Hitler: The Rise of Evil

Hitler: The Rise of Evil
Written by John Pielmeier
G. Ross Parker
Directed by Christian Duguay
Starring Robert Carlyle
Stockard Channing
Peter O'Toole
Peter Stormare
Thomas Sangster
Liev Schreiber
Theme music composer Normand Corbeil
Country of origin Canada
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) John Ryan
Ed Gernon
Peter Sussman
Editor(s) Sylvain Lebel
Stephen R. Myers
Henk Van Eeghen
Running time 179 min.
Distributor Alliance Atlantis
Original release
  • 18 May 2003 (2003-05-18)

Hitler: The Rise of Evil is a Canadian TV miniseries in two parts, directed by Christian Duguay and produced by Alliance Atlantis. It explores Adolf Hitler's rise and his early consolidation of power during the years after the First World War and focuses on how the embittered, politically fragmented and economically buffeted state of German society following the war made that ascent possible. The film also focuses on Ernst Hanfstaengl's influence on Hitler's rise to power. The miniseries, which premiered simultaneously in May 2003 on CBC in Canada and CBS in the United States, received two Emmy awards, for Art Direction and Sound Editing.[1]

The film's subplot follows the struggles of Fritz Gerlich, a German journalist who opposes the rising Nazi Party. He is portrayed as to fulfill the essence of the quotation disputably attributed to[2] Edmund Burke, which is displayed at the beginning and at the end of the film:

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."


The opening of the film features a montage of Adolf Hitler's life during the years 1899-1914, when he left Austria for Munich. His participation in the First World War on the German side is then shown in a series of episodes which includes his promotion to the rank of corporal, his winning of the Iron Cross for bravery, and his blinding during a gas attack.

Hitler returns to a revolutionary Munich in 1919 and, still employed by the army, is assigned to report on the newly formed political parties in the city. After attending a meeting of the German Workers' Party, he is recruited by the party’s leader, Anton Drexler, to organise its propaganda activities and give increasingly popular speeches that harp on the themes that Germany has been betrayed by the leaders who surrendered in the last war, and that Communists and Jews are sapping the German spirit from within. After meeting the wealthy art publisher Ernst Hanfstaengl, Hitler is encouraged to refine his image and create a symbol for the party - which he does by adopting the Swastika. Hansftaengl also puts Hitler in contact with the city’s elite, including the war hero Hermann Göring, and the militant Ernst Röhm, eventual organiser of the paramilitary SA. In 1921, Hitler forces Drexler to resign and takes over as leader of the renamed National Socialist Party.

In 1923, the Bavarian Commissar, Gustav von Kahr, urged on by his speechwriter, the journalist Fritz Gerlich, tries to outfox Hitler by convincing him that he is preparing to stage a military coup against the national government in Berlin and that Hitler must remain silent or else his party can play no part in it. Upon learning that the proposed putsch is merely a ruse, Hitler confronts Kahr at gunpoint and coerces him and his associates into supporting his own plan for a putsch. Röhm and the SA plan to take over the military barracks in preparation for a march on Berlin, but the attempted coup is quickly crushed. Hitler takes refuge at the Hanfstaengl home, almost resorting to suicide before Ernst’s wife takes the gun from his hand.

Arrested by the authorities and tried for treason, Hitler manages to use the trial to his advantage, winning over the audience and the Judge with his courtroom theatrics. Consequently, he is awarded a lenient sentence in Landsberg Prison, during which he writes his memoirs (later published as Mein Kampf). In 1925, Hitler goes to the countryside to escape from politics and is joined by his older half-sister, Angela, and her daughter Geli Raubal. When he returns to Munich, Hitler takes Geli with him but, distraught by his overbearing control of her life, she later commits suicide.

