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Practice makes perfect
July 1, 2014 8:22 PM   Subscribe

No one who's ever seen film footage of Adolf Hitler giving his rousing speeches could have failed to notice the importance of Der Führer’s wildly exaggerated gestures and body language. Well, it turns out Hitler worked very carefully on that aspect of his public persona, very carefully indeed. During his rise to power, Adolf Hitler had his private photographer, Heinrich Hoffman, shoot him while he practiced those gestures, so that his speeches might have the dramatic impact upon his audiences that he sought. Here are the photos.
posted by flapjax at midnite (80 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
You know who else...hm. Nevermind.
posted by uosuaq at 8:30 PM on July 1 [8 favorites]


Hadoken!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:35 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]


Photoshopers, start your engines!
posted by vorpal bunny at 8:37 PM on July 1 [5 favorites]


Streik a pose.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:41 PM on July 1


The one second from the bottom makes it look like he's pretending to be Spider-Man shooting webs.
posted by Muttoneer at 8:44 PM on July 1


Norma Desmond was wasting her time trying to get that Salome picture off the ground when these pictures show Hitler was apparently the historical role she was meant to play.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:53 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


Photoshopers, start your engines!

Resist. Reducing Hitler to a point of ridicule overly simplies too much: with those gestures he inflamed a populace past reason.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 8:53 PM on July 1 [35 favorites]


I've always found Hilter's exaggerated gesticulations to be a bit silly. To say nothing of the walk.

Really, though, he just stole it all from Mussolini -- except the moustache, nicked from Chaplin.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:54 PM on July 1


I can no longer see those poses without hearing "Where Brooklyn at?"
posted by adipocere at 9:00 PM on July 1 [7 favorites]


Ogre Lawless, you're very free to hold any attitudes you want, but ridiculing Hitler is exactly what some people do with their unresolved pain.

Sacred cows, even ultra-demonic ones, need slaughtering.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:10 PM on July 1 [14 favorites]


JAZZ HANDS
posted by Dr. Zira at 9:18 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


I have attended two big political rallies, and they were scary as hell. Sure they were by good guys, but the energy was like a rock concert and it made me a little uneasy. I wouldn't like to see it misused.

These images are grotesque and amusing in isolation, but imagine - before people all had TV; normally they listened to Hitler's speeches on the radio - what it must have been like at the big Nuremberg rallies, after dark, with torches everywhere, everyone united and built to a pitch of anticipation, when Hitler took the podium and worked up to this repertoire over a couple of hours.
posted by thelonius at 9:18 PM on July 1 [16 favorites]


Bowling. Definitely, definitely bowling.
posted by macrowave at 9:20 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


That kind of energy should only be made available to rock stars.
posted by mulligan at 9:25 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


Really, though, he just stole it all from Mussolini -- except the moustache, nicked from Chaplin.

He swiped it off someone else entirely.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:32 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]


Given the demonstrated and tragic effectiveness of Hitler's schtick, it's hard to get on board with the "duuuude, he looks like a total spazz!" mood. Yeah, it wouldn't work on TV today. What works on TV today wouldn't have worked in Germany in the 30s. They might look like hilariously old-timey theatrics to you; they managed to get millions upon millions of old-timey people killed.
posted by yoink at 9:35 PM on July 1 [22 favorites]


Weirdly, I find these photos scarier than the actual speeches. He wasn't born a demon, he had to practice. I'd never thought of that before.
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 9:36 PM on July 1 [70 favorites]


If rock stars and/or TV effectively disarmed this kind of energy, and yet another kind of TV-energy is on the brink of being disarmed, to what horrors shall we be subjected in the future?
posted by mubba at 9:36 PM on July 1


Photoshopers, start your engines!

Resist. Reducing Hitler to a point of ridicule overly simplies too much: with those gestures he inflamed a populace past reason.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 4:53 AM on July 2 [+] [!]


