Friday, May 07, 2004

Watch your blind spot

I don’t expect to do many movie reviews for this blog, but I have to make an exception for one I just rented, “Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary.” This documentary consists solely of an elderly woman talking to the camera in German for 80 minutes. That doesn’t sound very appealing, but it was fascinating. She had been picked at random as a young woman to be Hitler’s secretary for the last three years of the war, and she was with him until the end.

On a personal level it was moving and disturbing to watch her wrestle with her conscience over her blindness to Hitler’s evil, while I wondered whether to completely believe her. On the political level it was interesting for several reasons:

---Hitler never once doubted or questioned that he was doing the right thing. Moral uncertainty, or a gray area instead of black-and-white ideas of right and wrong, were concepts that escaped him.

---He never allowed anyone to question moral judgments of his administration. People were allowed to bring him bad news about the war’s progress, but the only person who ever said to him that Jews were being mistreated, a wife of a Nazi official, was banished from his presence.

---Hitler believed he had been chosen by Providence to lead Germany.

---He hid from himself the terrible consequences of his choices. His train traveled with blinds down to hide the destruction of bombing raids, and his chauffeur knew to drive the Berlin roads with the least-damaged buildings.

---When it was all over and the secretary returned to her home in southern Germany, she was amazed at the respect and kindness the Americans showed to occupied Germany, the opposite of what they expected.

I don’t believe it's useful or truthful to equate modern leaders to Hitler. Drawing comparisons and learning lessons from Germany’s experience with Hitler is another question, however. I wish Bush paid attention to history.

For more information about the movie, click here.

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