Traudl Junge, Blind Spot (DVD)

Traudl Junge,
Until The Final Hour: Hitler's Last Secretary

(New York: Arcade Publishing, 2003), 245 pages

book essay by Ashley Kenike Tacub
March 15, 2006

for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
Germany since 1945
UC Santa Barbara, Winter 2006

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About Ashley Tacub (back to top)

I am a third-year senior, history major and anthropology minor. I enjoy studying about twentieth century history. Coming into this class I did not know much about German history. However, I feel that Germany has played a crucial role in the twentieth century; thus I decided to take the class. Also, since I am a quarter German it made me more interested in my familyís history. I have never been to Germany, but I plan on going one day. I chose this book because it focused on the experiences of those closest to Hitler, and it focused on how Germans dealt with the atrocities committed during World War II.

Abstract:


Traudl Junge (1920-2002)

Traudl Junge was Hitlerís secretary for the last two and a half years of the Third Reich. Even though she was not an active member of the Nazi party, or even took part of the extermination of Jews, she still felt guilt and responsibility after the war. Like other Germans, she claims that she was not aware of the crimes that the Third Reich was committing. Junge felt betrayed for loving the Fuhrer at the time he committed suicide. Later she had to deal with being involved with the Fuhrer. Unlike other Germans, Junge took responsibility for being a by-stander and wished that she had more self-confidence and good sense. She explains that it does not matter if Germans were aware or not, what matters is that Germans take full responsibility for standing by while millions of people were murdered.


Essay (back to top)

Coming to Terms with Your Savior, a Mass Murderer

It is 1945, and Germany has lost World War II. The German people must rebuild their war-torn nation, and in the process they must deal with the realization that they stood by and watched as millions of people were unceremoniously killed. Traudl Junge was Hitlerís personal secretary for the last two and a half years of the Third Reich. In Jungeís memoir, "Until the Final Hour," Junge portrays her close relationship to the Fuhrer up until he committed suicide in his bunker. Even though Junge claimed that she was not an avid Nazi, or greatly involved with politics, she still adored and respected Hitler very much. The experiences that Junge encountered, from her adoration for Hitler to the guilt that she felt postwar, represents the sentiment of the majority of Germans. However, unlike many Germans who tried to claim that they were victimized under the Nazi regime, Junge took responsibility with her involvement with Hitler. She never pitied herself. As a result, the unforgiving compunction that Junge developed plagued her for the rest of her life. Other Germans wanted to ignore the past and the Third Reich altogether.

In her memoir, Junge explained that she was not aware of the millions of people who were being executed at the hands of Hitlerís men because she was isolated in the bunker. She stated, "That never occurred to us at the time, and isolated from the experience of other Germans, we accepted as normal our not only very privileged but our entirely abnormal life." Perhaps Junge was not aware of Hitlerís crimes, but she was present while he was dictating his speeches to her, and in many of his speeches he expressed contempt for Jews, and other people of "Non-Aryan" descent. The myth of ignorance was a common German reaction to their involvement with the war. The "we didnít know," myth, turned to "we donít want to know" (Marcuse 01/25/06).

Traudl Junge with Hans and best man
Traudl with Hans and best man after wedding

Germans chose not to know because they did not want to come to terms with the crimes they had committed. Also, by portraying the myth of ignorance, it lifted some of the blame that Germans did not want to have on their conscience. Junge claims that she was not aware of Hitlerís atrocities. But Melissa Muller, the editor of Jungeís memoir says that Junge probably did not know the extent of the persecution of Jews because she did not want to know (Muller 218). Junge stated, "Most of the time I try to sleep, to take my mind off of bitter memories of the past and anxiety about the future" (Junge 227). Junge also tried to relieve her guilt by believing the excuses that people made for her, such as "But you were so young at that time," or "There was nothing that you could have done under Hitlerís power. These excuses kept her somewhat at ease up until the 1960s. The 60s was the generation that confronted their grandparents about their involvement in the past. Her memories haunt her, but she still tries to ignore them.

Unfortunately, the Holocaust cannot be forgotten. For many Germans like Traudl Junge and Professor Mahlendorf, the guilt for what they were a part of grew as they got older. Junge went through many years of depression. It was only at her death where she barely started to forgive herself. Professor Mahlendorf also had to go through many years of therapy to help forgive herself for her role during the Nazi regime. As she expressed in her lecture, the older she gets, the harder it is to live with what she had done. The notion that many Germans did not want to know what had happened during the Nazi regime shows that during denazification, Germans were renazifying Germany by ignoring the situation at hand. Moreover, Germans did not talk a lot about the Holocaust. They went on with their daily lives, trying to suppress their guilt. It is important to note that Germany was quiet about the Holocaust after the war because there were not that many Jewish people alive or living in Germany to tell their stories. Most Jews had fled or were killed in the concentration camps.

