Af Bathos 4
AFTER MEIN KAMPF (1940) ***
D: Norman Lee
NO CRIME IS TOO GREAT FOR HIM … NO CHILD TOO YOUNG TO BE BOMBED!
Although not up to the standards of the WHY WE FIGHT-series, this is still interesting as the first American documentary of Hitler’s rise to power. Interspersed with the actual footage there are dramatizations of some of the historical events, the most curious perhaps being Peter Ustinov as van der Lubbe, the German equivalent of the Rosenberg case.
The best is certainly the final scene of a Hitler Youth betraying his parents, although a clip from HITLERJUNGE QUEX would have been more illuminating. As propaganda goes, it’s really rather subdued, possibly because the full horrors of Hitler’s regime were still unknown to the world.
All we see are a couple of gangland-type liquidations of Hitler’s competitors – a young girl is even spared - the most shocking revelation apparently considered to be the Nazis having denied Dolfuss the last rites. If van der Lubbe is tortured, as claimed on the poster – with “hundreds of other smashing sights that will make you bite your lips to keep from screaming” - it at least takes place off-screen.
Naturally, there are the usual cheap shots – sure the members of Hitler’s cabinet mostly looked like the popular conception of a psychopathic criminal, but so does the present Danish prime minister (something which he is clearly not). Also, it should be possible to say the word “Nazism” without sneering or making cracks about the name Schickelgruber.
After all, the formula for introducing a New Order is chillingly similar to our present situation, especially in Denmark, with the introduction of a right-wing dictatorship under the guise of democracy. Of course, this is not strictly true, as Hitler, whether we like it or not, was undoubtedly the choice of the German people (being an “upstart”, as he is called in the film, I suppose means being democratically elected).
We are also shown why, both the right and wrong reasons. Putting an end to the class struggle and ruthlessly securing the economy, he turned chaos into order.
That he didn’t respect the Versailles Treaty isn’t so very difficult to understand either, being a vae victis sort of fait accompli. Of course, there was no way he could make Germany a world power without incurring the wrath of the other contenders to the title.
That Hitler was in some way a madman is a popular conception, yet it is difficult to dismiss completely. His rather eccentric ideas of history and race and the most complete disregard for human suffering in history would most certainly place him in that category.
Our own leaders thankfully do not possess this kind of “vision”, but the thinking is basically the same. There is no great difference between the present foreign policy of the United States and that of Germany in the late thirties.
Invading sovereign states on the most slender of pretexts, even conspiring to assassinate their leaders, because it’s God’s will, may not be the actions of a madman, but it’s certainly in there pitching. Again, they can only be founded in a sort of racism, the inferior political and religious institutions of former colonies entitling us to take up the white man’s burden once more.
Also, the idea of the state having no obligation whatsoever to those, who do not contribute significantly to the national gross product, which has again become popular in my own country, is clearly related to the Nazi idea of the individual as a mere employee of society, who can be brought out of existence, if it serves the company’s interests. It will be interesting to see, how far the people of Denmark will be willing to follow the path to Fascism.
After all, self-interest usually has less catastrophic consequences than fanaticism. Danes have always been renowned for their impenetrable stupidity, which may well prove to be a saving grace.