Hitler as the object of comedy
September 27, 2009 3:15 AM   Subscribe

Walter Moers is one of the most prominent cartoonists from Germany. One of his most famous creations is "Das kleine Arschloch" (The little asshole). In 1998, the first comic book with the title "Adolf - Die Nazisau" (Adolf - the Nazi pig) was published. Two more were to follow. To promote the third volume, the video "Ich hock' in meinem Bonker" was made in 2006, showing Hitler sitting in his Führerbunker during the last days of the Second World War, unwilling to surrender to the Allies. Here is the German original. It was also translated into English (I'm sitting in my bunker) and French (J'suis seul dans mon bonker). I find myself trapped in a moral dilemma when watching these videos. On the one hand, I can't help wetting myself because they are incredibly funny. But on the other hand - as a historian AND a German - I can't help but feel that this is VERY wrong. Poking fun at National Socialism in general and those last days of the Second World War in Berlin in particular, where tens of thousands from both sides died the most horrible deaths, is just ... well, gross. I'm looking forward to your comments. Am I being over-sensitive?
posted by Matthias Rascher (57 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: this is sort of a GYOB situation. -- jessamyn



 
Sometimes the best response to horror is laughter, and the best answer to tyranny is mockery.

(I find it extremely interesting that fascists hate being laughed at.)

((Full disclosure: half my father's extended family failed to make it out of Poland before September 1939. They disappeared, circa 1942, into Auschwitz-Birkenau. And I grew up attending a synagogue where some of the older folk had numbers tatooed on their arms. I still think it's okay to make Hitler jokes.))
posted by cstross at 3:21 AM on September 27, 2009 [5 favorites]


I don't think I would call that a "moral dilemma".

Is the world a better place if you stifle your laughter?

The truth is somewhere in the middle. The cartoons are hardly shocking, but they're not that funny either. "Amusing and irreverent", I would say. Not worth getting your drawers in a knot over.
posted by creasy boy at 3:35 AM on September 27, 2009


Following up on cstross, I have a friend whose Jewish Dad made it out of Germany with his father, while the father's father (my friend's Great-grandfather) insisted that as a German (and moreover a patriot who'd made munitions for Germany in WWI), he'd stay and die in Germany. Which he did, in an extermination camp.

My friend is, alas, a rugby player, and finds it hilarious that his coach exhorts him to greater performance by telling him to "run like the Nazis are chasing you". (This coach has similar encouragement for black players, etc.) My friend thinks it's so hilarious, he's told me this story several times. On the other hand, my friend also noted (with disdain) that another Jew left the team in disgust after the coach used this line on him. But again, my friend play rugby, and delights in its more uncouth aspects.
posted by orthogonality at 3:39 AM on September 27, 2009


Isn't there the matter of time to consider in making this sort of judgement? After all, it is easy to
make fun of Hitler these many years after he has died...
posted by Postroad at 3:45 AM on September 27, 2009


Ich weiß dass du hier noch nagelneu bist, aber vl. sollst du Metafilter noch ein bissel kennenlernen bevor du ein neuen FPP schreibst.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:49 AM on September 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


During the battle of Tora Bora in 2001 American troops called the Tora Bora complex the 'Caves of Death'. British troops called it 'Tora Bora Tomkinson' (after T P-T). I've always found the second to be a far healthier response; terrorists, dictators really, really want to be taken seriously. They want you to fear them. They hate being laughed at, so laugh at them.

Does this cross over into laughing at the suffering of those around the dictator? That's the bit that I think is offensive, and it's a very fine line. But dark humour is a survival thing, and it's the way that my family coped with some horrible situations, including horrible parts of WW2.

Disclaimers: I'm British, and as a nation we apparently have one of the darkest senses of humour in the world. Secondly, I love Walter Moers, so am biased in his favour.
posted by Coobeastie at 3:52 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Isn't the 'statute of limitations' around 23 years? I believe I learned that in the episode of South Park titled 'Jared Has Aides'. If it's been 23 years, you can laugh at it, and it's okay. (Personally, I've compressed that down to around 23 minutes, but then again, I'm one irreverent sumbitch.)

