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Traudl Junge was Adolf Hitler's private secretary, from Autumn 1942 until the collapse of the Nazi regime. She worked for him at the Wolfsschanze in Obersalzberg, on his private train and, finally, in his bunker in the besieged capital. It was Traudl Junge to whom Hitler dictated his final testament. In her first ever on-camera interview, 81-year-old Junge talks about her unique life. In the spring of 2001, Andre Heller succeeded in convincing Traudl Junge how valuable it is to record her unique memories. Fifty-six years after the end of the Second World War, an important eyewitness reveals her experiences to us. What she saw and heard turned her into an furious opponent of National Socialism; an opponent, moreover, who is still painfully aware and seems incapable of forgiving the young girl she once was--for her naivete, ignorance, and her liking for Hitler. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
The official sites of this film claim that these interviews are Traudl Junge's first public appearance, that she "kept quiet for nearly 60 years". See more »
But one day I walked past the memorial plaque for Sophie Scholl on Franz-Joseph-Straße and there I realised that she was my age group and that she was executed the year I came to Hitler. That moment I felt that being young actually isn't an excuse and that maybe one could have learnt about things.
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This is quite possibly the most minimal movie ever made. Except for the opening and closing credits, all we ever see is an elderly woman in closeup, apparently in her own home, talking past the camera to an unseen interviewer. He's only heard a few times. He seems completely superfluous. The interview segments are punctuated with brief blackouts.
There's no score. No film cutaways or slow Ken Burns-style pans over countless still images of the Third Reich. She just talks for an hour and a half in her native German, so much of my attention was focused on the subtitles. A few segments show her watching her own interview and making additional comments.
After watching "Blind Spot" I found on Youtube a much earlier interview in which she speaks in English. Judging from her apparent age, it looks to have been made circa 1970, probably for the British "World at War" series. She recounts many things in much the same way in both interviews, so it's obvious she's spent much of her adult life reliving the events she's talking about and pondering her own role in them. She doesn't need much prompting.
Because of the minimal production values and the subtitles, I felt more like I was reading a book than watching a movie. But this was a very good book that really engaged my imagination. I'd seen the movie "Downfall", based in large part on her recollections, but her own verbal imagery would have been vivid enough.
When "Downfall" came out there was a lot of hand wringing about how it "humanized" Hitler, some from people I thought knew better. Similar criticisms have been leveled at Frau Junge, but they completely miss the point. Accuracy is what matters in a historical account, and I have no reason to doubt hers. Whether we want to admit it or not, Hitler was a fully human being. He wasn't a highly evolved space alien or a demon from hell with supernatural powers who took human form to enslave mankind from the outside. He was one of us. We have to deal with that.
As Junge explains so well, Hitler actually had many positive personal attributes. At one time it was her job to open his personal mail, so she saw the letters he received from the countless women who absolutely swooned over him. And the only time I doubted her veracity was when she claimed not to understand why. Her own story - that she so readily agreed to become one of his secretaries - shows that she understood his attraction all too well. Not just to women but to Germans in general.
And that's precisely the point! We don't want to believe that Hitler was anything like us "normal" people. We don't want to believe that a man who caused so much destruction and suffering could have any redeeming qualities at all, much less be perceived as highly attractive. We're much more comfortable putting him on a shelf and labeling him as something unique and different, an inhuman monster quite apart from us "ordinary" people. We do the same with the German people of that era. Unlike us noble Americans, with our humanitarianism and respect for personal freedoms and rights, the Germans of 1933-1945 were stupid, gullible, unthinking automatons, blind to the obvious evil of their leaders. Why, that could never happen to us!
It damn well COULD happen to us. That's why Frau Junge's story is so important. Watch this movie.
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