Our review of the documentary Berlin 1933, the newspaper of a capital: the great swing into hell on Arte


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er April 1933, barely in power, the Nazis launched an anti-Semitic economic boycott campaign RBB/Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung Photo

REVIEW – Illustrated with excerpts from letters from the time, the year in which Hitler came to power is told day by day in Volker Heise’s two-part documentary Berlin 1933, the newspaper of a capital. A film not to be missed this Tuesday, January 24 at 8:55 p.m. on Arte.

How did Hitler come to power in 1933? Volker Heise, author already of the remarkable documentary Berlin 1945focuses this time on the annus horribilis during which the leader of the National Socialist Party (NSDAP) became chancellor and established the dictatorship.

Letters and diaries

In this new film in two parts, the German director relies, as usual, on letters and diaries of actors of the time. They are diplomats, like André François-Poncet, then French ambassador to Germany, but also journalists, like the French Stéphane Roussel, intellectuals, trade unionists, Nazi dignitaries or political opponents. And their voices mingle with those of ordinary Berliners: a doctor or even a mother.

The unleashing of violence, particularly against the Jews, which allowed the Nazis to impose themselves, appears chillingly here. Throughout this chronicle told day by day, it is first of all a fractured society and eaten away by the economic crisis and hyperinflation that appears.

coalition government

On Wednesday January 4 (note that the days of the week in the 1933 calendar correspond exactly to those of 2023), Abraham Plotkin, an American trade unionist present in Berlin, writes: “While I was on Charlottenstrasse, I heard people singing. They were communist workers. (…) Their clothes and emaciated features suggested that most were unemployed.In this context, while the National Socialists became in November 1932 the first political force against the communist KPD, Hitler was appointed, Monday, January 30, head of a coalition government.

criminal madness

The arrival of National Socialism in government only aroused real concern in the ranks of the left. Berlin doctor Willi Lindenborn notes, as the archive footage appears on screen: “Behind a window stood, like a figure carved in marble, the President of the Reich, von Hindenburg. Two houses further (at another window, Editor’s note), Hitler gave the fascist salute, acclaimed by the crowd.»

Once the Reichstag was dissolved, elections were held on March 5. The Nazis obtain the majority. On March 23, the new Assembly votes the law which gives them full powers. The criminal madness of the Hitler regime will then be able to express itself without limit.

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