Two Jews are standing in line to be executed at Dachau. One Jew looks at the skies and says to the other, 'Well, at least the weather's nice!' I told that joke to my Jewish significant other and she laughed, so I think we're in the clear now on WWII humor. Bring it on!
posted by jamstigator at 3:56 AM on September 27, 2009


"All the Jews, and one clown."
posted by orthogonality at 4:01 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


It wasn't very funny and the background color on this page is not green.
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 4:06 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you laugh at Hitler, you're worse than Hitler.
posted by creasy boy at 4:06 AM on September 27, 2009


I'd like to see some empirical evidence that backs up this claim that the British have some kind of humour that is 'darker' or 'drier' or anything else for that matter.

/derail.
posted by awfurby at 4:06 AM on September 27, 2009


If you like funny hitlers, you might like Kitlers. They're cute!
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:09 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Have you tried the food?
posted by alasdair at 4:10 AM on September 27, 2009


Personally I think Achim Greser did "poking fun at Hitler" much better with his "Der Führer Privat" which ran in satirical magazine Titanic for many years. And in my book, ridiculing Hitler as a person is ok, as long as you don't ridicule his actions, or the suffering of his victims. He's a pretty good target)
posted by ClarissaWAM at 4:14 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thing is, Walter Moers is not funny in some absolute way. It's funny if you're a German who thinks he's not allowed to laugh about your country's past, in the same way most everything involving genitals is funny to 13 year old boys who think sex is forbidden territory. I detest most humor.
posted by dhoe at 4:18 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]




A lot of Germans are anxious that the rest of the world only thinks of them as Nazis. I try telling them that in America we only think of them as Sprockets, but none of them know what no damn sprockets are.
posted by creasy boy at 4:31 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Laughter is a social sanction against inflexible behaviour.
posted by Henry C. Mabuse at 4:39 AM on September 27, 2009


MetaHitler
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:41 AM on September 27, 2009


let me ask spike jones if it's ok
posted by pyramid termite at 4:45 AM on September 27, 2009


A lot of Germans are anxious that the rest of the world only thinks of them as Nazis.

You would be too if virtually every time Germany is mentioned in American popular culture (esp. the Internet), someone mentions the Nazis or something that the Nazis did.

Even I've gotten tired of hearing it, and I'm just an Ami living here. Although to be fair, even the Germans themselves cannot seem to shut up about the god damned Nazis. There is literally not a week that goes by that I don't hear about the sons of bitches.
posted by moonbiter at 4:46 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


let me ask spike jones if it's ok

I see your Spike Jones and I raise you The Producers.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:55 AM on September 27, 2009


There's something wrong with this as a front-page post. It seems to be less of an occasion to inform us of the online work of this not-very-funny cartoonist Walter Moers than it is an opportunity for the poster to parade his self-created "moral-dilemma" and demonstrate what he appears to think is an exquisite sensitivity to historical tragedy. Mr. Rascher should have given us the Moers links in a concise sentence or two on the front page, and saved the revelation of his tortured conscience for [more inside].
posted by Faze at 5:03 AM on September 27, 2009 [11 favorites]


I’m the only Jew that’s ever made a nickel off of Hitler
-- Mel Brooks
Funniest movie ever made. (The original, not the remake.) I've seen it countless times, but I still gasp when the big musical number begins.
posted by PlusDistance at 5:04 AM on September 27, 2009


Damn you, twoleftfeet!
posted by PlusDistance at 5:05 AM on September 27, 2009


Dude, his whole point was to lure you into denouncing his behavior for a small violation of the code of the in-group...get it? How easily any of us could do it! How Meta!
posted by atchafalaya at 5:09 AM on September 27, 2009


Hey atchafalaya, are you talking about me or about Hitler?

