Hans Georg Kohler
Freelance journalist for Modern Times based in Berlin.

HISTORY: Goebbels’ selfproclaimed apolitical secretary tells her version of the historical events. The result is an important document for posterity, but is this all we need?

A German Life

Christian Krönes/ Olaf S. Müller/ Roland Schrotthofer/ Florian Weigensamer

Austria, 2016

The Austrian documentary A German Life mainly consists of interviews with the at the time 104-year-old Berlin-born Brunhilde Pomsel. Pomsel was one of the few who was present in Hitler’s bunker during the last fateful days in Berlin. The intimate interview is divided into chapters of partly shocking recordings, including footage from the ghetto in Warsaw.

The recordings, filmed by Germans, show shattered skeletons, naked Jewish bodies, women, children and men sliding down into a mass grave on a wooden sled. At the bottom of the huge ditch, they are stacked like logs of wood to make the most out of the space. A woman who is sliding down has a terribly painful facial expression that is terrifying and at the same time lifelike – even though she is clearly dead. Tortured to death by the hermetically sealed ghetto in Poland’s capital.


Pomsel was employed as a secretary for Josef Goebbels in the propaganda department in Berlin, during the last three years of the war, after having worked a period
of time for the National Socialist parliamentary broadcasting. Previously, she worked for a Jewish lawyer (Dr. Hugo Goldberg) who received less and less clients during the aggressive growth of Anti-Semitism during the 30s. Pomsel sighs heavily when she tells about life in Nazi Germany. She begins the interview by asking a question to the camera: “Is it bad if people try to do something for themselves that is good for them, in the position they have been given – but at the same time realize that they harm other people? But one does not think that far, we were thinking short-term and indifferently.”

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