March 6th, 2011


my Walter

I suppose it is just that I've chosen the path of historian. I am so attached to the dead. I've been in contact with the granddaughter and son of the veteran whose archive I am exploring at the museum. it was such a treat to speak with Walter's son. they know very little of Walter's history. like many WWII vets, he never spoke of his time in the service.

i am honored to fill in the gaps for them.

I've become so connected to him that i feel obligated to tell his story. i've come to call him "my Walter."

it is still quite a challenge though because the collection is nothing but photographs and paper souvenirs. i didn't even have a division. fortunately i found a ration card that helped.

i also found an anti-aircraft patch. between the two i learned he was in the 89th, the "Rolling W," a division with a rich history and a grand starting point for me.

we've been discussing a good bit in class how no matter how many narratives we read and how many interviews we witness or conduct ourselves, we can never really understand what these guys went through.

i could show you a bit of what Walter witnessed - the corpses in the snow, the few emaciated survivors of Ohrdruf among the piles of bodies -
but you can never understand how he felt....
i can't even begin to imagine.

Der Untergang

i had a conversation with someone last night about The Bunker and when i discovered he hadn't seen Der Untergang, i suggested it. he, however, didn't "want to see anything that humanized Hitler." i don't really understand.... while i know humanizing Hitler is a difficult concept for some, i think it is a grave error to write him off as inhuman or insane.

Der Untergang (2004), a German film directed by Oliver Hirschbiegel based on the book by German historian Joachim Clemens Fest and the diary of Hitler’s secretary Traudl Junge. You've probably seen the dub overs on YouTube of his temper tantrum scene applied to some pop culture event. The Bunker (1981), an American film directed by George Louis Schaefer based on the book by American journalist James Preston O'Donnell. Both films depict Hitler’s last days in the Führerbunker, the New Reich Chancellery in Berlin, Germany; where he kept company with his senior staff, support personnel, Eva Braun, and his beloved dog, Blondi. Although there are similar scenes in both films, the presentation of Adolf Hitler is vastly different. Der Untergang instills in Hitler a sense of humanity, showing a man broken by illness, defeat, and betrayal. The Bunker, conversely, portrays Hitler as a demonic lunatic, trembling with palsy, but void of humanity.

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