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Culture

Blind Spots in Germany's Dark Past

In a 90 minute documentary, on show this week at the Berlin Film Festival, Hitler’s last secretary Traudl Junge reflects on Hitler’s last hours and the struggle to cope with the past.

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Confrontation with a dark past: The film "Blind Spot"

Had she succeeded in getting into dance school, Traudl Junge would never have met a man who was to haunt her for life: Adolf Hitler. The 22-year-old, who desperately needed a job, took a typing test at the Führer’s office, which was looking for a private secretary for Hitler - and got the job.

Traudl Junge spent just two years as Hitler’s secretary, but these two years were to overshadow her life for six decades.

Junge played her most significant role as secretary to the Führer writing Hitler’s will, shortly before he committed suicide in his Berlin bunker.

Junge, who has frequently been called upon by historians looking for eyewitness accounts, kept her story more or less secret for 57 years, only releasing single statements in numerous interviews.

Austrian artist Andre Heller has now captured these memories in a film which will be showing at the Berlin Film Festival this week. It was one of the most difficult tasks of his career, securing almost 10 hours of a constant flow of words from the 82-year-old pensioner.

In the film, called "Blind Spot" she reveals everyday aspects of life with the Führer, his taste in foods, and his love for his dog Blondie.

Today she is still bewildered about how the dictated speeches and orders to her and her secretarial colleagues, which obviously contained Hitler's ideas and plans, failed so completely to reveal to her the fatal essence of her boss.

"I thought I would be at the source of all information. But I was really in a blind spot," Junge says in the documentary.

When Junge met Hitler for the first time at his Wolf Lair’s complex in what is now Poland "he was a pleasant elder man who welcomed us with real friendliness".

"Today I can say that he was a real criminal", she says.

After Hitler died, Traudl Junge fled Berlin before undergoing an official "denazification" process. She went through a long period of reflection and has suffered under depression since.

In "Blind Spot" she describes how the years working for Hitler more or less ruined her life and how she has not been able to forget those months since.

"The longer I live and the older I become, the greater my feeling of guilt", Junge says in the film.

Hitler frequently dined with his secretaries, but avoided discussing any controversial topics with them. Junge said she only once heard the German word for concentration camp when it was used by SS leader Heinrich Himmler.

"I never had the sense that he (Hitler) was consciously committing crimes. For him, these were ideals."

But she is now well aware of the truth behind the facade. "It was an illusion. That was a big lie", Junge says.

Confrontation with a dark past

The release of the film "Blind Spot" and the publication of Junge’s book, "In the Eleventh Hour", have sparked a debate on whether Germany and Austria still suffer from collective suppressed depression after Germany’s Nazi history.

German television stations have so far declined to buy the rights to the film, saying ist length – 90 minutes – is too long.

Austria, not exactly well known for its readiness to confront its Nazi past, has already shown excerpts this week on national television.

Junge is now seriously ill and confined to a hospital bed.

She appears to have held out just long enough to talk about her suppressed thoughts.