Really, I've never asked anyone that before.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:18 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


". But on the other hand - as a historian AND a German - I can't help but feel that this is VERY wrong. Poking fun at National Socialism in general and those last days of the Second World War in Berlin in particular, where tens of thousands from both sides died the most horrible deaths, is just ... well, gross. I'm looking forward to your comments. Am I being over-sensitive? "

The front page of MetaFilter really isn't a place where you should trumpet your editorial opinion (especially when it's wrong) and to solicit opinions like that. In the future it would be nice if you could offer your links and context without so much of your opinion (especially when it's wrong).

Also: No, there's nothing wrong with poking fun at National Socialism in general. Do you people not have Mel Brooks where you come from?
posted by majick at 5:29 AM on September 27, 2009


Do you people not have Mel Brooks where you come from?

*awkward pause*
posted by felix betachat at 5:37 AM on September 27, 2009 [14 favorites]


Did you know he only had one ball? And apparently, several other members of the Third Reich suffered from a range of similar testicular abnormalities.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:38 AM on September 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


I was talking to Faze. I thought it was ironic to see someone denounced for being a transgressor to group mores in a post about you-know-who.
posted by atchafalaya at 5:40 AM on September 27, 2009


I found felix betachat's comment very funny. That is troubling since I realize that the joke wouldn't work if atrocities wouldn't have been committed, forcing people to escape their own birthplace. I'm too looking forward to your comments. Am I being over-sensitive?
posted by JeNeSaisQuoi at 5:45 AM on September 27, 2009


Actually, that was the absolute best possible use of the straight line I passed. I'd expected more of a typical MetaFilter "you're wrong and this is why you're wrong" reaction than the high quality punch line I got. Thanks.
posted by majick at 5:49 AM on September 27, 2009


Mel Brooks' Hitler rap has 4,133,267 views on Youtube.
posted by Hammond Rye at 5:53 AM on September 27, 2009


Quote from the singer in the video:

"It's a blasphemous joy to see Hitler shrunk into this tiny, pathetic cartoon figure. It destroys the myth of the cult figure some still hold."

And this Spiegel article, a review of Dany Levy's 2007 Hitler comedy Mein Führer, frames and responds to the issue much better than this post:

But the reality is that it is not the victims who are protected [by attempts to censor comedy about Hitler] but the descendants of Hitler et al., who, more than 60 years after the Big Bang, continue to avoid a gruesome little truth: That the Germans were not seduced by a demon, but by an impotent nobody with a flatulence problem. Being seduced by a demon is bad, but being seduced by a nobody is embarrassing.

Anyway, folks who haven't seen Moers' original Adolf comics are missing out a bit here. Moers' work isn't just "irreverent;" it's completely, hilariously, over-the-top raunchy. Hitler and Goerring fucking each other in drag is just one of the places he goes, if I recall correctly.

please let me be recalling that correctly
posted by mediareport at 5:58 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


dhoe: It's funny if you're a German who thinks he's not allowed to laugh about your country's past, in the same way most everything involving genitals is funny to 13 year old boys who think sex is forbidden territory.

This. When you wall off an idea and call it forbidden, even if part of the sanction is that you are forbidden to admire it you are giving it power. If you keep something so precious that you dare not speak its name, that you certainly dare not laugh at it, you have not banished it, you have made it sacred.

Here's what I find a dilemma: The Nazis lost the motherfucking war. They're like the guy I saw at a casino who started with a 25 cent bet on Red on the Roulette wheel and kept doubling on his losses until he hit the $1,000 house limit, made another bet that wouldn't have covered his losses even if he'd won, and then watched penniless as his color finally hit. It's one thing to read that Martingale betting is stupid, it's quite another to actually watch someone demonstrate why with real money.

Similarly, the Nazis proved firsthand that making yourself into a cartoon caricature of evil doesn't work. Grabbing and smashing everything within reach is bad strategy. Killing people who might have worked to help your war effort is a dumb idea. Polluting your scientific research with racial purity checks is a good way not to get the century's superweapon first. These guys were clowns. Yes they made a hell of a mess, but for lots of good reasons they lost and they do not deserve to be given the kind of respect usually reserved for minor gods.

