During the war, the majority of the cyanide capsules produced were made in the concentration camps, which made sabotage a real problem. This is one of the reasons why many Germans who committed suicide by cyanide also shot themselves to make sure they would die. This is also the reason why Adolf Hitler's beloved dog Blondi was poisoned; he wanted to make sure his batch of cyanide was not fake.
Also helping Bruno Ganz in preparing for the role was the unique, only known recording of Adolf Hitler when he held a private conversation with Field Marshal Gustaf Mannerheim of Finland; at that time a World War II ally of Germany against the Soviet Union. Hitler unexpectedly showed up to congratulate Mannerheim on his 75th birthday on June 4, 1942. Finnish intelligence agents secretly made the recording in a train wagon; as Hitler did not allow recordings nor photographs to be taken in private. Some 11 minutes of the recording feature relaxed, normal-tone talk in which Hitler generally describe his views about the war. One of two copies of the tape was discovered in 1992 and has since been studied by scientists and historians.
The featured interview samples of real Traudl Junge are taken from the documentary "Blind Spot" recorded in April and July 2001. Due to serious health problems Junge wasn't able to attend the film's premiere on the 9th of February 2002. The premiere had been a great success and the camera man went to hospital to inform Junge whereupon she is said to have answered "My lifework is accomplished. Now I can let go." Just hours later she died aged 82 after a long fight against cancer.
The button that Adolf Hitler removes from his jacket and gives to Magda Goebbels is the Gold Nazi Party badge, awarded to high-ranking party members who had constant membership from 1925. Hitler gave himself Badge No. 1 when he authorized it in 1933, even though he was not the first party member. The Soviets found the badge in the bunker and it was stored in a vault at the Lubyanka, the KGB headquarters. In 1996 the FSB, the Russian Federation successor to the Soviet KGB, revealed that it had the badge and in 2005 put it on display. In November that year, it was stolen in a brazen smash-and-grab raid. The burglar escaped even though he triggered the display alarms. So far, it has not yet been recovered.
Karl Richter, a member of the German NPD, managed to get into the movie via the normal way of being cast. He plays the uncredited part of Generalfeldmarschall Keitel's adjutant. He later expressed his pleasure and satisfaction when the casting crew asked him to try on the uniform, lift his right arm and shout "Heil Hitler." The filmmakers did not know who he was and that he actually was quite experienced in performing the salute.
Most of the outdoor city scenes for the movie were filmed in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This was for two reasons, one the architecture of the city has many Germanic aspects. Second, there are plenty of streets with little or no modern advertisements and other commercial aspects.
Of the thirty-seven named real life people featured as characters in the film, Rochus Misch was the only one who was still alive when the film was released. He died on September 5, 2013 at the age of 96.
After the film's release, Bruno Ganz stated that, at first, he didn't want the role of Adolf Hitler. After viewing the film The Last Ten Days (1955) and Albin Skoda's portrayal of Hitler, however, Ganz realized the role could be played with some depth, and accepted the part.
In the opening scene of the film, where Traudl is being interviewed for the position of Hitler's secretary in late 1942, she introduces herself to him as Traudl Humps. However, in all scenes in the bunker in April 1945, she is referred to as Frau Junge. In June 1943, Traudl, with Hitler's approval, married Waffen-SS officer Hans Hermann Junge, who was subsequently killed in action in France in August 1944. Because the film jumps directly from 1942 to 1945, these events aren't depicted. However, her name change is correct.
Clips from this movie are used in numerous parodies that appear on YouTube in which a scene (usually the one of Adolf Hitler yelling at his subordinates) is re-subtitled to imbue it with unintended comedic meaning. The first such video was "Hitler gets banned from Xbox Live;" other subjects include Nashville's gas crisis of 2008, changes to Epcot at Walt Disney World, the delay of the release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009), fans' disappointment with the first Avatar (2009) trailer, the "Balloon Boy" hoax of October 2009, and Brett Favre signing with the Vikings. Many of the parodies have Hitler yelling at his subordinates about punctuation or spelling errors, in reference to the fact that sticklers for editing are sometimes derided as "Grammar Nazis." In 2010, Constantin Films, which owns the rights to Downfall, started taking down the parodies, arguing that their copyright was being infringed. Shortly thereafter, new parody videos appeared decrying Constantin Films' actions as "Naziesque." Contrary to the reaction of Constantin Films, director Oliver Hirschbiegel claims to have seen over a hundred of such parodies, and enjoyed them very much. YouTube has since stopped blocking these parodies.
Christian Berkel, who portrays Schenck, stated his own background is not too far from his character. His father was also a doctor during the war, arrested by the Russians afterward, then released. His mother's side, however, was Jewish. Almost all of his relatives on her side, save his grandmother and two cousins, were lost in the camps.
During the letters montage, Magda Goebbels is seen writing a letter to her son, Harald Quandt (there is a picture of him in front of her), by her first husband, industrialist Günther Quandt. He was her only child to survive the war. In 1944, as a Lieutenant in the Luftwaffe, Quandt was injured and captured by the Allies in Italy. He was released in 1947 and later died in an air crash in 1967.
'Justus Von Dohnanyi', who portrays General Wilhelm Burgdorf, is the grandson of Hans Von Dohnanyi, one of the members of the anti-Hitler conspiracy, who was hanged in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in September 1944. Through his grandfather's marriage, he is also the grand-nephew of Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, another anti-Hitler conspirator who was hanged in the Flossenburg concentration camp.
Peter Kranz and other teens return home. They stop near the dead young lady in the armored track. This episode refers to the well known photo. That woman is supposed to be the member of the Norway Red Cross (SS Division "Nordland"). The armored track Sd.Krz.150 belonged to haupsturmfuerer Hans-Gosta Pehrsson. The Czech track OT-810 (after war production) was shown in the movie instead of original track.
Hauptsturmführer Hans-Gösta Pehrsson was Swedish. He tried to get out of Berlin through the Swedish embassy but failed. He survived the war after being captured by the Red Army and died in Stockholm 1974. The dead soldier lying in front of the half track in the famous picture is another Swede, Arvid Johansson from the city of Skövde.
The April 23, 1945 telegram that Hitler received from Goering indicating that he was planning to announce himself head of state under the assumption that Hitler was incapacitated, had been taken prisoner, or was dead, was sold at auction in July 2015 for $55,000 US dollars. The document had a history of its own, passing first into the hands of US Army Captain Benjamin Bradin in 1945, after Bradin took it off of a desk as he was collecting war souvenirs from the Hitler Bunker. It later passed into the hands of Bradin's son, who then gave it as a present to a professor at the Citadel Military College of South Carolina. That professor in turn gave it to another student who ultimately sold it in 2015.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Corinna Harfouch stated that she nearly broke down when filming the scene in which Magda Goebbels gives her children their "medicine" to put them to sleep before poisoning them. Bruno Ganz felt similarly when he held the girl playing one of the Goebbels' children in his lap as they sang, because he knew that these children were soon to be murdered by their parents.