The Goebbels Experiment – Nazis Gone Wild! week

This is Nazis Gone Wild! week. The Goebbels Experiment is currently available on instant Netflix.

PASS: The Goebbels Experiment (2005) – NR – Not rated.

“Reading from the diaries kept by Third Reich propagandist Joseph Goebbels between 1924 and 1945, Kenneth Branagh brings the infamous Nazi spin doctor to life, all the way up to his suicide at the end of World War II. Using this primary source material as their canvas, filmmakers Lutz Hachmeister and Michael Kloft paint a portrait of a 20th century figure who was sometimes a success, sometimes a failure and always fascinating.”

First let me state that this film is far scarier than Dead Snow. As one would expect from the diaries of Joseph Goebbels, there is an abundance of xenophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-Communism. Just listening to the excerpts of his diaries pre-war makes me very uncomfortable.

Goebbels is also thrilled that Max Schmeling beat Joe Louis in 1936. He does not even refer to Louis by name. He calls him the Negro and the black man.

Lutz Hachmeister not only directed but co-wrote and co-produced The Goebbels Experiment. He does an excellent job of pairing appropriate footage with each diary entry. With the very brief exception of a few modern color outdoor shots, the entire film is composed of vintage clips and stills.

Goebbels naturally comes across as supremely self-important. Every good decision was his and every bad one was one that he had argued against.

Hachmeister does omit a lot that is puzzling. The 1936 fight between Schmeling and Louis is covered but not the 1938 rematch. The annexation of the Sudetenland is not even mentioned nor is Neville Chamberlain (except in a late comparison to Churchill).

It seems like one moment they are covering the 1936 Olympics (though no mention of Jesse Owens) and Leni Riefenstahl and then *poof* World War II.

The invasion of Russia is covered. Even though the pre-war American economy is mentioned, their entry into the war is not. Neither is Japan mentioned.

We also jump from 1941 to 1943. Were there no interesting events in the intervening year and a half?

The “Jewish question” is only mentioned tangentially yet for Goebbels this occupied a large part of his time and effort. In point of fact this actually seems to be what is missing in the 1942 segment.

The documentary ends with the suicide of Goebbels on May 1st but this is not stated in any way. They simply show the bodies of Goebbels, his wife and children.

This documentary is fascinating and I recommend it highly for those deeply interested in the subject. Unfortunately, the focus is too narrow and erratic to recommend it in general.

People Watch: While Kenneth Branagh narrated the English version, the original was narrated by noted German actor Udo Samel.