Precisely why they should be ridiculed. It never ceases to fascinate me when people seem not to get the way black humour works, and why it works.
posted by Decani at 9:36 PM on July 1 [9 favorites]


Mel Brooks has mentioned this in several interviews, so I'll just let him speak for himself:

"Of course it is impossible to take revenge for 6 million murdered Jews. But by using the medium of comedy, we can try to rob Hitler of his posthumous power and myths."
posted by Muttoneer at 9:46 PM on July 1 [39 favorites]


Somebody needs to do this with Tony Robbins. Were Balmer's consultants using Robbins as a template?
posted by bukvich at 9:49 PM on July 1


I've got nothing against laughing at Hitler; but I think when you set out to do it you want to bring stronger material than "haw haw, he looked kinda goofy when he made his speeches."
posted by yoink at 9:51 PM on July 1 [9 favorites]


Are these already photoshopped? How are his digits extending out of the frame in the top photo?
posted by ovenmitt at 9:54 PM on July 1


Weirdly, I find these photos scarier than the actual speeches. He wasn't born a demon, he had to practice. I'd never thought of that before.

What's alarming to me is how prescient Hitler was.

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think other political leaders of Hitler's era were spending this much time focusing things like the physical movements they made during their public speeches. Did Roosevelt do this? Did Churchill? Stalin?

But today, just about all members of the US Congress and the president and the VP and loads of other political figures around the world go through extensive training on how to present themselves in public.

They focus on their posture, their arm movements, when they should lean forward to drive a point home and when they should lean back when they are indicating that they are speaking about grandiose, abstract things.

Hitler was ahead of his time with all this stuff. And that should make us terrified.
posted by mcmile at 9:58 PM on July 1 [15 favorites]


Are these already photoshopped? How are his digits extending out of the frame in the top photo?

A white ceiling and a bad photographer.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:01 PM on July 1


I've got nothing against laughing at Hitler; but I think when you set out to do it you want to bring stronger material than "haw haw, he looked kinda goofy when he made his speeches."

Meh. You know who else insisted people did things certain ways?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:05 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


Damn it, Hoffman! You know perfectly well what we meant when we told you to go back in time and shoot Hitler!
posted by mbrubeck at 10:07 PM on July 1 [32 favorites]


Streik a pose.

Streich a pose, I presume.

These photos look goofy in the same way that all theatre stills look goofy and exaggerated. On stage, it works. Play to the cheap seats and all.
posted by mazola at 10:12 PM on July 1 [2 favorites]


He didn't need his gestures.

In 1987, I was a few months into an 18 month exchange program in Germany. That was the first year German teachers could speak in depth about WWII, the Holocaust, and Hitler.

My History teacher had been a member of the HJ. Forced, of course. He knew then that he was witnessing something significant, and he knew he wanted to be a teacher. He saved everything, just in case.

On a sunny January morning at the Burggymnasium Altena, Herr Hohage instructed us to close the blinds on our floor to ceiling windows. The day before, we had asked him how people could be taken in by him. He intended to demonstrate.

He cued up a reel to reel tape, shut off the lights, told us to close our eyes, put our heads down, shut up, and listen. It was a recording of a HJ rally. Hitler had the cadences and charisma of a charming Baptist tent revival preacher. In minutes, we all found ourselves BELIEVING. 20 minutes later, when the tape ended and Herr Hohage snapped the lights back on, there was a room with 17 sobbing, grief-stricken teenagers. In that moment, we UNDERSTOOD, and we were HORRIFIED.

It was the most effective lesson I've ever had. It made me fully appreciate my Opa's service. US Army, 89th Infantry. Overran Ohrdruf-Buchenwald. Saw things at 19 that no one should ever see. "How could people not see?" I would ask him. "Peach, it's really complicated. " Said the man with a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and shrapnel in his belly for Liberating Ohrdruf and Buchenwald.

I skipped the rest of my classes that day. I cried until I couldn't anymore, then I called home to my Opa and told him about school. He advised me to go and get solidly drunk, then write to him after the hangover passed. Opa kept all my letters home. He gave them back to me shortly before he died. That one...the pain still oozes from the page, all these years later. That one lesson drastically changed the way I look at the world.

It's so easy to say "Herp, derp, Hitler" and "gallows humor". These pictures...they aren't funny to me. They are terrifying, because he practiced endlessly to get people to go along with mass murder, AND IT WORKED.
posted by MissySedai at 10:25 PM on July 1 [450 favorites]


Kind of wish he'd followed that career as a stage magician instead.
posted by gallois at 10:28 PM on July 1 [4 favorites]


Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think other political leaders of Hitler's era were spending this much time focusing things like the physical movements they made during their public speeches. Did Roosevelt do this? Did Churchill? Stalin?

