Watching “Downfall”


In a previous post, I mentioned that my son gets extra credit in U.S. History class for watching a movie about their current subject and writing a report about it. For 4th quarter, it’s World War II. Needless to say, there are plenty of WW2 movies. Shall I dig out the John Wayne movies on VHS? Twelve O’Clock High or Tora! Tora! Tora! off Netflix? Rocketboy chose Downfall to practice his German at the same time.

Downfall, of course, is the source of numerous parodies on Youtube.

It took me a bit to change mind-gears, away from the jokes and onto the seriousness of war, a charismatic but deteriorating leader, and the followers who either accept the end and try to survive or can’t fathom any other way of life and check themselves out. I did not know until I saw this movie that Goebbels and his wife killed their six children. (How do you get an actor to look that evil?) I think Rocketboy learned a lot, considering the number of real people portrayed in the movie. Peter, the young soldier, represents all of the Hitler Youth but is modeled after Alfred Czech. Czech received the Iron Cross from Hitler in the last newsreel film before the end. There may have been other inconsistencies but nothing glaring for me.

After all the suicides and shootings, we cheered ourselves up with Blue Collar Comedy Whirled Tour.

Not bad for a Wednesday during spring break. How was your day?

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8 Comments

Filed under history, Personal

8 responses to “Watching “Downfall”

  1. I had the opportunity to watch Der Untergang while we were stationed in Germany. It was a film that had a lot of Germans very worried, fearing it would give a sympathetic look at Hitler. Some schools went so far as to tell the students not to watch it. One neighbor was beside herself, telling me that the film would make Germans look bad to the world, again.

    One thing I took away from the people’s reactions is that they are not just reluctant to learn from the past, but afraid of it, too. As far as the film goes, I found it to be rather well done.

    Not I need to go cuddle my dogs :)

    • I don’t see how they thought it would be sympathetic. I thought Bruno Ganz did an exceptional job. I saw Alec Guinness in “Hitler:The Last Ten Days”, and all I could see was Alec Guinness. According to IMDB, Ganz practiced an Austrian accent and various mannerisms, which really added to the creepiness of it all.

    • IIRC, around the time Downfall was being produced, various far right elements were starting to chafe under the prohibition on Naziism and any similar ideologies. The fear that some would use the film to justify their political ambitions and aims wasn’t totally unfounded.

      Further, the majority of the population were born after the end of the War, and were becoming tired of every mention of Germany leading to “started World War II/ killed the Jews.” The didn’t appreciate being blamed for the sins of their fathers.

      Wanting to sweep the past under the rug wasn’t terribly surprising, in that sense. Not wise, mind you, just not terribly surprising.

  2. While I haven’t watched Downfall, I have read Cornelius Ryan’s The Last Battle. He draws a vivid picture of those last days, and I’ve known for a long time just how gruesomely evil the Goebbels were. IIRC, Soviet autopsies indicated that at least some of the children struggled. I wonder what went through Frau Goebbels’ mind while she held her own children down to be murdered? There has to be a special place in Hell for that.

    The more impish part of my personality would have suggested he watch Kelly’s Heroes for his report. “Always with the negative waves, Moriarity!” :)

    • The Goebbles and other leaders of Nazi Germany reaped what they sowed, and Downfall only shows part of it. Many were motivated by a justified fear of being in the hands of the Soviets.

      The Red Army soldiers were brutal, and made the cost personal and unforgettable to every survivor in Soviet-occupied Germany in 1945. The Red Army atrocities were policy, and encouraged. There is a reason the Germans became pacifists.

      This does not excuse Germans for their evils, but does show the costs incurred by losing such a bitter, ideological war.

  3. NaCly Dog

    We had a bright and windy day, after yesterday’s flurries with huge snow-flakes followed by a horizon to horizon rainbow.

    I spent the afternoon visiting the Kansas State legislature to see the sausage being made. Interesting. A sense of detachment helped while I was watching my Senator vote.

    The tax bill passed by the Senate will make me pay more in taxes, and another bill will make it harder to start-up my dream business.

  4. Bill M

    There are some movies that I’ll always watch for a while when flipping channels. I can think of at least three WWII movies in that category: Bridge on the River Kwai, In Harm’s Way, and Patton. Oh wait, add Casablanca. And The Great Escape.

    Some other good ones, but not in the “must watch” category, include the Mel Brooks’ remake of To Be or Not to Be. A Midnight Clear is little-known but worth hunting. Mark Hamill came through the comic book store I worked at in 1980 or so, and seemed pleased that we asked him about The Big Red One instead of some space opera thing he’d recently been in.

    For epic battle movies, I’d suggest either The Longest Day or A Bridge too Far over Saving Private Ryan — it’s worth reading up on how they were filmed at original locations. Several web sites show comparison shots of during the battles and the post-war filming.

    So many good ones — The Caine Mutiny, The Dirty Dozen, Best Years of Our LIves, The Man Who Never Was, The Eagle Has Landed, The Eye of the Needle, Mister Roberts, From Here to Eternity, Stalag 17, Mrs. Miniver.

    The BBC Mystery show Foyle’s War gives a good view of life in Britain during the war (but watching them all is too much for a school assignment; best to do it for fun).

    I can’t wait until Thomas takes history . . ..