|Title:||Hitler's Last Chance: Kolberg - The Propaganda Movie and the Rise and Fall of a German City|
The city of Kolobrzeg is a small coastal town in northwestern Poland. The town knows an impressive history as the German city named Kolberg. In his latest book, Hitler’s Last Chance, Kevin Prenger tells the history of this city. The book entails much more though than just the history of the city. It is far more a trilogy of three interwoven stories; first off the history of the town which is presented vividly by Prenger, mixed with facts and anecdotes. Kolberg is described by Prenger as a picturesque spa on the Baltic, mainly thriving on tourists and visitors coming to recuperate or just relax.
Kolberg has been a fortified city as well though and the city heroically withstood the army of Napoleon in 1807. Here, part two of the trilogy emerges: the heroic battle of Kolberg was considered by the Nazis an example of the fight of the German people against the threatening invasion of hostile armies; read: the advance of the Allies, in particular the Russians. Director Veit Harlan was ordered by Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels to make a feature movie about the siege of Kolberg. Recording started in October 1943, when the prospect for the Nazis was dismal already. Massive defeats in Stalingrad, North-Africa and near Kursk as well made it clear that the end was near. Something had to be done to incite the German people and get them ready for Total War.
Apart from the history of Kolberg and the movie about Kolberg, the third part of the interwoven trilogy pops up: propaganda. The term propaganda is an ancient one but has gained a bad reputation in the twentieth century; in particular when the Nazis, led by Minister of Propaganda Goebbels, attempted to manipulate public opinion by incomplete, one-sided and masked information and even down-right lies. The movie Kolberg was a product of that propaganda. Prenger describes how no expense was spared to make the movie and how strong Goebbels’ influence was on the final product. Partly due to this, the movie premiered at a moment when it was clear that the war had already been lost but was still going on: January 30, 1945.
Although cinema attendance in Germany during the war had been impressively high, ultimately very few people have seen the movie. The war, the continuous air raids and the fact that there were only some 20 cinemas where the movie could be seen didn't persuade the Germans to go and watch the spectacle. The movie has been rereleased after the war and has run in German cinemas during he sixties as well.
The premiere of the propaganda movie Kolberg coincided with the fall of the Third Reich. Gigantic numbers of refugees made their way to the west, pushed on by the relentless tsunami of the Red Army. In impressive and compelling fashion, Prenger describes the misery of the refugees of which a part headed for Kolberg, hoping to board a train or ship to continue their voyage to the west. Along the way and in the harbor of Kolberg, indescribable horrific scenes have unfolded among refugees in a state of total panic. Prenger also describes these scenes in a compelling and respectful way. He paints a picture of the misery and the horror of the people and the fall of the city of Kolberg. A city, once in the flood lights of history, that has become the quiet, picturesque city once again.
In his fourth book translated from Dutch to English about events during the Second World War, Kevin Prenger has done it again: he delivered a fine product based on thorough research and a great talent as an author. The book Hitler’s Last Chance takes the reader on a voyage through time through the history of a city that like some many other cities has known ups and down but has gained a place in recorded history by its past and Nazi propaganda. This excellent book has certainly made a contribution by describing history in a way, accessible to everyone.