Ron Rosenbaum, Writer

December 28, 2008

Valkyrie is Better–and Worse–Than I Expected

Filed under: Uncategorized — ronrosenbaumwriter @ 8:40 am

Well Tom Cruise is better. Not great. Still too callow (Killing Hitler is “Risky Business”) and not really convincing as a German aristo. But the problem is with the film’s Hitler and it’s skewing of history. Hitler seems to be the bad guy in this movie mainly because he’s poorly groomed and has bad posture–that’s how you can tell he’s a mass murderer. At least compared with the impeccably dressed anti-Hitler aristo-officer conspirators.

But it’s really the history that’s the problem: the impression is left that all well-groomed Germans of a certain (upper) class and (higher) military rank opposed Hitler. But many were gung ho Nazis and in fact the movie just contributes to the meretricious myth of virtually non-existant “German resistance”. It gives the German people a reason to pat theselves on the back retrospectively (“see we tried!). But in fact the so called resistance was largely a bunch of opportunists and pro-fascist anti-semites who lost their nerve, and postponed their coup plans every time Hitler pulled off an unexpected military victory (hey, he’s a genocidal mass murderer but he’s a winner!) and got serious only after the Normandy landings succeeded in June 1944 (the Valkyrie plot took place in July ’44– what a co incididence!).

The real heroes of German resistance were people like the journalists I wrote about in Explaining Hitler–the ones who risked their lives to tell the world the truth about Hitler’s evil even before he came to power. The world didn’t listen but tht doesn’t diinish their heroism.



  1. Just think, students who spoke up against Hitler, wrote a letter against him, put up a poster against him were tried and executed with in days.

    Comment by charlie finch — December 28, 2008 @ 12:39 pm | Reply

  2. For the last letters, before execution by the Nazis, of German student resisters to their famiies, see Dying We Live (Seabury Press, 1969)

    Comment by charlie finch — December 28, 2008 @ 1:13 pm | Reply

  3. I don’t think we should marginalize the man who led this plot and failed. He did not just dream this up suddenly after D-day, it was the catalyst that got him and his group to finalized their plans and risk their lives (which they LOST). Many German army officer’s survived the war and had a future, he gave up that chance for a possibly better future with his wife and maybe offspring.

    Many people tried and failed to kill Hitler, the Devil was on HIS side.

    Comment by Dave — December 28, 2008 @ 3:23 pm | Reply

  4. Not sure what your complaint is here. I saw the movie and was not left with the impression “that all well-groomed Germans of a certain (upper) class and (higher) military rank opposed Hitler,” nor was I left with the impression that the filmmakers were trying to leave that impression. I can’t vouch for the total historical accuracy of the film, but the conspiracy was relatively large and, as the flim portrays, included members who were craven, cowardly and opportunistic (and probably demented). Hitler was portrayed as suitably creepy and fear-inspiring (maybe they should have given him Cruise’s Kansas non-accent for a touch of regular-guyness). I would hazard a guess that this sort of thing was hard to pull off in a stone-cold police state. The movie was not a towering work of genius but managed to build and maintain suspense, which was difficult given that the audience knows the ending (or so you would hope).

    Comment by Slampo — December 28, 2008 @ 8:38 pm | Reply

  5. There’s a book by a German author on the attempts to assassinate Hitler. Operationally, they started at Munich. The chief of the German General staff, in a different office and killed after Valkyrie for his participation, asked the British not to co-operate at Munich putting Hitler in the position of warmonger for which they would arrest or kill him. There were others.

    Comment by Michael — January 1, 2009 @ 12:00 pm | Reply

  6. Actually, the aristocracy was split. There were those who thought that they could use the nazis to reestablish the German monarchies, there were those who believed in the cause, and there were those who detested it — for many reasons. Perhaps the best example of the latter might be the aged former Kaiser Wilhelm II, who, upon learning of Kristalnacht, wrote in his diary, “For the first time in my life, I am ashamed to be German.”

    Comment by Scott — January 4, 2009 @ 4:06 am | Reply

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