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Characters: Downfall
This is the character sheet for the German WW2 movie Downfall. The movie has become famous in the internetland for the long-living YouTube Meme Hitler Rants (which now has its own character page) it has given birth to. Tropes listed here are related to the original movie only. Tropes for Adolf Hitler should only reflect his character as seen through this movie.


Downfall

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Hitler and his inner circle

    Adolf Hitler 
Portrayed by: Bruno Ganz

The principal character of the movie, Austrian-born Adolf Hitler rose to power in his adopted Germany as Führer in 1933 with a promise to bring Germany back to its glory days when it ruled much of the world. As of the movie's span, however, Hitler has become a shrunken, near-defeated shell of a man who would ultimately put a bullet through his skull on April 30, 1945.
  • Armchair Military: Hitler directs the final stand of the Wehrmacht from the comfort of his bunker. Every conference scene shows Hitler ordering units that effectively no longer exist.
  • Ate His Gun: Though we only get to hear it.
  • Bad Boss: While he can be nice to the people daily around him, he has zero sympathy for his Mooks.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: For a good part of the film he holds on to his delusions.
  • Beneath the Mask: Traudl mentions how he can at one moment be pleasant, and the next moment say/scream such horrible things. Eva responds “You mean when he’s the Führer?” , so she seems to believe at least some part of his public self is a mask.
  • Berserk Button: Disobeying him in any way. Subverted when Speer openly admitted to deliberately disobeying Hitler's orders to his face. Hitler is naturally shaken, but simply lets him leave.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Preferred a bullet through his head to suffering worse at the hands of the Soviets.
  • Big Damn Kiss: He plants on Eva's face after she tells him she won't leave the bunker for the Alps. It's an unbelievably awkward, both in-universe and out. Burgdorf's face is priceless.
  • Friend to All Children: He and the Goebbels kids seem to really like each other. In fact, he’s so friendly he’s happy to have kids and teenagers die en masse for him as Child Soldiers. Truth in Television on both counts; Hitler was known to be genuinely fond of kids while still, in the final days of the war, sending thousands of them off to die.
  • Hypocrite: Wants the Germans to keep fighting till the bitter end in horrible conditions, while he himself stays in the relative comfort of his bunker without firing one single bullet against the enemy.
  • It's All About Me: Germany exists for him, not the other way around.
  • Irrational Hatred: Averted. There’s surprisingly little references to his idelogy of racial superiority. It primarily comes up during a dinner conversation about “the weak” somehow being a threat to “the stong”, and thus in need of extermination.
  • Kick the Dog: When he orders his own pet dog Blondi to be poisoned.
  • Say My Name: “FEGELEIN! FEGELEIN! FEGELEIN!”
  • Single Tear: Sheds these after Speer admits to disobeying him.
  • Smug Snake: Hitler claims to have conquered “all of Europe” despite his generals, but it’s obvious it goes the other way around.
  • The Sociopath: To Card-Carrying Villain levels. During a dinner he calmly discusses with Goebbels about how sympathy for the weak is a primal sin.
    • He really did say that, or at least something along those lines: "Life is granted only to those who fight the hardest. It is the law of life: Defend yourself! The time in which we live has the appearance of the collapse of this idea of helping the weak." (Hitler's Table Talk)

    Eva Braun 
Portrayed by: Juliane Köhler

Hitler's long-time mistress, whom he met when she was a photographer, and wife for all of forty hours before she committed suicide with him. Throughout her stay in the bunker only she had the gall to force her companions to party even as Berlin bears the brunt of a Soviet attack.
  • Body Horror: She wants to be "a pretty corpse", and therefore opts for poison instead of guns.

    Joseph Goebbels 
Portrayed by: Ulrich Matthes

Hitler's most loyal supporter and head of the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, largely responsible for Nazi Germany's policy of antisemitism. After Hitler's suicide, Goebbels was appointed Chancellor, only to commit suicide the next day with his wife Magda after poisoning their six children.
  • Kick the Dog: Explains to Mohnke (with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face) that he doesn't give a shit about the Germans senselessly dying.
  • Kubrick Stare: Gives a rather intense one while saluting Hitler's funeral pyre.
  • Moral Myopia: Cares greatly about his beloved children while sending thousands of other children to their deaths, knowingly and he couldn't care less.
  • Never My Fault: Seriously believes that the German people have it coming to them for following the Nazi party and blames them for choosing this path. Surely none of the blame can be found with people giving them orders then.
  • No Sympathy: As he so eloquently explains to Mohnke, even mocking the Germans who are willing to die for Hitler.

