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Editor Recommends Viewing Devil's Mistress, True Story on Netflix About Czech actress who Was Mistress of Hitler's Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels

June 3, 2017

 
 The Devil's Mistress, the true story of a Czech actress who Hitler's Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels fell madly in love with, has just been added to Netflix and is worth seeing.
 
The Czech film (with English subtitles ) tells  the story of  the beautiful Lída Baarová, the black and white era actress, who conquered Germany's silver screen as well as the heart of one of the Third Reich's most powerful men. The film examines the  hypocrisy of Goebbels,  Hitler's chief ideologist, who fell in love with a non-Aryan Slavonic beauty whose race had been designated as inferior by the Führer in "Mein Kampf" and whose country was soon to be occupied by the Nazis. While she is Goebbels's mistress Baarová 's stardom in the German empire rises as she gets choice parts. 
 
Goebbels and his wife Magda and young children are the model Aryan family but he wants to leave his wife for Lída Baarová and in the film he goes so far as to tell Magda about the affair. He doesn't count on Magda going to Hitler and asking Hitler for his help since her marriage is in a shambles. Hitler promptly forbids Goebbels to ever see her again. Goebbel's pleads with Hitler  to let him run off with his mistress to Japan where he can be an ambassador there. 
 
 
Goebbels's affair lasts for two years, until Hitler intervened on 16 August 1938 and rebuked Goebbels's , stating that in view of his perfect Aryan marriage which is a model to all Germans, as well as the coming annexation of the Sudetenland, his affair with a Czech actress was an impossibility. Baarová was told by the Berlin chief of police Wolf-Heinrich von Helldorff, that she had to quit her relationship with Goebbels immediately and was prohibited from ever performing on Hitler's direct order. 
 
(As an aside, it is to be noted that in reality when Goebbels's began showing up in public with his mistress, Magda Goebbels in turn began an affair with Goebbels' state secretary Karl Hanke, but this isn't shown in the film. . As well, According to Wikipedia  Baarová's own statements were that she herself, fearing Goebbels' wounded pride, approached the dictator for help.If this is accurate, the film does not show this at all-in fact: in fact ,it shows the opposite, that she was devastated at Hitler broke up their relationship).
 
The film is set up as an interview with flashbacks between the 80 year old  Baarová and a journalist, the granddaughter of Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. She wants to know how could one of Europe's most glamorous actresses reject offers of stardom from Hollywood (but she had to get out of Germany before the war) in preference to a dangerous romance with the Nazi monster with a deformed leg? The answer seems to be that Baarová  thought nothing about the politics of the day, including what was happening to the Jewish people. Here only interest was her career in film and Goebbels's power was an aphrodisiac. The film does show Baarová witnessing Kristallnacht while in Berlin.
 
In the winter of 1938-39 after Hitler orders that she can not ever appear in a film, a broken  Baarová flees back to Prague.
 
The film then examines the consequences to her and her family in Czechoslovakia in 1945 after the war. Baarová and her family were taken into custody on suspicion of collaboration with the Germans during the war. Her mother died under interrogation; her sister Zorka, also an actress, committed suicide in 1946 after learning that she could not appear in theatre since she was associated with the Nazis given Lída's notoriety. According to the film, Lída herself is imprisoned for 18 months and is set to be hung, when her father manages to get her released due to lack of evidence. 
 
The film is well done, and enabled me to learn about a slice of history that I was not previously familiar with.  I recommend seeing it.
 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.