Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary (2003)
The Great Dictation
By Jeffrey M. Anderson
The movie begins and Traudi Junge gazes at us with strikingly bright eyes. She's a neat, well-dressed, handsome lady of 81. Before she begins telling her story, however, she must explain the guilt.
Beginning in the fall of 1942, Ms. Junge worked as a personal secretary for one of the most purely evil men to ever walk the earth: Adolf Hitler.
For 50 years, Junge has remained silent about her experiences and for 50 years she has suffered the guilt. Now thanks to the efforts of conceptual artist Andre Heller and documentary filmmaker Othmar Schmiderer, Junge has agreed to tell her story in the new film Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary.
Junge tries to explain how and why she took a job with the Austrian-born dictator. She describes her 22 year-old self and the depths of her naiveté at the time. But she quickly adds that she realizes what little use that is. How many times over the last century has she had this same argument with herself?
She tells the story of meeting Hitler for the first time and what a friendly, charming man he was -- how different he was in person from the barking, gesticulating madman you saw in newsreels. (I couldn't help thinking about the starstruck reporters who have met President Bush and said virtually the same thing.) She knew he was a famous person, but who he was and what his beliefs were did not register.
She tells of his behind the scenes behavior and of the kinds of jobs she did for him. During their final days, spent in the Berlin Bunker, she typed up his last will and testament as he dictated it to her.
She also gives a clue as to Hitler's own defense mechanisms, such as riding on Hitler's private train with the window shades pulled so that the day-to-day horrors of the war would not enter into their lives. Likewise, Hitler's personal driver was instructed to take the quietest and least-damaged roads when traveling by car.
Occasionally, filmmaker Andre Heller allows Ms. Junge to watch her own footage and to comment further upon what she has already said. Other than that, Blind Spot does not come with any frills at all: no photographs, archive footage, music, or even fancy camera angles. All 90 minutes of film are spent pointed directly at Ms. Junge -- her words are all that matter.
In truth, watching Ms. Junge wrestle with her own emotions is far more poignant than whatever details she provides to historians about Hitler. She asks herself questions like what would she have done if she'd known, and what would she say to Hitler if she could meet him one more time today.
The point of Blind Spot is not so much that Hitler was a bad guy, but that ignorance can be just as dangerous as evil. And that's one thing we have no shortage of in today's uncertain times, which makes Blind Spot an absolutely essential document.
The most astonishing story of all happened on the night of the film's premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. Ms. Junge passed away, just days after she phoned the director and told him that she was just beginning to forgive herself.