    Magda Goebbels 
Portrayed by: Corinna Harfouch

Joseph's wife and a staunch supporter of Hitler, to the point of abandoning all sense of morality in exchange for complete obedience.
  • The Fundamentalist: She refuses to let her children live in a world without National Socialism

    The Goebbels Children 
Portrayed by: Aline Sokar, Amelie Menges, Gregory Borlein, Laura Borlein, Julia Bauer

The six sons and daughters of Joseph and Magda Goebbels, from eldest to youngest: Helga, Hilde, Helmut, Holde, Hedda and Heide.

    Albert Speer 
Portrayed by: Heino Ferch

An architect, Minister of Armaments and War Production, and a friend of Hitler, responsible for bringing to form many of his most ambitious infrastructural projects. Unlike Hitler, however, Speer at least believes that Germany should have a future even if defeated, begging him to spare their nation his suicidal ravings. After Hitler's death Speer served his twenty-year prison sentence before traveling the world writing memoirs about his life with Hitler until he died in September 1, 1981.
  • Defector from Decadence: While he still considers himself Hitler’s true friend, he admits to disobeying his orders because he found them lunatic and inhuman.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: After his confession, Hitler refuses to say farewell to him, shake his hand or even look at him in the eye. When Speer leaves the room, Hitler is shown shedding Manly Tears. However, he doesn’t have him executed and lets him go.
  • Token Good Teammate: Unlike most of the turncoats who abandon Hitler to save their own skin, Speer disobeys his orders out of wish to save civilian lives and to give Germany a future after the war.

    Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler 
Portrayed by: Ulrich Noethen

Leader of the Schutzstaffel (SS), the Nazi Party's Praetorian Guards, and the man responsible for establishing the notorious concentration camps. By the end of the war, however, he is secretly planning to forge a peace deal with the Allied Forces (naturally, Hitler is less than pleased when news reached his ears). Unfortunately, the British would have none of it, and his only option left is either face court-martial for his crimes, or take the easy way out with cyanide — which he did on May 23, 1945.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Unlike Speer, he attempts to jump ships out of selfish interests. When Hitler learns about it, his reaction is much more severe and he wants Himmler dead.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: In an exercise of Realpolitik, he believes the Allies want to keep the former Nazi regime in power to prevent the Communists from taking over. It escapes him that after all the horrendous crimes they've committed, any human of normal moral code wouldn't consider co-operating with them for a split second.

