At least one newsman was alarmed, however. And on the day of the 1933 elections, he gained a brief audience with the future Fuhrer. That man was Cornelius “Neil” Vanderbilt IV, great-great-grandson of the railroad tycoon. Fed up with the malaise of his privileged peers, Vanderbilt had moved to journalism from his position as a driver during the First World War. His name gave him access to Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler, whose impending Reich became the subject of Vanderbilt’s documentary film, called Hitler’s Reign of Terror, released on April 30, 1934, a short portion of which you can see above.
The New Yorker obtained the clip from Brandeis University professor Thomas Doherty, who rediscovered the film in a Belgian archive while researching a recent book. Vanderbilt’s documentary might well be the first American anti-Nazi film, but its contemporary reception speaks volumes about how criticism of the new Nazi regime was suppressed in the mid-thirties; the film was censored across the U.S., denied a license, and banned.
People say things like "Never Again" but we miss out on one of the great evils of civilization. Civilization makes us averse to violence. We abandon Hobbes right to "War" in exchange for more peaceful and productive avenues. But when we hide from evil some times evil comes to rise, and we must take action against it.
Before a patterned curtain, the newsman asks the correspondent what he thinks of Hitler, and Vanderbilt replies: “Unquestionably he is a man of real ability, of force. But the way I sized him up after interviewing him is that he is a strange combination of Huey Long, Billy Sunday, and Al Capone.” He goes on, “I had never heard a man so able to sway people. He said Germany refused to forget her two million war dead. In the hour and a half that Hitler talked to that packed audience that night, he was as effective as a barker in a sideshow travelling with a circus. The German people had suffered so long that they were ready to accept the promises of anyone who held out some hope for the future.”
Hill’s newsman wonders, “Is it your belief that Europe is getting ready for another world war? Has she forgotten the horrors of the last World War? Is she trying to force another such war on humanity?”
Vanderbilt answers with a touch of sorrow, noting the clear desire for revenge.
“It all seems a ghastly, incredible nightmare,” Hill says.
Vanderbilt, in his boarding school pronunciation, “Yes, I agree with you.”
I wonder if we are facing the same sort of storm clouds waiting for as Hitler called himself "the man of the hour, not because he has been appointed Chancellor by Hindenburg but because no one else could have been appointed Chancellor instead."