Friday 11 July 2008

Beheading Hitler, by Bridget Johnson

Piece posted @ Pajamas Media blog

"By ripping off Hitler's waxy head, a patron of Madame Tussauds reignited the touchy issue of the murderous dictator's legacy."

"The headless Hitler story reminded me of the controversy over the movie Downfall, which was nominated in 2005 for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The movie has an intense focus on Hitler’s last days in the bunker, with Bruno Ganz delivering an astounding performance as the dictator in the depths of not just the earth, but his paranoia as well. In a particularly disturbing scene, Magda Goebbels calmly kills off the family’s six children one by one rather than live in a country without National Socialism.

Yet the film was criticized in many circles for showing Hitler as too human: He was nice to his dog (until Blondi got force-fed a cyanide caplet as a test subject) and kind to his secretaries (until something set him off - something he would invariably peg on traitors, Jews, Russians, etc.) (...)

It’s crucial to remember, though, that evil people display human characteristics that make it possible to hoodwink the masses, draw in admirers, or get a slap on the wrist from the world’s powers that be. After all, Idi Amin threw cool parties. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sends out "Merry Christmas" messages. Pol Pot had a friendly smile - a killer smile, really, because a summary execution would likely follow the grin. (...)

Those who suffered under the Nazi regime would understandably have little interest in seeing such a film, as was the controversy when it was released in Israel. But the people who really needed to see a movie such as Downfall are those who never suffered under the hands of Hitler.

By not only remembering the past but striving to learn from it, we can hopefully have our eyes open enough to recognize and stop those who would continue along Hitler’s destructive route. We need to not only see how evil Hitler was; we need to recognize that human beings are capable of such evil, and Hitler wasn’t the last one. We need to see how a country bought into the Nazi philosophy and followed their charismatic leader without question.

We need to remember how easy it is for the global community - and its often hapless leaders - to lose its head and turn the other way when forced to confront utter evil."

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