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This paper will review and discuss the movie ‘Conspiracy’ by giving a brief overview of the movie’s setting and discuss how management skills allowed the group’s leader, Heydrich, to control the meeting to a degree that those present in the meeting could only agree to his decision.
The Conspiracy Movie
This is a 2001 Wannsee Conference of 1942 when World War II was underway. Americans had just entered the war. Top Nazi official are discussing and planning how to carry out what they are calling ‘Final Solution’ to the Jewish question. In about 90 minutes, details are laid on how to exterminate the Jews in Europe. With authority from Hitler, SS general Heydrich had called a meeting of 15 government and military officials to a meeting that will decide a final decision of the Jews.
The first thing at the meeting is for Heydrich to call for introductions where we learn that seven of those in attendance are SS. Heydrich uses the opportunity to assert his dominance over the meeting. He achieves this by interrupting any person who deviates from the main agenda. According to Schemerhorn, he takes control of the situation in the meeting becaue he is the leader (the manger). Two of those present at the meeting, Dr. Kritzinger and Stutkark, seem to oppose Heydrich as they do not see a reason for the meeting. They believe that the Jewish question is answered with the Nuremberg laws and the current deportation policy that allows a free Jew society. The other person who seems opposed to Heydrich is General Hofmann because he believes that it is his department that has jurisdiction over the Jew matter.
After the introductions, Heydrich reads a memorandum that places him in command over the Jewish issue. This destroys Hofmann’s assertion of jurisdiction over the Jewish issue. Heydrich then affirms his authority by telling Hofmann that ‘The glove is all iron’ meaning that as the president of the group, Heydrich was all iron and any other people could only be assisting him but by respecting powers of their respective office. He once again asserts his authority and dominance over the meeting by this statement.
As the leader, Heydrich’s second item on the agenda is to make those present at the meeting that the policy of deporting Jews is over. He suggests ‘evacuation’ to replace the deportation policy and calls for removal of special exemptions from those who received the highest honor of Iron Cross. They also discuss whether sterilization can be used to ‘evacuate’ the Jews but the discussion results into a shouting match. Heydrich once again asserts his authority by saying that dead people do not engage in sex and therefore death is the reliable means of sterilization thus promptly ending the shouting noises.
During the ‘evacuation’ discussion, the meeting is interrupted twice; one when Hofmann get ill during the evacuation discussion and when Heydrich calls for refreshments. During the two breaks, Heydrich uses the opportunity to determine the outcome of the meeting. He uses the opportunity to bully those who are opposed to him; Stutkark and Dr. Kritzinger. Heydrich has a one-on-one talk with them giving an insight of the importance of the meeting. Although throughout the meeting Dr. Stutkark is much opposed to any new policy because he is the one who wrote the current policy, Heydrich reminds him of his place in meeting telling him to consider the risk he is subjecting him to by opposing him. He tells him of the many ‘meat hooks’ for those with black marks meaning that if he does not support Heydrich now then he might find himself on the meat hook. Heydrich also has a one-on-one discussion with Dr. Kritzinger who is opposed to killing of Jews for moral reasons. Heydrich informs him that his support is very important because he is a powerful man but he should not think that he cannot be brought down. He ends the conversation by giving Dr. Kritzinger the option of answering now or later. This time, we see that as the leader, instead of violence Heydrich uses a threat to power with the same intent though; it is my way or else.
Apart from the bullying scenes, other factors that force the members accept Heydrich’s plan was the other SS present. The soldiers present talk of following commands and not being in a position to question due to what they say is ‘privilege of rank’. This dogma only helps to reinforce the idea that the leader was the final decision maker and thus they have to accept the evacuation plan. The other factor is the presence of Nazi party members. Their de-facto leader Klopfer calls Dr. Stutkark a Jew lover because he seems to have sympathy for them. Enraged, Dr. Stutkark predicts that the world will judge them harshly for the ‘evacuation’ policy. Undeterred, Klopfer retorts back telling him “I’ll remember you” this meant that he will revenge when the time comes. This shows the kind of leadership exhibited by Heydrich; his threats, SS threats and Nazi threats. This shows that a normal organization does operate by use of and force and threats.
When the meeting is about to end, Heydrich reviews each of those present to decide their fate. The ministry of foreign affairs representative, Martin Luther, was sent to die in the concentration camps for ‘conspiracy against his superiors’. This fact is to underscore the reality of what awaits those who are opposed to the evacuation plan. When he is assured of the support of those present, Heydrich then wants them to discuss the method of evacuation. Not a single person seems to object his idea of evacuation. Heydrich ends the meeting by going round the table and asking for each person’s show of support. In doing so, he adds an element of pressure to keep those in the meeting by his side. They agree on gassing the Jews at 60,000 daily.
Heydrich is a crafty leader who made the final decision before he even called the meeting. It shows that the purpose of the meeting was not to decide on the final decision but unify those present and their respective departments to carry out the solution. Heydrich therefore uses the Group Think to force for the final decision on the meeting. His factor of the illusion of invulnerability was done by the Nazi. They believed that they were the best master race and could not lose. By inviting into the meeting half SS members, Heydrich accomplishes the illusion of unanimity and creating an atmosphere that gave the unanimity impression and thus making it difficult for any person to oppose him because anybody opposing him could also be opposing many others (the SS) at the same time. Heydrich is good at suppressing personal doubts by using the SS who help him spout off about following orders and by using threats. Klopfer is a self-appointed mind guard who challenges any person who disagrees with the Nazi party platform which is even similar to that of SS.
Heydrich’s suave leadership is demonstrated when he interrupts those who have contrary opinions to his ideas and also by postponing some things till he has worked up his members. For example Heydrich could not have started the meeting by, say, telling them, “I have called you to this meeting because I have decided that genocide is the best way to do away with the Jewish question.” This method could have been disaster and could have been vehemently opposed by many people. Instead Heydrich works up the members gradually and using force or threats to the few do not wish to comply with his will.
Elements of classical organization are visible in Heydrich. He does not look for any guidance from his subordinates because he seems to understand that authority comes with privileges of giving orders and the power to exact obedience. He is shown to exercise this every time he interrupts those opposed to him or calls for a one-on-one converse. He also creates a communication gap which is clearly a leadership gap when he uses Eichmann as the lever through which all communications will pass through. He makes it clear; he is superior and he is their leader. Scientific management is also discussed when he allows for a discussion on the method of final solution to be used; sterilization and gassing are discussed and gassing is decided upon in the interest of maximum safety.
Managers are indispensible to organizations, by use of effort they have to get things done. Managers have to plan, organize, lead and control (POLC). By planning, they set performance objectives and determine what should be done to accomplish the work, they have to organize their plans in such a way that they do not fail, they have to lead from the front and they control by measuring performance and comparing objectives. When in control, they have to stay in contact with people and gather enough information to make any necessary adjustments (Schermerhorn, 2009). The six “must have” managerial skills discussed by Schermerhorn (p.17), of teamwork, self-management, leadership, professionalism, communication and critical thinking are all applicable in the meeting. This is exactly exhibited by Heydrich in the meeting; he is in control of things.
Using principles of management, Heydrich had decided on the solution to the ‘final decision’ and was able to coerce the 15 people into accepting his plan as the only choice by intimidation, through cold efficient logic and peer pressure. We have also seen that Heydrich exhibits most of the qualities of leadership discussed by Schermerhorn.