Students enjoy World War II documentary’s unique perspective


Franciscan University’s Hildebrand Student Fellowship presented a screening of the documentary “The World at War” Tuesday night in the Gentile Gallery.

The first volume of A&E’s World War II documentary presented the evolution of National Socialism from 1933 to 1939, leading to the beginning of the war.

Lindsay Russell, administrative coordinator of the fellowship, gave a background on the film and how it relates to Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand. She said that in his early opposition to Nazism, Hildebrand’s “clarity of mind (was) extremely rare.”

Through photos and videos from the era and interviews with witnesses of Hitler’s rise to power, the film showed how Hitler’s regime came on “drip by drip,” as one interviewee put it. Although Nazism destroyed personal freedoms, Germans believed it was their only hope for survival, said Russell. The small minority of dissenters feared punishment and doubted whether it was possible to overcome Hitler’s tyranny.

“I thought it was…eye opening,” said freshman Bethany Muczynski. “It…gave reasons why Hitler came to power and how he became influential.”

The documentary also showed how Nazism was largely overlooked by the outside world, and for those in Germany it was viewed as the only way out of poverty and hunger that plagued Germany.

Senior Stephanie Galle said, “I really enjoyed seeing the philosophy of the other side of what happened in Germany, and how Hitler was seen as a savior.”

“The World at War” illuminated how unique Hildebrand’s objections were by showing that very few of his contemporaries spoke out against the Nazis. Despite Nazi propaganda attempting to portray anti-Semitism as normal, Hildebrand openly objected and became a sort of “philosopher turned action hero,” said John Henry Crosby, president and founder of the Hildebrand Project.

The documentary reminded senior Justin Grajek of today’s political climate. Grajek said he could see comparisons between “the political climate of that time (and) the really insane political climate we’re dealing with now.”

Grajek reflected on the impact of screening a documentary like this at Franciscan, saying that it was striking to see the relationship between Hitler’s propaganda and the politics of today. He said, “I don’t know if they had any of that in mind when they decided to (screen the documentary), but that really struck me.”

The Hildebrand Project is based on the philosophy of Dietrich von Hildebrand. It promotes Christian philosophy and upholds Hildebrand’s legacy.