»We didn’t know«, says 105-year-old Brunhilde Pomsel, former secretary to Joseph Goebbels. Is history repeating itself?
Does the example of Brunhilde Pomsel, former secretary to Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, show that we are entering a new era of radicalism? Does this story of a woman at the centre of power in Hitler’s Germany hold a warning about the return of authoritarian regimes in Europe and the USA? Or is it already too late: are we already seeing history repeat itself, inexorably – and are we to blame?
Brunhilde Pomsel worked for one of the greatest criminals in history. From 1942 to 1945, she was a stenographer in Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda. In the documentary film “A German Life”, widely acclaimed at film festivals in Munich, Jerusalem and San Francisco in autumn 2016, she gives us an insight into the banality of evil. Pomsel was an apolitical hanger-on, and she freely acknowledges this. Her main priorities were her job, her sense of duty and her desire to belong. Not until the war was over did she realise the full extent of the atrocities that had been committed.
Her life story and her compelling honesty confront us with the question – so urgently relevant in today’s world – of our own personal responsibility for political events and the consequences of resurgent nationalism and populism. Somewhere down the line, will we be the ones saying, like Brunhilde Pomsel, »We didn’t want to know«?
»Brunhilde Pomsel poses the question of who is responsible for the atrocities of the Third Reich. She asks this question not only of other people, but also of herself. And some of what she says is particularly shocking coming from a woman who, even at such an advanced age, is still so sharp and lucid.« Süddeutsche Zeitung