Ron Rosenbaum

Valkyrie is Better--and Worse--Than I Expected

Well Tom Cruise is better. Not great. Still too callow (Killing Hitler is “Risky Business”) and not really convincing as a German aristo. But the problem is with the film’s Hitler and it’s skewing of history. Hitler seems to be the bad guy in this movie mainly because he’s poorly groomed and has bad posture–that’s how you can tell he’s a mass murderer. At least compared with the impeccably dressed anti-Hitler aristo-officer conspirators.

But it’s really the history that’s the problem: the impression is left that all well-groomed Germans of a certain (upper) class and (higher) military rank opposed Hitler. But many were gung ho Nazis and in fact the movie just contributes to the meretricious myth of virtually non-existant “German resistance”. It gives the German people a reason to pat theselves on the back retrospectively (“see we tried!). But in fact the so called resistance was largely a bunch of opportunists and pro-fascist anti-semites who lost their nerve, and postponed their coup plans every time Hitler pulled off an unexpected military victory (hey, he’s a genocidal mass murderer but he’s a winner!) and got serious only after the Normandy landings succeeded in June 1944 (the Valkyrie plot took place in July ’44– what a co incididence!).

The real heroes of German resistance were people like the journalists I wrote about in Explaining Hitler–the ones who risked their lives to tell the world the truth about Hitler’s evil even before he came to power. The world didn’t listen but tht doesn’t diinish their heroism.