“I could have shot Hitler”, says Paul Von Hartman, with tears in his eyes, while talking to Helen Winter. He says his hands didn’t move because he felt that he didn’t have the right to do so. ‘Munich: The Edge of War’ takes us back to those crazy times and events that impacted a whole generation in ways that the people living at that time wouldn’t have even imagined. It is only in retrospect that you get to see and observe the minute details that had the potential.
‘Munich: The Edge of War’ has been directed by Christian Schwochow and is based on a novel by Robert Harris. It might be a period drama by its look and feel, but in its essence, the events and the characters have not lost their relevance and are truly contemporary in nature. History has a knack for repeating itself. Not by duplicating the exact same facts, but by cloning the intent of a human spirit. Hitler stood for something, and so did Prime Minister Chamberlain. If you look deep enough, you will find traces of it still existing in current times. Let’s understand what this war of conquest was all about and how two individuals were able to change the destiny of the entire world.
‘Munich: The Edge of War’ Plot Summary
Around three hundred Germans were residing in a part of Czechoslovakia, called Sudetenland as a result of the geographical demarcation done after the first world war. When Hitler came to power, he wanted to annex Sudetenland and make it a part of Germany. There was major political unrest in Europe due to this issue, and Neville Chamberlain, the English Prime Minister, had tried to resolve the crisis by being the ambassador of peace that he was. But was it just a local border dispute that had irked the German dictator so much that he was not ready to come to a compromise, or was there a hidden agenda?
Paul Von Hartman had studied at Oxford and was working in the German Ministry. He had a staunch right-wing ideology and that became the bone of contention between him and his fellow pupil and friend from Oxford, Hugh Legat.
Hugh had decided to go to Munich, where he had an argument with Paul. Even Paul’s girlfriend, Lena, seemed to agree with Hugh. Paul believed the lies that Hitler was selling to the entire nation. One could generally not be blamed for it because it was easy to not get swayed by the oratory skills of Adolf Hitler. Paul believed that the racism and the rising authoritarianism of the Hitler regime were small sacrifices in furtherance of a greater goal. He believed that Germany had lost its identity and Hitler was the one who was going to get it back.
Neville Chamberlain, on the other hand, wanted to lead by setting an example. He had seen the wrath of the first world war. He knew how it felt to lose somebody that you loved. Neville wanted to maintain peace in the whole of Europe and was ready to go to any extent to achieve that. He was an experienced campaigner. He knew that the way Hitler was rising, war was inevitable. But still, he wanted to give it a last shot. The Munich treaty was signed between France, the U.K, Italy, and Germany, and it gave Hitler what he had aspired for. Approximately a year after the treaty was signed, Germany waged a war by invading Poland. It was never about a local border dispute, but a classic case of deep-rooted fanaticism and an incessant urge to become the undisputed emperor.
‘Munich: The Edge of War’ Ending Explained
We don’t choose the times we live in, but we can always choose how to respond, and that’s what two Oxford students tried to do. Paul went from being a believer to being a non believer. For such changes to happen, often a tragedy has to take place. Lena was arrested in 1935 during a protest. She was taken to a women’s camp in Moringen, where the authorities came to know that she was a Jew. She was tortured to the extent that she went into a state of coma.
Paul knew the extent to which the dictatorial regime could go. He said that he always knew that Hitler was racist but had thought that somehow it could be kept aside and Germany would have a new identity. aul managed to procure a document that had the minutes of the meeting that was held a few months before the Munich treaty. Paul desperately wanted the British government to not sign the treaty as Hitler had no intention of stopping the annexation of Sudetenland. He tried to get in touch with Hugh as he could convey the information to the British PM. He was able to meet Neville Chamberlain but still could not stop him from signing it. But it lifted the veil that Hitler had put up for the longest time. Neville Chamberlain bought time for the Allies to prepare for a war and gave them an actual chance of winning it.
Adolf Hitler, like any other authoritarian, liked to control perceptions. After the Munich Treaty, he was aghast at the fact that Neville Chamberlain had taken all the applause, as he was being given credit for resolving the conflict and saving the world from another war. Adolf Hitler had given the people a dream of an undivided country. But little did they know that it was only possible at the cost of giving up one’s right to express freely.
The film makes us realize that it is an intrinsic human attribute to not raise a voice until it is not affecting us personally. The transformation of Paul was evidence of that. Unless and until you suffer from a personal loss, how difficult it becomes to go against the political wave of the country and logically speculate the fallacies and see through the hypocrisy. The most difficult aspect is to not be on the receiving end, not face the atrocities, in fact benefit from the government policies, but still oppose them because of a very simple fact, that it is not morally right.
Streaming on Netflix, ‘Munich: The Edge of War,’ is a moving drama that will grab your attention with some brilliant performances and a narrative that never becomes stagnant or dull at any point of time.