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SWASTIKA (director/writer: Philippe Mora; screenwriter: Lutz Becker; editor: Andrew Patterson; music: Richard Wagner; cast: Eva Braun, Adolph Hitler, Josef Goebbels, Hermann Göring, Martin Bormann, Heinrich Himmler, Rudolph Hess, Albert Speer, Joachim Von Ribbentrop; Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Sandy Lieberman/David Puttnam; Kino International; 1974-UK-in German with English subtitles)

The attempt to humanize Hitler never comes off.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The provocative documentary was banned in Israel on the ground that it projects a sympathetic image of Adolph Hitler. It was denounced when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and was banned in Germany for 37 years, until 2010.The Nazi propaganda film is based on archival footage, newsreel clips and 16mm color home movies from Hitler’s private collection, some shot by Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun in the years 1933-1939. The attempt to humanize Hitler never comes off, as the opening credits state: “If Hitler is dehumanized and shown only as a devil, any future Hitler may not be recognized, simply because he is a human being.”

Australian filmmaker Philippe Mora (“Mad Dog Morgan”/”A Breed Apart”/”Howling III“), of Jewish descent,shows the Hitler inner circle lounging about in his retreat at Berghof, in the Bavarian Alps. Animal lover Eva Braun and her playful sister Gretl are there sporting swim suits, doing gymnastics and showing love to bunnies and pet dogs. Interspersed are clips of large rallies in support of Hitler, the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, the smashing of Jewish-owned stores across Germany and Austria by Nazi goons and storm troopers during Kristallnacht, military recruits in training, a clip from the vile anti-Semitic propaganda film The Eternal Jew, a Nazi rally in NYC and the largest rally in party history in Nuremberg. It ends on a comical note, in 1945, with the declared death of Hitler and with Noël Coward cheerily singing “Don’t Let us Be Beastly to the Germans.”

None of the material would be interesting if it didn’t feature Hitler, full of vigor and pleased with himself, showing footage he believes would have pleased the German public about their Führer. There was no narration to give the film some needed context, which is my only criticism. As for the controversial showing of this film, I have no problem with that–especially since there’s nothing in it that can induce us into believing the monster was a good guy and censorship usually serves no purpose in free societies.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”