Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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Showing how the regular German Army during WWII was also guilty of the genocide of the Jews as much as the German special forces or SS.
great doc on "regular" german soldiers during world war 2
At first, "The Unknown Soldier" may seem like just yet another Holocaust documentary. But director Michael Verhoeven finds a fresh angle in confronting Germany's odd relationship with its past, in not only exploring how the Nazis exploited anti-Semitism for genocide, but also focusing on two exhibitions in Munich and Berlin called the "War of Annihilation Exhibition" that examine the role of the average German soldier in the Holocaust which caused a great deal of controversy.(At the same time, there is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum(which you should check out if you get the chance) in Washington, DC, and Minsk is littered with memorials to the dead.) And the results are damning with evidence that includes archival footage and testimony from historians, victims and former soldiers. According to the film, the soldier's role could be passive or aggressive in aiding atrocities such as shooting prisoners of war or Jews(40% of Holocaust victims were shot) and perhaps also as logistical support for the SS. On the other hand, there are mentions made of soldiers and officers who disregarded such orders, sometimes with no punishment. Even with the evidence on hand, many people cannot comprehend how their fathers and grandfathers could be capable of such atrocities.(The documentary is subtitled, "What did you do in the war, dad?") It is no coincidence that none of the death camps were in Germany proper to keep the mass killings out of sight and mind of German citizens. The effects of these actions are felt in Germany down to the current day, allowing for the rise of right wing nationalist parties and anti-Semitism, leading to the bombing of a proposed Jewish center in Munich.
Film is in German with English subtitles. Excellent presentation with many discussions from both sides. Atrocities are committed during wartime (the Nazis and German army during WWII)...should society accept that these things happen ("I was just following orders") or should soldiers refuse such orders? Another reason why wars must stop.
Apparently, in Germany it's sort of an unspoken tradition that while there has been tacit acceptance of the attrocities of the Gestapo and the SS, one should always have reverance for the German foot soldier of WWII. It is understood that common members of the German Army aren't to blame for the horrors of that historical period, and to place blame on them would be to villify the family members of virtually every younger generation of German citizen that came after. This film challenges the innocence of those soldiers, centering around a recent art exhibit that opened in Germany that notes the inhuman acts of the citizenry with unwavering directness. While the actual history presented in the film is muddled and not as abrasively inportant as it portends to be (it's not necessarily shocking to know that it wasn't just a minority of the Nazi party committing terrible acts, but was done so with the acceptance of the overall German population), it is interesting to see the different reactions of the contemporary German people to the Werhmacht exhibit. We see two different examples of WWII Army soldiers talking about their experiences; one of them defending with tremendous vitriol his service to the German military, and another expressing true remorse and disgust for some of the things he saw and did. The amount of time spent on views of the protestors outside the museum confirms the people's antipathy towards this acknowledgement of truth, and the casual American observer may ask himself why. Of course, we may think back to periods in our own hitory, the best example being the Vietnam War, and recall those moments of great nationalist anxiety whenever a harsh reality is presented about American actions in that country. Scores of tales of human barbarity and war crimes have been told concerning our very own fathers, brothers, uncles and aunts, and it's not easy to acquiesce to such stories. The truth hurts, and as a result, I can sympathize with the critics of such an unmercifully direct attack on the humanity and credibility of German soldiers in such a way, while still acknowledging art as the medium through which great truth is spoken, whether pleasant or not. The documentary itself has many flaws; the look and pacing of the film is sometimes eye-crossingly dull and there is a lack of effort to provide any kind of context at all (names of the interviewees are never given, nor why they have the authority to comment on the mtters discussed, where we are or any background information on the exhibit). As a result, I wouldn't recommend this film very highly to anyone who doesn't have an interest in WWII history or a yen to think about people's responsibility to acknowledge a truth of great horror.