I don't know about those particular leaders but that was a point in time when rhetoric was still a subject studied in school, a major component of a classical education in the Western world, and had been for thousands of years. I'd also think that there were many more stage actors in the world relative to other occupations than there are now and that more people would have been exposed to theatrical education and principles. So it seems unlikely to me that Hitler was the only political leader who'd have had such a refined focus on public speech craft, though he seems to have had a particular talent for it.
posted by XMLicious at 10:28 PM on July 1 [8 favorites]


My first thought upon scrolling through is that Littlefinger = Hitler
posted by aydeejones at 10:39 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


Also:

When the war ended, Hoffman was arrested by the US Military and sentenced to four years in prison for profiteering.

I hadn't realized it was a ever specifically a named offense growing up in the spectre of DESERT STORM SHOWDOWN SHIELD OF SHOCK AND AWE
posted by aydeejones at 10:42 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


Making fun of horror is something like being a fan of problematic things: there is a point to it, but it necessarily involves some cognitive dissonance.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:42 PM on July 1


I hadn't realized it was a ever specifically a named offense growing up in the spectre of DESERT STORM SHOWDOWN SHIELD OF SHOCK AND AWE

Only if your side loses.
posted by yonega at 10:46 PM on July 1 [6 favorites]


Living in the presence of horror alone or with awareness of its proximity requires a hefty amount too; "some" would call humor a form of that cognitive dissonance.

Plus it feels weird to see a great de-humanizer from decades past humanized in a visual way, like it seems constructed for our amusement. I think on their own they stand OK but the "hilarious" question at the end pushes it a bit too far; let us be the judge of that, I was thinking more "guiltily amusing but in the way that I'm thinking what a murderous d-bag, not what a goof."
posted by aydeejones at 10:47 PM on July 1 [1 favorite]


It's so easy to say "Herp, derp, Hitler" and "gallows humor". These pictures...they aren't funny to me. They are terrifying, because he practiced endlessly to get people to go along with mass murder, AND IT WORKED

Very true, I was just processing that thought. Seeing Putin on a Horseback is like "What a schmuck," seeing Hitler perfect a craft as "hilarious" when it actually worked is sort of like laughing at goose-stepping, those guys look funny and all weird-like. Oh wait, they're marching into my fucking city. Fuck.
posted by aydeejones at 10:50 PM on July 1 [12 favorites]


Of course, Putin on Horseback is an extension of this and is part of his homophobic psy-op. I just wonder how well informed it is. Oh wait, I'm being provincial again, I'm sure it does actually work pretty damned well for a lot of people.
posted by aydeejones at 10:52 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


Hitler was ahead of his time with all this stuff. And that should make us terrified.

What scares me is that like rocketry, the media technology was taken by the Allies (read: USA) and internalized. Digested into the war machine. Used for mass social manipulation, both against enemies (good morning vietnam) and to program the next generation of citizens.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:03 PM on July 1 [3 favorites]


A charismatic speaker pulls his audience right into whatever story he's telling. I've read before how Hitler's skill at speaking was perhaps the most significant part of his rise to power.

I remember the days when the family gathered around the radio and listened carefully to the news and discussion of world affairs; this was maybe five years after the end of WWII and I distinctly recall that as kids we were under orders to be absolutely quiet during that time - what was being discussed was not to be missed.

I have neighbors now who gather around the radio to listen earnestly to talk radio - they wouldn't miss their shows for anything and if you're in their apartment, you better be quiet while they listen to the ranting and nod and yes, yes and boy, you got that right and amen. These talk radio hosts are also charismatic speakers - and they practiced hard and heavy before they ever hit the big time.

From the standpoint of rhetoric and practiced speech and the power to instill commitment to their cause from their audience, I can't see any difference in Hitler's call to arms, evangelicals marching to and fro on a stage and exhorting the crowd to repent or give their souls to Jesus, or Limbaugh/Beck/Hannity/O'Reilly etc roaring about the coming doom and disaster due to liberals and Obama.