Their symbols and actions should be objects of ridicule. They spent a decade going "we're bad, we're baaaaad, fear us motherfuckers" and it all ended in a bunker with a bunch of cyanide capsules. Folks, that's a lesson, but we won't learn it if we don't see how ridiculous it is.
posted by localroger at 6:13 AM on September 27, 2009 [8 favorites]


let me ask spike jones if it's ok

you meant donald duck, right? (from 1943).

(and while we're on the topic on animated renderings of your enemies, here's a 1934 anime short where evil mickey mouse goes to war in the pacific. eight years later, post pearl-harbour, superman fought evil stereotypes. and so on...)
posted by effbot at 6:19 AM on September 27, 2009


I see your Mel Brookes, and raise you Carole Lombard and Jack Benny in Ernst Lubitsch's To Be or Not To Be - the 1942 comedy classic which is still considered so offensive that Youtube says you have to be over 18 to watch parts of it. But as well as being extremely funny, the film is also incredibly moving. (spoiler alert)

So we've been laughing at Hitler since, well, Hitler. But isn't the question here not whether we can, but whether Germany is ready to do so?
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 6:22 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nazis... I hate these guys.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:37 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


They're like the guy I saw at a casino who started with a 25 cent bet on Red on the Roulette wheel and kept doubling on his losses until he hit the $1,000 house limit, made another bet that wouldn't have covered his losses even if he'd won, and then watched penniless as his color finally hit. It's one thing to read that Martingale betting is stupid, it's quite another to actually watch someone demonstrate why with real money.

I love a good localroger gambling story.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:41 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Did you know he only had one ball?
No, but you whistle it and we'll keep building this fscking bridge.

Europa Europa managed a fair number of moments of high comedy in amongst the horror, as I recall.
posted by Abiezer at 6:48 AM on September 27, 2009


You would be too if virtually every time Germany is mentioned in American popular culture (esp. the Internet), someone mentions the Nazis or something that the Nazis did.

You would too if your ancestors were Nazis.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:52 AM on September 27, 2009


a 1934 anime short where evil mickey mouse goes to war in the pacific

Wow, thanks for that - a Japanese propaganda version of a Fleischer Brothers cartoon in which an evil Mickey Mouse army and alligators and snakes attack innocent civilians until they're run off by samurai on bees and turtles. Reminds me of "Nimbus Libere," a Vichy propaganda piece in which Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and Popeye bomb the hell out of innocent French.
posted by mediareport at 6:54 AM on September 27, 2009


> You know who else is tired of Hitler jokes?

That was great. The meme has pretty much worn out its welcome, but that made me laugh all over again. "It's OK, I'm sure some people make it this far..."

> Ich weiß dass du hier noch nagelneu bist, aber vl. sollst du Metafilter noch ein bissel kennenlernen bevor du ein neuen FPP schreibst.

Give me a break. It's not cool to mock n00bs even in German. Yes, this post could have been better done, but the thing is to point out what was wrong with it in a reasonably helpful and nonconfrontational way, like majick did. Observe and learn, as my ex-wife used to say.

Note to poster: Your post would have been better received if it had been more like this:
Walter Moers is one of the most prominent cartoonists from Germany. To promote the third volume of his Adolf - Die Nazisau (Adolf - the Nazi pig) series, the video "Ich hock' in meinem Bonker" was made in 2006, showing Hitler sitting in his Führerbunker during the last days of the Second World War, unwilling to surrender to the Allies. It has been translated into English (I'm sitting in my bunker) and French (J'suis seul dans mon bonker).
Skip the jpeg links and the editorializing (some would want you to skip the Wikipedia link as well, but I think they can be useful, and this one is) and get right to the meat of your post. Let the discussion take its own course. (Me, I thought the video was mildly funny, but I really enjoyed the music, so I watched both the German and English versions.)
posted by languagehat at 6:56 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oops, almost forgot: Hitler was a very bad man!
posted by languagehat at 6:57 AM on September 27, 2009


Aristophanes used his comedies as a forum to skewer the war pigs of his time. To their faces.

