Even the Germans Wonder if Hitler Can Be a Source for Comedy

TimurVermes, contemporary German author, has written a comedic novel about Hitler entitled Look Who’s Back.  The comedy opens with the Führer awakening in modern Berlin with little memory of his death. A nearby business owner sees Adolf from his kiosk and presumes him to be an actor who is extraordinarily stubborn about keeping character.

Hitler ends up acting for real, starting with an opening gig at a comedy club. He absolutely bombs after making several offensive jokes, but of course the failure is an internet sensation. There is a wide array of outrage towards Hitler’s words and respect for what is perceived as his comedic satire, but ultimately the Führer comes out on top. Like many modern celebrities, he soon announces that he is going for a spot in politics.

The novel has already sold well over its first million copies, and naturally its attempt at satirical comedy has been broadly questioned by Germans and their media. There is some question that the novel may make too sympathetic a protagonist of Hitler.Vermes, however, was not attempting any one particular view of Hitler, hoping rather to simply ponder whether or not he would have been a different man under different circumstances.

Vermes got his idea largely from the same internet that made the Führer a sensation in his novel. The old fascist is a surprisingly potent source of comedy with much of today’s youth. There are cats that look like him, hipsters that want to be like him, people who compare his anger to that of someone with a broken Xbox, and even blogs written as if by the man himself. There have also been numerous movies and TV shows that spoof the man.

While this is not surprising for some of the western world, it is arguably more notable when Hitler comedy is used in Germany. I Was Hitler’s Moustache, a German cabaret production from 1949, shows that it was not too long after the war before Germans were able to poke fun at the villainous man who had changed the political landscape of their nation. For many Germans at the time, the ability to laugh at Hitler was another way of setting themselves apart from his beliefs.

Interestingly, Vermes based some of his depiction on the tyrant’s real life beliefs, having read Mein Kampf in preparation for his writing. He believes that if there is any danger to his depiction of Hitler, it’s the same danger posed by the dictator’s depiction of himself. Not everything he says is horrific to an extreme; some of his writings actually make a good deal of political sense. For this reason, Vermes believes that there should be some more reflection on just who the man was and how he came to power, The Guardian reports.

While the concept of Hitler comedy may seem abrasive to some at first, Vermes uses his protagonist as a vehicle for political satire, something easily done given the man’s incredibly complex nature. While there may no doubt be some who are offended by the work, there does not appear to be any solid reason that comedy involving Hitler cannot be pulled off in a thought-provoking and insightful way. That is precisely the goal that Vermes has set out to achieve with Look Who’s Back.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE