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Hitler’s Rise Captures Spirit of Era

Launch of the Titanic and Nazi leader’s emergence top the list of most popular clips viewed on Pathe News online film archive.

In the old newsreel, he looks like the kind of man you might have invited home to dinner – smiling, relaxed, well-groomed, good suit.

But it is the little blobby moustache, the weirdly shaped searchlight crosses his followers carried and, above all, the knowledge of what he did afterwards that makes the image compulsive.

More than 70 years after his suicide in a Berlin bunker, Adolf Hitler is still the prime figure most people associate with the 20th century.

The Nazi leader today emerges far ahead of Winston Churchill, John F Kennedy, Mother Teresa or the discoverer of penicillin, Alexander Fleming, in the 20 most popular film clips viewed on the Pathe News online film archive. Eighty seconds of footage catches Hitler in his first moment of national triumph as newly appointed German chancellor in 1933. The headline says: A Wondering World Awaits … What?

It has attracted more than four times as many downloads as the next two most popular clips of world leaders: Churchill viewing the Empire State building in 1932 and Kennedy’s 1963 assassination.

It comes second in the Pathe top 20: footage of the launch of the Titanic in 1912 received three times as many, no doubt thanks mainly to the Hollywood film of the ship’s sinking by an iceberg.

Also highly ranked are D-Day, the Blitz and the Beatles. The Pathe website is ranked by Google as the world’s third most popular online news archive. Pathe News – with its motif of a crowing cockerel – was the dominant UK newsreel for much of the century.

Two years ago, its stock of 3,500 hours of film covering the period 1896-1970 was digitised with help from a lottery grant. So far, the website has had four million visitors. Under an agreement with the lottery, downloads will remain free for another year.

Higher resolution images than those on the public website are fed directly to 15,000 UK schools through the National Education Network and are in wide educational use in the United States.

Peter Fydler, Pathe’s marketing director, said Hitler’s prime place in its ratings was “no more sinister than the habit people have of arriving on the site and realising the period it covers. The first thing that pops into their head to search for is ‘Hitler’ – proving that, as an individual, he’s etched on the memory more than, say, Churchill or JFK”.

One of the list’s quirks, in 11th place, is Grandma’s Corsets, an innocuously well-clothed mannequin parade, staged in 1950, of underwear fashions through the ages.

Mr Fydler said: “This shows that internet pervs can even find something to titillate in an old newsreel archive.”

Biggest Hits of the 20th Century – Pathe News Top 15 Downloads

  1. Titanic sets sail (1912), silent
  2. Hitler elected Chancellor of Germany (1933)
  3. D-Day: world’s greatest combined operation (1944)
  4. Titanic disaster – events surrounding sinking (1912), silent
  5. The Beatles win Radio Caroline award (1965)
  6. Review of the year (1940)
  7. London, City fire and damage (1941)
  8. Trains old and new (1957)
  9. Rolling Stones at Hull ABC cinema (1964)
  10. Ramsey’s men see how they won World Cup (1966)
  11. Grandma’s Corsets (1950)
  12. Fans welcome Beatles at London Airport (1965)
  13. Tanks in action – army demonstration (1961)
  14. The Beatles receive MBEs (1965)
  15. The railway today – new technology (1960)