Sunday, December 28, 2008

Movies VALKYRIE and SOPHIE SCHOLL Both Show a Few Good People Trying to Stop the Nazi Regime

In the spring of 1971 as a new Mrs. Lieutenant I finally managed to cut through the U.S. Civil Service red tape in Munich, Germany, and obtain a job as a GS-2 at the Army Air Force Motion Picture Service. My job was to type the list of movies passing from one small group of American soldiers on a mountain top to another small group of American soldiers on a different mountain top in Italy.

There were two other young army wives in that typing pool along with a middle-aged German who, as I recall, held her long-time position under the Status of Forces agreement which gave the German WWII losers the right to several jobs on each U.S. Army kaserne (post).

Fraulein Winkler explained that she had not joined the Hitler Youth only because she had somehow fallen between the cracks. But on the night of Kristallnacht -– the Nov. 9, 1938, night of the supposedly “spontaneous” action by the Nazis against Jewish businesses and synagogues – she had been sent home early from night school in Munich so as to be home safely before the “spontaneous” action began.

Fraulein Winkler also spoke about not having very good soap during the war; a statement that I chose to ignore rather than spit angry words at her in the close confines of the typing pool. And she also described that her mother had insisted on traveling during the war and had been killed by an American bomb dropped on a train station, apparently forgetting why the Americans were dropping bombs on German-held territory.

But the memory of Fraulein Winkler that has always been the strongest is when I asked her why Germany went off to war only 20 years after the end of WWI. Her reply: “Hitler said we needed more land.” I resisted demanding from her where the German people thought that land was coming from.

A few months later my security clearance came through and I moved over to the 66th Military Intelligence Group, which was housed in the former headquarters of the Luftwafte, the Nazi air force.

Thus it was with a very personal interest that I saw the movie VALKYRIE starring Tom Cruise (with an eye patch) as the German army officer instrumental in the July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. I could vividly imagine the scenes in Munich and Berlin, and I could understand the few high-level Germans who wished to stop Hitler from ruining Germany.

When I told someone I had seen the movie, she said she had heard it was an apologia for the Nazis. Not at all. These were only a very few men against an overwhelming nation that still supported the man who said Germany needed more land.

And it was also eerie to have recently watched on Netflix the 2005 movie SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS about German university students in Munich who tried to organize a protest against the Nazis after the defeat at Stalingrad.

Both movies have the same ending –- the good guys die. And both movies serve as a warning of what happens when totalitarian regimes take over and force their ways on an entire people.

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