Defending One’s Self

This evening we watched Downfall. The story of Hitler’s last ten days as seen through the eyes of Gertraud “Traudl” Humps his youngest private secretary. She stayed with him in the bunker until almost the last moment and was present when Hitler shot himself. The film ends with Traudl walking through the invading troops, hand in hand with a small boy. How things went for her immediately after her escape was, in actual fact, a very different story.

Her death came close after the publication of her book and the premier of the film. Othmar Schmiderer, the producer of the documentary Blind Spot, was among the last people to speak to her. He quoted her as saying: “Now that I’ve let go of my story, I can let go of my life.” From the Traudl Humps Obituary in the Guardian.

We see the now elderly secretary being interviewed* at the beginning and end of the film. I didn’t see her defending herself, she was obviously disturbed and found it difficult to forgive the young girl of her past. As she said, she was letting go of her story…at last.

*The interviews were part of Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary, a 90 minite documentary directed by AndrĂ© Heller and Othmar Schmiderer.

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3 thoughts on “Defending One’s Self”

  1. I wish I could remember the title of a documentary I saw several years ago on TV in the UK on a related theme to this posting. It dealt with the discovery by a German woman that her father, whom her mother had told her had died a hero on the Eastern Front when she was a baby, had actually been tried and executed after his career as a concentration camp commandant in the Baltic States, I think Lithuania.

    The programme was about a trip she made north (to Vilnius?) to discover the awful truth about the father she never met from people that had suffered at his hand in the camps he had run.

    Time and again during her journey she found herself being comforted by people who had to assure her “It wasn’t your fault, children can never be held accountable for the actions of their parents” yet what was so disturbing for everyone was her truly striking physical resemblance to him, she was so obviously his daughter.

    Is what she was told actually true? It certainly isn’t the way that many people react to history. I find I think more and more about these kinds of issues, and especially the distinction between ‘being held responsible for’ and ‘experiencing the consequences of’ and the relationship of both of these to Buddhist teachings on ‘karma’. And how in the end both can only be resolved within the heart. It seems to have been a common event in history for people to adopt the orphaned children of their enemies.

    Does anyone know the title of this programme or of the book that I’m sure must have been written afterwards?

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