The documentary “Swastika” [1974] by Philippe Mora / die Dokumentation “Swastika”

Article in English [in deutsch siehe unten]
 
That’s the starkest documentary about the Third Reich, I have seen so far. At the age of 19 Franco-Australian film student Philippe Mora made the archive discovery of his life. With the help of a historian he found the Obersalzberg film roles that Eva Braun once stored in her bedroom at the Berghof and that were later seized by US military personnel.
Mora mixed these private recordings with Nazi propaganda material and created a documentary. Only in the second part of the movie he used footage from “the other side”. The movie misses any comment. Mora let the pictures speak for themselves. The documentary caused a scandal back then and was first shown in German cinemas 37 years later. The contrast between cosy mountain idyll, martial parades and evil propaganda is hard to overcome. The film conveys a sense of how powerful and thrilling the atmosphere was at that time. The Overture to Wagner’s Tannhäuser combined with pictures of a country on the move, politics as religion, the Olympic Games, the eerily beautiful Riefenstahl scenes, Adolf and Eva at the Berghof playing cheerfully with  dogs, next to hate speech, first acts of violence against Jews and military armament. We all know what came and had to come. The German population did not know every detail, or did not want to know. Repression as a survival strategy. “Better go with the flow” was the motto. Go with a movement unseen in history. Even in the faraway US there were tens of thousands who got infected by the Hitler mania. [This is also shown in the documentary.]
And then the second part of the movie. The great destruction. A crescendo of violence. Bombs, flashes of light, dead bodies, total war; sicker and more intense as any Hollywood production can ever be. Then camera flights over a completely devastated country, images from the concentration camps. So terrible that you don’t want to look at them.
Time for the end credits? No. The movie ends with a scene at the Berghof in which Hitler is hosting a few guests. Coffee and cake is served. I repeat. Coffee and cake. I can hardly imagine a more bitter contrast.
I recommend this movie to anyone who is not only interested in theories about mass psychology and the phenomenon of “ideology as a substitute for religion”, but who wants to sense an undertone, a mood, an inkling of ​​what was going on back then. Yes, the first part of the film is dangerous. It depicts Hitler as a human being and shows a country that is completely inebriated. But if one really wants to understand the events of that time, one has to expose itself to this.
 
Der Artikel in deutsch

Das ist der krasseste Dokumentarfilm über das Dritte Reich, den ich bisher gesehen habe. Als 19-jähriger Filmstudent machte der Franco-Australier Philippe Mora die Archiventdeckung seines Lebens. Mit Hilfe eines Historikers spürte er die von amerikanischen Armeeangehörigen auf dem Obersalzberg beschlagnahmten Filmrollen auf, die Eva Braun in ihrem Schlafzimmer auf dem Berghof gelagert hatte. Diese privaten Aufnahmen kompilierte er zusammen mit Propaganda-Material der Nazis zu einem Dokumentarfilm. Erst im zweiten Teil wird auch filmisches Material “der anderen Seite” verwendet. Der komplette Film kommt ohne jeglichen Kommentar aus. Die Bilder sprechen für sich. Der Film löste damals einen Skandal aus und wurde in Deutschland erst 37 Jahre nach Entstehung im Kino gezeigt. Die Kontraste zwischen heimeliger Bergidylle, martialischen Paraden und bitterböser Propaganda könnten größer nicht sein. Der Film vermittelt ein Gefühl davon, wie mitreißend die Stimmung damals war. Die Ouvertüre zum Tannhäuser, dazu ein Land im Aufbruch, Politik als Religion, die olympischen Spiele, die schaurig-schönen Riefenstahl-Bilder, Adolf und Eva auf dem Berghof, mit Hunden spielend, fröhlich und ausgelassen, daneben Hassparolen, erste Gewalttaten gegen Juden, militärische Aufrüstung. Wir alle wissen, was kam, ja kommen musste. Die Bevölkerung wusste damals vieles nicht, oder wollte es nicht wissen. Verdrängung als Überlebensstrategie. Lieber mitschwimmen im großen Strom einer Bewegung, wie sie die Welt bis dahin noch nicht gesehen hatte. Selbst im fernen Amerika gab es zehntausende, die sich von der Hitlermanie anstecken ließen. Auch davon werden Bilder gezeigt.
Und dann der zweite Teil des Films. Die große Zerstörung. Ein Crescendo der Gewalt. Bomben, Lichtblitze, Tote, der totale Krieg; krasser als es jeder Hollywoodfilm nachstellen kann. Dann Kameraflüge über ein komplett zerstörtes Land, Bilder aus den Konzentrationslagern. So schrecklich, dass man nicht hinschauen will. Kommt nun endlich der Abspann? Nein. Der Film endet mit einer Berghof-Szene, in der Hitler ein paar Gäste bei sich bewirtet. Es gibt Kaffee und Kuchen. Ich wiederhole. Kaffee und Kuchen. Bitterer kann kein Kontrast sein.
Ich empfehle diesen Film jedem, der sich nicht nur theoretisch mit Massenpsychologie und dem Phänomen “Ideologie als Religionsersatz” befassen will, sondern der darüber hinaus ein Gefühl, ein Stimmungsbild, eine Ahnung von dem, was damals abging, einfangen möchte. Ja, der erste Teil des Films ist gefährlich. Er zeigt Hitler als Menschen und ein vollkommen berauschtes Land. Doch wer das Geschehene wirklich begreifen will, muss sich dem Teil schon aussetzen.
Zur weiterführenden Lektüre hier eine Filmkritik von Sonja M. Schultz.

