Netflix Review: Hitler and the Nazis: Evil on Trial (6 episodes)

MELBOURNE, 15 June, 2024: The Nuremberg (Occupied Germany)  Trials were conducted by the Allied forces of arrested Nazi officers and representatives for waging war against different countries and committing crimes against humanity during World War 2, which went on for 2,319 days and an estimated 60 million lives were lost. The story of how Hitler and his Nazi party grabbed power in Germany’s multi-party system, and Adolf Hitler rose as the most polarising fascist dictator, were broadcast by American journalist William Shirer through his radio reports from Germany.

He later wrote ”The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich – A History of Nazi Germany. “The book is based upon captured Nazi documents, the available diaries of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, of General Franz Halder, and of the Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano, evidence and testimony from the Nuremberg trialsBritish Foreign Office reports, and the author’s recollection of his six years in Germany (from 1934 to 1940) as a journalist, reporting on Nazi Germany for newspapers, the United Press International (UPI), and CBS Radio. The work was written and initially published in four parts, but a larger one-volume edition has become more common”, discloses the Wikipedia.

The Netflix six episodes documentary series, ‘Hitler and the Nazis: Evil on Trial’, is based on this book, is revealing, informative, factual and at times speculative. It chronicles the rise of Hitler, with German politics of the 30s in the background. The rise of fascism by appropriating Germany’s liberal democratic system, sounds similar to happenings in the 21st century. The fact that it is happening again, is a grim reminder of lurking dangers. The rabid racism, of Hitler and his party, resonates till today. The killings of political opponents (Communists & others) and Jews, leading to the holocaust, unparraled in history as the most cruel and brutal happenings, form part of the series through the eyes of William Shirer, facing Nazi censors.

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The episodes:

E01 · Origin of Evil
Hitler’s turbulent childhood in Austria lays the foundation for strong political ambitions; the end of WWI ushers in a fraught new era for Germany.
E02 · The Third Reich Rises
Hitler uses his public persona and loyal following to rise through the ranks. He then works to establish Germany as a global power amid widespread violence.
E03 · Hitler in Power
Nazi propaganda runs rampant as Hitler introduces a series of laws targeting Jewish people and brings his homeland of Austria into the Third Reich.
E04 · The Road to Ruin
Driven by power and hatred, a determined Hitler sets out to expand German territory, fuelling further conquests and the building of concentration camps.
E05 · Crimes Against Humanity
With Hitler as the commander of the German armed forces, the Nazis invade the Soviet Union, leading to mass murder and the horrors of the Holocaust.
E06 · The Reckoning
After the tide turns against Nazi Germany, the Allied powers look to hold Hitler and other party leaders accountable for their crimes at the Nuremberg trials (20 November 1945 to 1 October 1946).
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Fascinating facts in the series detail how Hitler got hold of a small far right political party (German Workers Party), and step by step captures it and using the democratic system comes to dominate the German Parliament, Reichstag. In the Parliament, from 3% in 1928 to 37% in 1932 and finally National Socialist German Workers’ Party (new name of German Workers Party) captures power, the start of the Third Reich. The consequence – Nazi consolidation, excluding Jews (1%) from public life, campaign against Communists, and ‘asocials’ (anyone against the Nazi party), and the capture of Austria (Hitler was born and raised in Austria).

The Nazi army moves into Europe and the rest is the history of occupation in Europe (including the French surrender) and the Final Solution (systematic mass murder, extermination camps for Jews, 6 million Jews gassed in Auschwitz and other such cruel acts to make Europe ‘Jew-free’ form part of the series.

The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union starting 22 January 1941, and the German Army’s defeat at the hands of the mighty Red Army, including the battle for Stalingrad (17 July 1942 – 2 February 1943) between the invading Nazi Army and the Soviet Red Army is part of the series, but does not get the historical importance as not just the defeat of an expansionist invading Nazi army laced with the racist fascist ideology, but as breaking the backbone of fascism. No doubt, the Soviets (now Russians) call it the ‘Great Patriotic War’, a bloody and fierce  encounter that sealed the fate of the Germans in the East, turning the tide in favour of the Allies. Soviet losses are put at around 1.2 million, and German as around 900,000 (91,000 also surrendered).

The last episodes (five & six) include the assassination attempt on Hitler that fails and he becomes more desperate for ‘victory at all cost’. Meanwhile, the united allied forces, offensive takes steam as the war closes in to corner the Nazi Germans. In Berlin, Hitler moves into a underground complex (bunker) joined by Eva Braun, his companion for years and the news of Italian fascist ruler Mussolini being shot dead and hanged in a public square by partisans .

In 1945, the final battle for Berlin starts as Allied forces including the Soviet Red Army, US Army and others move into Berlin as Hitler distributes Cyanid capsules in his bunker and shoots himself dead. These scenes in the last episode are reflective of what ultimately happens to dictators. The Soviet Red flag is unfurled on the Reichstag (not in the series). Germany surrenders on 7 May, 1945. We are informed 50 million died in the second world war.

William Shirer reports the Nuremberg Trials of arrested Nazi generals and top brass. Of the 22 Nazi defendants, 19 are convicted, with 12 getting the death sentence. Two commit suicide and 10 are hanged.

The makers of the series say it is made for today’s youth, who are reported to be forgetting the horrors of racism, violence, the holocaust, destruction and crimes against humanity heaped upon humanity by Hitler and his far right Nazi ideology. The series effort is commendable and worthy.

Today, the Peace Research Institute Oslo tells us that there were 59 different conflict zones in 34 countries (including Gaza and Ukraine) in 2023. The fatalities were 122,000. Many far right parties have gained in different countries and pogroms at state and non-state levels increasing.  The events in Gaza from October 7, 2023 onwards are a grim reminder that in the 21st century, the past needs to be retold. Lest we forget.

Cast & Crew

Note- This is not a review in the typical sense. The subject is too big and opinions can be controversial. The main point being to make people see this series and form their own opinions.

By Neeraj Nanda

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