Russian soldiers point at gas cannisters used to burn the bodies of Hitler and Eva Braun
The remarkable memoir of a man who was by Hitler’s side from 1935 to 1945. Heinz Linge worked with Adolf Hitler for a ten-year period from 1935 until the Führer’s death in the Berlin bunker in May 1945. He was one of the last to leave the bunker and was responsible for guarding the door while Hitler killed himself.
During his years of service, Linge was responsible for all aspects of Hitler’s household and was constantly by his side. He claims that only Eva Braun stood closer to Hitler over these years.
Here, Linge recounts the daily routine in Hitler’s household: his eating habits, his foibles, his preferences, his sense of humor, and his private life with Eva Braun. In fact, Linge believed Hitler’s closest companion was his dog Blondi. After the war Linge said in an interview, “It was easier for him to sign a death warrant for an officer on the front than to swallow bad news about the health of his dog.” Linge also charts the changes in Hitler’s character during their time together and his fading health during the last years of the war. During his last days, Hitler’s right eye began to hurt intensely and Linge was responsible for administering cocaine drops to kill the pain. In a number of instances—such as with the Stauffenberg bomb plot of July 1944—Linge gives an excellent eyewitness account of events. He also gives thumbnail profiles of the prominent members of Hitler’s “court”: Hess, Speer, Bormann and Ribbentrop amongst them.
Though Linge held an SS rank, he claims not to have been a Nazi Party member. His profile of one of history’s worst demons is not blindly uncritical, but it is nonetheless affectionate. The Hitler that emerges is a multi-faceted individual: unpredictable and demanding, but not of an otherwise unpleasant nature. 12 b&w illustrations
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Who does not know about Hitler? There have been so many biographies and even fictional work written about the man (think of Mailer's latest work). But not many have explored in great detail his last days before he committed suicide in the Berlin bunker with his wife Eva Braun and family of his minister of propaganda. This is documentary with the first hand account from Hitler's closest associates (errand boy, secretary, body guard) during his last days. We learn that he was in terrible physical condition, looking pale and his hand shaking as if he has Parkinson's desease. We also learn about Eva Braun's determination to make her own mark in her life by accepting to die along Adolf. It is also eeerie to see that Russian government still has carefully preserved artifacts from that day that includes Hitler's uniforms, personal possessions and dental records for everyone who died that day. Pictures of six dead Goehring children are cold reminder of how far indoctrination and unfortunately misplaced ideals can go. This is one of the rare documentaries with film showing Hitler's closest military associates such as: Speer, Himler and Goebbels. We even see Eva Braun's sister in her civil wedding ceremony to Hitler's high ranking officer who was executed by SS only a few days before Hitler's suicide. Absolutely amazing documentary about the last days of Nazi Party before final surrender that will mark the end of WWII.
Director Olivier Hirschbiegel, by making his subject a recognizable human being instead of a one-dimensional villain, shows us an increasingly desperate Hitler who at times seems -- dare we say? -- almost sympathetic. Based on the reminiscences of Traudl Junge, one of der Führer’s secretaries, Downfall takes place almost entirely in the underground bunker where Hitler and his inner circle spent their final weeks.
Although Allied victory is all but assured, the rapidly degenerating Nazi dictator (brilliantly portrayed by Bruno Ganz) continues to plot the war’s course, issuing orders to dead commanders and deploying troop battalions that no longer exist. His mistress, Eva Braun (Juliane Kohler), and closest confidants, Joseph and Magda Goebbels (Ulrich Matthes and Corinna Harfouch), maintain their loyalty to the once-powerful Hitler even though they recognize what he doesn’t: that their capture is imminent.
In a deeply unnerving scene, for instance, Magda Goebbels feeds cyanide to her unsuspecting children rather than let them be taken by Allied soldiers. Downfall does not for a moment justify anything Hitler did, but, in relying on the historical record presented by Junge, it does paint a more detailed picture of the man than has ever been seen: He even displays symptoms of kindness and takes comfort in his pet dog, Blondi.
The movie dares to hint that perhaps Hitler was not simply a megalomaniacal lunatic but also a misguided idealist who allowed his grandiose dreams to subvert his humanity. Like it or loathe it, you’ll remember Downfall for a very long time.
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