The director of the British Museum Neil Macgregor says the Germans are bewildered by the British obsession with World War II. It’s a r reasonable argument that not enough Britons have taken on board that Germany is probably the most civilised, educated, balanced and democratic not to say wealthy country in the world. And of course they are pretty good at football!
I often go to the cinema on weekday afternoons. Its suits my life style. T here have been times when it’s a pretty lonely experience. But not this week when I escaped the autumn sunshine to watch Night Will Fall. The as yet unpublished documentary film, made among others by Hitchcock of the liberation of the death camps in 1945.
Grey shots of SS guards of both sexes being ,made to move the emaciated cadavers into mass graves. Shots of the conveniently blind and deaf,not so good burghers of the local towns being forced to look at what they had claimed to be bakeries. Piles of bodies. Warehouses full of their treasured possessions. Testimony after testimony of the smell, the disease and the smell again of what characterises the lowest levels of Hell.
The survivors kissing the hands of the God like British and Soviet soldiers as they brought life when they all had been preparing for the other. The film was never shown as the Allies by the time it was ready in late 45 felt that the Germans needed encouraging not depressing. They needed to build a country and stand firm with us against the Commies. No need to go on and on about what to be possibly fair,by then they already knew.
I went because I go to the cinema, I had family in the camps, Vivien’s father was one of those British soldiers who liberated Belsen. The film had been highly rated. While I was at the Curzon Soho I picked up the programme for the London Film festival. There are a couple of American films about the War but the only British film about War, is set in Northern Ireland during the recent Troubles. My genenration were brought up in the shadow of the War,our parentss were in it. It’s a serious matter as well as a source of pride. For my son’s generation its as remote as the Boer War and at best an excuse for a football chant. Hardly an obsession.