Two Documentaries That Helped Me Build the Background of “Summer of Long Knives”.

My interest in probing the history of the Third Reich predates the writing of Summer of Long Knives by about thirteen years. The war years never grabbed me quite as much as the years between 1933-1939, during which the dictatorship grew, changed shape, and developed appetites. I encourage you to watch them.You’ll learn a great deal about how Adolf Hitler conceived a power structure that encouraged his underlings to compete for the chance to transform his half-baked fantasies into hideous realities.

The Nazis: A Warning From History Part 2: Chaos and Consent

This series, by historian and documentarian Laurence Rees, is an indispensable resource for those trying to understand the country that Adolf Hitler built and led to disaster. This second chapter deals with the “normal” years, focusing on the administrative chaos of Germany’s new government. Hitler, who despised the work of actually running a country, often refused to mediate among competing factions and agencies. This led, in part by design and in part by accident, to a political environment where government offices with overlapping responsibilities fought each other for Hitler’s interest and favor. Those who won these fights listened carefully to Hitler’s rants and complaints and devised the most radical possible solutions to solve his problems. As time passed, these radical policies grew increasingly murderous.

The Architecture of Doom

This documentary argues that Nazi ideology was less political or economic than it was aesthetic, an attempt to beautify humanity and the world through the violent eradication of less attractive elements. Although it exaggerates Hitler’s knowledge of Wagner’s political writings–most contemporary historians question that he ever read them–and puts perhaps too much credence in Kubizek’s “In that hour it all began” story, Architecture provides valuable insight into how Hitler thought, and how his aesthetic interests bound themselves to his political methods and aims.

 

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