Douwe Osinga's Blog: Der Untergang

Friday, October 8, 2004

I went to see “Der Untergang”, a movie about the last days of Hitler and the Third Reich. The movie has been a bit controversial in Germany since it shows Hitler as a human being and not just as something utterly evil. The scarier, I’d say; if somebody who looks like a grandfather could do something so terrible, than makes it all just more real. Bad things do happen and you can’t put them in a box labeled “extreme evilness, unlikely to be repeated”. What stroke me most about the movie, though was the military.


The generals were taking orders right till the end and to some extend even after the dictator killed himself. There were soldiers risking their lives to get gasoline to burn the remains of their Führer. Now I know of course it is just a movie, but there is probably something to it. Soldiers are trained to take orders no matter what and so they do. It was really the same in Stalingrad where the Germans should have retreated, but Hitler wouldn’t let him. 1.5 million soldiers died in the Battle for Stalingrad.


Following orders only makes sense because you think the system works and the only way the system works is if all it’s part function in a predictable way. You being one of those parts, you’ll have to behave predictable too. But if you see the system is falling apart to the extend that there is really no way it is all going to work out, the whole reason for following orders disappears. But still the generals followed orders.


Not winning the war was just unthinkable. The lack of alternatives makes people go on after they know there is really no future. Of course it is not so different for most people. You get stuck in a job that goes nowhere, but you’re just scared of the alternative. Of course most people are just stuck and not just heading for Der Untergang