, nor when they seemed to go against his own interests. He believed in survival of the fittest. He and Germany had lost the war. Very well, then he and Germany deserved death, and he was not going to quibble about it now. The point is made that he could have escaped death at least temporarily, by fleeing Berlin for his prepared fortress in the Bavarian Alps. But he refused. As captain, he insisted on going down with the ship. “He must be on stage for the final curtain,” as Speer put it.
One of my Arab students pointed this out as a contrast between Saddam and Hitler, to Saddam’s detriment. His end was, by comparison, without dignity. Having demanded that many die for him, he was not sanguine about facing death himself. He cut and ran. So did Mussolini. Hitler stood his ground and would not retreat, just as he demanded of others.
Other Nazis were also shown as heroic: Eva Braun, the Goebbelses, some SS officers, the general running the defense of Berlin, Albert Speer, and some Hitler youth.
This should not surprise us, and surely was genuine. It is only fair to show it. If it did not represent some apparent good, how could Nazism have earned the allegiance of so many for so long? All evil is only a relative absence of good; only the putting of a lesser good above a greater. Fortitude above compassion, for example. Only moral relativism finds this confusing.