The Meaning of Hitler

We know practically every tract of land through which the train tracks ran: Auschwitz. Buckenwald. Birkennau. Dachau. Sobibor—to name a few. Based on the book by Sebastian Haffner, The Meaning of Hitler is a seductive documentary – seductive because I clung to every piece of dialogue and every scene for that one glimmer of understanding. Maybe, just maybe, this time, I thought, the directors, Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker; the screenwriter Sebastian Haffner; or maybe the historians Deborah Lipstadt, Saul Friedländer, and Yehuda Bauer; or the pscychiatrists, sociologist, the archaeologist, and famed Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, will say the words that will put to rest finally just who was Adolf Hitler and shed some light finally on his meaning to the world, in general, and specifically, to German history.

And I waited.

What is interesting about The Meaning of Hitler is the all-present Mercedes-Benz hood ornament. Designed by Gottlieb Daimler in 1872, each point stands for transportation on land, water, and air. The camera filters the scenic routes through the 3-points-in-a-circle as the filmmakers travel to the next destination. Post-screening of The Meaning of Hitler, the luxury status of a shiny white Mercedes-Benz I saw cruising on O-Street, here in Lincoln, Nebraska, was undercut by the ghost of its history; and the knowledge of the complicity of the Daimler Benz company in the Nazi horror. And then there is the microphone—the newly invented microphone–that allowed Hitler to move about uninhibited onstage as it lifted the messages from his voice, carried them through the air, and landed them on the ears of the assembled masses.

And I waited.

Edited with tight-fisted precision, Epperlein and Tucker remarkably juxtapose mob exhilaration over the Beatles at Shea Stadium and Donald J. Trump speeches, the Charlottesville Tiki torch parade with Hitler’s charismatic personality and his ability to move people to action. The political spectacle dramatized by Leni Riefenstahl in her landmark film Triumph of the Will, produced in 1935, adds an eerie dimension to the documentary

And I waited.

Among other destinations, there are visits to Hitler’s ancestral village in Austria, his apartment complex, and Wolf’s Lair, the Third Reich’s Military headquarters. The most disturbing visual is that of David Irving, a bona fide anti-semitic and a fervent denier of the Holocaust. He believes Hitler’s commanders carried out every atrocity behind the Fuehrer’s back.

And I waited

… only to see how Nazism and Hitler has seeped into pop culture and embraced by a new generation. Be forewarned, these are the most frightening interviews.

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