HITLER: THE RISE AND FALL: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER. (2016) A DOCUMENTARY BY STAN GRIFFIN. NARRATED BY CHRISTIEN ANHOLT. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
It took me two nights to watch all two-hundred-and-seventy-eight minutes of this gripping documentary, which amounted to three episodes a night at forty-five minutes each. This was surprisingly manageable, especially as it was the weekend and I was bloody well due a little me-time, lol.
Anyway, the documentary does exactly what it says on the tin, charting Adolf Hitler’s life and- ahem- life’s work from his relatively humble beginnings to his meteoric rise to become ruler of Germany and the Nazi Party, before, well, you know. The war and stuff. All the stuff he did. You know what I mean. We’re not supposed to mention it…
Various Professors of History and assorted academics who’ve nearly all written books on Hitler sit around chatting to camera about what they’ve learned about Hitler over the years and, coupled with the little dramatisations and recreations with actors and actresses going on in the background, it all actually makes for rather thrilling viewing. Here for your delectation is my own interpretation of the facts as presented by HITLER: THE RISE AND FALL. A sort of ‘HITLER FOR DUMMIES,’ if you will.
Hitler was born in 1889 in Austria-Hungary to a civil servant father who brutalised him physically and whom Hitler despised utterly, and a mother who worshipped him but understandably couldn’t protect him from his father’s wrath.
When Alois Hitler- the Dad- passed away in 1903, I doubt if Hitler shed many tears, unlike at the death of his mother four years later, which devastated him. It was the first major blow of his life. Probably the next one was when he was rejected for Art School in Vienna.
Apparently he wasn’t good at drawing people, but wasn’t bad at all at sketching buildings. In fact, he had a lifelong obsession with architecture and was always dreaming up ideas for fabulous buildings and town centres in his mind.
During his last days in the Bunker, while Berlin burned around him and the Russians were within shelling distance of the Reich Chancellery, instead of making plans to save himself and his entourage or to broker a peace deal with the Allies, Hitler fiddled endlessly with a scale model of a town plan of Linz in Austria, which he planned to turn into a cultural capital ‘after the war.’ I wonder when was the exact moment at which he finally realised that there would be no ‘after the war’ for him and his Party…?
Anyway, his special talent was really for public speaking. Boy, could he talk. He could- and did- talk for Germany. After World War One, in which he rather startlingly won an Iron Cross for ‘bravery’ (I always think of him as a bit cowardly, actually), he turned to politics. His early days in the Nazi Party saw him cutting his oratorial teeth on the speeches he made to admiring Party members.
He started to develop his anti-Semitic views around this time and was a real asset to the Nazi Party, which by the way he didn’t ‘found’ but he did join it very early on, when it was still in its infancy.
There’s a disturbing image for you anyway, the Nazi Party as a chubby baby complete with rattle and bonnet being wheeled round the park in an antique stroller by a uniformed Nanny. ‘Take me once round the park, Smithers, I’m feeling fussy…!’
The failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 came next, in which Hitler and his pals, including General Ludendorff from WW1, sought to stage a coup that would ultimately challenge the government in Berlin. Hitler was sentenced to five years in prison for his part in the Putsch but served only one, getting out early for, ‘of all things, good behaviour…!’
During his time in Landsberg Prison, Hitler dictated his autobiography, MEIN KAMPF, to his adoring deputy Rudolf Hess. I said dictated, not dedicated, lol. I don’t know if the book ever had the benefit of proper editing but most historians agree that it’s a major snooze.
He waffles a lot in it about his ideas on race and suchlike. They’re not at all what you’d call liberal. Some form of ethnic cleansing is implied. It’s seemingly badly written and a crashing bore, but essential reading, the experts claim, if you want to understand where he got his nutty ideas from or the ‘reasoning’ behind them. I did take it out of the library once, but the endless blocks of dry-as-dust, unbroken-up text made me return it soon after, unread.
After Hitler’s early release from prison, he began work on rebuilding the Nazi Party, which had stood by him throughout his, by all accounts, reasonably cushy incarceration. (There were flowers on the table in that prison cell, ffs…!) It was the Great Depression of 1929 that proved to be the key to Hitler’s later success.
With America demanding back the money they’d loaned Germany to get back on her feet after the punitive terms of the Versailles Treaty, Germany was in trouble financially and ripe for some political agitation from Hitler and the Nazi Party.
A stable, healthy German economy was no use to Hitler. But the recession that followed the Crash of ’29 was the perfect environment for the Nazis to flourish, and flourish they did, by promising the German people the only two things they cared about at this time, ‘ARBEIT UND BROT,’ or ‘WORK AND BREAD.’ They even delivered on their promises sometimes.
The elections of 1932 saw Hitler coming second only to Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934), the elderly President of Germany, who died a mere two years later. Hitler was now becoming established as a political force to be reckoned with.
1933 was even better for Hitler, the funny little man with the toothbrush moustache, poor table manners and queer sense of sartorial style (the top hat and dog whip, seriously?).
He became Chancellor of Germany and, with the aforementioned death of the old President Hindenburg in 1934, Hitler made himself President as well as Chancellor and fixed things so that he couldn’t be removed from office. Dictatorship, anyone?
A lot of stuff happened between 1933 and the start of World War Two that we’ll try to get through quickly. Punitive laws were enforced against the Jews, coming to an explosive head- but by no means ending- on Kristallnacht or The Night Of Broken Glass (November 1938), during which Jewish shops were trashed and their synagogues burned.
In the Irish Jewish Museum here in Dublin, just as a matter of interest, they have on display a piece of a religious scroll saved from a burning synagogue on this terrible night. Hitler was apparently annoyed by the damage to some of Germany’s lovely old buildings during Kristallnacht. Oh dear. How careless of those naughty marauders to damage the buildings.
