We know about Ilsa Lund and Victor Laszlo, and their rendezvous at a certain fictional cafe in Casablanca. My guess is that few of us are aware of the heavy resistance to Adolph Hitler's murderous reign within the Third Reich itself -- or that so much of that resistance was located within the Wehrmacht. Most Americans assume that Germany's military was fist in glove with the Nazi party. Not so, which is why Hitler created the SS and the Gestapo. As the Tom Cruise movie Valkyrie shows, Germany's professional military, with a tradition going back to Frederick the Great in the 18th Century, was a hotbed of resistance. That resistance culminated in the attempted assassination of The Leader on 20 July 1944 as part of a larger coup to take Germany out of the war. It was the final of 15 assassination attempts.
In fact, plans to prevent Hitler from launching world war go back as far as 1938 and included Gen. Ludwig Beck, Army chief of the general staff from 1935 to 1938. (In the movie he is played with wonderful gravitas by Terence Stamp.) It is instructive that they were thwarted, at least in part, by the failure of the western powers to oppose Hitler's aggressions until the invasion of Poland in 1939. Think about it: How do you overthrow a leader who is handed Czechoslovakia, gift-wrapped, and who then rolls through Poland, the Low Countries, and France with apparent ease? [Wikipedia, the 20 July Plot]
When the resistance kept making excuses and fighting amongst themselves, up stepped Col. Claus Philipp Maria Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg. ("Graf" means Count -- its English equivalent is Earl.) Von Stauffenberg realized he had to (almost) do it all. Fly out to the heavily fortified "Wolf's Lair," kill Hitler, then hop a plane back to Berlin to lead the coup. Sheesh!
As he told a new recruit: "Let's be blunt, I am committing high treason with all my might and means...."
Yes, we know the outcome, but for me that did not detract from the tension. On that score, I disagree with Isthmus' own review of Valkyrie. Who, for instance, doesn't know that American won the Battle of Iwo Jima? That foreknowledge did not detract an iota from the revelations of Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima.
What Valkyrie does is to array these heroic plotters against all the barbed wire, the machine guns, the inspection points, the fanatics -- yes, even the bureaucracy, the entire machinery of terror -- and at the center of it all the world's most mesmerizing, terrible villain. I tried to imagine myself standing up to Hitler in Nazi Germany, against such huge odds with death the certain penalty for failure, and never certain of who one could trust -- with so much to lose: a beautiful family, status, privilege, rank, and that chiseled face.
The movie has von Stauffenberg say, "I am a soldier ... but in serving my country I have betrayed my conscience." More typical, I suspect, is General Friedrich Fromm, von Stauffenberg's superior, who straddled the fence to see which side would win. He is played by the great Tom Wilkinson, who is worth the ticket price of any movie in which he appears.
As for Tom Cruise, he is not too pretty to play the central figure and truest hero -- the man himself was the handsomest man in any room he entered.
"I'm at a loss to explain the blizzard of negative advance buzz fired at (Tom Cruise) for the effrontery of playing a half-blind, one-armed Nazi hero," says Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times. [Read Roger Ebert's review.]
That may be, in part, because one of von Stauffenberg's descendants objected to Tom Cruise playing the role. Germany itself objected to the actor's religion, if that is what Scientology is. Not sure that Germany wants to be too critical of religious beliefs any more.
While the man was never a Nazi, he held some of the prejudices of his time and place. But so did George Washington. Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg is a hero who the world ought to know better. Tom Cruise can make that happen. It is a ripping good story and well executed.
BTW: The movie does not reference the von Stauffenberg's older brother, who was also a conspirator, except possibly by implication in a mercifully brief scene showing the gruesome fate of other heroes who were tried by the so-called "Peoples Court." The official web site has great time lines and bios of the principals, but see the movie first.
The Capital Times says it is sick of hearing about drunk driving.
"Wisconsin does have a problem with drunken driving. It has been detailed ad nauseam."
If they're sick of hearing about it, just think of the actual victims! If the former newspaper does believe Wisconsin has a problem with drunk driving, it has no idea what those solutions might be. In a typically lunatic editorial, it dismisses making a felony of third and subsequent convictions. Nope, "There are better solutions, mostly involving mandatory rehabilitation and the threat of having all driving privileges revoked and losing professional licenses and technical licenses. "
Let's take these supposed solutions in reverse order. How many professional and technical licenses are there to be taken away? The drunk driver who killed a pregnant woman and her toddler daughter last summer in Oconomowoc had already lost his medical license. But sure, take away the odd cosmetology license. That will show them!
Revoke all driving privileges? Fact check: That is already standard operating procedure! How many times do we read of a third charge of drunk driving AND driving after revocation?
And what, in God's name, is "Mandatory rehabilitation?" Mandatory rehabilitation! Why didn't we think of that before? Hey, you, drunk driver. Sober up! That's an order!
The truth is curing oneself of alcohol addiction is terribly difficult. And that is when you want to sober up. When you deny the problem, as most do, it will not happen.
But isn't that the liberal "mind" at work? In a jam? Mandate the solution. Mandate affordable housing. Mandate an end to the recession. Mandate where people may or may not live and their modes of transportation. Pass a law.
Gosh Darn It!
New York Senator Charles Schumer said it is "crucial" that Minnesota's second seat in the Senate not go empty, implying that funnyman Al Franken should be seated when the rest of the Senate convenes to be sworn in Tuesday. Apparently, it's hunky dory for Illinois's second seat to go emptier than a vagrant's bottle of Ripple even though Roland Burris meets every qualification for appointment.
Ready, aim, fire!
You know you are a conservative if you can laugh at yourself. See this tribute to our 43rd President constructed by a San Francisco (it figures) artist:
Ever happen to you?