Hard to take even for Hitchcock

(Photo of Alfred Hitchcock)


For years cable channels like “The History Channel” and “The Military Channel” were dubbed “The Hitler Channel” because, as often as not, the little dictator was shown giving the Sieg Heil to his henchmen.


But in an age of on-Demand delivery, this occasional late-night dosage doesn’t seem to be enough to satisfy the craven cravings of online surfers and shoppers.


This month, as was first reported on Vocativ and then spread around the net, Der Fuhrer is topping the charts with digital versions of “Mein Kampf” where e-versions of his hate-filled treatise rank 12th & 15th on the iTunes “Current Events” chart. And as Salon noted, “Across platforms like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes, the book, whose English translation copyright holder Houghton Mifflin hasn’t released a copy in paperback in years is wiping the floor with more contemporary authors with names like Palin and Beck.”


So it appears, just under the surface of their Surface tablet, the secret fascination still throbs as e-readers, who couldn’t be seen holding the old version due to dirty looks, hide behind their Kindle. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of a Nook?


Of course, on the big screen and for more than 60-years, as portrayed by the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Derek Jacobi, and the late Alec Guinness, the fascination with Adolf Hitler has been unyielding. More recently, in films like “Inglorious Basterds”, he’s been turned into kitschy, cult, pop image that lives and dies by celluloid as opposed to the real, historical, brutal German dictator. For a new generation, how will they tell the live from the Memorex?


Perhaps the answer, for all those fascinated with fascism, isn’t in the man but in what he wrought. For those in need of a dose of reality, there’s news - out this month again - that a film, “Memory of the Camps” made back in 1945 and newly restored will be re-released on British Television early next year to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Europe.


You may even have heard about it in the same breath with the name Hitchcock. It was originally created with the intent of having the German people confront and face what took place, but was ultimately left unfinished with the thinking that it would be counterproductive to postwar reconstruction. Eventually however, the first five reels that had been unearthed in 1984 were screened at the Berlin Film Festival that same year, and on PBS a year after. Hitch had mainly been involved as an advisor and editor.


In the film, originally narrated by Trevor Howard, after a quick opening portraying the little corporal’s rise to power, it transitions to documentary footage of the town of Bergen where the stench is overwhelming. Then, following their noses the Brits and Americans come upon the concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen and the unthinkable, the dead, the piles of bodies, the mass graves are discovered.


All those readers of Hitler’s tome, shrouded under a veil of digitized text, need to see the result his words brought about.


Indeed, even the master of suspense, who’d been enlisted to help with the documentary, was so horrified by the horrific footage of Bergen-Belsen after the camp was liberated, that he stayed away from Pinewood Studios for a week.


Abe Novick is a writer and communications consultant and can be reached at abebuzz.com.