Arts and Culture

PBS to explore Hitler’s psyche, Nazi hunters

Arizona Public Media will air two shows dealing with the Nazi era and its aftermath on Tuesday, Nov. 15 on PBS channel 6. “Inside the Mind of Adolf Hitler” starts at 8 p.m., followed at 9 p.m. by “Elusive Justice: The Search for Nazi War Criminals.”

“Making ‘Inside the Mind of Adolf Hitler’ wasn’t a decision taken lightly,” says producer David Stewart about filming the story of the men who put the Führer on the psychoanalyst’s couch at the height of World War II. “There’s a very vigorous debate among historians about the value of psychological analysis in contributing to the understanding of any historical event,” he says.

“The primary problem is that the

psycho-historian has no direct access to the individual under examination,” he explains. And, while the psyche of any individual is only one factor in how history unfolds, the influence of the individual in shaping events cannot be denied. “The way that Nazi Germany was constructed and organized to some degree reflected Hitler’s personality, drives and desires,” says Stewart.

In 1943, analyzing Hitler was no academic exercise. “The Allies realized that understanding Hitler was a vital part of winning the war,” says Stewart. A team of psychoanalysts “outlined in their final report what they thought he might do in the future.”

“Elusive Justice,” which is narrated by Candice Bergen, explores efforts — official and unofficial — to locate, prosecute and punish fugitive Nazis around the world.

During the Nuremberg Trials, approximately 1,000 Nazi officials were convicted of crimes against humanity, but hundreds of thousands of suspected war criminals evaded prosecution — by returning to the societies they’d helped destroy, concealing their war records, assuming false identities, fleeing Europe or by serving the Allies as spies and scientists. Thousands of Nazi criminals are presumed to be alive.

Filmed in eight countries over the course of three years, “Elusive Justice” includes interviews with suspected war criminals, their families and defenders, professional and amateur investigators, as well as attorneys, survivors, military officials, jurists and politicians. In one scene, Emmy Award-winning writer/director Jonathan Silvers acts as a Nazi hunter in his own right, tracking down and confronting Dr. Heinrich Gross, a doctor responsible for the murders of numerous children at the Spiegelgrund Clinic in Vienna.

“Genocide and crimes against humanity continue to plague the world,” says Silvers. “‘Elusive Justice: The Search for Nazi War Criminals’ not only serves as a historical retrospective of past atrocities, but as an important commentary on current events.”