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Artistic License History / Downfall (2004)
aka: Downfall

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Top: Göring Telegram in the film.
Bottom: Göring Telegram in Real Life.
For starters, Göring didn't type his letters in lowercases.
A lot of research went into making Downfall as historically accurate as possible. With that said, there are a few hiccups here and there. Some changes were made because what really happened was even more depressing.
  • Heinrich Himmler tells Hermann Fegelein that he believes the Allies wish to keep the "Nazi-Staat" (Nazi state) intact. In reality, the Nazis never referred to themselves as "Nazis", as it was derived from a derogatory South German word that their opponents used to mock them. They always referred to themselves as "National Socialists," with "NS" being the usual abbreviation for official documents, while Germany itself was referred to as the "Greater German Reich" rather than "Nazi Germany". It is still referred to in modern-day Germany as "NS-Zeit" / "Zeit des Nationalsozialismus" (National Socialist time) alternatively to "Nazizeit".
  • In the planning scene, Jodl objects to Adolf Hitler's orders to move the 12th Army to support Steiner's attack, saying that moving them east will expose the Western Front. In reality, they had come to the accurate conclusion that the British and Americans were unlikely to advance beyond the Elbe, and Jodl suggested moving the 12th Army in an attempt to coax Hitler out of his rage after learning that Steiner did not attack.
    • Hitler also did not plan out the Steiner attack until the day after his birthday, by which point Hermann Göring had already left Berlin for the Oberzalsberg. Either the writers got the date wrong, or they combined that day's briefing— in which Hitler declared his intent to remain in Berlin—with the briefing of April 21.
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    • In the extended version of this scene, Hitler declares he will remain in Berlin, much to the shock of his advisors. He actually made the decision, which had the same reaction, several days earlier.
  • Hitler's infamous rant went on a bit longer in real life, with a good bit of sobbing thrown in.
    • In addition, the build-up to it went differently: Hitler had been on the phone all day asking Luftwaffe Chief of Staff Karl Koller how the Steiner attack was going, only to be told that there was nothing to report. At the daily conference, Hitler opened it with a demand to know if any of his generals had any news about Steiner. The generals nervously told him that Steiner couldn't carry out his attack, and that—worse, still—transferring troops to Steiner's position in order to support him had weakened Berlin's defenses so severely that Soviet tanks were now within the city limits. The scene then played out more or less as the film depicts (above details aside), though given Hitler's explicit orders on whom was supposed to stay in the room, it's unlikely that Goebbels and Bormann would have disobeyed him and stayed as well unless told to do so. However, some accounts say that Bormann was asked to remain in the room.
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  • General Helmuth Weidling was appointed commander of Berlin's defenses on April 23, the day after Hitler's rant. In the film, he gets the job mere hours before it, with General Burgdorf drunkenly asking if he thinks Steiner's attack can even be pulled off.
  • Ernst-Robert Grawitz actually killed himself and his family before Hitler learned of Himmler's attempt to negotiate with the Allies, not after as the film depicts.
  • The build-up to Göring sending the telegram that ultimately ended his career is absent: after Hitler's rant, he declared that Göring should handle negotiating with the Western Allies, and Jodl passed this on to Koller, who in turn flew to Göring's estate on the Obersalzberg and explained the situation to him. Fearing accusations of betrayal if he did nothing, but also not wanting to piss Hitler off by opening negotiations without his permission, Göring sent the telegram. In the film, he just randomly sends it, with little explanation.
    • The Göring telegram in film is completely different from the actual letter. It's much shorter and omits the opening statement explaining that Koller was the man who spurred Göring into sending this telegram. Additionally, the telegram's send-off in the film is "Heil Hitler" followed by "H. Goering" and then "Reichsfeldmarschall" when in actuality, it was merely "Ihr getreuer Hermann Göring".Translation  Also, the film telegram has poor grammar unlike the real deal, with everything being typed in lowercases.
    • Albert Speer was present when Hitler received the Göring telegram, and had made his confession to sabotaging Hitler's scorched earth decree beforehand. In the film, he arrives at the bunker right after Hitler gets the telegram and is advised to wait outside the room until Hitler stops ranting about it.
