Okay, I’m not a movie reviewer, but it just so happens that this post, like the last one, is inspired by a movie. I went to see Valkyrie recently. Whatever you think of the film itself is not the topic of this post. The story is incredibly compelling. It centers on what was probably the most famous failed attempt on Hitler’s life by some of his own top military leaders and advisers. It makes for fascinating drama to watch these people who were desperate to wrest their country from Hitler’s insanity and certain destruction, to salvage whatever they could for Germany. The movie does a good job of portraying the agonizing question that such a dilemma would pose for anyone: At what point is such rebellion and treason an act of honor?
However, the thing that struck me most was the thunderous impact of silence and inaction. There were several moments in this story where history would have changed significantly had a small handful of people or, at times, even just one person acted. Hundreds of thousands of lives might have been saved. It is a staggering indictment of fear and profound illustration of the destruction our sins of omission can cause. The Book of Common Prayer general confession reads, “Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.” This film is a perfect picture of what it looks like when we leave undone those things that require courageous action.
In one scene, for example, a commander of a communications post has a choice, by continuing to send messages, to aid those attempting to overthrow Hitler–or he can send through the counter commands coming from Hitler’s command post. At that moment, the power lies with him as to which communiques will be considered legitimate. He hesitates and then chooses the “safe route,” siding with Hitler. Had he chosen otherwise, it is quite likely the coup would have succeeded. I’m not sure of the historical accuracy of this particular scene, but the scene was a great illustration of the difference–for good or evil–that one soul makes. I recommend the film if for no other reason than to see this point depicted in such frightening terms.
By the way, the official site for the film provides some good visual time-lines and background on all of the players in the conspiracy against Hitler. For teachers, it could be a compelling starting point to explore the topic further or to introduce primary research.
© 2009 L. Kay Johnson, L is for LaNita. All rights reserved.