doaskdotell MOVIE REVIEW of The Hidden Fuhrer; Paragraph 175; The Consequence, The Einstein of Sex, The Last Days; Blind Spot; Paper Clips; Everything Is Illuminated; Adolf Hitler: His Life and Atrocities; Hitler: The Rise of Evil; Hitler’s Family; Nazi America: A Secret History; Downfall    

 

Title:  The Hidden Fuhrer: Debating the Enigma of Hitler’s Sexuality

Release Date:  2004

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: 100 min

MPAA Rating: Not available (suggest PG-13)

Distributor and Production Company:   Cinemax Reel Life

Director; Writer:  Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato

Producer:

Cast:   

Technical:  video

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site:  Hitler and totalitarianism; Hitler, Nazism and homosexuality

Review:

Michaelangelo Signorile authored a piece “Outing Time for Hitler. Was he? Or wasn’t he? Yes, it does matter” in The New York Press, Vol. 17, Issue 15, at http://www.nypress.com/17/15/news&columns/signorile.cfm

Signorile mentions that Cinemax Reel Life airs (April 20, 2004) a documentary: The Hidden Führer: Debating the Enigma of Hitler's Sexuality, by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato with Gabriel Rotello (Signorile appears himself in the film).  Signorile discusses Machtan’s book, and adds that Machtan is not gay. He also mentions speculations, very inconclusive, about secret homosexuality of 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and other cell members, although this would violate Islam, even more radical Islam. The basis of the rumor, that Atta as a boy was rather a sissy himself. This had all followed a National Enquirer story of FBI investigations, and supermarket tabloids are hardly reliable sources of news.

I’ve already seen listserver comments that this film would constitute the gay equivalent of “blood libel” for Jews (attributed to The Passion of the Christ).

The film starts right out with the question, “Could Hitler have been gay?” It recounts the many associations of Hitler in his early years that seem to suggest homosexual coincidence (Hans Mend, Hans Schmidt), sometimes presented with the background of the stirring aesthetics of Wagner’s music (like the end of Gotterdamerung).  Hitler’s homosexuality, if real, would have been an aesthetic, artistic attitude about male perfection, an idea that seems disturbing and idolatrous, and contemptuous of those who do not fit one’s fantasies. It also comported with the homosocial environment in the military, as when he fought in World War I (and was never promoted). His relationships with women, even Eva Braun, seem to have been casual and distant. Machtan often appears in the film, with opposing historical arguments from others presented. Rohm, of course, was openly gay, but once Hitler came to power he seemed to distance himself from any expression of sexuality. Machtan explores the possibility of blackmail, but in any case the Nazi persecution of homosexuals started, such as with the Night of Long Knives as portrayed by Visconti’s film The Damned. It would lead to the concentration camps, and homosexuals would not be recognized by the German government as victims until 2002. (In 1999 I made a visit to the Connection disco in Berlin and visited a reenactment of the camps set up as a kind of museum downstairs.) Some claim that Hitler’s life was a public, artistic paradigm that denied any continuation of sexuality. Hitler, however, made odd films of his own military, somewhat homoerotic, showing men shaving (their faces).  On balance, the argument that Hitler may have been a closeted “aesthetic” homosexual seems quite plausible by mounting circumstantial evidence, as Machtan is usually able to answer his critics, although, if so, Hitler’s coverup led to the greatest antigay persecution in history.

It would seem that Hitler probably was not particularly proud of his own personal genes, and found an alternate purpose in hero-worship of or upward affiliation with his “folk.” But it that is so, why did it make sense for him to be in power? Wouldn’t that self-hatred contradict his beliefs?

A more traditional view of Hitler’s duplicitous treatment of homosexuality appears in the documentary film Paragraph 175 (2000, New Yorker, dir.Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, narrated by Rupert Everett, 75 min, sug PG-13), about the original Prussian sodomy law, which would carry through the Third Reich and then be applied to concentration camp survivors in both East and West Germany until about 1969. The law applied only to males, as lesbianism was considered trivial. Hitler would protect Roehm, even claiming that he had a right to a “private life”; nevertheless most gay establishments in Berlin were closed down within 30 days of Hitler’s ascension to power on Jan 30, 1933. Gays (pink triangles) typically were shipped to different concentration camps like Mauthausen, while the Nazi government opened a department to deal specifically with homosexuality and abortion, which were seen as denying Germany the new children it needed. There is something of a paradox here: Hitler set up an ideology that appeared to glorify the superior individual (Aryan) but then implementation of his idea required collectivist values (national socialism) and the severest possible discipline of the common people to eliminate all but the strongest. This sounds like a warning about how hyperindividualism can go wrong. Young historian Klaus Muller interviews about eight gay survivors of the Nazi holocaust. One of them points out that arrests of homosexuals nearly always explicitly referred to Paragraph 175 (and sometimes referred only to the legal violation, not to homosexuality itself). Some of this material was covered by Frank Rector’s famous 1981 book The Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals (Stein and Day).