What's truly frightening is the intensity with which their audience members focus on their words, especially considering that words are only part of the show.
posted by aryma at 11:19 PM on July 1 [10 favorites]


Looks like they found another one
posted by iotic at 11:40 PM on July 1


MissySedai Hitler had the cadences and charisma of a charming Baptist tent revival preacher. In minutes, we all found ourselves BELIEVING. 20 minutes later, when the tape ended and Herr Hohage snapped the lights back on, there was a room with 17 sobbing, grief-stricken teenagers. In that moment, we UNDERSTOOD, and we were HORRIFIED.

This! I once looked into Hitler's ability to mesmerize crowds, and took some time to view some archival footage. I didn't understand a word he was saying (I'd not fluent in German), but I was drawn in by his dynamic posturing and vocal cadence. Same thing with Mussolini.

Imagining I was a German citizen of the time, barely surviving under the crush of reparations forced on Post WWI Germany by the victorious Allies, it wasn't a far throw to see how one could get sucked in by a demagogue like Hitler. In fact, I have experienced similar sensations when watching certain Evangelical preachers. I don't believe a word they're saying, but they are compelling in the form and style and cadence of their sermon/presentation.

It's exceedingly scary to consider how easy it it to work up a crowd; it's kind of a warning sign about not taking lightly those persons we may dismiss as demagogic nutcases.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:41 PM on July 1 [9 favorites]


Many years ago I had the opportunity to watch film of several of Hitler's speeches while listening to English translations. It was stunning. The voice, the gestures -- all seem so over the top, so crazy. Why would people go along with it? Because so much of what he said was so sane, so positive -- so liberal. We need to stabilize inflation, so we can all afford to eat; no one should go hungry or without a shelter at night. We need to provide good jobs, with decent benefits, so people can raise their children in stable, happy homes. We need to preserve the environment. We need to make sure our children our safe, and are protected from corruption, and have a chance to spend time outdoors ..... it went on and on, almost unbearable knowing what came of those entrancing words, those lovely visions.
posted by kestralwing at 11:49 PM on July 1 [8 favorites]


There was a literature devoted to the study and practice of rhetorical gesture: from John Bulwer’s Chirologia, (‘or, The naturall language of the hand’—1644) through to Albert M. Bacon’s 1872 A Manual of Gesture (‘embracing a complete system of notation, together with the principles of interpretation and selections for practice’). I wonder if Hitler studied any of these, or their German equivalents. See also Brian Dillon’s interesting article Talk to the Hand, which begins:
“By the end of the nineteenth century, the gestures of the Western bourgeoisie were irretrievably lost:” so writes Giorgio Agamben in his 1992 essay, “Notes on Gesture.” The early years of the twentieth century were marked, the philosopher contends, by a frantic effort to reconstitute the vanished realm of meaningful movements: hence the exaggerated articulations of silent film and the mad leaps of modern dance.
posted by misteraitch at 1:22 AM on July 2 [17 favorites]


Hitler was ahead of his time with all this stuff. And that should make us terrified.

What scares me is that like rocketry, the media technology was taken by the Allies (read: USA) and internalized.


It's the other way around, unfortunately, and scarily.
In Propaganda (1928), Bernays argued that the manipulation of public opinion was a necessary part of democracy:

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. [...] We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. [...] In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons [...] who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind."
Bernays later wrote: "Goebbels [...] was using my book Crystallizing Public Opinion as a basis for his destructive campaign against the Jews of Germany. This shocked me."
posted by fraula at 1:59 AM on July 2 [17 favorites]


"It's so easy to say "Herp, derp, Hitler" and "gallows humor". These pictures...they aren't funny to me."

They are to me, but then, I'm English, and we have been mocking Hitler since 1939, so its in my blood to laugh at him. Also, we won the fucking war, and after his Luftwaffe murdered women and children in their homes in 1940, well, we can say what we fucking like about him.

Those pics - it looks like he is dancing! Surely someone can make Hitler dance - that would be fantastic.
posted by marienbad at 2:09 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


They are to me, but then, I'm English, and we have been mocking Hitler since 1939, so its in my blood to laugh at him.

Speak for yourself. Please. To laugh at Hitler may be in your blood, but that same blood does not run through the arteries and veins of all English people.
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:25 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


To laugh at Hitler may be in your blood, but that same blood does not run through the arteries and veins of all English people.

