Mistakes in movies - why reading matters...

There is lot of movies about World War II, the Third Reich and the Holocaust. Unfortunately, they often have factual and historical errors which are not always caused by ignorance or neglect. Below, I will cite two films on various subjects, produced in different countries.

The first is the film "Downfall" from 2004, of Austrian-German production. The movie is very famous, among others for the scene often parodied on YouTube (the famous council of generals), where generals Wilhelm Keitel, Alfred Jodl, Hans Kreps and Wilhelm Burgdorf stay in the council room with Hitler. Also Joseph Goebbels is present in the room, along with the "Brown Eminence," Martin Bormann. The rest of the officers are thrown out of the office and we can see a mistake that does not influence the course of events or historical truth, but is more of a fun fact. In the scene in which the officers who are asked to leave Hitler's office wait outside the door and hear Adolf’s outburst of frustration, mercilessly yelling at his generals, for a moment we notice an extra dressed in a navy uniform with the decoration of a grand admiral [sic!], the highest possible rank in Kriegsmarine. And here appears a MISTAKE!!! Only two people in the Third Reich, absent from the bunker at that time, had such military decoration. The first was Karl Donitz, admiral and naval commander of the Third Reich, who at that time was on the island of Feiman, where Kregsmarine's main command post was located. The second person who had this award was Erich Retchel. In 1943 he was replaced by Donitz and, at that time, he was also absent from the bunker.

A glaring mistake in the film is the scene in which Herman Fegelain, a liaison officer in Hitler's bunker and Himmler's personal adjutant is captured. In the movie he is taken out by the SS and shot. In fact, he was arrested by members of the RSD (Security Service of the Third Reich) and then brought to Hitler's bunker; he tore off the epaulettes himself, which was a sign of self-degradation, and then he was judged by an ad hoc war court led by General Wilhelm Mohnke. After a trial postponed for several hours due to alcohol intoxication [SIC!], it finished in a simplified mode with a death sentence. Fegelein was to be shot. However, the sentence was not implemented immediately. Fegelein was led out in front of the bunker on the night of April 28-29, by two RSD officers. Under the guise of an appointment with Hitler, he was shot by an escorting member of RSD. Certainly, a lot of effort was put in making the movie, which can be seen in quite detailed descriptions of events and carefully selected actors, so my final mark is 9.8 / 10.

The second film I wanted to discuss is the movie "Triumph of the Spirit" from 1989, of US production. One of the main roles was played by William Defoe, and the place of action is the Auschwitz camp complex. The film is quite well shot, and the main theme is the authentic story of a Greek boxer, Salamo Aroyouch. Among others, everyday life of prisoners is presented. The first serious mistake in the film was the deportation of Samuel to the Auschwitz camp in 1943. At that time, prisoners of Jewish origin were only detained in the Auschwitz-Birkenau II camp. Often, action takes place in two camps, i.e. Auschwitz I (e.g. commando going to work through the gate with the inscription Arbeit Macht Frei), and then the action takes place in Birkenau. In the background, we see wooden barracks – actually, such buildings were not constructed in Auschwitz I.

The second, also glaring mistake is that at the end of the film Samuel is directed to work at Sonderkommando in crematorium number 4, in which on October 7, 1944 rebellion and armed uprising broke out. Then, our main character is imprisoned in the basements of Block 11 and miraculously awaits the moment of liberation of the camp. So, the date is January 27, 1945. And here we go again with inaccuracies. The first one is that nobody involved in the armed uprising in crematorium number 4 survived the rebellion, and none of the prisoners was ever detained in the bunker in block 11 for over 4 months.

One of the last scenes is a nail in the coffin. Here, we see the main character who, after leaving block 11, moves away along the fence of the Auschwitz Birkenau II camp, 3 kilometers away from the main camp Auschwitz I, where block 11 was located. My final mark: 4/10, because the film was shot in the Auschwitz museum; the subject of everyday life of prisoners is also raised, as well as selections which took place not only at the ramp, but also in the barracks.

I have a huge favor to ask. If you watch a movie about camps, please check its plot or theme in other sources before talking about historical events, which are often slightly distorted or sketchy.


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