I came across the name of Brunhilde Pomsel and the award winning film A German Life which is to be released in North America today 24 July 2016. http://www.a-german-life.com/trailer/
Although Brunhilde Pomsel always described herself as just being a side-line figure and not at all interested in politics, she nevertheless got closer to one of the worst criminals in world history than anyone else presently alive. Today aged 105, Pomsel used to work as secretary, stenographer and typist for the Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. Brunhilde Pomsel’s life mirrors the major historical ruptures of the 20th century and German life thereafter. Nowadays, many people presume that the dangers of war and fascism have long been overcome. Brunhilde Pomsel makes it clear that this is certainly not the case. “A German Life” forces viewers to ask themselves what they would have done and whether they would have sacrificed any possible moral principles in order to advance their own careers. Her extraordinary biography and unique personal journey into the past lead to disturbing and timeless questions:
Have we moved on or are we still unclear about our own morals and humanity and more importantly:
Where do I stand on these issues today?
Evil is never far from us and it is important that we ask ourselves questions, privately, no need to stand on a public square, as an exercise in reflection on who we are and on where we stand on important moral and ethical issues. I am not talking here about liking this or that or making mundane crowd choices where we know that we are unlikely to be challenged because we reflect the majority view.
Is advancing your own career or making money and getting that promotion more important to you than taking a moral stand, even quietly, refusing to go along because you know it is morally wrong. It is easy, even today to blame Germany and the Germans for the 12 years of the Nazi dictatorship, they lost the war and the losers are always wrong. So it is easy to blame them even 75 years after the fact and knowing that the those who lived then are now dead. Only survivors like Brunhilde Pomsel can remind us that the monopoly of evil does not lie with one group but is something all of us, individually or in a group are quite capable of, it is human nature after all, but we are imbued with the capacity to reason and make choices, moral choices and ethical ones and take a different course of action.
Since 1945 there have been other conflicts in the world, other genocides to numerous to name and there are horrible conflicts now. We are quick nowadays with the internet to take position on a question, thanks to the Media who fans obsessively news items making us fearful of those who are different or by misrepresenting facts to get a reaction.
At 105 Pomsel is at the end of her life and beyond what we may think of her. She speaks as someone who will be leaving soon and has nothing to gain or loose. In her life testimony she forces us to see that as humans we do whatever will benefit us and maybe this is why the Nazi were at first, successful. But they are not the only ones to have been successful with ideology and mass communication and manipulation. We are so willing to believe what ever our leaders say. It is also important to remember that it does not have to be a stark choice like the ones of the Nazi dictatorship period. It can be questions on immigration, social justice, minority groups, etc or simply something in society that is unjust.
What I found frightening about her testimony is how willing she was to look away simply to get ahead, she does say I was not interested in the politics or the speeches, I was young and I wanted to get ahead, everyone was doing it. On hearing that I thought, I know quite a few people like that, I worked with people like that.
I hope that those who will see this movie will not simply nod their heads and think like donkeys, but make the effort to ask themselves, how would I act in such circumstances or how do I act now when confronted with a situation.
Pomsel says she believes people would have done the same as her and would still do today. I believe her, many would.