Just the funny ones, I reckon.
posted by valkane at 4:03 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


> I don't think other political leaders of Hitler's era were spending this much time focusing things like the physical movements they made during their public speeches. Did Roosevelt do this? Did Churchill? Stalin?

Cicero's De Oratore was written around 55 BC and covers all points. Really, the only things Hitler doesn't demonstrate, probably unknowingly since I doubt he was versed in the classics at all, was Cicero's emphasis on ethics and moral guidance. Roosevelt and Churchill seemed to have been required to read those parts of Cicero in school, though.

Public speaking is a skill -- talented people have advantages, but just like acting or playing music it takes experience through practice and work, even when the public performance is improvised. Professional rhetoricians have been circulating among the landed wealthy, teaching arts of public persuasion to future politicians since the Renaissance.
posted by ardgedee at 4:33 AM on July 2 [7 favorites]


And I'm pretty sure that Churchill practised his speaking cadences very extensively.
posted by wilful at 4:47 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


a little resizing and cropping and the resulting hitler-at-the-disco.gif would be kinda hilarious.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:05 AM on July 2


Blue jean baby, L.A. lady, seamstress for the band
Pretty eyed, pirate smile, you'll marry a music man
Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing in the sand
And now she's in me, always with me, tiny dancer in my hand
posted by oceanjesse at 5:11 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


It works the other way as well. This man has spent years practising presenting as profoundly dull and insignificant, in order to disguise the extent of his poisonous influence among the rich and powerful.

There ought to be something like a reverse Godwin principle that covers bringing John Howard into discussions about Hitler.
posted by flabdablet at 5:13 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


I can't find a link that explains it succinctly, but I learned several years ago that Hitler commissioned this stage magician to create a custom set of rhetorical poses.
posted by putzface_dickman at 5:41 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


> To laugh at Hitler may be in your blood, but that same blood does not run through the arteries and veins of all English people.

Having lived in a part of the country where neo-nazis regularly held rallies, I can confirm that having antagonistic mobs visit to throw things and pick fights never slowed them down much. They're girded for fights. They aren't as well prepared for humiliation.

Turn them into clowns, man. Demean them. Laugh.
posted by ardgedee at 6:31 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


I don't think other political leaders of Hitler's era were spending this much time focusing things like the physical movements they made during their public speeches. Did Roosevelt do this?

Roosevelt used to pop wheelies while doing his fireside chats, but since those were on the radio nobody got to see them.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:44 AM on July 2 [9 favorites]


That [1987] was the first year German teachers could speak in depth about WWII, the Holocaust, and Hitler.

Why was this the case?
posted by kiltedtaco at 7:19 AM on July 2


Reminds me of the infamous Nixon VS. Kennedy Televised Debate. "What happened after the two candidates took the stage is a familiar tale. Nixon, pale and underweight from a recent hospitalization, appeared sickly and sweaty, while Kennedy appeared calm and confident. As the story goes, those who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon had won."
posted by xtian at 7:24 AM on July 2 [2 favorites]


I'm sure the methamphetamine coursing through his body also added intensity to his gestures and speech.
posted by ChuckRamone at 7:43 AM on July 2


As the story goes, those who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon had won.

It's not clear that this story is true.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:54 AM on July 2 [3 favorites]


mcmile: Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think other political leaders of Hitler's era were spending this much time focusing things like the physical movements they made during their public speeches.

Churchill spent days practicing before his speeches in the House of Commons. He did this even during the height of the war when some might argue his attention was needed elsewhere. His repertoire did not include exaggerated gestures like in the photos, but then again the British Parliament is a different venue than Nuremberg rallies.

Anyway, goes to show that no-one is a natural. To achieve high performance, everyone has to practice.
posted by Triplanetary at 8:26 AM on July 2 [4 favorites]


To the contrary, ridiculing the sort of behavior that was able to inflame a generation of Germans into committing mass murder is a good way to ensure that the same behavior will not have the same effect on future generations.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:04 AM on July 2 [1 favorite]


That [1987] was the first year German teachers could speak in depth about WWII, the Holocaust, and Hitler.

Why was this the case?


