My father-in-law has a curious obsession with Hitler, Nazis and what Germany managed to accomplish. At first I thought this was rather strange, but in hearing some of his thoughts and seeing his angle I realize it is more about the huge leaps in technology happening at the time and the overall fascination with the fact one person could so warp the minds of so many people. The true corruption of power, the deep power of suggestion and the disturbing strength of hate still seem impossible, how could one person get such a strong hold?
Now the irony of the situation lays in my own morbid curiosity on the topic, forced onto me by one of the projects I worked on early in my career, “Hitler, The Rise of Evil.” Aside from the fact I am certain to be on every FBI watch list for the sheer volumes of Hitler and Nazi books I had to purchase from Amazon while we were researching the project. I also tracked down one of the last VHS copies of Leni Riefenstahl’s work. For this I am probably on the fast track to hell. It has been at least seven years and Amazon often still “suggest” interesting Nazi books to me. Is there any way to erase my past purchases other than starting a new account?
Unbeknownst to Chris or I we went to visit Paul on Hitler’s birthday. Silly us, we thought it was just another day, but it was in fact the birthday of someone who changed the landscape of the world irrevocably for decades. The entire mini-series I worked on had explored just that, how someone grows up to be “that” guy. Is it truly just a psych issue? Could he have benefited from Paxil? Should he have been institutionalized for taking the yet unnamed narcissistic personality disorder to epic proportions? No matter what you think of the man, he still had a mother, a father and a birthday.
We kind of laughed off the idea because what else are you going to do? You can’t really make him unborn, so we went out for Italian. At the next table was an adorable old woman doted on by all the waiters who obviously knew her as a regular. We chatted with her briefly on her way out. She appeared to need some help but she rebuffed Paul’s advances because she wanted the much younger waiter to help her. She’s at least in her late 80’s so who can blame her! The staff then informed us she was a Holocaust survivor. I have met a few in my day but never at such a poignant moment. Here was the living embodiment of someone who truly could say “F You” to Hitler and his birthday.
He may have been born, he may have caused unimaginable suffering but he also created this feisty old woman who loved and enjoyed her life. Much like the heroic stories of Irene Gut-Updyke, Oskar Schindler, Irena Sendler and Anne Frank every person has been touched in some way by the birth of Hitler. Do I wish I could erase all the horror? Of course, but along the lines of “accepting things I cannot change,” I choose to look at all the amazing people who survived, no thrived, in the face of such adversity. The same people who have gone on to have families and change the world for good. For all of them I say “Happy F’in Birthday, Hitler! People are stronger than your hate and always will be.”
**Side note…look up Irene if you don’t know her..an amazing Polish woman. And should I be concerned that my spell check knew how to spell Riefenstahl?