Series / Hitler: The Rise of Evil

"The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing."
Journalist Fritz Gerlich, paraphrasing an old quote

Hitler: The Rise of Evil was a Canadian, two-part miniseries covering the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Starring Robert Carlyle in the title role, the series shows how Hitler went from a lowly corporal in the German Army to Führer of Germany. Though an ambitious project, the series suffers from several historical inaccuracies, as well as a bizarre lack of German accents which would be prevalent in, you know, Germany!

See also the miniseries Titanic (1996), another Canadian-produced two-parter which has painful historical inaccuracies and also aired on CBS.

This series provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – History: One of the hallmarks of this series.
    • The doctor who treated Hitler's mother for cancer is depicted as noticeably Hasidic. Austrian Jews of the turn of the century were among the most assimilated in Europe, so they dressed, acted, and looked like Austrian Christians. Hitler himself noted in Mein Kampf that he never saw a Hasidic Jew until he moved to Vienna... a passage they actually quote in this very movie.
    • In the series, Hitler goes to Germany just on the outbreak of World War I in 1914. In reality, he moved to Germany in 1913.
    • When Hitler was in the hospital, one of the doctors announced that Germany surrendered. In actuality, Germany had only signed an Armistice with the Allies. Furthermore, for most Germans the Armistice had been long expected. The abdication of the Kaiser would have been much more of a shock.
    • The Enabling Act is shown as passing only with Nazi Party support. In reality, nearly every single party in the Reichstag supported the bill. The Communists had been banned so weren't present, and the Centre and other moderate parties had been cowed into accepting the bill with promises and threats (namely by the SS surrounding the building vowing to retaliate if they didn't vote "yes"). Only the 94 members of the Social Democratic Party voted against the bill.
    • The scenes in the Kroll Opera House make it look like the Nazis control a majority of the seats. The Nazis were never able to win a majority of seats. Even when Hitler had been appointed chancellor and had turned Germany into a police state, the best they could manage was 44% of the vote. They only got a majority as part of a coalition government.
    • Hermann Goering, Joseph Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich and Rudolf Hess are all either minor characters or non-existent in the story. In reality all of these men played a huge role in Hitler's rise to power.
    • Hitler is depicted as recruiting Ludendorff to the far right cause to lend himself credibility. In reality, it was taken for granted by all far-right parties and groups that Ludendorff was their de facto leader and future dictator of Germany since immediately following the end of the war. Ditto with Rohm, who was the leader of the Steel Helmets, a powerful paramilitary group and the most influential extremist organization in Bavaria until the Nazi party swallowed them up. Rohm and Hitler were also much closer in Real Life than the movie depicts as well.
  • British Nazis: Most notably Hitler, who is played by Robert Carlyle.
  • Creepy Uncle: Hitler has an obsessive relationship with his niece Geli that has some sexual undertones. He's immensely jealous whenever another man shows an interest in her, and treats her more like a mindless pet than a human being. This ultimately leads her to commit suicide.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Being a historical miniseries, it's clear from the start that Hitler will eventually come to power in Germany and unleash World War II. The efforts of the journalist Fritz Gerlich to expose Hitler as a Dark Messiah are ultimately in vain and Gerlich is murdered at Dachau concentration camp.
  • Hard Gay: SA leader Ernst Rohm is a brutal paramilitary thug, and a closeted gay man. When Hitler personally arrests Rohm during the Knight of the Long Knives he finds him lying in bed with another man.
  • Historical Beauty Update:
    • Ernst Hanfstaengl is played by the much more attractive Liev Schreiber.
    • Ernst Rohm is played by Peter Stormare in the movie, but in reality he was far closer to the fat, balding background character who serves as his lieutenant-and later, Hitlers' SS bodyguard-in the flick.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Ernst Hanfstaengl is portrayed as having fled Germany in 1934 for moral reasons because he realized where Hitler's leadership was taking Germany. He actually continued to clamor for Hitler's approval for several more years and defected to the United States only after falling out of favor with the Nazis. Also a Villain upgrade, since he is portrayed as more important than he was as well.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Yes, this series manages to do this to Hitler (history's most infamous genocidal dictator), taking every aspect which might be considered positive, and tearing it to shreds. The medal he earned in World War One is presented as a political gesture with no real military merit behind it. While in reality Hitler was known to be an animal lover, here he brutally bashes a dog's head in. He is implied to have an abusive sexual relationship with his niece. For all his many faults, there is no historical evidence whatsoever that Hitler was any kind of sexual deviant.
  • Important Haircut: Ernst Hanfstaengl suggests that Hitler establish his own look, something to distinguish him, like how Lenin is bearded and bald. As he's finalizing his own symbol, the swastika, we see Hitler now sporting his toothbrush mustache.
  • Kick the Dog: Literally, after said dog humiliated Hitler in the trenches.
  • Nazi Protagonist: The series is a biography of Hitler, the founder of the Nazi movement.
  • New Era Speech: In the final scene (set in 1934 after Hindenburg’s death), Hitler holds a speech where he proclaims the foundation of a new German empire after he has eliminated all his political rivals in a sweeping purge.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Most of the actors.
  • The Purge: Near the end the Nazis purge the SA after Hitler and Rohm have a falling out. They take advantage of this to kill a huge number of other opponents, shown in a death montage.
  • Translation Convention: Most of the signs and newspapers are in English.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Hitler has a mental breakdown after the failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. He flees to the Hanfstaengl home, where he seems to be Hearing Voices and almost shoots himself in front of Helene, who talks him out of it.
  • Villain Protagonist: Hitler is a racist demagogue who wants to institute a new dictatorial empire and annihilate the Jews.
  • Wicked Cultured: Ernst Hanfstaengl manages to catch Hitler's attention by playing one of Richard Wagner's pieces on a piano for him.