It used to be forbidden to talk about the NSDAP - at the end of the War, the party had been declared illegal, and attempts to recreate it were punishable by imprisonment. Subsequent Education Ministries clamped down on discussing it in depth, for fear that such discussion would spark a resurgence of interest in the NSDAP. That whole period was discussed in only the most general terms, and even that was pretty fraught for a long time. Teachers and students alike, particularly in the first 20 years or so after the war, were very uncomfortable with the topic, and very fearful that talking too in depth would bring it all back again. This is not an unreasonable attitude when your country is strewn with rubble, occupied by foreign military forces divvying the joint up between them, and splattered across the news as a symbol of pure evil.

Those that had been old enough to resist but didn't? They were ashamed. Those that weren't? They were PISSED at their elders for being so thoroughly taken in. My Opa wasn't wrong when he said it was complicated.

You may have heard stories of "German National Guilt". It is a very real thing, even now. Back in the 80s, people who had been children during the war started demanding that the era be discussed in greater detail in schools, on the grounds that you can't learn from the mistakes of the past if no one will talk about it to begin with. At the end of 1986, it was decided that it was in the best interests of the nation to step up and own that piece of its history.

It was a hard year for many of my classmates, who learned their grandparents had been party faithful. It was rough for me, too, the granddaughter of a Liberator. It was information I had grown up with, and seeing my classmates confronted with it for the first time was heart wrenching. Teenagers, crying and ashamed of their country, and mad as fuck that everyone had always been so quiet about it.

We're all in our 40s now, and we still all remember that class vividly. It was pretty brave of Herr Hohage to jump in with both feet, and we're all still impressed by his honesty and desire for us to know the truth.
posted by MissySedai at 2:34 PM on July 2 [46 favorites]


He wasn't born a demon, he had to practice. I'd never thought of that before.

We have these image in our heads that in order to do what they do they had to be crazy. You almost have to tell yourself that in order to stand it, in order to comprehend it, in order to feel secure that kind of sway wouldn't happen over you and your own. That's why, to me, Albert Speer is always the scariest high-level Nazi, because he so obviously was cold-bloodedly rational about his ambition; he had a desire for power so strong he would do anything for it, and also cold-bloodedly rational about his own survival. Speer may not have believed the way other Nazis did, which almost makes him even more fearful.

Hitler worked hard to be in control of his own image at all times, so these photos shouldn't be surprising. But they are, and it's that cold appraisal of the situation that makes it so, and reminds me of Speer to the point of contemplating how much of National Socialism did Hitler believe himself, and how much of it was rhetoric to win over the German people? I'm sure there's scholarship on this, but as a non-historian unfamiliar with it...it's a terrifying, disquieting thought.
posted by barchan at 3:58 PM on July 2 [1 favorite]


Marienbad: As you requested, here is Hitler dancing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1do0JI-JG4M&bpctr=1404362667
posted by Sleeper at 9:17 PM on July 2


Thanks, aryma and MissySedai, for sharing your experiences.

My two cents: I think it's natural and OK to mock Hitler and other "real-life monsters," although it's important to remember that while you can joke about them, what they did (or are doing) is no joke.

Even while Hitler was still alive, the English were singing "Hitler Has Only Got One Ball."
posted by Sleeper at 9:31 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


These pictures...they aren't funny to me. They are terrifying, because he practiced endlessly to get people to go along with mass murder, AND IT WORKED.

To some people, like my father, laughing at Hitler means you survived.
posted by Room 641-A at 10:03 PM on July 2 [2 favorites]


To some people, like my father, laughing at Hitler means you survived.

I am relieved and glad that he did. And I am glad he can laugh and say "Neener, neener, fuck you, I win." Gods love every single person for whom this is the case, and may their sleep be sweet and free of nightmares.

I just can't laugh at him. I have a very complicated relationship with my ancestral homeland and that period of history, being the granddaughter of a liberator and a cousin of one of the Sturm Abteilung. I met my cousin Otto when I visited the Black Forest, where my family is from. He was unrepentant. It was...awful. I just can't laugh at it.
posted by MissySedai at 10:14 PM on July 2 [10 favorites]


Am I the only person who was shocked to learn that Heinrich Hoffman was jailed for profiteering following the war? It seems to make about as much sense as any other clerical personnel in the NSDAP being jailed.
posted by TypographicalError at 11:11 PM on July 2


I just can't laugh at him.