    • Hitler actually calmed down mid-rant and considered giving Göring his blessing to take control, figuring that it didn't matter who handled negotiating with the Allies, but then changed his mind and went back to cursing Göring when he learned that the Reichmarschall had sent another telegram to Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, claiming leadership of the crumbling Third Reich.
    • Finally, the telegram was sent around 1am on April 23. In the film, it appears to sent during the day.
  • Albert Speer's direct confession to Hitler that he did not carry out his Nero Decree and that Hitler let him go with tears in his eyes was largely based on Speer's memoirs in the book Inside the Third Reich. Most historians believed that, given Hitler's uncharacteristic behavior in sparing Speer and newly discovered evidence suggesting that Speer had been whitewashing his actions regarding the Nazis and the Holocaust (though admittedly after this film came out), this event never happened —or at least not in the manner Speer described it.
  • Hermann Fegelein was arrested for desertion and brought back to the bunker before Hitler learned of Himmler's betrayal—in fact, it was specifically because of Fegelein's attempted desertion that a justifiably suspicious Hitler decided to check up on Himmler, leading to the latter's treachery being discovered. Hitler initially planned to send Fegelein to the front line, but when he learned of Himmler's betrayal, he had Fegelein shot.
    • The film also cuts out Fegelein's interrogation by Martin Bormann, as it was discovered that he had foreign currency in his travel bag. Fegelein was too drunk to answer Bormann's questions coherently, so he was locked up until Hitler could decide what to do with him.
  • Eva Braun made no attempt to convince Hitler to spare Fegelein's life. On the contrary, according to Hanna Reitsch, she shamelessly threw her brother-in-law under the bus and whined about how everyone was deserting Hitler.
    Eva: Poor, poor Adolf. Deserted by everyone, betrayed by all. Better that 10,000 others die than he be lost to Germany!
  • Hitler consults with Dr. Werner Haase on the best method of suicide a few hours before killing himself. They actually talked on April 22, shortly after Hitler's tirade about Steiner.
  • Hitler tells Günsche that he wants his body burned so that it can't be put on display somewhere. While this is true, the film does omit a key reason for Hitler's request. On April 28, Hitler's fascist Italian ally, Benito Mussolini, and his mistress were found by partisans, shot, and hung by their heels, then subsequently spat on.
  • In a possible case of Compressed Adaptation, Hitler and Eva Braun commit suicide shortly after locking themselves in the former's study. In real life, they waited an hour before killing themselves.
  • How the Goebbels family died has been disputed. Some argue that an SS doctor killed the children while their parents watched, while others argue that Magda Goebbels did the deed herself, as shown in the film—and by lethal injection, not cyanide capsules. When the parents took their turn, the film shows Josef shooting Magda before turning the gun on himself; some historians argue that they had an SS officer shoot them through the back of the head, execution-style.
    • The Goebbels couple died on the evening of May 1, but in the film, they die in broad daylight.
    • A Soviet autopsy report suggests that Helga regained consciousness before she was poisoned and tried to fight, although the film shows her struggle not to take the drugs that render her unconscious, which may have happened instead.
  • Gerda Christian and Constanze Manziarly were captured and raped (and, in the latter's case, killed) by the Soviets.
  • General Krebs wore a monocle in real life. It's nowhere to be seen here.
  • General Jodl is portrayed as being overweight and completely bald, when he was actually slim and had hair on the sides of his head. Compare the film to this pic of Jodl signing Germany's surrender.
  • Hitler's phone call to Koller, in which he discovers that Soviet artillery batteries are positioned just 12km away from the center of Berlin before exclaiming that the entire Luftwaffe leadership should be hanged, is a composite of two separate calls in reality. The first call was to inquire about Soviet artillery, while later on a second was made to ask why fighter jets were not being deployed into battle. After being told that the airfield was under constant attack that prevented the jets from being sortied, Hitler made the hanging comment.
  • The epilogue says that Dr. Werner Haase died in 1945. He actually died in 1950.

Alternative Title(s): Downfall


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