Furthermore, another myth that Germans used to justify their involvement with the Nazi regime was the myth of being victims to the Allies, and people who wanted money to pay for their grievances. Germans claimed that they were victims of a totalitarian government.

Another myth that Germans used as their reaction to the war was the myth of resistanceóthey resisted as much as they could under a totalitarian government. Hitler had total power, if they rebelled; they put their lives in danger. Therefore, they did as much as they could to resist the Nazi regime. Later, Germans felt that in terms of resistance, most Germans already know enough about the atrocities and now they need to clean up the sites. Germans wanted to forget about the testimonials of the survivors because they felt that it was not important. They wanted to just forget about everything that happened. Forgetting seems like an easy way out, but as the tragedies of the Holocaust were more revealed in the 1960s, Germans could not simply forget about it (Mahlendorf 02/16/06).

Finally, the last myth was the myth of victimizationóthe "good Germans" were victims of "Bad Nazis. (Marcuse 01/25/06). Hitler had instilled a notion into German minds that Germany can only thrive by National Socialism. This idea is expressed when Frau Goebbels, the wife of Joseph Goebbels who is Hitlerís Propaganda Minister, says that she would rather commit suicide than live in a world that was not ruled by National Socialism. She also ended up killing her six children once she realized that Germany had lost the war. Even after the war, Germans felt that they were victimized by Allied troops who celebrated their victory on German land. They also felt like they were victimized by tourists who would always remind them of the atrocities during World War II.

After the Nazi regime came to an end, Junge had to deal with the fact that her Fuhrer was responsible for killing millions of people, and for the downfall of her nation. Like many people, Junge had a magnetic-like attraction towards Hitler. Mainly because Hitler held a great deal of power, and at the same time, he had two sides to his character. Around Junge, Hitler had a charming, caring, and paternalistic behavior. He always made sure that she was fine and had everything that she needed while in his company. For Germany as a whole, he was also portrayed as a paternal figure that would take care of Germany. Therefore, it was very hard for Germans to come to terms with Hitlerís end. Many were in denial even decades after the war was over. Germans took on one of the three myths mentioned previously as well.

Most of the Jews had either died during the war or left Germany. There were very few Jews still living in Germany in 1945, so there was little contact between Jews and Germans (Mahlendorf). There was such a small number of Jews in Germany that the first time that Mahlendorf personally met a Jew was when she came to the United States as a Fulbright student in 1951. After learning about the concentration camps and racism during the war she felt ashamed around them.

Germany was so brainwashed with Hitlerís hatred for Jews and people who were not Aryan that the reversal of ideology was a difficult task. As the Nazi regime was coming to an end, there had been some realizations that the regime had been lying to the German people. For Professor Mahlendorf, her reversal of ideology occurred during her high school years. From witnessing the Nuremberg trials, comparing constitutions, and learning from her teachers who were never affiliated with the Nazis, Mahlendorfís ideology had been reversed. But for the most of the German population, it would take the 1960s for the reversal of ideology to occur. Postwar, Germany attempted to make amends by paying reparations to Israel and Jewish families. However, the racism was still very prevalent in Germany. As portrayed in "Invisible Woman," Ika experienced a brutal amount of racism and discrimination in her lifetime for being half black. Nevertheless, Germany definitely has a very complex past that many Germans today have to still live with. Junge describes in her memoir that she felt betrayed because Hitler made Germans believe that they were superior to everyone else and that she always felt safe under his paternalistic demeanor. However, a new light was shed in her life when she became close with the Lanzenstiel family in the 1960s who never got involved with the NSDAP. She learned tolerance and acceptance from them because they accepted her no matter what. The mother of the family, Luise Lanzenstiel made Junge feel comfortable at a time when Junge wanted to "hide from the rest of the world" (Muller 246). Junge feels safe with the Lanzenstiel family.

Naturally, the men and women who had a direct involvement with the Nazi regime are at fault. However, it is everyone who participated in anti-Semitism for whatever personal reason to accept the burden of the past and work hard to make sure that events like that will never occur again. Even though Junge never committed any crimes herself under the Third Reich, she still feels guilty for not having enough self-confidence to speak out against the Regime. Junge took responsibility for her involvement in the regime, which is the first step towards forgiving herself. Traudl Jungeís memoir exhibited the influence and hold that Hitler had on the German people during World War II. Hitler and his menís last days in the Bunker is a reminder of how strident political beliefs can take over an entire country. Eventually, these beliefs led to Hitlerís suicide.