I understand, and wasn't trying to convince you (or anyone) to change how they feel. You simply helped me articulate my feelings about it in a way that is much more precise than I've ever been able to with the standard "it's cathartic", etc. It ends up being much more powerful than trying to intellectualize black humor.
posted by Room 641-A at 11:15 PM on July 2 [3 favorites]


At the end of 1986, it was decided that it was in the best interests of the nation to step up and own that piece of its history.

I highly doubt this interpretation, although you may remember it like this. It is true that there are periodic revisions and debates over the correct way to present it in class, but the implication that only in 1986 did Germans start learning about nazism in non-generic terms is totally incorrect.
posted by dhoe at 3:07 AM on July 3 [2 favorites]


To my mind, the most classic parody of Hitler is Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator, and the most classic scene is his dance with the globe (youtube link).
posted by gudrun at 3:45 PM on July 3 [1 favorite]


Mr. Hohage in MissySedai's story apparently did a good job, convincing his class that brain warp à la Hitler is something that actually works if done skillfully. Many Germans of my generation still have difficulties 'getting' it (partly because Hitler's rhetoric seems so old-fashioned to Germans of today).

But the claim that 1987 was "the first year German teachers could speak in depth about WWII, the Holocaust, and Hitler" is just not true.
Our history unit about the "Tausenjähriges Reich" and WWII must have been in 1974 or '75; our history teacher was born around the end of the war, and he was absolutely relentless about providing facts (possibly because he had just missed being an eyewitness).
Talking about the nazi regime was never "forbidden" in postwar Western Germany. It may have been officially discouraged in some Bundesländer for some periods, perhaps for the reasons you mention, but hey, free speech and all that, it's part of our constitution. Other teachers went to considerable lengths talking about their own experiences of this dark time. Only the ones who themselves may well have had a dark past kept quiet.
posted by Namlit at 3:57 PM on July 4 [3 favorites]


Those pics - it looks like he is dancing! Surely someone can make Hitler dance - that would be fantastic.
posted by marienbad at 2:09 AM on July 2 [1 favorite +] [!]


it's been done since 1940
posted by Bwithh at 5:26 PM on July 4 [1 favorite]


"To laugh at Hitler may be in your blood, but that same blood does not run through the arteries and veins of all English people.

Just the funny ones,"


Yeah, not just the English but I know what you mean.

"Marienbad: As you requested, here is Hitler dancing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1do0JI-JG4M&bpctr=1404362667"


This won't play for me, it says "The following content has been identified by the YouTube community as being potentially offensive or graphic. Viewer discretion is advised. " and when I click continue it comes back to that message.

It always makes me laugh when people say you shouldn't laugh at Hitler. Seriously, you people should try it sometime, it is awesome.
posted by marienbad at 1:12 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Delete the "watch?v=" with "v/"
posted by five fresh fish at 4:02 AM on July 6


Part of the reason for the exaggerated gestures is that he needed to be seen and convey his message across some rather large venues (like the Nuremberg stadium). Sorta like the exaggerated motions of cheerleaders on the football field. These days, with TV cameras, you get Kennedy clobbering Nixon in the debate because he meticulously practiced his closeup presence (and makeup) and Nixon looked sweaty & nervous.
posted by kjs3 at 5:07 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Great photos. Seems like he was actually quite a striking man.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:04 PM on July 7


To the contrary, ridiculing the sort of behavior that was able to inflame a generation of Germans into committing mass murder is a good way to ensure that the same behavior will not have the same effect on future generations.

I'm not sure it works that way. The men trying the same game today know well enough not to use the gestures that seem laughably silly to us now.

I don't see how laughing at Hitler posing in a mirror is likely to help people see what's wrong with the Facebook posts screaming, "PROTESTERS IN MURRIETA TURNED BACK BUSLOADS OF ILLEGALS SHARE IF YOU WOULD DO THE SAME FOR YOUR TOWN!"
posted by straight at 3:15 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I also very much doubt that it works that way.

Think of costume parties designed to mock past decades (eighties night! disco era! ha ha funny clothes). They don't stop people from being influenced by contemporary popular fashion. Actually, the mockery and the normative model are two sides of the same coin.

Not saying Hitler should never be mocked. But ridiculing these photos is a way to exhibit confidence that WE wouldn't get duped. Which isn't the same as developing the skills needed to not get duped.
posted by feral_goldfish at 4:25 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


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