Sunday, July 15, 2007

Film Review: Hitler's War on America

The Australian Age/July 12, 2007
Jim Schembri, reviewer

"Hitler's War on America" - This ceaselessly fascinating German documentary is an absolute must-see for all armchair war buffs.

It seems these days you can't discuss anything to do with history or warfare or the history of warfare without framing it by the events of 9/11. In the case of Adolf Hitler's deep hatred of the United States during the Second World War, however, there is an eerie parallel between his plans to strike New York City and the Twin Tower attacks in 2001.

In this ceaselessly fascinating German documentary - an absolute must-see for all armchair war buffs - Hitler's desire to strike at the heart of America is vividly detailed by contemporary interviews and a remarkable array of rarely seen archival footage, much of it in colour. As far back as 1937 Hitler was shown a full-scale mock-up of an aircraft that could take the war to the US. Like many Messerschmitt designs, the ME 264 (or America Bomber) was way ahead of its time, its primary purpose being to inflict psychological damage on the American war effort.

The dream was big, the logistics a nightmare but Hitler's determination was unbounded. So when the bomber became hobbled with problems, he brought in a host of extraordinary Plan Bs, including the use of seaplane bomber, a mid-air refuelling mission and the invasion of Iceland so the Germans could use it as an air base. On the ground, Hitler also had spies in New York sussing out potential targets. Many Nazi agents were already ensconced in the community and some literally walked in from the sea. Bizarre as it sounds, they would be taken as close to shore as possible by submarine, swim to the beach, change clothes, then catch the next train into Manhattan.

The Americans, however, were wary of Nazi infiltrators. Some extraordinary 70-year-old archival material shows hidden camera footage of spies handing over American military secrets, a precursor to the type of material TV current affairs shows would later thrive on. Equally startling are snippets of the propaganda films made by both sides. The Nazis portrayed American society as run by Jews, while the Americans presented the Germans as manufacturing humans for world conquest. One bizarre scene shows a table crowded with newborn babies ready for processing into Hitler's war machine, as though it were a scene from Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. Apart from being an outstanding self-contained wartime documentary, Hitler's War on America also highlights a key theme that runs through many accounts of the war.

The Allied victory owed much to brilliant strategy, courage and the sacrifice of several hundred thousand lives. But luck also played a big part. As the tide of the war turned against them, the Nazis were developing intercontinental ballistic missiles, jet fighters, big guns and nuclear weapons. The sobering point made in this film is how, had Hitler's military plans not been hobbled by bad timing, the result could have been very different [sic].