The Nazi Party brushed Germany’s racial ‘issues’ under the carpet for the duration of the 1936 Olympic Games, which were held in Berlin. Film-maker Leni Riefenstahl, who also incidentally filmed the Olympics, made a movie called TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, about one of the gigantic Nuremberg rallies, that captured all the terrifying glamour and spectacle so beloved of the Nazis. Hitler is represented as a god in this film, literally descending from the clouds in his little aeroplane, the first leader of a country to ever use air travel to his benefit.
During this period also, from 1933 to 1939, ‘enemies’ of the Nazi Party (like the chap who protested that his livelihood had been torn down to make way for lavish extensions to the Berghof, Hitler’s fabulous mountain retreat) were being sent to concentration camps, which already existed. Inmates taken there were supposed to undergo a sort of ‘re-nazification.’ Like the ‘re-Neducation’ in that TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode of THE SIMPSONS but, like, a million times less fun, obviously.
The dreaded camps were not yet the killing machines some of them ended up being later on when the ‘Final Solution,’ the extermination of the Jews, was properly underway. For now, they were mostly for communists and people who opposed the Nazi ideology. There were eyes and ears everywhere. It was a dangerous time to speak out against the Fuhrer or his Nazi Party.
Hitler became obsessed during this time with the idea of ‘Lebensraum,’ or living space, for the German people. He built up and re-armed the Army that had suffered restrictions as a result of the Versailles Treaty, a humiliating document that had basically ground Germany into the dirt, as Hitler saw it, for having caused World War One.
The reparations Germany had to pay after WW1 were brutally punitive. Hitler metaphorically tore up this hated treaty every time he marched his newly re-armed forces into a different country in yet another stunning land grab, and the people of Germany loved him for it.
He’d united Austria with Nazi Germany without the firing of a single shot. The Austrians welcomed Hitler and his cohorts with open arms and floral tributes. He was like a king when he rode in his car through the flower-strewn streets. It was one of his greatest moments.
Then came his acquisition of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, Neville Chamberlain and ‘Peace In Our Time,’ and then the ill-fated invasion of Poland which led to Britain and France declaring war on Germany, much to Hitler’s surprise. What do these assholes care about Poland, he was probably thinking, but care they did. It was jolly well a matter of principle, old boy. The war was very much a go…
France fell fairly quickly to the well-oiled Nazi machine. Nazi steamroller, more like. Britain, of course, held out staunchly to the end because Britons never, never, never shall be slaves, of course. Hitler unleashed the full force of the odious, fatly smiling Goering’s Luftwaffe on them but to no avail. Britain was not for turning…
Hitler spent much of the war teaching his beloved Alsatian dog Blondi to do tricks. He also enjoyed eating cake- Hitler, that is, not Blondi, although who knows, maybe the doggie did too- and so he consumed quite a lot of the stuff up in the gorgeous little Teahouse that formed part of his mountainside hideaway in the Berghof, where his long-term mistress Eva Braun resided.
Hitler should have been as fat as a fool, with all the cakes the film-makers show him putting away in this documentary. I got quite peckish for cake, actually, while watching this film, and so a packet of Jaffa cakes may or may not have been sacrificed to the common good on one of the nights…
Dr. Theodore Morell, Hitler’s doctor, gets a mention here as the doctor who put the Fuhrer on a cocktail of drugs to treat his various ailments, real or imagined. Hitler was something of a hypochondriac, but the drugs he was given probably far exceeded his need and would have almost certainly contributed to how divorced from reality he was by the end of the war.
America entered the war in 1941 after the Japanese shockingly attacked Pearl Harbour. Hitler is seen in the documentary film as not taking this news seriously enough. It was a disaster for him, however.
The Americans were mightily pissed off and would stay in the war until the bitter end, until they, in fact, were the victors along with Britain and Hitler’s most hated enemy, Russia. The threat of Bolshevism was as bad, to him, as the threat represented by the Jews.
Hitler’s invasion of Russia was an unmitigated disaster also, resulting in the deaths of millions of Russian soldiers and civilians and German soldiers. Fighting a war of that scale on two fronts was too much for one man, a man who by now wasn’t even living in the real world.
The Holocaust, the wholesale murder of the Jews of Europe in concentration camps, was in full swing by now, with Auschwitz in Poland at the ‘dead’ centre of the operation. The more catastrophic Hitler’s war became for Germany, the more the killing was speeded up, the killing he actually termed ‘humane’ because it was done by gassing rather than other, messier means.
Everyone wants to hear about the Bunker, of course, the ‘good stuff,’ lol, when Hitler moved battalions that no longer really existed around the map from one place to another during the daily situation reports that became more and more fraught. The war was lost. The jig was up. Hitler was pretty much the last person to take this admittedly unpalatable fact on board.
In his last couple of days, he marries Eva Braun, dictates his last Will and Testament to his secretary Traudl Junge and shoots himself while Eva bites down on a cyanide capsule on the couch beside him.
Nearby, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister and long-time toady Joseph Goebbels prepares to follow his Fuhrer even unto death, along with his wife Magda and their six children. Thus, with a gunshot and the hasty burning of two bodies in the Reichchancellery garden, endeth the Third Reich. There’s talk of a Fourth sequel but I don’t know, I think the franchise is pretty much played out, lol.
There’s some really fantastic footage of the players in this iconic real-life drama in HITLER: THE RISE AND FALL. I’d never seen a lot of the footage before and it was gob-smackingly clear and exciting to view.
The historians are pretty good too, my favourites being the super-enthusiastic Emma Craigie, author of HITLER’S LAST DAY: MINUTE BY MINUTE, which I’ve read and enjoyed, and also a chap by the name of Professor Richard Overy. Watch this if you’re a history fan. It’s top-notch stuff.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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