Hitler’s New York hit: in your dreams, fuhrer

As It Hap­pened: Hitler’s War on Amer­ica 8.30pm, SBS

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv - Stephen Matchett

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

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