Sunday, May 15, 2011

Hitler in media

Oratory and rallies

Hitler was a gifted orator who captivated many with his beating of the lectern and growling, emotional speech. He honed his skills by giving speeches to soldiers during 1919 and 1920. He became adept at telling people what they wanted to hear (the stab-in-the-back, the Jewish-Marxist plot to conquer the world, and the betrayal of Germany in the Versailles treaty) and identifying a scapegoat for their plight. Over time, Hitler perfected his delivery by rehearsing in front of mirrors and carefully choreographing his display of emotions. He was allegedly coached by Erik-Jan Hanussen, a self-styled clairvoyant who focused on hand and arm gestures and who, ironically, had Jewish heritage. Munitions minister and architect Albert Speer, who may have known Hitler as well as anyone, said that Hitler was above all else an actor.
Hitler and Baron Mannerheim(June 1942)
Massive Nazi rallies staged by Speer were designed to spark a process of self-persuasion for the participants. By participating in the rallies, by marching, by shouting heil, and by making the stiff armed salute, the participants strengthened their commitment to the Nazi movement. This process can be appreciated by watching Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, which presents the 1934 Nuremberg Rally. The camera shoots Hitler from on high and from below, but only twice head-on. These camera angles give Hitler a Christ-like aura. Some of the people in the film are paid actors, but most of the participants are not. Whether the film itself recruited new Nazis out of theatre audiences is unknown. The process of self-persuasion may have affected Hitler. He gave the same speech (though it got smoother and smoother with repetition) hundreds of times first to soldiers and then to audiences in beer halls.

Recorded in private conversation

Hitler visited Finnish Field Marshal Mannerheim on 4 June 1942. During the visit an engineer of the Finnish broadcasting company YLE, Thor Damen, recorded Hitler and Mannerheim in conversation, something which had to be done secretly since Hitler never allowed recordings of him off-guard. Today the recording is the only known recording of Hitler not speaking in an official tone. The recording captures 11½ minutes of the two leaders in private conversation. Hitler speaks in a slightly excited, but still intellectually detached manner during this talk (the speech has been compared to that of the working class). The majority of the recording is a monologue by Hitler. In the recording, Hitler admits to underestimating the Soviet Union's ability to conduct war.

Patria picture disc

Adolf Hitler even released a 7-inch picture disc with one of his speeches. Known as the Patria (Fatherland) picture disc, the obverse bears an image of Hitler giving a speech and has a recording of both a speech by Hitler and also Party Member Hans Hinkel. The reverse bears a hand holding a swastika flag and the Carl Woitschach recording (1933 – Telefunken A 1431) "In Dem Kampf um die Heimat – Faschistenmarsch".

Documentaries during the Third Reich

Hitler appeared in and was involved to varying degrees with a series of films by the pioneering filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl via Universum Film AG (UFA):
  • Der Sieg des Glaubens (Victory of Faith, 1933).
  • Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will, 1934), co-produced by Hitler.
  • Tag der Freiheit: Unsere Wehrmacht (Day of Freedom: Our Armed Forces, 1935).
  • Olympia (1938).
Hitler was the central figure of the first three films; they focused on the party rallies of the respective years and are considered propaganda films. Hitler also featured prominently in the Olympia film. Whether the latter is a propaganda film or a true documentary is still a subject of controversy, but it nonetheless perpetuated and spread the propagandistic message of the 1936 Olympic Games depicting Nazi Germany as a prosperous and peaceful country. As a prominent politician, Hitler was featured in many newsreels.


Hitler's attendance at various public functions, including the 1936 Olympic Games and Nuremberg Rallies, appeared on television broadcasts made between 1935 and 1939. These events, along with other programming highlighting activity by public officials, were often repeated in public viewing rooms. Samples from a number of surviving television films from Nazi Germany were included in the 1999 documentary Das Fernsehen unter dem Hakenkreuz (Television Under the Swastika).

