Respectful Insolence

Uproar over a satirical cartoon about Hitler

Via History News Network:

(Translation below the fold.)

Apparently, the above cartoon, Der Bonker, in which a disconsolate (and rappin’!) Hitler is portrayed sitting on the toilet complaining about Churchill, is causing an uproar in Germany:

A satirical cartoon about Hitler, where he sits on the toilet complaining about Churchill, is causing controversy in Germany.

Illustrator Walter Moers is famous for his comic books depicting the dictator as a frustrated little man who throws fits every time the Jews are mentioned. But with the release of the short film “Der Bonker”, Germans seem to feel he has gone too far.

Despite thousands of Moers fans making the clip one of this week’s top internet downloads, many prominent German Jews have complained at the comic portryal of the mass-murdering dictator.

Jewish author Ralph Giordano, one of those speaking out against Moers’ film, said: “You cannot treat the father of the Holocaust in this way.”

And TV channels RTL2, ProSieben, MTV and Viva are refusing to show any ads by the Jamba ringtone company, which offers the clip as a mobile phone download.

Jamba spokesman Niels Genzmer said “Der Bonker” is still one of the top five most popular downloads despite the boycott and he disagreed that the film is anything other than a satire.

“First we were told it promotes rightwing extremism, then we were told it could be conceived as doing so. We cannot comprehend this,” he said.

Neither can I, and the concept of a boycott over this seems rather pointless to me. I can even sympathize with some Jews who might be offended. To them, the very image of Hitler reminds them of the pain he caused them or their family. But does that mean that the depiction of Hitler as anything other than a raving monster is off-limits? Is light-hearted mockery off limits? Personally, I consider mockery to be one of the most effective ways to take on Der Führer. (But, then, I always did like Spike Jones. Der Führer’s Face, anyone?) Laugh at him. It diminishes him and those who might follow in his footsteps. After all, how on earth could this pathetic-looking caricature inspire anyone to fall into right-wing extremism? It makes Hitler look utterly ridiculous, as was the intent. Of course, you can portray Hitler this way!

At one point he sits on his toilet and sings in rhyming German slang: “The Second World War isn’t any fun any more. The bombs are not falling on England, but Germany instead. No one’s listening to me, everyone does what they want, and the cause of everything is that Churchill. That hurts.”

Later he gets in to the bath with his sheepdog “Blondi” where little rubber ducks wearing Hitler moustaches sing: “Adolf, you old Nazi pig, don’t you see it’s time to surrender?”

Actually, Blondi was a German Shepard, but I won’t quibble too much. Personally, I found the little video rather amusing. It’s not great, but it’s entertaining enough for a WWII buff like myself. Heck, the rubber duckies with Hitler mustaches alone were enough to make me chuckle. Fortunately, not everyone lacks a sense of humor about it:

But Jewish publicist Henryk M Broder says he thinks the cartoon is a refreshing way of looking at an old topic.

“That Hitler was a murderer – we know that, it doesn’t have to be the topic of every thesis. But Moers shows wonderfully what kind of a wretched, useless gasbag the Germans fell for. And that’s groovy.”

I didn’t realize that anyone actually used the word “groovy” anymore, but I agree. In many ways, Hitler was ridiculous, and many people at the time realized his ridiculousness at the time. Charlie Chaplin certainly did, and Adenoid Hynkel, the fictional subject of his movie The Great Dictator, was one of the greatest parodies of Hitler ever created, and the movie itself was, despite some flaws, a great satire of Nazi-ism. And, of course, let’s not forget the Three Stooges’ parody of Hitler actually predated Chaplin in You Nazty Spy! by a few months in 1940, with Moe playing Moe Hailstone, the Dictator of Moronica, with Curly doing an obvious take-offs on Hermann Goering. (Best quote: When Moe asks what a dictator does, he’s told, “He makes speeches to the people promising them plenty, gives them nothing and takes everything.”) Ultimately, the Stooges made a sequel, called I’ll Never Heil Again (with Moe in charge of Moronica once again), as well as other shorts making fun of the Nazis. More about the Stooges’ portrayal of Hitler can be found here.

Yes, Hitler was the architect of a monstrous evil, precipitating a world war that led to the deaths of tens of millions, enacting an unprecedented program of industrialized mass murder, and through his defeat ultimately destroyed his own nation, which spent nearly 50 years split into two halves. That cannot be denied. Besides condemnation and disgust, mockery is still one appropriate response to much of what he stood for, even as we vow that such evil should never happen again. Making fun of the architect of the Holocaust does not minimize its horrors. Indeed, I like to think that Walter Moers is, to some extent, speaking for Hitler’s victims here.

And, in that spirit, enjoy You Nazty Spy!. (Sadly, it’s colorized.)

Here’s Part 1:

And here’s Part 2:

And here is a translation of the lyrics of the song:

Berlin 1945. The world is burning, Germany is lying in ashes and Japan isnt doing well anymore either. But one person isnt giving up.

There’s still light in the Führerbunker…

I’m sitting in my bunker in the middle of berlin
I’ve got prussic acid caps and enough gasoline
The Air Force is gone, the marine, the army
WW II is no fun anymore
Capitulation – nope, I think nothing of that
I’ve got 3 meters of reinforced concrete above me
Capitulation, nope

Adolf, you old nazi sow
capitulate after all”
And you think I’m going to capitulate?
I never capitulate!
No, I capitulate not!

