Thursday, January 08, 2009


I haven't seen the movie yet, but before I even go there, I have to ask if anybody really knows the proper way to pronounce that word. It's one of those words, like the name Dierdre, that no two people pronounce the same way. I've heard Dierdre as "DEE-druh" and "DEER-dree" and "DEER-druh." And I've heard Valkyries as "VAL-kires" and "VAL-kuh-ree" and Val-KIGH-ree," and the uncertainty makes me hesitant to even try saying the movie name out loud for fear of sounding like a maroon.


Back in 2006, when a couple ladies from my church and I went to Poland for the 60th anniversary celebration of the church we support there (here, here, here, here), one of the places we visited was Hitler's Bunker. It's somewhere between Reszel and the lake district of northeast Poland, because we saw all three places in one day in that order.

When I saw the movie preview of "Valkyrie," I told my friend, "I was there," because just inside the entrance to Hitler's Bunker complex is the place where somebody tried to assassinate Hitler but failed (that's how I remember it two years later). My friend pointed out that there were multiple attempts at Hitler's life, all of which failed, so the place I saw might not have been the same event.

John Rosenthal's column at Pajamas Media today looks at the movie and the historical revisionism it engages in. He tries to correct the mis-impressions the movie leaves with the viewer.

“Many Saw Evil,” the posters for the new Tom Cruise film Valkyrie proclaim, “But They Dared to Stop It.” Or tried, at any rate. The members of what is known in Germany as the “July 20th” plot failed, of course, to kill Hitler and were unable to seize power. If this slight exaggeration amounts to wishful thinking, however, the suggestion that the would-be assassin, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, and his co-conspirators “saw evil” in the Nazi regime amounts to an outright distortion of the historical record.

In fact, Stauffenberg served the Nazi regime loyally almost to the very end and continued to share its most fundamental ideas and “values” even when he finally turned against it. What Stauffenberg and his fellow plotters “saw” was not evil. What they saw — undoubtedly with increasing clarity following the German defeat at Stalingrad in February 1943, and with near certainty following the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944 — was that Germany was going to lose the war and that the reckoning would be severe when it did. The need to prevent this impending “catastrophe” for the “fatherland” is the common thread running through all their known statements. Once Hitler was out of the way, the plotters hoped to avoid the worst by proactively seeking peace with the western Allies before Germany was forced into an unconditional surrender. They, above all, feared the consequences of a foreign occupation of Germany.

Contrary to what the film repeatedly suggests, the fate of the Jews appears to have played little role in their considerations and it was certainly not the trigger that finally moved them to action.

This is good to know, because my friend saw the movie (I had to work), and she loved it, and I've been afraid it might have been Hollywoodized, which it looks like it has been somewhat. But not badly enough to make corporate America and President Bush into the bad guys.

Having read Rosenthal's column, I started looking to see if it was the same place as Poland's "Hitler's Bunker." Wikipedia's entry on the July 20th plot was unhelpful in that respect, because it pinpointed the location as a German place name in East Prussia, which doesn't exist anymore. The East Prussia entry showed a map from 1871 with all the names in German, only one of which I recognized (Konigsberg), and that's currently in the detatched chunk of Russia that borders the northern part of Poland.

So I started looking from another angle, and when the July 20th entry mentioned the Wolf's Lair and Col. von Stauffenberg, I looked at the Wolf's Lair entry and found photos like mine and mention of von Stauffenberg and his plot. Bingo!

I was there. This is what's left of the location of the assassination attempt:

It's not very impressive, except that you can see how well-hidden the place was in the woods of Poland. It's why the Nazis got away with so much of the Holocaust for so long.

Most of the bunkers were made of concrete, like this one, which was Hitler's.

But the unfortunate ladies of the secretarial pool had to work and risk their lives in a big brick building. Yeah, Hitler was a real gentleman.

The intervening 60+ years have taken their toll. Many of the bunkers are broken, and trees grow throughout the debris.

The forests of Poland are reclaiming their land, making historical revisions of their own.

Maybe I'll see the movie when it comes out on DVD.

Oops. Those copyrights on the photos should say 2006, but I'm too lazy to go back and fix them now.


Christina said...

I'm no help on the pronunciation, though I would probably say it "Val-ker-ee".

However, I can no longer in good conscience, watch any movies with Tom Cruise. I have read that he is lousy in this movie (as he has been in all of his recent efforts) and he has just gone off the deep end in general.

But if you go, I hope you enjoy it!

Malott said...

Great post!

So if Hitler had been killed and a "kind" of peace followed... More Jews would have died? Or would the Holocaust have been discontinued and covered up in some way, for a while?

Tsofah said...

"VAL-kuh-ree" is the pronunciation I'm used to. I, too, have no interest in going to the movie theatre to see this film. I'm saving my money to see "Deception", which the early release critics hated so it must be good.

I know the story it's based on, and I know the movie is pretty much sticking to the real story line.

Malott, there were few people in the "Third Reich" who were sympathetic to the Jews. One rare example, of course, is Oskar Schindler, who was no saint in his fidelity and other matters. But he did manage to save a thousand people within the camps.

Killing Hitler would not have stopped the Shoah. There were too many who would have continued on with it once the madness had begun.