    Hermann Fegelein 
Portrayed by: Thomas Kretschmann

An SS general and Himmler's adjutant. Fegelein is disliked within the bunker by being a petty opportunist, having married Eva Braun's sister Gretl just to climb up the social ladder (and even then he still Really Gets Around), and being lukewarm to Nazi ideology (besides a brief stint on the Soviet front). Naturally, this makes him easy prey for Hitler's rage when the latter learned that Himmler was secretly forging a peace deal with the Allies, and just when Fegelein was preparing to leave Germany, he was caught and summarily executed on April 28, 1945.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Not interested in the Nazi ideology or serving his country, but advancing his own position. Fegelein was deeply disliked by many both in Real Life (Speer described him as one of the most disgusting men in Hitler’s circle) and to some extent in the movie (Burgdorf calls him a careerist at his face.)
  • Anti-Villain: A Nazi, an opportunist, a deserter... and a young man who just wants to live, unlike his lunatic fellow men determined to die for a crazy ideology.
  • Disappeared Dad: He becomes this to his yet unborn daughter.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Upon realizing he’s about to be executed, he buttons up his jacket and salutes Hitler.
  • Famous Last Words
    "Heil Hitler!"
  • Gold Digger: Fegelein married Eva Braun's sister Gretl only to get closer to Hitler. Their relationship is left un-discussed in the movie, as she is never seen. However, he is shown to really be fond of at least Eva.
  • Handsome Lech: There's a reason he's called the "Playboy of the Third Reich”.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The real Fegelein didn't become Himmler's adjutant for being a nice person. Among his real-life war crimes were the deaths of 17,000 Soviet Jews in Byelorussia (Belarus).
  • I Have a Family: Not spoken by him, but by Eva on his behalf while she begs Hitler to save his life. It doesn’t work.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Has shades of this.
  • Only in It for the Money: Or for a career. Interestingly both he and Magda arranged themselves into a political marriage to get closer to Hitler. Only Magda did it out of passionate loyalty, while Fegelein simply climbs the ladders of the party that happens to be in power.
  • Only Sane Man: Takes no part in Hitler’s delusions, nor has any interest in dying for Nazism. He also tries to convince others to come to their senses, with little success.
  • Pet the Dog: He’s honestly concerned about Eva’s safety, and begs her to escape Berlin with him. He also implores Hitler's secretaries to flee Berlin because the war is already lost, but they refuse to believe him.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Attempts it. It doesn't end well.
  • Tragic Villain: He knows that the Nazis are going to lose the war in a matter of days and wants to get away from their messy demise, but his Nazi comrades, and Hitler, make things difficult for him to leave.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Being married doesn’t stop him from being found in a prostitute’s bed.

    Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm Keitel 
Portrayed by: Dieter Mann

Head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (effectively making him the war minister) and one of Hitler's most prominent yes-men. He signed the documents that accepted France's surrender and declared Germany's surrender. Despite being the third in the German chain-of-command (behind Hitler and Göring), Keitel's job eventually devolved into applying his signatures to various papers, including a decree that condemned millions of Soviet P.O.W.s and civilians to brutality by their German captors. After being ordered to regroup with Admiral Dönitz, Keitel began to grovel before him just as he did before Hitler. He was hanged on October 16, 1946 (like a criminal), after being denied by the Allies a request to be shot by firing squad (like a soldier).
  • General Failure: Subverted. He was not a field commander, and he did voice his opposition to Operation Barbarossa, insisting it would end in disaster. The spectacular initial successes helped undermine Keitel's authority with Hitler.
  • Yes-Man: Even midway through the war, he refused to speak up to Hitler. When Luftwaffe Intelligence picked up vast numbers of Soviet fighters ready for deployment, Göring insisted they were merely dummies and Keitel still agreed with this bogus claim.

    Martin Bormann 
Portrayed by: Thomas Thieme

Head of the Party Chancellory and Hitler's private secretary. By the end of the war, Bormann controlled all information that came to and from Hitler's headquarters, allowing him to wield enormous power within the Third Reich. On April 23, Göring sent a telegram to the Führerbunker asking if he was to take command of the Reich, a rather reasonable move as Hitler had all but completely cut himself off from governing and Göring was his designated successor. However, Bormann got hold of the telegram first, and was able to paint it as a coup, though this may have been an attempt to get Hitler to leave the capital. After Hitler's suicide, Bormann fled the bunker. His fate was uncertain for many years (some believing he escaped to South America), but his remains were eventually found in a Berlin subway station.
  • Arch-Enemy: Himmler despised him; the feeling was mutual.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Slowly, Bormann assumed tremendous power by controlling all messages that went to or from Führer headquarters.
  • Villainous Breakdown: In the uncut version, when Speer goes to the bunker for the last time, Bormann grabs him and begs him to convince Hitler to leave Berlin.

    Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring 
Portrayed by: Mathias Gnädinger

One of the lesser characters in the movie despite being Hitler's Number Two, having been the founder of the Gestapo, the Nazi Secret Police, and leader of the Luftwaffe (air force). His relationship with Hitler, however, started to sour due to incompetence in the battlefield, and was subsequently fired when he sent a telegram to Hitler asking him to bless him as his successor upon learning of his impending suicide. He was subsequently captured by the victorious Allies and found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but chose to bite a cyanide pill before he faced the gallows on October 15, 1946.
  • Demoted to Extra: In the movie. Despite being one of the most prominent Nazi officials, he doesn't get a single word.