I’m in state of war with 53 countries
and the bombs not on England but on Germany
these aliied bomber formations are nerving
because there throwing not bombs but bomb carpets
Nobody listens to me, everybody does what they want
and behind everything is this Churchill guy
that hurts, that hurts, I’m standing alone
with Blondi and a bottle of Chantré

“Adolf, you old nazi sow
capitulate after all”
No, I capitulate not!
I never capitulate!

No fucking way at all that Churchill
should laugh up his sleeves in the end!
No, this Churchill guy! I capitulate not! I never capitulate!
Well, I never! There, there, Blondi. Yes, we won’t capitulate!
No, fear not, we still might even win the war!
Think so. I’m still quite confident.
Actually.

(Not speaking German, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the translation.)

Comments

  1. #1 venky
    September 26, 2006

    Why is it that when Jews protest against an “offensive” (to them) depiction of Hitler, nobody responds with the freedom of speech argument but when Muslims protested against the Danish Mohammed Cartoons they were vilified using the First Amendment Argument.

    My two cents: Freedom of speech is absolute.

  2. #2 Ompus
    September 26, 2006

    Because, you idiot, there’s a difference between “offensive” and “illegal.” The Hitler cartoon may be offensive to some, but are perfectly legal. Calling something offensive, advocating boycotts are perfectly reasonable responses… As long as speaker remains allowed, by law, to say it.

    The Danish Cartoons were different because governments were called upon to punish the newspaper, its cartoonists, and anyone reprinting them. The Muslim world, speaking broadly, did not merely find the cartoons offensive, they sought to silence and punish those who published them.

    You are free to speak your mind, I am free to condemn you for it. Freedom of speech protects both acts.

  3. #3 Shygetz
    September 26, 2006

    I’m with Ompus, and I’ll add one more example…if Jewish extremists start rioting and threatening the life of the animator and anyone else associated with the project, I will react the same way as I did against the Mohammed cartoon mess.

    If freedom of speech is absolute (which it should not be…am I free to threaten your family?), then those offended by the cartoon must be free to complain about it, peacefully.

  4. #4 ParanoidMarvin
    September 26, 2006

    While not exactly a parody, we also have
    “Springtime for Hitler and Germany
    Deutschland is happy and gay!” in the poking fun at Hitler showcase.

  5. #5 KeithB
    September 26, 2006

    And let us not forget Donald Duck in “Der Fuhrer’s Face” (1942), too.

    I am so glad I got “Disney Treasures: On the Front Lines”

  6. #6 HCN
    September 26, 2006

    Also do not forget Charles Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator”:
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032553/

  7. #7 Kiwiwriter
    September 26, 2006

    And let’s not forget “To Be or Not To Be,” either.

    When the Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth issues a “fatwa” ordering the death of the cartoonist, and millions of caftan-clad terrorists (there’s a great disguise) descend on the cartoonist’s house to kill him, then there’s a Freedom of Speech issue. Until then, it’s just another obnoxious cartoon, done by an obnoxious cartoonist for that noblest of purposes…to draw attention to himself.

  8. #8 Joshua
    September 26, 2006

    Yeah, I’m with Ompus. I think causing a row over this is stupid and childish, but at the same time I will happily point out that nobody is setting things on fire over this. If that’s not a qualification for the moral high ground, I don’t know what is.

  9. #9 kehrsam
    September 27, 2006

    Piddling little correction, but “Blondi” was an Alsation.

  10. #10 Catherina
    September 27, 2006

    I just like the duckies and anyone getting offended by Walter Moers (who is a made man since he sold his Kaptn Blaubaer figure to a children’s programme, hehe) is too uptight.

  11. #11 bcpmoon
    September 27, 2006

    I especially like the word “bonker” as this is lampooning Hitlers pompous way of speaking.
    Interestingly, this “controversy” is completely off the radar right now in germany (I had not yet heard of it until now) because of the cancellation of an opera in Berlin because of the percieved threat by muslims. Now, that is an uproar!

  12. #12 skblllzzzz
    September 27, 2006

    This clip is just poking fun at Hitler. Hubsi Kramar has been doing a nice job impersonating Hitler for years. If you can stomach it, listen to the “Hitler Rap” he did. Nobody made a fuss when that hit the net though…….

  13. #13 James
    September 29, 2006

    Remember, he’s laughing at Hitler, not with him. If more people laughed at Hitler he might not have gone so far in German politics.

  14. #14 mountainking
    September 30, 2006

    If you read Moers earlier Comics about Hitler, where he (Hitler) among other things is going to Paris to fuck Goering who is dressed up as a woman and working as a prostitute for a living and still claim that rightwing extremism is promoted by that stuff youre really beyond good and evil. At a similar level is the trial where the owner of an onlineshop has been sentenced to pay 3000 Euro because he sold Shirts and Stickers that showed Swastikas being broken or thrown into trashcans. According to the Jugdes even those Symbols could promote Nazism (only have a link in German): http://www.redok.de/content/view/241/36/

    You have to add that similar trials on other cities were turned down and its likely that the decision will be changed after appealing.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!