Hitler – fodder for comedy?

In today's comic terrain, few if any subjects are off limits. Case in point, the proliferation of YouTube clips that use Adolf Hitler as fodder for comedy. Read more and see the clips...


In today's comic terrain, few if any subjects are off limits. Case in point, the proliferation of YouTube clips that use Adolf Hitler as fodder for comedy.

Using a pivotal and sombre scene from The Downfall, Oliver Hirschbiegel's controversial film about Hitler's final twelve days in his Berlin bunker, the YouTube videos juxtapose subtitles that are completely unrelated to the content of Hitler's words. The scene in question depicts Hitler's bout of unsuppressed anger as he is told by a group of cowering generals that the war and Nazi cause will end in defeat for Germany.

Since the film is in German, YouTubers have taken the liberty to add subtitles that deal with unlikely and comical subject matters. In one clip Hitler is enraged by Barack Obama's success; in another, he is lambasting the transfer of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo from Manchester United to Real Madrid; and in a third, Hitler scolds his generals as he is told that his Microsoft Live account is frozen and that he should think about getting a Wii instead.

Funny indeed, but the videos also raise some interesting questions. Should Hitler be used as fodder for comedy? What psychological function do such jokes fulfil? And is evil trivialised by such efforts? Our Observers weigh in.

Please be advised that some of the clips contain strong language.

"Humour can exact the most humiliating forms of revenge"

Joel Schalit is an Israeli-American writer.

Apple's Final Cut application has brought many good things to the world of DIY film production. But who would have thought that it would help Hitler become a voice - or, to be more precise - a vehicle, for political criticism. Ever since I saw the first Downfall-based parody, Hillary's Downfall, during the Democratic presidential primary in the United States, I've encountered a number of similar detournements of this great German film, and they've all been worth a laugh or two.

That said, I have no philosophical problem with artists relying on Hitler as source material. When people get worried about the health of democracies, they tend to resort to the most easily identifiable exemplars of its opposite, which in this case is German fascism. Because Hitler represents the single most iconographic personification of such a politics, he's an easy and useful tool. Even more so when Bruno Gans' portrayal of the late Nazi leader in Downfall is so easy to work with.

To those who find such aesthetic strategies tasteless, I urge them to reconsider. Humour can exact the most humiliating forms of revenge. Imagine how liberating it must feel to literally have one's way with someone who has committed such irreversible acts of evil. Though this activity is limited to the realm of art, it sets an example for others who might be willing to commit such crimes in the future by getting across the idea that they will never be totally free."

"The horror of this murderous tyrant is lessened for them by turning him into a [...] ridiculous figure"

Henry Kaminer is a retired psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.

I personally become uncomfortable when I see a video of Hitler, especially when he is ranting in anger - but I am 74-years-old and I lived through World War II (in America, not in Europe, but it still has great emotional impact).

Younger people today know of Hitler in a less direct way, and the horror of this murderous tyrant is lessened for them by turning him into an ineffectual, frustrated and ridiculous figure. The sexual cursing makes him even more ludicrous and not someone to be feared. I think this is the main reason such videos have some popularity. They convert terror into ridicule.

I think the popularity is also an expression of the need of younger people to defy the older generation and show contempt for people or institutions that caused their parents and grandparents to tremble with fear. It makes the younger generation seem more powerful and stronger than their parents and grandparents - this is essential if the younger generation is to become brave enough to go out on its own and deal with the responsibilities of life. It happens in every generation. Perhaps this group of videos is less acceptable to the older generation because of the profanity.

Remember the extreme popularity of the old movie by Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator, which ridiculed Hitler and Mussolini in a very witty and devastating manner. It minimised Hitler's awesome and terrible power even more than these new videos do, and it is more acceptable! Perhaps the older generation cannot quite take the intense anger and sexual cursing, even though it is intended as ridicule, because we know Hitler could and did indulge in such angry outbursts, and with wild and terrible results."

Hitler's told about Ronaldo leaving Manchester United

Posted by darylsblog 22 June 08.

You can watch many more examples here.

Hitler gets banned from Microsoft Live

Posted by Bowlch 08 June 08.