Weíve all had at least one boss from hell, so what was it
like working for Adolph Hitler? Itís easy to imagine
Hitler was some sort of anal perfectionist who demanded his
coffee cup remain filled at all times, but in this 90-minute
interview with his secretary, Traudl Junge, these stereotypes
are laid to rest. Hitler may have been a tyrant but he was
not a tyrannical boss.
Jungeís recollections are interesting stuff, and for one
recounting stories 50 years plus past, her memory is amazingly
sharp. With vivid detail she shares memories of Hitler as
not only a decent boss, but a nice man. ďI really liked him,Ē
she says, and thatís really what weíre all waiting to hear.
Arenít we all to this day still trying to make some sense
out of the senseless genocide of six million Jews? Arenít
we all still seeking some sort of tidbit to indicate Hitler
was not a pathological monster, but a person with at least
some glimmer of compassion and humanity? Junge does allude
to this at times, particularly when describing Hitlerís fondness
for his dog Blondie or sharing conversations with Hitler during
those last terrible days in the bunker.
One well versed in Third Reich history has probably heard
these stories before. Junge herself had served as a consultant
in other World War II films, and this is an important point
that bears mentioning. She was not a forgotten office worker
plucked from obscurity to tell her amazing story decades after
the fact, as the filmmakers would perhaps like one to believe.
Her story has been recounted before elsewhere, many times
over. But in fairness, this is the first time her life story
and recollections of Hitler are the sole subject at hand.
World War II history buffs will probably be disappointed by
the lack of new revelations, but to take the film to task
for this would be to overlook its deeper message. This is
a documentary about much more than Hitlerís last days in the
bunker. Itís more about how ordinary people sometimes fail
to see the bigger picture all around them.
Jungeís life prior to Hitler did not indicate that any extraordinary
encounter with history was preordained. The child of divorced
parents, living in a home where money was never plentiful,
she never thought twice about going out into the world to
make a living when she finally was old enough to work. Though
she dreamed of being a dancer, in wartime Germany her office
skills were more sought after. Evidently, she was a very skilled
secretary as, in her early twenties, she ended up working
for Hitler himself at the height of the war.
It is the retelling of this period her life, as a primary
witness to the truly banal side of evil, that makes this an
amazing story. Junge may simply have been at the wrong place
at the wrong time, but she remains haunted by feelings of
guilt, regret, and complicity. ďHow do I forgive myself for
being a naÔve child?Ē she asks, and her voice cracks with
pain and sorrow.
This is a film you watch for the story but nothing more,
in part because director Andre Heller leaves us little
choice. Using a stationary camera, the only image in this
entire 90-minute documentary is a fixed shot of Traudl Junge.
Heller claims he deliberately wanted to avoid fancy camerawork
and editing techniques and simply let this powerful story
speak for itself. Thereís probably some truth to that, but
it also creates the feeling Heller is something of a cheapskate.
A little distraction, maybe some old photographs and an historical
document or two could have made a pretty good film a whole
lot better. But once you get past the no-frills approach,
Jungeís memories leave an indelible impression.