Tuesday, December 02, 2008

History Channel offers "sneak preview" with "Valkyrie: The Plot to Kill Hitler"

The History Channel, on Nov. 24, offered a primer for the new United Artists film “Valyrie” with a two-hour documentary of its own: “Valkyrie: The Plot to Kill Hitler”. The link is here.

The “real” film is directed by a youthful Bryan Singer and written by Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander. The History Channel offered a few brief shots from the new film, due this month from MGM/United Artists and starring Tom Cruise.

The documentary starts by giving us a glimpse of modern Germany (which I last visited in 1999), the third largest economy in Europe.

The documentary traced the history of the Third Reich, mentioning facts like how Hitler paid for his early propaganda by charging admission for his rallies. Soon Hitler, after taking power (how this was even possible would make a good film or documentary) made himself about the law or the “constitution.” Stool pigeons would report people who listened to foreign radio or spread rumors verbally (well before the days of Internet “reputation”), and such persons could be executed for treason. The film mentions briefly the Nazi theories of “biological superiority” and eugenics.

The documentary picks up speed and summarizes Hitler’s increasing paranoia over security and his fear of becoming a hot house plant. Real plots developed, the most important being the July 20 1944 plot at Wolf’s Lair in East Prussia, with the main participant Count Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (Wikipedia here). Stauffenberg needed cooperation from his commander Fromm. Eventually the plot was foiled and, with some excruciating delays and thin noose wires, everyone was hung or shot. The documentary gives some details, but Singer’s film will dramatize them fully.

The film also covers the role of Carl Goerdeler, who had refused to remove a statute of “Jewish” composer Felix Mendelssohn from Leipzig (link). There was also a period where the plotters pretended that Hitler had been killed when he hadn’t.

After the Allies won the War, the widows and children of German soldiers received no pensions, but the survivors of the plotters were in more ambiguous straits. Germany’s culture would take a while to absorb the shock of what had happened; according to the documentary, Germany resisted the idea of “hero” for a long time, even though the concept has become popular in American television.

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