Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary Andre Heller and Othmar Schmiderer

Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary Andre Heller and Othmar Schmiderer
Blind Spot is a documentary about Traudl Junge, the na•ve, aptly named fraeulein (although she took her surname, German for "young," when she married Hitler's butler) with more of a talent for taking dictation than absorbing political rhetoric. Her boss was, of course, the Fuehrer himself, who became a chilling sort of father figure to her when she served on his secretarial staff during the last years of World War II. Captured in static close-ups in April and June of 2001, and sucking cigarette smoke through her pinkish-grey teeth, Junge is a woman simultaneously racked by guilt at having had a (she says) unknown hand in Hilter's ultimate sins against humankind and warmed by sentimental notions of Herr Adolf playing with his dog Blondie and having meals with her everyday at the bunker. The portrait Junge paints of Hitler as a vain, sexually repressed paranoid who feared and misunderstood women seems appropriate, but it's hard to buy any rationalisation for her dedication to her employer. ("The word Jew was almost never used in private speech," she says in a thick German clip.) Junge was apparently never an official member of the Nazi party but come on, she had tea with the guy for Christ sakes. She also transcribed his suicide note and shot target practice with Eva Braun. Her regret seems completely genuine, but her excuses seem less so. The movie is short on visual panache but more than makes up for it with the sheer power of its content. Ultimately, despite the perversely fascinating spectacle of an old woman fondly reminiscing about a man who has become the personification of evil, it's generous but not too difficult to be sympathetic to Junge. She remained guilt-ridden until her death one day after the film's 2002 premiere at the Berlin Film Festival (where it won the audience award) and Frau Junge was certainly wise enough to realise the painful truth: being young is no excuse.