Eschewing revolution, Hitler now demands that the party follow a democratic course to power. This declaration puts him into conflict with Röhm, but Hitler’s demand for complete subordination of the party to himself as Führer (Leader) wins the approval of most others, including an impressionable young agitator named Joseph Goebbels. During the late 1920s, the party’s political fortunes improve, with the National Socialists gaining more and more seats in the Reichstag with each election. Alarmed by the party’s growing popularity, Gerlich continues to write articles in opposition to Hitler and, when the paper’s editor fires him, forms his own newspaper.

In 1932, Hitler becomes a German citizen and runs for President against the incumbent, Paul von Hindenburg. Although he is unsuccessful, the party has become the largest in the Reichstag, which emboldens Hitler to demand that he be made Chancellor of Germany. Though Hindenburg despises Hitler, the former Chancellor Franz von Papen helps bring this about in 1933. Thereafter, the Reichstag building is set on fire, allegedly by a communist, and Hitler uses the incident to have parliament award him dictatorial powers, which include suspension of civil liberties and suppression of the press. As a consequence, Gerlich's newspaper is shut down and he is arrested by the SA and sent to a concentration camp.

Germany now becomes a police state and Hitler crushes all his opponents, both inside and outside the party. Röhm is shot and the SA is absorbed into the German Army. Following Hindenburg’s death in August 1934, Hitler combines the office of President and Chancellor into one – thus making himself the country’s absolute ruler.



The miniseries received mixed reviews but was nominated for an Emmy for Best Miniseries. Peter O'Toole was also nominated for an Emmy in the supporting actor in a TV movie or miniseries category. The miniseries won Emmys for Art Direction and Sound Editing.[1]

The New York Times said "The filmmakers worked so hard to be tasteful and responsible that they robbed their film of suspense, drama and passion"[3] but praised the performances of Peter O'Toole, Julianna Margulies and Liev Schreiber.

David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle gave it a positive review, praising Carlyle's performance as "brilliant".[4]


Ed Gernon, the executive producer, compared the climate of fear that led to the rise of Nazism to the war on terrorism.[5]

It basically boils down to an entire nation gripped by fear, who ultimately chose to give up their civil rights and plunged the whole world into war. I can’t think of a better time to examine this history than now.
Ed Gernon

Production company Alliance Atlantis, where he had worked for more than a decade, fired him for this comparison.[5] CBS said that his "personal opinions are not shared by CBS and misrepresent the network's motivation for broadcasting this film".

Associates claimed that CBS was prompted to act by a New York Post article that claimed the comment was a sign of Hollywood’s anti-Americanism and stated that Gernon had said President George W. Bush should be looked at "through the prism of Germany’s psychopath."[6]

The film was banned in the Republic of Belarus.[7]


In Australia, the film was aired on the Seven Network. The network initially used a promotion which went as follows:
Boy 1: "When I grow up, I want to be a fireman." (shows drawing of a fire truck)
Narrator: "Every child needs encouragement..."
Girl: "When I grow up, I want to be a nurse." (shows drawing of a hospital)
Narrator: "But what if you encouraged the wrong child?"
Boy 2: "When I grow up, I want to be much, much more..." (shows child violently drawing a Nazi flag)

The advertisement then proceeded to show the trailer for the film. After some review, the network decided that it was inappropriate to use such a tone to promote a film about Hitler, so the initial scenes were removed and the standard trailer was shown.

See also

Filmed at Barrandov Studios (Prague).


  1. 1 2 "Imdb".
  2. Boller, Jr., Paul F.; George, John (1989). They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505541-1.
  3. Stanley, Alessandra (May 16, 2003). "TV WEEKEND; Architect of Atrocity, The Formative Years". The New York Times.
  4. Wiegand, David (June 24, 2011). "An attempt to fathom Hitler / Robert Carlyle conveys depths of tyrant's evil". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  5. 1 2 "Producer fired for view on Bush". Archived from the original on August 29, 2008.
  6. ‘Hitler’ producer Gernon fired
  7. "Kultura".

External links

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