wed 22/10/2014

Revealed: The Nazi Titanic, Channel 5 | TV reviews, news & interviews

Revealed: The Nazi Titanic, Channel 5

How Joseph Goebbels planned to sink the British with big-budget propaganda movie

A night to forget: filmic passengers struggle to escape stricken liner

With the smoke from Julian Fellowes' upcoming Titanic mini-series for ITV becoming visible over the horizon, Channel 5 nipped in with this startling new spin on the tale of the doomed liner. It's not widely known that when the Nazis were riding high in the early part of World War Two, they hit upon a plan to turn the Titanic story into a blockbuster propaganda film, designed to throw contempt and ridicule over Britain's ruling elite.

Using a variety of  film historians and critics from Germany, Britain and the USA, as well as the recently rediscovered production diaries kept by the film's art director, The Nazi Titanic offered intriguing glimpses into the value the Nazis placed on propagandist film-making, as well as on the way Hitler's regime viewed the British. Joseph Goebbels, the Third Reich's Minister of Propaganda, considered Britain to be "a sham democracy ruled by plutocrats" (not much change there then). The Nazi film would use the Titanic, with its upper decks versus lower decks class structure, as the perfect metaphor for a Britain being driven to destruction by its entrenched ruling elite.

From his experiences with making anti-Semitic films like Jew Süss, Goebbels had learned that dramatised stories were more effective at seizing the popular imagination than documentaries, so bags of creative licence would be taken with Titanic. The narrative was cast as a stark fable of rampant capitalism versus the proletariat. It opened with a scene in which J Bruce Ismay (pictured above in movie), chairman of the White Star Line which operated the Titanic, addressed a room full of shareholders, telling them that their holdings would rocket in value as the ship broke the transatlantic speed record. Caution would be thrown to the winds to achieve that objective, with the ship's captain to be incentivised by bonus payments for every hour by which he broke the record.

To bring this fiendishly cunning concept to fruition, Goebbels had recruited his favourite film-maker, 38-year-old Herbert Selpin, who had already pleased the great propagandist with a couple of successful action movies. Goebbels was determined to out-do Hollywood, and no expense would be spared for the Titanic project. The boat would, as it were, be pushed out, to the tune of 4 million Reichsmarks (about £100m). Selpin hurled himself into the spirit of the operation by ordering enormous studio sets to be built in Berlin as well as a 20-foot replica of the Titanic for the sinking scenes, while also demanding the use of a full-sized ship for exterior sequences.

The Titanic, with its upper decks versus lower decks class structure, would make the perfect metaphor for a Britain being driven to destruction by its ruling elite

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The sinking of the "Cap

The sinking of the "Cap Arcona," "Thielbek" and "SS Deutschland" while anchored in Neustadt Bay. on 3 May 1945 is a part of history both the Germans and the British have done their best to forget. Over 7,000 Concentration Camp survivors tragically lost their lives to "friendly-fire" just one day before the surrender of all Nazi forces in northern Germany. The ships were attacked attacked and sunk in what was the very last combat mission of the RAF 2nd Tactical Air Force's Typhoons using rockets, bombs and 20mm cannon strafing. This in spite of the RAF actually receiving a message from the Red Cross about the prisoners being on board (see Maj. Noel O. Till's - "Report on Investigations, WO 309/1592" from Sept 1945). To this day, neither the German nor the British government has apologized for the Neustadt Bay tragedy or recognized its victims. The Nazis have succeeded in actually turning the unfortunate victims into "Untermensch" - subhumans whose lives and deaths go unnoticed by history. ----------------------------------------- "We used our cannon fire at the chaps in the water . . . we shot them up with 20mm cannons in the water. Horrible thing, but we were told to do it and we did it. That's war." -- RAF Pilot Allan Wyse of No. 193 Squadron, from the 2000 documentary “The Typhoon’s Last Storm” by filmmaker Lawrence Bond.

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