Film Review from the December 1958 issue of the Socialist Standard
I don't like war films. But a Socialist will find much to interest them in "Blitzkrieg," even though it is the latest propaganda effort from Germany.
This film does not tell you anything about why the war arose. Nor does it ask how war can be avoided. But it gives, nevertheless, a devastating picture of what real war is like.
Propaganda films are interesting for one who does not take them at their face value, but recognises them as such. These pictures are made with the intention of making us think, and feel along certain lines. Knowing this beforehand, we can study the methods used by those who hope to influence us.
The makers of “Blitzkrieg” are “good German”a patriots. And, though they have used real news films
from all countries in its production, their commentary (in English) is an alibi for their actions and for their defeat: Why did we Germans lose the war? Because of the mud and unending snow which trapped our tanks in the steppes of Russia: because the distances we had to cover were too vast; because of American superiority in production: because our allies—the Italian, the Hungarian and Rumanian troops—fought badly on the Eastern front; because Hitler was a very bad general, and a fanatic, whose strategy was disastrous: because he interfered constantly with the experts of the High Command: and because the Reds outnumbered our soldiers ten to one.
But—as we are incessantly reminded throughout the film—the brave German army and its heroic soldiers were never really defeated. They proved their worth . . . One German soldier is worth several Russians or Italians . . . one can almost hear the commentators say “ Wait till next time; when we try again—with the lessons in snow warfare which we have learnt at such a cost, and with the armed might of Britain and America behind us instead of against us—we shall beat the Russians.”
What caused the war? What were the interests at stake that persuaded the British and German ruling
classes to spend so much money fighting each other?
For the Socialist the essential lies in what the film conveniently omits to tell us: How the German Capitalists, undoubtedly with the approval of a good many German people, exterminated millions of Russians, Jews, and Gypsies—and why; how they terrorised and tortured and murdered tens of thousands of German and other Communists, pacifists, and other opponents. It does not tell us of the huge numbers of patriotic men who returned from the war legless, armless, and worse; nor are we shown how the leaders of each country, Nazi and Labour Party leaders, Communists, Christians, Conservatives and Fascists enthusiastically urged the peoples of the world to butcher each other.
What we Socialists are opposed to are the implications that are behind these war films. They are an attempt to justify a past war in order to make a future once more acceptable and they do so by playing on the emotions of the filmgoer. The film is good. But the better it is the more dangerous it is to human well-being. War films are made to glorify war. The majority of those watching no doubt identify themselves with the hero, whether the hero be an individual or army. It is they who, in imagination, perform those deeds of valour, which stripped of their glory, are nothing but killing and terror. This picture is no exception to the rule, and is essentially similar in outlook to British and American war films.
War films reinforce thinking in terms of nationalism and the fake ideals for which fie various countries profess to fight. Films such as this help to prepare people for war, and educate them in its basic ideas: they justify the struggles of the ruling class and they present war as inevitable. And, when they shout “Égalité, Fraternité, Liberté! ” they mean “Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry."
H. L. R.