The Hitler Easter Coincidence

Hitler’s birthday was on April 20, 1889, one day before Easter Sunday. The first year, where his birthday and the Easter Day were coincidental, was 1919, followed by 1924 and 1930.
In 1939 Hitler’s birthday was declared a national holiday in Nazi Germany. But only for this single year. The reason: Hitler became 50 in 1939. On this occasion the largest military parade in the history of the Third Reich was held in Berlin. Unfortunately [from Hitler’s point of view] the Easter Day was that year on April 9. Presumably he would have been pleased about such a coincidence on his 50th birthday, but he was unlucky: during the whole time he was in power there was no Easter Sunday on April 20.
At Easter 1945 [April 1] Hitler was already trapped in the Führerbunker. He did also celebrate his last birthday there. Ten days later he was dead.
Only in the next century Easter Sunday was again on April 20. In 2003 and yes: this year. Probably it is just irony of history that the most evil person mankind has seen and Jesus Christ share from time to time their feast day, but it leaves a strange gut feeling.
btw: there are two ‘Hitler Easter Days’ left for this century: 2025 and 2098. The probability for Easter Sunday at April 20 is about 3.4%. The full distribution of Easter dates here.

Alternative History, Part I: The Life of the Austrian Painter Adolf Hitler [1889-1915]

Born in 1889 at Braunau am Inn, Upper Austria, Hitler grew up in Passau and Linz.

Bild: Hitler as infant / Hitler als Kleinkind
Hitler as Infant

At the age of ten Adolf discovered his passion for drawing and painting, but his father Alois ignored this desire and sent his son in 1900 to the “Realschule” of Linz, a technical high school of about 300 students. There he met Ludwig Wittgenstein (the later world famous philosopher). They both shared an interest for art and music (especially Wagner operas) and soon became friends. In school Hitler had deficits in mathematics and grammar, but with the help of his friend Ludwig (who was top of the class) he eventually managed to quit school with a diploma.

School class photo / Klassenfoto
bottom left: Wittgenstein | top right: Hitler

In 1907 Hitler moved to Vienna to enroll at the Academy of Fine Arts. The assessment commission attested him talent for drawing, respectively architectural images, but yet rejected him, because of his “unfitness for painting”. Maybe Hitler was not an artistic genius, but he had a strong will and was fairly disciplined. In 1908 Hitler passed the entrance test again, this time successfully.

Collage of Hitler paintings / Collage von Hitler-Gemälden
This collage unites some early works of Adolf Hitler, right in the middle a photograph of the artist as a young boy.

In 1910 Hitler became the last “Meisterschueler” of Christian Griepenkerl (1839 – 1912), curiously enough the professor who rejected him in 1907. In 1912 Hitler had his first more extensive exhibition at the Secession hall in Vienna. At this time his style was strongly influenced by landscapists like Van Gogh and Cézanne, but of course in his own expressionistic interpretation.
Since 1913 Hitler and Ludwig Wittgenstein lived together in a spacious urban villa at the Viennese Kundmanngasse that was built according to own construction plans. At this time their homosexuality was already an open secret. With the beginning of World War I in 1914 both of them joined the Austrian army (Wittgenstein voluntarily, Hitler by force). While Wittgenstein stayed uninjured and even could finish his first main work in the trenches (the Tractatus logico-philosophicus), Hitler was shot during a harsh attack of the Serbian enemy in January 1915 and died from exsanguination, aged only 25.
Hitler was not the only famous German speaking painter who lost his life in the trenches. August Macke, Franz Marc and Franz Noelken also died at the frontline. It’s hard to imagine what artworks those fallen heroes may have produced if they did not have died that young …