The bunker staff

    Traudl Junge 
Portrayed by: Alexandra Maria Lara

The viewpoint character of the movie, Traudl was the youngest of Hitler's private secretaries at age 22 and oblivious to all the crimes Hitler and his lackeys did in the name of National Socialism. In three years' time, she witnesses Hitler's slow descent to madness and ultimately suicide. After several interrogations by the Soviets, from which she learned of Nazi atrocities on their homeland, she was let go to live a quiet life until her death on February 10, 2001, but not before telling her story to the world, some of which would make it into this very movie.
  • Friend to All Children: Befriends both the Goebbels children and later Peter.
  • Heel Realization: Until her dying day, Traudl never forgave herself for not seeing Hitler as the monster he was. To quote an interview with the Real Life Traudl at the end of the film...
    "Of course the horrors, of which I heard in connection of the Nuremberg trials, the fate of the six million Jews, their killing and those of many others who represented different races and creeds, shocked me greatly, but at that time I could not see any connection between these things and my own past. I was only happy that I had not personally been guilty of these things and that I had not been aware of the scale of these things. However, one day I walked past a plaque that on the Franz-Joseph Straße (in Munich), on the wall in memory of Sophie Scholl. I could see that she had been born the same year as I, and that she had been executed the same year when I entered into Hitler’s service. And at that moment I really realized that it was no excuse that I had been so young. I could perhaps have tried to find out about things."
  • Sexy Secretary: In all innocence, as she’s clearly “a good girl”.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: In reality, she and other secretaries were raped and abused by Red Army soldiers. The director decided this would far too bleak to depict or mention to end a movie already stuffed to the brim with human misery, and instead went with an ambiguous Riding into the Sunset ending.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Arguably this to Hitler, the real main character. However, the movie Book Ends with an interview of the real Traudl, and her fate during the war is the carrying plot thread.

    Otto Günsche 
Portrayed by: Götz Otto

An SS Major and Hitler's personal adjutant. As one of the saner characters of the movie, all he did was stand by and wait for Hitler's orders, including having to cremate his body. He was later captured by the Soviets and served a decade in prisons in Moscow and Bautzen (East Germany), during which time he wrote his own account of life with Hitler, specifically prepared for Joseph Stalin. He died peacefully on October 2, 2003.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: He was blond in real life, but the film gives him black hair.
  • Battle Butler: By the definition of being an adjutant, i.e. a soldier servant to a superior officer, in his case to Hitler.
  • Nice Guy: Generally friendly and helpful, especially to Traudl and Gerda.
  • One Head Taller: Compared to everybody else, but especially Hitler.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Isn’t shown to be Ax-Crazy or a passionate Nazi like many of the other bunker inhabitants. In Real Life he was never found guilty of war crimes besides simply serving on the front lines, which was naturally expected of him.
  • The Reliable One: Doesn’t stand out much, but is often present, silently waiting for orders in the background, and in the end is trusted with the important task of destroying Hitler’s body after his suicide.
  • Undying Loyalty: Among those who stay with Hitler till the end. Near the end he joins in the Mohnke's group of survivors, and when the group votes for what to do Günsche is among those who vote for dying before dishonor. Yet when the surrender is declared he declines from committing suicide.

    General der Infanterie Hans Krebs 
Portrayed by: Rolf Kanies

Infantry general of the Wehrmacht Heer (Army) and Chief of the Army General Staff. Krebs was pretty much Hitler's military arm during the last days of Nazi Germany, ordering around officers on the front lines to fight till the very end, and subsequently presided Fegelein's court-martial. After Hitler's suicide, he and Burgdorf stayed behind and together committed suicide on May 2, 1945.

    General der Infanterie Wilhelm Burgdorf 
Portrayed by: Justus von Dohnányi

Chief Adjutant of the Wermacht Heer during the closing days of World War II. As a veteran of World War I, Burgdorf was passionate about preventing a repeat of Germany's humiliation after that war, and thus sworn fealty to Hitler, including having to facilitate the suicide of Erwin Rommel as punishment for an assassination attempt on Hitler. At the war's end he and Krebs handled Fegelein's court-martial, and both also committed suicide on May 2, 1945.
  • Suicide Pact: He and Krebs shoot themselves together.
  • Undying Loyalty: Stays in the bunker until everyone else have left.
  • With Due Respect: During his most famous Villainous Breakdown Hitler accuses the army for his loss, calling them cowards and traitors. Burgdorf stands up to Hitler, declaring this to be outrageous and that he cannot accept Hitler insulting the soldiers. No other character dares to speak to Hitler in such manner.

