Friday, July 22, 2005

Downfall of History

I went to watch this German film, Downfall, Der Untergang. It describes the downfall of Hitler and chronicles the last days of the Nazi Germany.

I'm not going to rave on about how great Hitler was or wasn't, nor am I going to slam the Jews. In fact, this film left out most of the controversy and merely described and chronicled facts, the course of events. After doing debates for History for so long, it was nice to just sit back and watch how the events unfolded. The film was in German. I tried not reading the subtitles, but gave up after 5min cos my German's really pathetic. I also couldn't catch most of the trennbar verbs, ended up very reliant on the subtitles. hai... When can I watch a German film without reading subtitles? Yes, I did watch Barfuss without the subtitles, but that's not the point. hehe~

It was pretty depressing in that in the film, almost everyone died. Okay... Everyone died sooner or later in History, but the point was that there were quite a lot of scenes of death. People were killed, people were bombed, people were executed, people killed themselves, people killed other people. All they did were for what they believed in. Some believed in themselves, or Hitler, and killed others who did not share their sentiments. Some people believed in themselves and went against Hitler, and killed those who believed in Hitler. Some killed themselves for the beliefs they did not want to lose. Some killed their loved ones for reasons justifying their beliefs.

Some scenes that really touched me.

The most touching scene I thought was the deaths of the Goebbels. Joseph Goebbels was the Minister of Propaganda for Nazi Germany and an ardent supporter of Hitler, but what most people don't know is that Goebbels was not an original Hitler supporter. Goebbels started out in the Nazi party under the command of the Nazi leader whom Hitler toppled and Goebbel's loyalty was originally with him, and not Hitler. What made Goebbels change his mind about Hitler was after he met the great man himself. Goebbels was instantly taken in by Hitler's rhetoric and ideals. Ever since then, Goebbels became Hitler's trusted man. And he did everything he could to win that trust. I've went totally off course liao, anw... The deaths of the Goebbels started out with Hitler's death, Goebbels and his wife then made plans to kill off their children before going off themselves. Frau Goebbels first made the children drink sedatives so that they would fall asleep. After they've slept she fed each of them with a cynaide capsule, bestowed on them by Hitler himself. After making sure that all the chilren have died, she and Goebbels went out and prepared gasoline. Goebbels dressed himself in his proper attire and wore his gloves. He shot first at his Frau, then at himself. After the two gunshots, his subordinates came out and poured gasoline over their bodies to burn.

Hitler said this, if he wanted to die he did not want the enemy to get his body then showcase it in some museum, hence he wanted his body to be thoroughly incinerated. Goebbels thought so too. I think if you really believe in a cause, and that cause is on a losing ground, the only way out would be death. Surrender can never be an option. Apparently Hitler thought so too. It's the same as the Japanese code of honour. When the Japanese were losing the war, all major generals commited suicide one after another, same was it for Hitler's Germany. Before Hitler's death, Hitler bestowed cyniade capsules on his loyal men and these loyal men on hearing the fall of Hitler's Germany took the capsules.

There was this scene, a doctor was talking to a diplomat before the news of Germany's capitulation was broadcasted. The doctor was telling the diplomat that no enemy could touch him as he was protected my diplomatic laws, but the diplomat told the doctor as plainly as things could get that he was going to go after Hitler as he had received one of Hitler's capsules, there was no other road for him. Straight after the news of capitulation was broadcasted, the diplomat popped the capsule into his mouth and went, the doctor could only watch it all with widened eyes.

Being a history student, I'd known the deaths of most Nazi leaders even before the film. It was pretty heavy trying to watch a film while knowing the ending. Hitler would marry Eva Braun and straight after their marriage they would commit suicide. The Goebbels were also going to commit suicide. But what surprised me were the deaths of Himmler and Goering. I also thought that these two were also fiercely loyal to Hitler, especially Himmler whom Mr Thompson said that he always did the Nazi salute to Hitler even through the telephone. Himmler tried to conceal himself and escape but was caught, Goering commited suicide. surrendered, commited suicide in prision. What else can he do other than die? It would be humiliating for him to stand on trial.
I did an analysis of this matter before. I still stand firmly to what I believe in. If you want to die, die with dignity. Dying in the hand of the enemy as a loser is not dignified. There was another scene of this guy who ran away from the camp hoping that he could escape death. He ended up whiling time away at a brothel totally wasted. The Nazis came after him and dragged him away, but he resisted to put on his coat first. He was still resisting when he was about to be executed, but when he realised that death loomed near, he straighted his uniform, his executioner too gave him the time to straighten his uniform and his hat before one last Hitler salute. At least he died with that bit of dignity left.

Death is easy, but the matter is how you are going to go.

Hitler is a history student after all. He knows what would become of him if he surrendered. In the film he and some of his generals had this mentality, they've already surrenderred once. Surrenderring twice in a lifetime would be too much for a man to take it. A man... At least Hitler was a man despite his Parkinsons disease, or his rumoured missing of a testicle.

Yea... I am too a history student, I forgot. I met Mr Thompson the other day. I was around the school putting up posters for my Chinese Drama club when I spotted Mr Thompson at Business. Naturally I went up to him and said hi, then I asked him what he was doing here. He was here for a history seminar. I glanced over and saw words like "globalisation" and "economy" in the title, then this follows...

MT (for Michael Thompson, not Mr Thompson... lol~): This is the new history course. The new history for our students.
jal: NOOOOO... You can't call that history! That's current affairs.
MT: That's NEW history.
jal: NOOOOO... And I'm still a history student. What use will my knowledge of history bring to me?
MT: Then maybe you should consider your career options.
jal: (stunned) NOOOOO...

Mr Thompson's last line really killed me. I know what history is, history is events that happened long ago, and we are examining them now. Globalisation and economy are not history, they are current affairs. I know it, I know it. I just watched that damned Hitler film, I know my history from my current affairs. And there was Mr Thompson, the guy who did his Masters for History at the University of Manchester in a backdrop of a family of accountants, who tried out as an accountant as his first job but reverted back to history not long after, telling me to RECONSIDER MY CAREER OPTIONS?!!! NOOOOO...

Then again, I really pity him. After so many years of history, he has the heart to tell his student not to continue with history, he should be more disappointed than I am.

Maybe one day, history will end up as something only to be seen in films. It is pretty ironic that it was after watching Downfall that I was to meet Mr Thompson. All those I know about Nazi leaders commiting suicide one after another were all told to me by him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just reading this reminded me of the time when I actually told someone I admired Hitler. It came out wrong and the person misunderstood but the damage was done. Later that day, she went on and on about how innappriate it was and you could tell she was mad. She hinted that she was Jewish. Oh man I had to avoid her for weeks ... next time I am gonna keep my mouth shut.