TELEVISION REVIEW / There's none so blind as he that will not see

'NO. WE would have heard it,' replied a German general when Axel von dem Bussche, himself an army officer, passed on his belief that the Nazis were engaged in mass exterminations. He had just heard it, of course, and from a man who had seen with his own eyes the slow shuffle of naked humanity towards a slaughtering pit, but the general was adept at the selective, protective deafness employed by so many loyal Germans. Von dem Bussche told the story in The Restless Conscience (C 4), Hara Kohav Beller's detailed account of the internal resistance to Hitler, and he told it partly to illustrate the difficulties for those whose moral hearing was more acute - the conviction that criminals have seized power comes hard to those born to sustain authority.

There are those who argue that the army plotters only moved when the war was going badly for Germany, the suggestion being that their resistance was expedient rather than morally pure. It may be that there's some truth in that, at least for some conspirators. As candidates for the role of 'good Germans' the White Rose students of Munich, who printed anti-Nazi leaflets and distributed them publically during the war, are certainly less problematic. The extravagently reckless nature of their act raises no questions about motive. But they stood about as much chance as a butterfly who tries to stop a juggernaut by flying at its windscreen. The scions of German nobility, compromised for some by their high office and their conspiratorial caution, might have changed history.

In any case, the reluctance to honour their acts hardly does justice to the peculiar dilemma of the honest German patriot, the way that their scruples both set them going and then slowed them down. Beller's film reminded you that the resistance to Hitler was founded in a high- minded belief in due process, legality and Christian ethics. So the conspirators not only had to convince themselves of the criminality of the regime but also that a criminal act was the only available response. Repulsed by summary executions without trial they had to steel themselves to exactly that.

Some resisted from the very beginning, using their contacts and influence to help Jews escape; still others were converted by the systematic brutality of Kristallnacht, which finally shattered some illusions as well as synagogue windows. About the last people to be converted, on this account, were the functionaries of the British Foreign Office, which reacted with suspicion to repeated pleas for help from German conspirators, thus ruling out an early coup against the Nazi regime. They had reasons for their doubts - Adam von Trott zu Solz, one of the most committed and admirable of the resisters, looked to the outside world like a devoted Nazi party member, a condition of his employment in the German Foreign Office.

But you couldn't help suspecting that something less reputable played a part too, a public-school disdain for the sneak and the turncoat. Some emissaries, seeking backing for an early coup, were sent away after a brusque lesson in ethics: what you suggest is tantamount to treason, one was told, by a British diplomat whose loyalty to the done thing exceeded his sense of urgency. How many lives, you wondered, came to be sacrificed on the playing fields of Eton?

In their own way, British politicians were just as deaf as their German counterparts, just as reluctant to see that the rules had been transformed. Beller's film wasn't just a memorial to some noble young men with better hearing - it was also a reminder of the continuing obligation to keep our ears pricked for what's being said and done in our name.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, Countess of Grantham and Richard E Grant as Simon Bricker

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering