‘Valkyrie’ offers a lesson in how charisma operates

You could say that the Church of Scientology and the Nazi party are alike in that both movements have won the unquestioning allegiance of millions of people thanks to the wizardry of a charismatic leader – in the one case the failed watercolourist Adolf Hitler with his crazy schemes for world domination, in the other the fraudulent conman L Ron Hubbard whose influence was so powerful that even now, more than 20 years after his death, his so-called church still attracts thousands and thousands of young adherents all over the world.

Perhaps it is because the Germans are now more sensitive to the terrible dangers of totalitarian movements that they take a much more critical approach to Scientologists than we do in this country, where even some senior policemen have given their seal of approval to the cult. There has therefore been considerable criticism of the new film ‘Valkyrie’, based on the story of the failed bomb plot against Hitler in 1944. In the film, the leader of the conspiracy, Von Stauffenberg, is played by Hollywood actor Tom Cruise, pictured, the best-known celebrity campaigner for the Scientology movement. Opposition to the casting of Cruise has come most notably from Von Stauffenberg’s son.

But curiously ‘A German Hero’, a half-hour Radio 4 programme about the film broadcast last Monday, failed to make a single mention of the Scientology issue, let alone the attack from Von Stauffenberg’s family.

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