The Early Years.

Part one of the six part series sets the scene for viewers who are curious about the roots of the Nazi party.  We learn about the impact that World War I had on young Hitler.  He is deeply connected to German nationalism and uniting the German peoples of the world (namely the ones in Austria, The Sudetenland, and other Balto-Germanic places.)  Many key events are highlighted in this film, but its true novelty comes with its primary sources.   Since it was made in 1997 there are a lot more people that were alive at the time of the actual events – many of them still ardent Nazis.  As I’m typing this now there is a man going on about “World Jewry” that wants to gain control of the earth!  Timeline:

  • The Beer Hall Putsch in 1923:  Hitler impulsively throws together a coup at a local pub in Munich.  He thought the police were going to back him but it was foolish and his attempt was immediately quashed.  Hitler got off pretty easily due to a sympathetic judge who let him go after just one month.
  • Initial difficulties with appealing to the masses.  Hitler’s inability to normalize the party and get it into the mainstream, seen in the 1928 elections when they won just 2.6% of the vote.
  • How the depression in Germany created the perfect atmosphere for someone radical and libelous like Hitler.

This episode is particularly interesting because it exposes just how unpopular the Nazis were at first.   They were really like a rag-tag team of country hicks in the beginning, totally unable to gain popular support.  The depression is really what opened up the scene for Hitler to dominate – without that he never would’v’e gotten the middle class.  When the chaos of the depression erupted in the street Hitler provided order and structure that people desperately needed to cling to at that time.

We Open With Hitler Becoming Chancellor in 1933.

  • The communists and socialists were actually the first group to be persecuted by the Nazis.  Granted, many communists also doubled as Jews (which facilitated an unfortunate conflation between Communism and Judaism.)  Dachau was one of the first camps and it was very brutal, but there was no extermination plot at the time.  In the early days it was not crazy to condone concentration camps: it was a revolution after all, and political prisoners happen.
  • April 1 1933, Boycott of Jewish shops.  Early Jewish scapegoating.
  • The downfall of the Storm Troopers (SA) and Ernst Roehm. (I’d like to mention that they mention nothing of Roehm’s flagrant homosexuality and the homoerotic nature of the SA – maybe in 1997 it was still too touchy?  They actually spent very very little time on the Night of Long Knives.)
  • Interesting insight into Hitler’s weird personality.  He was actually quite lazy and distracted.  Allegedly Hitler always thought in the abstract and was often very absent minded; Hitler did not take practicality into consideration and expected extraneous events to “just work themselves out.”
  • Nazis gain favor because they helped get people their jobs back and they took back some previously lost territory.  Weird occult behaviors.

The Nazi Aggression gets Exponentially Worse.

  • Anschluss in Austria.  The Austrians appeared to be happy to be reunited with their people.
  • Contrast that with the take over of Czechoslovakia.  Czechs were miserable and not happy with German insurgency.
  • Germany demands the Danzig corridor back.  After they are unable to get the Polish to return the territory diplomatically then Germany declares war on them and invades Poland.  France and England declared war on Germany a few days later.

Poland Suffered More Than Any Occupied Country.

A huge driving force behind German aggression was their need for “Lebensraum,” roughly translated as “Living Space.”  Germans defeated the Polish resistance in 5 short weeks and began to massacre its citizens immediately afterwards.  1 in 5 Poles would be dead at the end of the war.  There are lots of unapologetic Nazis in this documentary, lackadaisically referring to the common German thought that Poles are dirty etc.

  • Attempted social engineering of a new German society.  Baltic Germans resettled into evacuated Polish houses in the new Polish-German corridor.
  • Nazi Cruelty and profiteering off of the Jewish victims.
  • Ghettoization of the Jews of Poland.

This Documentary continues to amaze me with extensive interviews from everyday Nazis.  They’re unapologetic for the most part and it’s very disturbing.

Einsatzgruppen

The Einsatzgruppen were mobile death squads of SS soldiers that usually followed the German army into the Eastern conquered territories in order to execute mass murder.  Known for their extreme brutality at places like Babi Yar, this portion of the documentary teaches us about the fatal conflation of Communism and Judaism.  The local Lithuanians and Latvians were absolutely collaborators and not just bystanders – they had been oppressed by communism and were ready to seek revenge.  The Nazis organized the killing but the everyday rank and file was completely made up of the Jews’ former neighbors.