Bibliography and Links (back to top)

Bibliography

Sources

  • Fest, Joachim. Inside Hitlerís Bunker: The Last Days of the Third Reich.Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. New York: 2002.
    "Inside Hitlerís Bunker," conveys Hitlerís last fourteen days in the Bunker. Fest demonstrates Hitlerís fight to the very end, even if that meant that Germany would result in shambles. Hitler was not concerned with the well-being of Germans in Munich and thus he put many civiliansí livesí on the line. Hitlerís willingness to put young boys into battle even when the war was practically over, shows Hitlerís mental state as well as his desperate cling to power.
  • Blind Spot.Dir. Andra Heller, Othmar Schmiderer. Perf. Traudl Junge. DVD. Sony Pictures, 2002.
    Traudl Junge was Hitlerís secretary for the last two and a half years before he committed suicide. She spent a lot of time with him and was able to experience the charming and paternalistic side of Hitler. In this interview, she explains how she was not fully aware of the atrocities that Hitler was committing. She also describes the lasting effects of being involved with Hitler such as guilt, depression, and regret.
  • Downfall. Dir. Oliver Hirschbiegel. Perf. Heino Ferch, Corinna Harfouch, Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara. DVD. Sony Pictures, 2005.
    This movie is based on Jungeís memoir "Until the Final Hour." It provides a close look into the bunker that Hitler and his men hid-out in for two weeks. When Hitler accepted the fact that he lost the war, he and many of his other men committed suicide because they did not want to fall into the hands of the Russians. It is the downfall of the Third Reich and the end to Nazi Fascism. DVD $10 at amazon
  • Andrei S. Markovits; Rebecca S. Hayden, "Holocaust" before and after the Event: Reactions in West Germany and Austria, New German Critique No.19, Special Issue 1: Germans and Jews (Winter, 1980), pp: 53-80. jstor.org
    Markovits and Hayden examine the major effects of the "Holocaust," in West Germany and Austria. This journal article conveys the political, social, and cultural aspects of Germany and Austria before, during, and after the Holocaust.
  • Junge, Traudl. Until the Final Hour. Hitlerís Last Secretary.Arcade Publishing, New York: 2003.
    The documentary "Blind Spot," and the film "Downfall," were all based on Traudl Jungeís memoir, "Until the Final Hour." Junge portrays her experiences with Hitler until the very end of his life. She also conveys how Hitler interacted with the different groups of people in his life. With women he was very charming and cordial, but with men he was very stern and tough. Although Junge was not an active member of the Nazi party, she still felt guilt for the rest of her life for being involved with the Hitler regime.

Reviews:

  • "Until The Final Hour: Hitlerís Last Secretary. (Brief Article)(Book Review)."Contemporary Review.283.1655 (Dec 2003): 3799(1). Expanded Academic ASAP. 27 January 2006.
  • Walden, Barbara. "Junge, Traudl. Until the Final Hour: Hitlerís Last Secretary. (Brief
  • Article)(Book Review)." Library Journal129.7 (April 15, 2004): 95(2). Expanded Academic ASAP. 27 January 2006.

Websites

  • Omer Bartov, "Genocide in World War Two: Who Were the Guilty?," BBC.com, Dec. 14, 2004. Bartov assesses the guilt and responsibility of Germans during World War Two.
    Bbc.co.uk is a news website out of the United Kingdom somewhat like Yahoo and MSN. The seventh page of this article, "find out more," lists additional book resources, and has a short biography of Bartov. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/genocide/guilt_identity_01.shtml.)[updated 11/19/06]
  • Anthony Kauders, "History as Censure," in: History and Memory 15:1(Spring/Summer 2003). This article in a scholarly journal can be accessed through the UC Santa Barbara domain. Kauders portrays how most Germans tried to ignore and "repress" the past as best they could. (http://muse.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/access.cgi?uri=/journals/history_and_memory/v015/15.1kauders.html)
  • "Nuremberg Trials and Denazification" on the GermanCulture.com site, which was moved from About.com in 2001 when About reduced its Germany coverage. This article discusses how the Allies dealt with German criminals after the war. The Allies wanted to make sure that Germany could never retain as much power as it had in both world wars. (http://www.germanculture.com.ua/library/history/bl_nuremberg_trials_denazi.htm.)
  • "Traudl Junge" entry in Wikipedia, which is a free user-created encyclopedia that offers information on many subjects. This article about Traudl Junge offers many insights into her interviews and works, and quotations about conscience and change. The article was begun in March 2005 as a translation from the Swedish wikipedia (see "history" tab on that page). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traudl_Junge)

Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi:

Plagiarism—presenting someone else's work as your own, or deliberately failing to credit or attribute the work of others on whom you draw (including materials found on the web)—is a serious academic offense, punishable by dismissal from the university. It hurts the one who commits it most of all, by cheating them out of an education. I report offenses to the Office of the Dean of Students for disciplinary action.


prepared for web by Harold Marcuse on 3/28/06; last updated: 11/19/06
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