The Consequence (“Die Konsequenz”, 1977, Libra/Water Bearer, dir. Wolfgang Petersen, Germany, prob. R) is a grainy black-and-white film that conveys the idea that homophobia was rampant in Germany and much of Eruope for some time after the war. Martin Kurath (Jurgen Prochnow), an actor, has been put in prison for homosexuality. Nevertheless, the teenage son Thomas Manzoni of the warden (Ernst Hannawald) sneaks into the jail and starts a love relationship with him. Martin gets caught and his prison term is extended, but afterward they try to have a relationship. Then Thomas gets caught and is sent to a reformatory (in Switzerland), where he learns that he must learn a trade but will never go to school again. The boys try to force him to have heterosexual sex. Kurtath tries to get him out, and another older man goes after Thomas. Swiss law section 91 is mentioned, and apparently (like similar laws in Germay) it was in effect for a long time. In fact, when the concentration camps were found, the homosexuals were kept in prison. A small, relatively obscure film from a director who would eventually make epics (like “Troy”).

The Einstein of Sex (“Der Einstein des Sex,” 2000, TLA, dir. Rosa von Praunheim,100 min, Germany, prob NC-17) is docudrama and biography of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (Friedel von Wangenheim), a German Jew who came of age in the late 19th Century and demanded a rational, scientific approach to sex, that would eventually reflect the philosophy of Kinsey. A homosexual, he fought the usual “irrational” prejudices of people who wanted to preserve a system of socialization that protected their psychological investment in conventional heterosexual marriage, whatever their own situation and talents as individuals. In one early scene, his own parents caution him that his career can bring disrepute and harm to the whole family. He and his friends would establish the First Institute of Sexual Science in Berlin in 1920. The film goes over many of the conventional theories explaining “inversion” of the day, as they would continue until the late 20th Century. There are many nude scenes, and one scene where a penectomy is performed on a transgendered person. Paragraph 175 is often discussed, as is the succeeding paragraph 297. Intimate scenes of his personal life with his lover are shown. Then the Third Reich, with its ideology, would put them away, as an example of coddled “Jewish intellectualism”; in the brief conclusion, the collectivism of the reich’s value system comes across.  The movie often looks like a filmed play. At places, some viewers may find it hard to take.       

A good comparison to this film (“Downfall”, further down on this file) is The Last Days (1998, October, dir. James Moll, Executive Producer Steven Spielberg, with the Shoah Foundation) which documents the experiences of five Hungarian Jews through their transport to Auschwitz. The incredible cruelty (pulling apart babies, for example) is retold, and documented as learned behavior on the part of persons in the Nazi state. The crimp and restriction of the Jews in eastern European countries came about gradually, with the expectation that it would “blow over.” The film has a smaller aspect ratio than usual in order to show the original bw photos of the concentration camps. I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau myself in May 1999, after riding the night train East from Berlin to Cracow, Poland.

Dor films and Sony Pictures Classics released Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary (2002), a documentary consisting of interviews and monologues with Hitler’s secretary Traudl Junge, giving her testimonials at age 81 just before dying of lung cancer. The entire film consists of her talking (sometimes with questions from Andre Heller and Othmar Schmiderer). It is well-lighted and shot, but there is nothing else to look at than her sitting in her small apartment. (This reminds me of my own video of my speech on DADT at Hamline University, as if that could be a whole movie!  A film like this normally belongs as a special television presentation on PBS (like Frontline or Point-of-View) or the History Channel, but a theater release does draw attention and add to controversy.) But the stories she tells, of how she fell into the job, of her perspective of Hitler as a “man,” and of the last days in the bunker at the fall of Berlin in 1945, are fascinating. What is relevant here is that she saw Hitler as essentially a disembodied head (almost like Zardoz); she claims that he had almost no truly erotic urges at all. Women (Eva Braun) could be a source of light affection and power, and a kind of symbolic possession, and that was it. Homosexuality is never mentioned in the film. It was almost as if Hitler were some kind of evil alien spirit, perhaps self-created out of psychological self-indulgence and unwillingness to meet the world on its own terms. He seemed unable to live or do a real job in a “normal” sense. He allowed no really human tenderness or vulnerability to blunt his aestheticism, which in retrospect seems surprisingly collective, needing to deny or repeal the individual to enforce its ideals of beauty. Discussions of “aesthetic realism” elsewhere at this site seem relevant here. At the end, even Hitler admitted that national socialism was dead.