Documentaries post Third Reich

  • The World at War (1974): a Thames Television series which contains much information about Hitler and Nazi Germany, including an interview with his secretary, Traudl Junge.
  • Adolf Hitler's Last Days: from the BBC series "Secrets of World War II" tells the story about Hitler's last days during World War II.
  • The Nazis: A Warning From History (1997): six-part BBC TV series on how the cultured and educated Germans accepted Hitler and the Nazis up to its downfall. Historical consultant is Ian Kershaw.
  • Cold War (1998): a CNN series about the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. The series begins with World War II footage, including Hitler, and how the Cold War began in earnest after Germany surrendered.
  • Im toten Winkel – Hitlers Sekretärin (Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary) (2002): an exclusive 90 minute interview with Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary. Made by Austrian Jewish director André Heller shortly before Junge's death from lung cancer, Junge recalls the last days in the Berlin bunker. Clips of the interview were used in Downfall (film).
  • Undergångens arkitektur (The Architecture of Doom) (1989): documentary about the National Socialist aesthetic as envisioned by Hitler.
  • Das Fernsehen unter dem Hakenkreuz (Television Under the Swastika) (1999): documentary by Michael Kloft about the domestic use of television in Nazi Germany for propaganda purposes from 1935 to 1944.
  • Ruins of the Reich (2007): four-part series of the Rise and Fall of Hitler's Reich and its effects, created by Third Reich historian R.J. Adams

Films and series

  • East German actor Fritz Diez depicted Hitler in Ernst Thälmann – Führer seiner Klasse (East Germany, 1955), Frozen Flashes (East Germany, 1967), I, Justice (Czechoslovakia, 1967), Liberation (1970–1, Soviet Union), 17 Moments of Spring (1973, TV production, Soviet Union), Take Aim (1974, Soviet Union) and Soldiers of Freedom (1977, Soviet Union).
  • The Death of Adolf Hitler, a British (7 January 1973) made-for-television production, starring Frank Finlay. The movie depicts the last days of Hitler.
  • Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973): movie depicting the days leading up to Adolf Hitler's death, starring Sir Alec Guinness.
  • Hans-Jürgen Syberberg's Hitler – Ein Film aus Deutschland (Hitler: A Film from Germany) (1977): a seven-hour work in four parts. The director uses documentary clips, photographic backgrounds, puppets, theatrical stages, and other elements.
  • The Bunker (1981): a U.S. made-for-television movie describing the last days in the Führerbunker covering 17 January 1945 to 2 May 1945. The film stars Sir Anthony Hopkins.
  • Europa, Europa (1990): based on the true story of a German Jew who joined the Hitler Youth in order to avoid capture. Hitler is portrayed by Ryszard Pietruski.
  • Fatherland (1994): a hypothetical view of Germany in 1964, had Hitler won World War II, adapted from the novel by former journalist Robert Harris.
  • The Empty Mirror (1996): a psychodrama which speculates on the events following Hitler (portrayed by Norman Rodway) surviving the fall of Nazi Germany.
  • Moloch (1999): Hitler portrayed by Leonid Mozgovoy in a fictional drama set at his Berghof Retreat in the Bavarian Alps.
  • Max (2002): fictional drama depicting a friendship between Jewish art dealer Max Rothman (John Cusack) and a young Adolf Hitler (Noah Taylor) as a failed painter in Vienna.
  • Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003): two-part TV series about the early years of Adolf Hitler and his rise to power (up to 1933), starring Robert Carlyle.
  • Der Untergang (Downfall) (2004): German movie about the last days of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich, starring Bruno Ganz. This film is partly based on the autobiography of Traudl Junge, a favourite secretary of Hitler's. In 2002, Junge said she felt great guilt for "... liking the greatest criminal ever to have lived."
  • Valkyrie (2008): Hitler, played by David Bamber, is portrayed as a target of the famous assassination plot by Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg.


  • Dr Freud Will See You Now Mr Hitler (2008): radio drama by Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran presenting an imagined scenario in which Sigmund Freud treats the young Hitler. Toby Jones played Hitler.

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