The Meaning of Hitler is a frightening look at a man who has been idolized and held up as an example for almost a century now. The documentary is more than just a look at the rise of white supremacy or the fascination with a man that was responsible for millions of deaths. Instead, it looks at how Adolf Hitler manipulated millions and how those lies are being used today.
It is hard to believe that a seemingly innocuous piece of sound equipment played a role in the rise of Nazis. One of the most compelling parts of the documentary is how the invention of a microphone turned Hitler into one of the most hypnotic speakers of the 20th century. This new mic allowed whoever was using it to be more animated and less rigid. In essence, speeches went from just being talking points to whole performances.
The Meaning of Hitler shows how this new device was used to its fullest potential. As one scholar states, “The Nazis had a feeling they were acting in some huge historical play.” This is seen most blatantly in Triumph of the Will. The propaganda film takes an actual incident and turns it into spectacle. Hitler was not just making a film for the moment. He was making a piece of art that was supposed to last the entire Third Reich, and in a twisted way, it has.
The difference between it and the “based on true events” stories that are prevalent today is that it was not meant to entertain. Triumph of the Will is about pushing an agenda and garnering support. It is impossible to look at it for anything other than its message. This statement is echoed today by many who support the views espoused by the 1935 film. In some of the most terrifying moments of The Meaning of Hitler a Holocaust denier gives a tour of a SS death camp while making jokes. The anti-Semitic comments are bad enough; the fact that people paid to go on the tour is even worse.
But the most powerful part of The Meaning of Hitler is when professor Yehuda Bauer makes a shocking statement. When he says Hitler was a “perfectly normal person” it almost seems like blasphemy. Then the film goes on to make the point that what the Nazis did was human. And if humans were capable of committing those atrocities before, what is to prevent it from happening again?
The Meaning of Hitler releases in select theaters and on demand/digitally August 13
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