The film Downfall, released in 2004 at the height of an unprecedented "Hitler wave," has to be seen in a long tradition of literary and cinematic attempts to deal with Germany's "unmasterable past." The filmmakers claimed that by focusing on Hitler's final days before the end of WWII they had discovered "new territory" and presented the "facts behind the guilt." This article points out, however, that the film is historiographically based on the account by Joachim Fest's book Downfall-in which the author, as in his earlier work, follows a methodological approach that personalizes history and focuses on Hitler as "singular personality," rejecting any systematic analysis of political and social context. The film goes even further in its unscrupulous blurring of fact and fiction and simplistically juxtaposes a very small group of perpetrators (basically Hitler and Goebbels) and the large group of victims, i.e., the general population that only wanted to survive. Such an attempt to focus on a tragically failing, isolates Hitler, who alone is to blame for nation's "Downfall" is hardly suitable to help Germans to step out of the shadow of their past.
Bernd Eichinger's Der Untergang is the first all-German production in fifty years to feature Hitler in a full-length dramatic film. This article explores the choices and intentions of the producer/scriptwriter, aspects of German public opinion about Hitler, and the critical responses to what was widely seen as an effort to humanize Hitler on screen-though I argue it was ultimately more an effort to finally lay Hitler to rest.
Helga Druxes, Christopher Thomas Goodwin, Catriona Corke, Carol Hager, Sabine von Mering, Randall Newnham, and Jeff Luppes
, Albert Speer’s writings are used rather uncritically, and recent research is virtually absent. The author prefers Joachim Fest’s acclaimed, but outdated, 1974 biography of Hitler to Ian Kershaw’s more definitive and recent biography. 1 This leads to