Paper Clips (2004, Miramax/The Johnson Group, 80 min, PG, digital video, dir. Elliot Berlin, Joe Fab) is a documentary about a project of the Whitwell, TN Middle School near Chattanooga to collect 6 million paper clips representing the Jewish victims of the World War II Holocaust. Actually, they collected 29 million clips, and according to the film, there were 5 million other Holocaust victims in other groups (homosexuals, gypsies, etc.) They also procured an original box car from Germany, which arrived at the Port of Baltimore on Sept. 9, 2001 and was on a CSX train piggyback pallet on Sept. 11, 2001. The box car was placed on the Middle School grounds. I traveled in this area in late June 2004 (to visit Dayton, site of the Scopes trial and of a vehement anti-gay drive) and did not know about Whitwell at the time. In 1999, I visited the Connection Disco in Berlin (near the gate) and that bar actually had a fake Holocaust exhibit downstairs. A few days later I took the night train East to Kracow, Poland and visited Auschwitz myself. The Miramax site for this film is http://www.miramax.com/paperclips/index.html  The Weinstein brothers who control much of Miramax were active in producing the film.  Some of the kids looked more like high school students than middle school students. This is certainly a great way to teach social studies and world history.

Adolf Hitler: His Life and Atrocities (2006 / 1961? / 1945?, Red Envelope / Delta / Crystal Pictures, dir. Ralph Porter?) is a DVD offered by Netflix comprising two newsreel life films in black and white and all live historical footage. One film is called simply “Adolf Hitler” and runs 52 minutes, and quickly summarizes his youth and seizure of power. Later, a mistress or wife of another SS officer is quoted as saying that Hitler was a “normal man” and had various mistresses, contradicting other theories on this page (however, the fact that she would say than even in the early 1940s suggests that there could have been homosexual rumors about Hitler even then). The other film is “After Mein Kampf: The Story of Adolf Hitler” (Welwyn Pictures?) and spends a little more time on Hitler’s self-indulgent youth, his military service, and Beer Hall Putsch and imprisonment, leading to writing his book. It’s hard to explain how such an obscure man, developing his horrific ideas, rose to power, but the severe economic depression (Weimar inflation reduced the value of the currency by a factor of 4 billion!), and the lack of free flow of information (unlike the case today) created its own kind of asymmetry, allowing someone skilled in oration and propaganda to manipulate others and establish some power leverage quickly.

Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003, Koch Lorber / CBS / Paramount / Alliance Atlantis, dir. Christian Duguay, split into 2 films I & II, total 186 minutes, Germany, but in English)  is a dramatic biography of the life of Adolf Hitler up to the time of his seizure of power. Scottish actor Robert Carlyle plays Hitler (except very early). Stockard Channing appears as Klara, Live Schreiber is conspicuous as Ernst Halfstaengl. Part I ends shortly after the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, with Hitler’s pleading “guilty” in a suspenseful moment, and getting a very light sentence that allowed him to write his “manifesto” in prison. The comment is made that Hitler is not human, but knows how to manipulate human emotions that he does not experience or empathize with himself. It’s interesting that one of his early speeches, when he gained local favor after his erratic military service, starts out by mentioning that the Treaty ending WWI prohibits Germany the right to conscript (which had developed during the Prussian adventures in the 1870s). In the second half, the suspension of the constitution with the Enabling Act, the formation of the police state and the ending of the right to personal privacy (telephone conversations are mentioned) is presented as a chilling warning in comparison to today’s war on Terror. In fact, Hitler refers to the Reds and Jews as “terrorists.”

One wonders how someone who did not fit in and was not even good at what he “wanted,” as an artist, could have taken over a country. In the film, the process is insidious. He captures the attention of sympathizers, by appealing to nationalism and a sense of victimization. (Osama bin Laden does the same thing.) His book does not sell well at first, but there is the interesting concept that its message will get around by word of mouth, given social conditions.  Hitler was not even a citizen of Germany for a long time. He was actually illegitimate and had the name Schicklgruber.   

Hitler’s Family (2007, History Channel, 1 hr), traces the history of Adolf Hitler’s family members, including one who was in an asylum where many were murdered as “unworthy to live.” Hitler was seen as a “dreamer” and at first his military service was seen as progress.  A nephew escaped to the US and tried to expose him during the war, but went into hiding after WWII.  Hitler’s descendents in the US lived anonymously, and some did not what to have children.

