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The Hitler Boom in Austria

I saw Adolf Hitler last night along with 100 or so other movie goers. I saw the award-winning English actor Alec Guinness portray “Der Fuehrer” with a ghostly reality that sent shivers down my spine. “That’s Hitler, all right,” said a member of the audience at Vienna’s Apollo movie house who was old enough to recall the day Austria became part of the Third Reich.

The premiere of the film, “Hitler–The Last 10 Days,” was a small part of the “Hitler-mania” currently gripping West Germany and Austria–and it’s causing quite a stir in this tiny alpine nation. New books, television productions and, in particular, the new film, have been professionally timed to coincide with dates that recall clearly the Nazi era–like Hitler’s birthday April 20.

The wave of Hitler publicity has brought some surprising results: in Austria it has led to a national uproar. A Viennese housewife started it by saying she would welcome Hitler back.

Interviewed on the “Heldenplatz,” the Heroes Square where Hitler made his first triumphant speech in Austria, Mrs. Edith Asberger, 49, who turned out to see him then, said, “I would go again and welcome him back.” The television station got protest calls. The press played up the story and Adolf Hitler got back onto the front pages of the newspapers he controlled all those years ago.

“Hitler is not allowed to die,” said an article in the Vienna newspaper, Kurier, which printed a full-page critical story about the people who flock to buy Hitler books and see the movies. But the people the Kurier interviewed were not so critical.

Karl Schneeberger, a clerk said, “Today we wouldn’t need Hitler any more. But in those days he got us jobs. We needed him then.” Helene Schoenhofer, a secretary, said, “His basic ideas weren’t bad. It was what was to follow that was terrible.” In Austria there are books and magazine articles full of Hitler–it is called “the nostalgia wave.”

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