New technology catches Hitler off guard
By Neil Midgley
Last Updated: 1:56am GMT 23/11/2006
New computer software that can read lips at almost any angle has helped make sense of one of the Second World War's lingering mysteries —Hitler's home movies.
Hitler in public: his home movies catch at his most relaxed and some of his comments are revealing
The technology allows the dialogue to be dubbed on to the silent films, many of them made by Eva Braun at Hitler's mountain retreat, the Berghof. With the new soundtrack, Hitler can be heard encouraging young children towards a life in the military, criticising even his closest henchmen and flirting with Braun.
The footage forms part of a documentary, Hitler's Private World: Revealed, to be broadcast next Tuesday on Five.
It has languished in archives since the war after being found by the US Office of Strategic Services in the cellars under the Berghof. The film shows very different Hitler from the strident orator who led Germany into war. At ease among his guests, he cracks jokes and talks animatedly about his love for cinema — his tastes included Mickey Mouse.
He is also seen teasing Braun about a screening in his cinema at the Berghof. "I understand you didn't like the movie last night," he says. "I know what you want. You want Gone with the Wind."
Much of the footage is taken on a terrace at the Bavarian retreat, with Hitler and his guests relaxing in the sunlight. He finds time to flirt with Braun, saying: "What are you filming an old man for? I should be filming you."
But the war was never far away. "You talk about a dress that does not fit … imagine my problems," he says with exasperation to his lover.
The technology that has allowed the dialogue to be reconstructed is called ALR — automated lip reading — and has been developed by Frank Hubner, a speech recognition expert. The computer recognises shapes that lips make, turns them into sounds and matches these to a dictionary.
When actors voice the script that this generates, the result is home movies all the more chilling for their apparent happy domesticity. Hitler is shown reading to children, and playing with them. "You be a brave boy," he says to a small Aryan child. "You will be a fine soldier one day."
Hitler had bought Braun a cine camera for her birthday in 1936. Given his manipulation of the German people by the use of filmed propaganda, it is hardly surprising that he showed enthusiasm for cameras. "Every German family must have one. Every aspect of the nation's growth would be captured," he says.
Among Hitler's staff shown at the Berghof are Heinrich Himmler, Albert Speer, Joachim Von Ribbentrop, Reinhard Heidrich, Joseph Goebbels and Karl Wolff.
Himmler is seen telling Heidrich and Wolff: "I'm very busy with this project and that project." A disturbing statement from the man in charge of the Final Solution.
Film shot towards the end of the war shows Hitler complaining about tremors in his arm, giving more credence to the theory that he was suffering from Parkinson's Disease.
What also becomes clear is that Hitler did not hold back from criticising his inner circle. He is scathing about Himmler's enthusiasm for archaeological digs to establish the origins of the Aryan race but reserved his bitchiest remark for Goering.
"I looked at him across the dining table and then I knew that what they say was true," he says, "that pigs eat the flesh of their own."