Nazi America: A Secret History (2007, History Channel, 2 hr) traces Nazism in America back to the 1930s, when some elements tried to set up youth camps in the United States to promote Nazi values. During World War II, German aliens were interred, but in camps that were more comfortable than corresponding camps for Japanese descendants. Some people may have been converted to Nazi ideology at these camps. After WWII, neo-Nazi elements were first able to focus on Communism, but in time hardened. Normal Rockwell set up a notorious center in Arlington VA (on “hatred hill”) in the 50s. The novel “The Turner Diaries” by William Luther Pierce (aka Andrew MacDonald) provided an imaginary, if fictitious, blueprint for overthrow of the United States government and seemed to inspire White Supremacist groups like “The Order.” Incidents at Ruby Ridge (1992) and Waco (1993) tended to inflame the extreme right. Timothy McVeigh was apparently present at Waco, and his attack on Oklahoma City in 1995 was said to resemble actions in the novel, which would enjoy the protections of the First Amendment. The film concludes with coverage of the supposed “church” near Coeur d’Alene Idaho.

Downfall (Der Untergang) (2004, NewMarketFilms/Constantin, German, dir. Oliver Hirschbiegel, 156 min, R), starts out with the hiringof Traudl Junge (Alexandra Maria Lara) by Adolf Hitler (Bruno Ganz) who takes a liking to her and gives her a second chance on the typing test. Quickly the film shifts to 1945, during the last days in Hitler’s bunker in Berlin, as the Russians approach from the East. You see a whole cast of puppet-like characters living in a claustrophobic world of blues and grays—whenever you go on the outside, you can get hit (you can get bombed in the bunker, too). The film shows some Civil War style hacksaw limb amputations on camera, no anesthesia or antiseptics. In the end, there is a total lack of likeable characters (even Traudl). We watch the poison pill suicides and murder of Goebbel’s kids by Madga (Corinna Harfouch) – she puts the pills in their sleeping mouths and locks the jaws shut. I’ve wondered if a film that shows what it would have been like for a Gentile living in the 1930s might have been like, a likeable person who somehow gets seduced by Nazi aesthetic and meritocratic “virtues” as an abstraction, apart from the real people involved. These characters, however, look already beyond redemption. Yet, some of them live through the surrender and will start over. The scene of surrender by ordinary soldiers to the Russians in a bombed out courtyard bears a surreal reality-tv simplicity.

Curiously, the NewMarketFilms logo did not appear when I saw this movie at a Landmark theater. Another thing: I wish subtitle translators would spell “all right” correctly (not as “alright”).

Everything Is Illuminated (2005, Warner Independent Pictures, dir. Live Schreiber, 104 min, PG-13), based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer) is a road picture that is part ethic comedy and part dead serious stuff about the early days of the Holocaust. A studious young American Jew Jonathan (Elijah Wood) travels to the Ukraine to track down the woman who may have saved his grandfather during a slaughter in 1942. One interesting observation was that Ukrainian society may have been anti-Semitic before WWII, and that early on some people there expected the Germans to make it better! Now Jonathan is always dressed in shirt and tie, even when he sleeps in the open, and he carries around a leather case filled with evidence (little knickknacks)  that he collects in plastic zipper bags. He is a bit detached and aloof, almost as if he had mild Asperger Syndrome. He is not a writer, but a “collector” – that is just something to do. He is driven around by a lanky young Ukranian Alex (Eugene Hutz) or, more correctly, by his grandfather (Stephen Samudovsky), who is usually behind the wheel in a blue Russian microsedan. The grandfather had once been a break dancer and admirer of Michael Jackson and talked about Sammy Davis Jr. as a black Jew.

The on-location photography is spectacular (I wish they had used CinemaScope), and at one place they appear to be near Chernobyl. There is a shot of a divided dirt highway, indeed an oddity that belongs in dreams. The ruins (and boxy apartment buildings) of the Soviet days still abound.  The scenes of irony (as when Jonathan is served a bouncing potato as the only meatless food around) provide a physical comedy that reminds one of Hulot. And Jonathan’s way of speaking remains humorously matter-of-fact throughout. At one point, he comments that Alex’s undershirt is inside-out, and starts describing what that means in terms of skin contact, and then says, “Forget it!” 

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One must bear in mind the other side of all of this. The Holocaust Memorial Museum has a traveling exhibition Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945, and this small exhbit makes many points. Homosexuals were regarded as threatening to form self-serving sub-societies (which Machtan says really happened) and blamed for reducing the Aryan birth rate. These are arguments that are surfacing again today (and the “sub-society” argument was used in McCarthyism-era purges of gays from the federal government.)

See also http://doaskdotell.com/content/wchap2.htm note 7a.  Bent   Read also Richard Plant” The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals and Scott Lively, co-author of The Pink Swastika: Homosexuals and the Nazi Party 

See also Book review of Machtan’s The Hidden Hitler

 

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