Blind Spot is the story of Traudl Junge, a secretary employed by Adolf Hitler, who joined his staff in 1942 as an impressionable young woman in her early twenties, and worked for him until his death in 1945. She was one of the few people to witness Hitler’s last days in his armoured bunker, and she was also the secretary to whom Hitler dictated his last will and testament.
The most fascinating part of the film is obviously Frau Junge’s first-hand recollections of Hitler. To begin with, she describes this demonic man as a rather benevolent father figure, an image which is difficult to reconcile with the manic shouting, saluting figure we have become used to seeing on television. When Junge first met Hitler he greeted her in a friendly way, and there was a harmless, peaceful atmosphere in his bunker.
Hitler seemed a kind and considerate man who was extremely proud of showing off the talents of his well-trained dog Goldie. Apparently he was capable of talking about his dog for the entire night, and Frau Junge recalls how he always washed his hands after stroking the dog – one of the many strange and fascinating details into Hitler’s character this film provides. She was cosseted by the extreme feeling of security of working so close to the leader, and is remarkably candid about admitting this. She felt that she was at the source of all information, and only later realised that she was in fact in the blind spot, at the centre of the explosion, in the eye of the storm.
Frau Junge is shot from two main angles throughout the film. She sits in a chair, virtually motionless, apart from the occasional jerk of her whole body as she recalls vividly some long forgotten scene. She is also shown a few months later, watching the rushes of herself giving the interview. As she watches herself, her lips move involuntarily almost as if she is saying the words again. Is she checking to see if she has missed anything out? Only a short time later this footage shows an entirely different version of the same woman. Previously she looks like a vibrant, handsome woman, who is passionate about telling her story. Later she looks like an empty husk, her energy spent, her tale told. Thankfully she lived long enough to tell this story. She died shortly after the premier of this film at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival.
Junge maintains that the Jews were never talked about when the secretaries were there, but she does not excuse herself from her ignorance. It seems as if she still has not forgiven the ignorant young woman that she once was. She passed a monument commemorating Sophie Scholl (a resourceful resistance figure) shortly after the war and realised that she and Sophie were about the same age.
The scenes she describes in the bunker in Berlin as the war was drawing to a close are fascinatingly detailed. The macabre jokes (‘Chin up – whilst you still have one’) are an indication of how desperate things had become. It is also astounding that Junge recounts everything with such a calm and controlled demeanour. She talks about Eva Braun, Hitler, Goebbels and his wife with equal objectivity. The only time she seems to lose her composure is over the fate of the Goebbels’ children. Mrs Goebbels chose to help them to their deaths rather than leave them to a fate of ‘ridicule and tyranny’ in a Germany devoid of National Socialists.
Junge’s story provides an unparalleled glimpse of Hitler at close quarters. He made broad political statements such as ‘ We need to triumph because we need to triumph.’ He talked in abstract concepts, and she never heard him utter the word ‘love’. He believed that ‘The biggest hero always gets the most beautiful woman’, and did not want to have children because ‘The children of geniuses are often cretins’. When he arrived in cities that had been particularly badly bombed, his driver had to carefully find streets that had not been badly hit. Even then, the blinds in the car were mostly down so that Hitler couldn’t see the damage he had caused.
Although Junge is unforgiving about her younger self, one suspects that Hitler probably chose such a young and politically disinterested secretary for obvious reasons. Sophie Scholl wouldn’t have stood a chance of being employed by him. Traudl Junge’s story is a warning that youth is not an excuse for ignorance. Blind Spot – Hitler’s Secretary is utterly mesmerising. It is a shining example of content being more important than location, and that you don’t need to interview dozens of people to make a great feature documentary.