In Quentin Tarantino’s recent film ‘Inglourious Basterds’ Hitler was portrayed as an absolute weirdo. This Hitler screams at his Generals, bangs his fist on the table and suggests that Brad Pitt’s team of commandos might be ghostly apparitions. If not certifiably mad, the Hitler of ‘Inglourious Basterds’ certainly has more than several screws loose.
Tarantino’s version of an unhinged Hitler is typical of the way Hitler has been shown recently in popular culture. It’s an impression that was massively reinforced by Oliver Hirschbiegel’s 2004 epic, ‘Downfall’. Whilst this was an altogether more serious feature film attempt to show the ‘real’ Hitler – one which focused on the last days in the bunker – Bruno Ganz, who played Hitler, still shakes and screams for all he is worth. So much so that several scenes have become a kind of internet phenomenon, with different people submitting comical subtitles over Ganz’s ranting.
There’s only one problem with all this. Which is that Hitler, in the words of Professor Sir Ian Kershaw, the world expert on the German leader, simply ‘wasn’t clinically mad or clinically insane.’ Yes, Hitler’s personality was showing signs of disintegrating in the last days of his life – and in that respect Ganz’s Hitler may not have been so far from the truth – but by focusing only on the endgame we obscure the real history, which is a much more troubling one than the screaming and sweating Hitler of popular culture allows. Read the rest of this entry