To satirize evil is a sacred duty.
posted by dragonsi55 at 7:00 AM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Let's not forget the Three Stooges.
posted by Man-Thing at 7:08 AM on September 27, 2009


"Skip the jpeg links and the editorializing (some would want you to skip the Wikipedia link as well, but I think they can be useful, and this one is) and get right to the meat of your post. Let the discussion take its own course. (Me, I thought the video was mildly funny, but I really enjoyed the music, so I watched both the German and English versions.)"
Thanks, languagehat, for your advice. I AM new here and appreciate your help. But I also have to say that there are some VERY strange people on Metafilter. (not you, some of the other people who commented)
posted by Matthias Rascher at 7:17 AM on September 27, 2009


Matthias, I completely understand your sqeamishness about humor in the context of the nightmare of the final battle for Berlin. Whatever amusement one may derive from ''Springtime for Hitler''--and I have laughed at Mel Brooks' zany creation for 40 years--there is nothing at all humorous about the downfall of the man responsible for the deaths of untold millions. The events of the winter and spring of 1945 were unmitigated tragedy for all concerned. It honors no one's memory to imagine hilarity in the "Bonker." It is a pity that Hitler was not assassinated in 1944. That he was not left Europe a charnel house--and that's just not funny.
posted by rdone at 7:19 AM on September 27, 2009


Matthias, I completely disagree with rdone. It's ridiculous to chuckle at goose-stepping chorus girls singing about a murderous invasion of Poland but sternly forbid humor about what happened to Hitler alone in his bunker. That's just absurd.
posted by mediareport at 7:32 AM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


You would be too if virtually every time Germany is mentioned in American popular culture (esp. the Internet), someone mentions the Nazis or something that the Nazis did.

Yeah, that's all I ever hear at Oktoberfest: Beer beer beer Hitler beer beer Hitler Hitler beer.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:36 AM on September 27, 2009


I think a good post can be salvaged from this, but one of the admins needs to take an axe to all the editorializing in the post text.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:55 AM on September 27, 2009


Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator (1940).

Bugs Bunny, Herr Meets Hare (1945; Wikipedia).

Hogan's Heroes. Werner Klemperer (Colonel Klink), John Banner (Sergeant Shultz), and Leon Askin (General Burkhalter) were Jewish.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:17 AM on September 27, 2009


> I completely disagree with rdone.

So do I. Sheesh.

> I think a good post can be salvaged from this, but one of the admins needs to take an axe to all the editorializing in the post text.

The admins don't do that kind of thing. It stays as is or it gets deleted. If you don't want it deleted, I suggest you let it go. The poster has already acknowledged the problem and is grateful for suggestions; continuing to put the boot in is rather churlish.
posted by languagehat at 8:32 AM on September 27, 2009


kirkaracha: thanks for mentioning the Chaplin film. I can't believe that wasn't in this thread much earlier, and I was going to post it if nobody else had.

We've been laughing at Hitler since during his reign of terror, and we will continue to do so for the rest of history.
posted by hippybear at 9:02 AM on September 27, 2009


Thanks, languagehat, for your advice. I AM new here and appreciate your help. But I also have to say that there are some VERY strange people on Metafilter. (not you, some of the other people who commented)

Don't look now, Matthias, but some of those strange people are sitting .. right .. behind .. you. I think they might have heard you.

How long do you pay homage to the tragedies of the past, and when can you start laughing? The dead are still dead, and most of those responsible for the atrocities are dead, too. We can still mourn, but I think there can be more.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:08 AM on September 27, 2009


Post-War Nazi-mocking: Sid Caesar's German General sketch.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:15 AM on September 27, 2009


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