Monday night, when I came home from my local writers group meeting, I developed a migraine and was unable to write or read. After taking my medication I pulled up HBO Now on my apple TV and browsed for something to watch while I waited for the pill to work.
I selected the 2001 HBO/BBC production Conspiracy. It is a movie I have seen twice before and being something familiar that would work well with my migraine and I could watch just enough until the headache subsided and I could retreat to bed.
I watched the entire film.
Conspiracy is about the 1942 Wannsee conference where Nazi General Heydrich calls, at Hitler verbal directive, a meeting of the top ministries and military divisions of the Nazi government to settle the ‘Jewish Question.’ It is the meeting where the murder of millions was decided. The meeting was held under conditions of extreme secrecy, each participant was given one copy of the meeting notes and instructed to destroy them after reviewing the record. (Luckily for history Foreign Minister liaison Martin Luther failed to destroy his and the record was captured after the war’s end. It is his copy that the film script is based upon.)
With an impressive cast including but not restricted to Kenneth Branagh, Stanley Tucci, and Colin Firth, the film is nearly a play. Set primarily in a single room, it is a large group of men talking, arguing, and giving vent to their hate. And yet with so little ‘action’ it is utterly captivating. The banality of their evil is a chilling reminder just how easily people slip between prejudice and murderous hate. How anti-Semitism comes in a sickening array of flavors, from the knuckle dragging brutes of the SS to brilliant legal minds warped by conspiratorial thinking and imaginary world spanning cabals.
The crux of the piece is of course how this meeting set the holocaust in motion, not by accident, not by lack of foresight, but by premeditated intent to murder millions.
It did not start here. It did not start with the hate, though plenty bathed in that hate and weaponized in their poisonous politics. No for Germany and its population it started with the scapegoating, the blaming, the lies and finger pointing to a marginalized population as the source of all of Germany’s troubles. It started with words.
Pay attention to the words hurled by others and those repeated by yourself, what starts as a political tactic can all too easily end on horror on unimaginable scales.