Hitler’s New York hit: in your dreams, fuhrer
As It Happened: Hitler’s War on America 8.30pm, SBS
THIS documentary about World War II would better belong in a series called ‘‘ what never occurred’’ because while Adolf Hitler declared war on America, threats were about all he threw at the US.
Why this was so is familiar to anybody even vaguely interested in the war. The Germans did not have a bomber with the range to cross the Atlantic, let alone return to the Reich.
They lacked both the technology and manufacturing capacity to get their prototypes for intercontinental missiles up to speed. The war in Europe meant they had problems closer to home.
The result is this Seinfeld of a documentary about nothing much, because the war against the Nazis was fought in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, in the skies over western Europe, in the North African desert, on the Russian steppes and among the Normandy hedgerows, but never in New York.
But the documentary- makers had 50 minutes to fill and so they describe at length German fantasies about terror attacks on Manhattan. There is more detail than anyone needs on the Nazis’ incompetent attempts to infiltrate saboteurs into the city.
But this was still not enough so they added an explanation of why many Americans did not want to get involved in a European war and how Hitler did President Franklin Roosevelt a huge favour by declaring war on the US after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
To give the show a semblance of credibility there are talking heads — elderly talking heads — whose main qualification to discuss the subject is their willingness to appear on television. And to provide it with relevance, Hitler’s dream is pitched as a plan for September 11, 50 years earlier.
And so it was because what the Nazis wanted to do would have had no impact on the American war effort. Nor would they ever have had the conventional bombing capacity to do much damage to New York. Bringing down the Empire State building, however, would have been a propaganda victory. But so what? For all the comparisons with the destruction of the World Trade Centre twin towers the documentary could just as sen- sibly have compared the German plans with a Confederate plot to set New York on fire in 1864.
This documentary is merely filler for networks with more broadcast hours to fill than they have money to spend. At best it is an excellent example of human ingenuity: stretching this show to 50 minutes is no mean feat. At worst it demonstrates the thickness of SBS’s hide in screening this utterly forgettable program in prime time.
Plane truths: Adolf Hitler visits the Messerschmitt factory in 1937