Hitler's Home Movies
Adolf Hitler was no stranger to the camera. He used it keenly as a weapon of propaganda, illustrating the support and power of his Nazi machine.
Thousands of hours of footage were filmed, glorifying the Third Reich with Hitler at the forefront, rousing the rapturous crowd. The regime even commissioned feature documentary films, including one chronicling the 1934 Nazi Party Congress in Nuremberg, Triumph of the Will.
However, it is the candid footage of the dictator that is the most chilling.
In 1936 Hitler bought his mistress, Eva Braun, a silent 8mm camera for her birthday. She filmed hours of Agfacolor stock of scenes from her everyday life, doing acrobatics by the lake, picking flowers and sunbathing with friends - as the war raged elsewhere.
The reels lay unnoticed for nearly half a century, after they were discovered at the war’s end by the US Office of Strategic Services.
The extraordinary color footage shows Hitler at the height of his power, strolling in the grounds of his mountain retreat in Bavaria, the Berghof, playing and holding hands with children.
Dogs run around the terrace as the Fuhrer relaxes with his friends, among them Heinrich Himmler, Albert Speer, Joachim Von Ribbentrop, Reinhard Heidrich, Joseph Goebbels and Karl Wolff.
New technology that automatically lip-reads recently brought the dialogue to life.
Image Source: Creative Commons Bundesarchiv
Hitler reads to children, plays with them and encourages them to be in the military. "You be a brave boy," he says to a young child. "You will be a fine soldier one day."
He flirts with his mistress Eva Braun while she films him, saying "What are you filming an old man for? I should be filming you."
Chiding her life of ease, he compares her worries to his: "You talk about a dress that does not fit … imagine my problems," he says.
He also teases Braun about a screening in his cinema at the Berghof. "I understand you didn't like the movie last night," he says. "I know what you want. You want Gone with the Wind."
But it wasn’t all play – Hitler used the Berghof as his headquarters and can be seen in the films reading a manuscript on the terrace while Speer looks over his shoulder. He also examines at an aerial photo through a large magnifying glass, and complains about a pain in his arm.
He is scathing of his own men, and says of Hermann Goering, the former head of the mighty German Luftwaffe: "I looked at him across the dining table and then I knew that what they say was true, that pigs eat the flesh of their own."
These ordinary, at times mundane images, reveal a side to the dictator he never allowed his public to see.