Goebbels aide’s chill­ing ac­count

Los Angeles Times - - AT THE MOVIES - — Sheri Lin­den

In the fi­nal days of World War II, Brun­hilde Pom­sel was among the party faith­ful holed up in the Führerbunker. Even at 103, her age when she was in­ter­viewed for the po­tent doc­u­men­tary “A Ger­man Life,” her mem­o­ries of that sub­ter­ranean shel­ter are vivid — the flow of al­co­hol, the news of Adolf Hitler’s sui­cide, the flour sacks stitched into a white flag of sur­ren­der.

But it’s her rec­ol­lec­tions of how she came to work for the lead­ers of the Nazi regime, mo­ti­vated by ca­reer self-in­ter­est rather than po­lit­i­cal con­vic­tions, that give the film its chill­ing res­o­nance.

In what might be con­sid­ered a com­pan­ion piece to the 2002 doc­u­men­tary “Blind Spot: Hitler’s Sec­re­tary,” Pom­sel speaks at length about her pre­war ex­pe­ri­ences and her years as a well-paid, and will­fully ig­no­rant, stenog­ra­pher in Joseph Goebbels’ min­istry of pro­pa­ganda. Her gaze is clear, and the deep creases in her face, cap­tured in strik­ing black-and-white close­ups, are a cen­tury-old to­pog­ra­phy.

The film’s four di­rec­tors — Chris­tian Krönes, Olaf S. Müller, Roland Schrot­thofer and Flo­rian Weigen­samer — are in­ter­ested not in con­demn­ing her, but in il­lu­mi­nat­ing the ways that com­pla­cency leads to com­plic­ity and the ex­treme be­comes nor­mal. They punc­tu­ate the interview with pow­er­ful archival footage — news­reels, pri­vate record­ings, pro­pa­ganda films — some of it pre­vi­ously un­re­leased and some of it, from the camps, un­bear­able.

We all like to imag­ine our­selves as brave re­sisters. Pom­sel’s un­apolo­getic ac­count of be­ing “one of the cow­ards” is a haunt­ing, ev­er­timely re­minder of how easy it can be to cash the pay­check and look the other way.

“A Ger­man Life.” In Ger­man with English sub­ti­tles. Not rated. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 48 min­utes. Play­ing: Laemmle Town Cen­ter 5, En­cino.

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