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and Othmar Schmiderer

For roughly three years, from 1942 until a well-known day in 1945, Traudl Junge took dictation from Adolf Hitler. The Führer wanted a secretary on call at all times, but Junge was in rotation with three other women, so the demands of the job probably weren’t all that great—except that his stenographers were never allowed to leave his cocoon. She was in a “blind spot,” the 81-year-old Junge explains in this Austrian film, which includes fascinating moments but may be too single-minded for the casual viewer. Made by artist and activist André Heller and filmmaker Othmar Schmiderer, the stark talking-head documentary was edited to 90 minutes from 10 hours of interviews. (To judge from Junge’s clothing, most of the footage comes from only one of the several shoots.) Ultimately, Junge followed her boss into his Berlin bunker for the final preparations for his suicide, observing the poisonings of his beloved dog and the six Goebbels children. She says she couldn’t imagine what her life would be like after Hitler, who informed her that the Allied hordes would rape all of Germany’s women. Some reviewers have been quick to condemn Junge, but she seems to have been merely an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances. A naive 22-year-old when she took her defining job, Junge calls herself an “incredibly conformist” child whose mother hadn’t been able to afford to send her to an academic high school. Junge apparently liked the private Hitler, who was gallant to women and spoke in an easygoing Austrian dialect rather than the martial German of his speeches. It can’t be said, however, that Junge is self-justifying. She does slip and call Hitler a “great man,” and she contradicts herself when recalling how often she heard Hitler speak of Jews. (Only once, she first says, but later she recalls another time.) Imprisoned by the Russians for six months and then “de-Nazified” by American authorities in 1947, Junge clearly never stopped thinking about her role in one of the 20th century’s great crimes. She took early retirement from a journalism job because of depression, and she says she is “increasingly oppressed” by Hitler’s legacy. For her, Blind Spot may have been a sort of release; she died a few hours after the film’s world premiere at the 2002 Berlin Film festival. —Mark Jenkins