    Generaloberst Alfred Jodl 
Portrayed by: Christian Redl

Chief of the Operations Staff of the Armed Forces High Command, deputy of Wilhelm Keitel, and one of Hitler's most loyal generals. At the end of the war he was found guilty by the Nuremberg Trials of committing crimes against peace, waging wars of aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity (including deportation of Danes and Jews to concentration camps) and was hanged along with Keitel on October 16, 1946.

Battle for Berlin

    Ernst-Günther Schenck 
Portrayed by: Christian Berkel

Professional doctor and SS colonel. As one of the more honorable characters of the movie, he left a comfortable desk job to participate on the Soviet front to earn his own chips the hard way. During Hitler's last days he volunteered to work as a doctor on the bunker area. He was captured then subsequently released by the Soviets, and later told his story to American historian James O'Donnell. He died peacefully on December 21, 1998.
  • Badass: Walks across no-man's-land under Soviet fire to get into the abandoned hospital.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Shenck is portrayed as the most heroic character in the film, conveniently glossing over his Real Life involvement in human experimentation that claimed 370 concentration camp detainees. The director justifies this by claiming it's a case of Shown Their Work instead: according to him, the accusations against Schenck aren't particularly believable.
  • Honor Before Reason: Wants to help the civilians even when it puts himself into immediate danger, and when it’s against the orders.
  • Only Sane Man
    Hewel: "Why do you want so much to live?"
    Schenck: "Why do you want so much to die?"

    General Helmuth Weidling 
Portrayed by: Michael Mendl

A General of the Wermacht Heer. Having led the Nazis to the front lines of the Soviet front, he would spend the last days of Hitler leading Berlin's Last Stand against the Soviet counterattack. He was also forced to keep mum about Hitler's suicide to all Soviets save Joseph Stalin himself, and was also forced to break out the news of Germany's surrender. He died in exile in Soviet Russia on November 17, 1955.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Apparently fights for his country and people, not Hitler or the Nazi ideology. He’s also considerably more worried about the wellbeing of civilians and his men than Hitler and the top dogs.

    Wilhelm Mohnke 
Portrayed by: André Hennicke

Brigadier General and one of the original 120 members of the SS during its inception in 1933. He came to the attention of Nazi leaders for the way he performed his duties in France during the opening days of World War IInote , he was eventually transferred into Berlin to personally lead the portion of the city's Last Stand within the vicinity of Hitler's hideout. After the war's end he was imprisoned by the Soviets for a decade before returning to Germany, where he spent the rest of his life as a truck dealer until his death on August 6, 2001.
  • Badass Baritone: Perhaps not quite baritone, but distinctively soft and pleasant anyway.

  • Historical Hero Upgrade: As with Schenck, some critics accuse the film of portraying him in too heroic light while forgetting his war crimes; again the director answers he doesn't believe in the accusations.
  • Only Sane Man: Of the same kind as Weidling. In the end, when many others commit suicide, he leads the surviving bunker members to attempt to break through the encircling Soviet troops.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Goebbels keeps sending him unarmed Child Soldiers. He tries to stop it.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Is against using the Volksturm volunteers for this reason.
  • The Stoic: The most stoic of them all. Doesn't as much as flinch when Goebbels shouts at his face he doesn't care about the dying Child Soldiers.
  • Undying Loyalty: Played with. During the movie he plays the role of a Only Sane Man who's concerned about saving lives from the Senseless Sacrifice that the Battle for Berlin is. Near the end he leads a group of survivors, who argue about what to do. A vote is called, and Mohnke votes for dying. Yet when the surrender is announced, he doesn't commit suicide.

    Peter Kranz 
Portrayed by: Donevan Gunia

A fictional character and a child soldier who gleefully serves the Hitler Youth during the last days of Hitler. His role is primarily to serve as the face of the suffering German citizenry.


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