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"Good propaganda does not need to lie, indeed it may not lie. It has no
reason to fear the truth. It is a mistake to believe that people cannot take
the truth. They can. It is only a matter of presenting the truth to people
in a way that they will be able to understand. A propaganda that lies proves
that it has a bad cause. It cannot be successful in the long run."
- Joseph Goebbels
How Many Germans Secretly Admire Hitler?
The success of a newly released film in which Adolf Hitler is resurrected
and returns to Germany reveals a sobering reality.
BY BRAD MACDONALD
OCTOBER 29, 2015
Imagine if Adolf Hitler were resurrected and plunked down in the center of
Berlin or Dusseldorf or a sleepy German village in rural Bavaria. What would
the 20th-century despot think of modern Germany? More interestingly, what
would modern Germans think of Hitler?
This is the plotline of Look Who’s Back, a new film recently released in
Germany. Look Who’s Back is based on the bestselling novel by Timur Vermes,
and is a Borat-style satirical film in which Adolf Hitler comes to life and
attempts to start a life in modern Germany. In the film, the resurrected
Hitler travels the country, making observations, stirring up trouble, and,
most interestingly, interviewing ordinary Germans. When Hitler sees Angela
Merkel, he describes her as a “clumsy woman with the charisma of a wet
noodle.” When he learns that Poland is still in existence, he acts
surprised, remarking, “… and in German territory no less.”
Look Who’s Back has been a massive hit, at least by German standards. In its
first two weeks it sold more than 1 million tickets and made more than $10
million. Last weekend, it snatched first spot from Pixar’s Inside Out,
making it the number one recent release in Germany. The movie is already
being prepared for international release.
Although it’s only a movie, more than a few commentators—many of whom are
Germans, including the film’s director, David Wnendt—have expressed concern
at what this movie has apparently uncovered. Deutsche Welle explained the
reception Hitler and his film crew received as they traveled across Germany.
“Everywhere they went, they got similar reactions: passersby who cheer
Hitler on as he drives past, stand upright and make the Hitler salute. Many
took photos.” The Washington Post interviewed Wnendt: “Most of these people
react to the sight of one of the 20th century’s vilest leaders with
excitement and amusement. They pose for selfies with the feared Nazi leader
and perform the famous Hitler salute for him” (emphasis added).
The Hitler salute is actually illegal in Germany, but these people didn’t
mind—and neither did the authorities, it would seem.
I realize that we’re talking about a movie, and a comedy at that. But isn’t
this a little odd and somewhat disconcerting? What should we make of the
fact that most of the people Hitler came into contact with greeted him
warmly and enthusiastically? Does this reveal a worrying complacency with
Hitler and his despicable legacy?
Get this. Of the 300 hours of video footage of Hitler conversing with the
German public, there were only two incidences of individuals responding
negatively to this actor playing Hitler. One occurred in Bayreuth, Bavaria,
where a man walked up to Hitler and said: “In the year 2014, if someone
comes to the central square in Bayreuth pretending to be Hitler, and if that
is tolerated by the general public, then I have to say: ‘This is bad for
Germany’ … ‘and if it were up to me, I would have you chased off.’”
This man’s point is absolutely legitimate, but what’s incredible is that
only one man expressed it!
During his interview with the Post, Wnendt—a German himself—shared how
surprised he was by how many ordinary Germans had no qualms about conversing
with Hitler, and at the same time expressed xenophobic, racist views about
foreigners living in Germany. One woman complained that Germany’s problems
were the result of foreigners living in Germany. One man explained that
immigrants from Africa had caused Germany’s IQ to drop by 20 percent.
Another complained that foreigners could do whatever they wanted because
Germans were too full of guilt about World War ii. “We Germans are not
allowed to open our mouths because we still have that stigma,” he said.
These people made these remarks on camera, while in conversation with a man
made to look like Adolf Hitler.
Another thing too: This entire movie was filmed in the summer of 2014—long
before the current migrant crisis!
One scene in particular caught Wnendt by surprise. The aim of the scene was
to see if Hitler could persuade a group of soccer fans to assault a man
(another actor) who was making anti-German remarks. Wnendt recalled how
surprised he was by how quickly Hitler was able to incite the young Germans
to violence. If Hitler didn’t step in, Wnendt recalls, they would have
beaten up this man.
“The largely positive reaction to Hitler among Germans may remind some of
the way Mao Zedong is treated in China, or Joseph Stalin in some parts of
Russia—as a kitsh curio,” the Post reported. “These extreme opinions are not
coming from the fringes, but from the center,’ Wnendt explained. [They’re]
not neo-Nazis, but normal middle-class people.”
Again, isn’t this disconcerting? It seems that Adolf Hitler, one of the
cruelest men in history and a man once met with repulsion and disgust, is
today more of a curiosity and amusement. According to Wnendt, ‘If you put
him [Hitler] on a T-shirt, I think people would buy it.” This film, and its
terrific success, reveals an alarming complacency—and even an affinity—for
Hitler. This film, and the millions who watch it, trivialize the history of
Hitler, the murder of 6 million Jews, and the entire history of World War
ii. The history of the Holocaust includes some of the most despicable
behavior ever committed by humans. Shouldn’t that history be untouchable, at
least by comedians? Isn’t it a little worrying that there is a healthy
appetite for these sorts of films? Shouldn’t we be concerned that in 2015
Germany, Hitler sells?
“It’s hard to say just how many people in Germany openly, or behind closed
doors, support the NDP [a far-right party with neo-Nazi views] and how many
would tell you over a beer that things under Hitler really weren’t that
bad,” Deutsche Welle wrote. “What the film makes clear—albeit in an
over-the-top way—is that Nazi criminal Adolf Hitler is actually not quite as
omniscient as we Germans tend to believe.”
Hitler is making a comeback right now in another way too. On January 1, Mein
Kampf (My Struggle), Hitler’s defining manifesto outlining his radical
views—and his ambitions—will enter the public domain. The copyright for Mein
Kampf has been held by the state of Bavaria since the war, but when it
expires December 31, the book will be available to publish and distribute.
There has been an ongoing debate in Germany over whether or not Mein Kampf
should be allowed to be published. Some, mainly Jews and Jewish
organizations, want the book to be banned. They fear it could open a Pandora’s
box of issues and troubles. But the majority—arguing in the interests of
freedom of speech and freedom of the press—believe Mein Kampf ought to be
published and made freely available.
So, starting next year, Mein Kampf will be available for purchase in German
What are we to make of this newfound fascination in Germany with Adolf
Hitler? Should we be concerned that the German people, in general, seem to
view Adolf Hitler with curiosity and amusement and, in many cases,
affection? I discussed this issue earlier this week on the Trumpet Daily
Radio Show. Since Monday, I’ve had three to four e-mails from listeners
supporting the suggestion that more Germans than most people realize have a
soft spot for Hitler. One man commented: “Make no mistake; the belief that
Hitler was a ‘good leader’ is very prevalent in Germany! I was married to a
German (in another lifetime). Her parents, middle-class, hard-working
people, held just that view—[that] Hitler was a good leader. He did much
good for the country. That is a view that has never been eradicated from the