In an effort to change the course of history, the U.S. government sent Mike Wallace back in time to interview Adolf Hitler before the 1938 Munich Conference. The theory was that if the legendary, hard-hitting, pit bull journalist Wallace were to expose the true Hitler in a newsreel to be shown in movie theaters throughout the world, it could tilt the balance of world opinion against appeasement, and save millions of lives. The following are excerpts from the newsreel.
WALLACE: When German Chancellor Adolf Hitler speaks out candidly — as is his habit — he scares a lot of people. It has been alleged by some that he is a so-called “anti-Semite,” a charge based on various references he has made to Jews as “parasites,” “liars,” “maggots,” “eternal blood suckers,” and as “the mortal enemy of humanity.” But, as always, the truth is more complex. The son of a customs official and a veteran of the Great War, the Fuhrer is attractive, smart, savvy, charming, self-assured and self-righteous.
(The newsreel cuts to Wallace sitting down next to the Chancellor, who speaks through his official translator.)
WALLACE (raising arm): Heil Hitler!
HITLER: Very clearly, I will tell you that I fully oppose the behavior of the British and the Americans.
WALLACE: And why is that?
HITLER: The main reason is that I sympathize with the prisoners in America and in Britain, because, as you know, I was wrongfully put in jail myself. And also, there is so much poverty in those wealthy nations, and such a large gap between rich and poor, and I was impoverished as a young adult, so I know what it’s like. Whenever I see people suffering, it makes me sad.
WALLACE: Mr. Fuhrer, you have repudiated the Treaty of Versailles, reoccupied the demilitarized zone of the Rhineland, and have set your sights on the Sudetenland that some people claim is a part of Czechoslovakia. How far do your territorial ambitions extend?
HITLER: When I was young and in Vienna I wanted to be a painter. I love painting. I love the arts. I love opera and peace and sunshine and…
WALLACE: You are very good at filibustering. You still have not answered the question. You still have not answered the question. How far do your territorial ambitions extend?
HITLER: All of your questions require a book-long answer. If you want me to just finish the interview, please tell me and we can wrap up right now.
WALLACE: No, no.
HITLER: I think that you’re getting angry.
WALLACE: I couldn’t be happier for the privilege of sitting down with you, Mr. Fuhrer.
HITLER: I’m happy to be here too.
WALLACE: I want to ask you this directly: do you hate Jews?
HITLER: All I want to do is foster peace. We are under threat from France, Britain, and their friends in America. They all tried to keep us down after the Great War.
WALLACE: What do you like to do with your free time? When you aren’t being Der Fuhrer, who are you?
HITLER: I study. I read books. I exercise. And, of course, I spend some time– quality time–with… (man whispers in Hitler’s ear).
WALLACE: What did he say?
HITLER: He said my mustache is crooked.
WALLACE: Why are they worried about your mustache? I think you look just fine. In fact, I’ve been thinking of growing a mustache myself. I’m just concerned people would confuse me with Walter Cronkite.
HITLER: Who’s that?
WALLACE: Never mind. Is there any message you want to give the world, in closing?
HITLER: Well, please look at the makeup of the American and British administrations, the behavior of the administrations. See how they talk down to my nation. They want to build an empire. And they don’t want to live side by side in peace with other nations.
(End of interview)
WALLACE: When I agreed to interview Der Fuhrer, the populist leader of free Germany, I was expecting an irrational firebrand. But the person I met was a reasonable man who I wouldn’t mind having a beer with. After sitting down with Hitler for an hour and a half, I feel confident in assuring the world that this is a man who genuinely wants to achieve peace in our time and who is dedicated to working toward a final solution to the world’s problems.
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