DOC NYC 2020: The Meaning of Hitler

The Meaning of Hitler.

The Meaning of Hitler is not a conventional film by any means but it is effective in getting its point across about understanding the past.

There has been a rise of white nationalism and antisemitism in the past few years. It is not just limited to Europe but we are also seeing it in the United States. Filmmaking team Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker seek to understand what is happening now by exploring the past. They draw on this by first turning to the 1978 book of the same name by Sebastian Haffner. Haffner went against the fray of other biographers by defining Hitler as the prototype of a “radical loser.”

Charlottesville was a wake-up call for many Americans. What followed was even more antisemitism and xenophobia–all of which are enabled by the outgoing Trump administration. This should bother everyone and yet there are people that turn a blind eye. This is certainly unfortunate.

They also feature David Irving in the film because of his awful views about Holocaust denialism. Because of strict UK libel laws, historian Deborah Lipstadt was forced to defend herself in the UK courts. Irving is interviewed in the film at Wolf’s Lair. His antisemitic views are enough to make one sick in their stomach. Sir Richard Evans says it himself in the film: “history is not propaganda.”

Speaking of Holocaust denial, there is an audio clip from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. He believes such denial is wrong but at the end of the day, he said that he will not take such filth off Facebook. In recent months, Facebook has been under attack and they are certainly making changes. There is no room for such hatred on any online platform. As this review runs, many conservatives are leaving Facebook for a conservative platform that is host to antisemitism.

There’s nothing interesting or fascinating about studying Nazi history. Nothing whatsoever. The only reason why anybody should study it is to make sure we do not repeat it. And sadly, we see continual hatred against Jews in the 21st century. It’s even worse when there is an American president also enabling white nationalists and  antisemites. Such behavior is certainly unbecoming of an American president. In studying the past, the filmmakers also get a sense of what is so appealing about someone like Hitler or even Trump. Nobody is outright saying that Trump is the second coming of Hitler but when you look at what he does and enables, there is cause for concern. More on this later!

Let’s talk about the sites for a moment. One of his homes was blown up out of fear of becoming a Nazi shrine. I can certainly understand this. Nobody wants to see these places become a shrine. The filmmakers take us to the real sites. Some acknowledge the past, others completely erase history altogether. Take the sites of extermination camps in both Poland and the former Soviet Union, for instance. There is a nationalist agenda driving the narrative. How true is it?  I just don’t know. As all this is happening, Americans are finally begging to tackle our own history when it comes to statues honoring the Confederacy. None of them deserve statues and you can even make an argument about the Founding Fathers because of their views on slavery.

How do we treat the locations of the death (extermination), labor, and concentration camps? Do we place a plaque? Treat it like a museum and guide visitors on a tour? Or do you do like what happened at the site of the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland and just plant over the site with trees? A museum did open but only after the fall of the Soviet Union–excavations are ongoing as of 2020. Meanwhile, Poland has some serious issues with their own involvement in the Holocaust this this should be troublesome for anyone.

One thing about The Meaning of Hitler that makes me sick is the normalization of Nazi culture. Prof. Gavriel Rosenfeld brings insight when it it comes to the subject of Nazism and pop culture. The clips in the film are enough to make one sick.

Many of the Holocaust historians are getting up there in age. Saul Friedlander is in his late 80s. Yehuda Bauer, the dean of Holocaust studies, gets the final word in the film on Hitler. I must point out that even historians do not agree on how history should be viewed.

It is no surprise to see several clips of one Donald J. Trump in this film. The only fascist to ever get elected as president of the United States of America. An utter disgrace and this film only serves as more proof as to why. And yet, this cult personality is not the first of his kind. He probably won’t be the last but it is on everyone to realize what is in front of our eyes. Here’s how long it took to complete the film: there is footage from his Covid-19 press briefings and New York City with empty sidewalks. But even now, one can look to his administration and see a man refusing to acknowledge the election results. He refuses to concede the election and his administration is refusing to give Joe Biden’s transition team the money it needs to set up office space. This is not normal!

The Meaning of Hitler is an unforgettable documentary and should serve as a wake-up call to the hatred happening around us.

DIRECTORS:  Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker
FEATURING:  Deborah Lipstadt, Martin Amis, Sir Richard Evans, Saul Friedlander, Yehuda Bauer, Beate Klarsfeld, and Serge Klarsfeld

The Meaning of Hitler holds its world premiere during DOC NYC 2020 in the Viewfinder Competition program. IFC Films releases The Meaning of Hitler in theaters and VOD on August 13, 2021. Grade: 4/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.