Hitler’s Children (1943)

“It wouldn’t be our child — it would be Hitler’s, just another child to die for the state!”

Hitler's Children Poster

Synopsis:
A German-born American (Bonita Granville) working with the director (Kent Smith) of an American School in Hitler-led Germany is heartbroken when her boyfriend (Tim Holt) becomes a Nazi officer — but she refuses to swear allegiance to the government even when she’s at risk of being forcibly sterilized.

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Review:
This WWII-era propaganda film about the indoctrination of German youth during Hitler’s reign (one of only a handful of titles made at the time including the name “Hitler”) was meant to be simply a B-level exploitation flick, but ended up as RKO Studios’ highest grossing film of all time, surpassing even the earnings from Top Hat (1935), King Kong (1933), and Little Women (1933). Surprisingly, the film feels almost as fresh and horrifying today as it must have been back in 1943, when America was in the thick of a world war and just beginning to learn about the true horrors of the Nazi Regime; it’s still shocking to see Nazi officers casually strolling around a special breeding camp designed to house unwed young women whose job was simply to produce Aryan children for the Third Reich. Granville is a refreshingly plucky heroine, thankfully putting her innate determination and grit to much better use than in her most (in)famous role as bad-seed Mary Tilford in These Three (1936); and Holt is suitably stoic as her conflicted lover. Only at one point does the film’s studio-bound nature betray the drama, as Holt interrupts Granville’s public flogging at a concentration camp and the two are “allowed” to gaze into each other’s eyes while the world around them apparently stops completely (why not show them being pulled violently apart while feverishly shouting their love out to one another?). Regardless, all film fanatics will likely be curious to check out this historically relevant flick, which hold up surprisingly well today.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Fine cinematography
    Hitler's Children Cinematography
    Hitler's Children Cinematography2
  • A refreshingly frank (for the time) depiction of some of Hitler’s many horrors
    Hitler's Children Sterilization

Must See?
Yes, for its historical relevance.

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One Response to “Hitler’s Children (1943)”

  1. A once-must, at least – for its place in cinema history and for its continued relevance.

    I’d seen this once before, many years ago – and the film does remain powerful. (It certainly has staying power now – considering what has just happened with the change in our political chain of command…not that we are directly returning to what is depicted in this film, but it’s certainly something similar: we are seeing an attempt at evil supremacy and a lashing out at ‘the unwanted’.)

    ‘Propaganda’ tends to have a negative meaning – when a film is referred to as such, it suggests that the content is unfairly biased, and that the intent of the film is to incite without proper cause.

    But ‘Hitler’s Children’ – so knowingly directed by Edward Dmytryk – is not that kind of film. It is clear-headed. Even though it is framed in something specific for dramatic effect, it is nevertheless accurate in its depiction of Nazi terror. It holds its own among the films necessary in reminding us of the utmost importance of containing pockets of lethal ideology.

    I was actually very moved by this rewatch. It served as a call to be vigilant.

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