“Waltz With The Valkyries”
 
 
Waltz with Bashir” is a really unusual film in a couple of ways:  most of it is animated, but it’s not about cartoon characters.  These are modern Israeli middle-aged men, talking to each other about their traumatic experience in the Lebanese War twenty years before, and how it still haunts their dreams.  You would expect that in a movie in the Hebrew language, when the subject of wartime atrocity arises, to be reminded of the Holocaust.  And they do.  But then they reluctantly admit that they may have cooperated with the Christian Phalangists in looking the other way during a slaughter of Palestinian civilians, and then ignoring the fact that it happened.  Yes, the irony is palpable.  And so is the guilt.  Director Ari Folman freely admits that the film is autobiographical, and says that it was therapeutic for him to talk to other veterans about their difficulties in dealing with their wartime experiences.  The Israeli government, it seems, is more than glad that the film reminds everybody that the atrocities of the Lebanese War were not their own.
“Valkyrie” is about a lot of German officers who were having difficulty dealing with their experiences during World War II.  Many became convinced that Adolph Hitler was the archenemy of Germany , and needed to be removed; forcibly if necessary, before their beloved Fatherland was plunged into utter ruin.  Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruise) became convinced as early as the African campaign, and after the debacle at Tunisia , decided to join other radical sympathizers.  They planned even down to the detail of mobilizing the Berlin reserve in order to prevent the SS from taking over the government after the assassination.  But though von Stauffenberg personally placed the satchel-bomb in the conference room where Hitler was conferring with his generals, the valise was moved after Claus left the room, and the explosion wounded several, but didn’t kill anybody.  Von Stauffenberg, seeing the explosion from a distance and believing the plot to be successful, managed to spread a false rumor of the Fuhrer’s demise, mobilize the reserves, and temporarily, at least, control the SS headquarters, as well.  But after Hitler went on the radio that afternoon to assure his listeners of his well-being, the plotters were quickly hunted down, and then summarily executed.  Of course, we’ll never know if the War could have been stopped and more bloodshed avoided:  the Allies were already in France , and the Russians had already pushed the Germans back over the Polish border.  Who knows whether Stalin would have even considered stopping short of marching all the way to Berlin ?  But “Valkyrie” manages to maintain the suspense, despite the fact that we all know what happened before we ever begin, simply by telling the story well.  The German government, no doubt, is more than glad to remind everyone that not all Germans blindly followed Hitler.
 
Questions for Discussion:
1)                            Have you been haunted by your military experience, or know someone else that is?  Is there any help for it?
2)                            What do you do when you find yourself completely out of accord with the leadership of your government?
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas