Debate in Germany: Is it ok to laugh at Hitler?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007 |  by Staff Writer
In light of a new comedy about the life of Adolf Hitler, the German magazine “Stern” has found that 56 percent of all Germans believe that such a satirical depiction of Hitler is not a good idea. The movie, called “My Fuehrer” is directed by Dani Levy, a Swiss born Jew who resides in Germany.

The release of the movie has provoked much debate and analysis in the German press both in favor and in opposition to the movie. Stern magazine conducted a survey and found that only 35 percent of Germans think making a comedy about Hitler is a good idea.

The German media argued over whether Hitler should be allowed as a theme for a comedy and the Jewish identity of the director. The German media also mentioned that in the past Hitler’s persona was used in comedies in movies by Charlie Chaplin, Mel Brooks, and others.

According to the Jewish newspaper Jüdische Allgemeine, every article reports that Levy is convinced that even a German can laugh at Hitler. Levy, interviewed by the newspaper “Zeit,” said that the movie expresses his dream that at least once he will be allowed to make the laws during the entire Nazi regime.

“In my fantasy, I could have taken an active part in history. I wrote the text for the Nazis and I brought them to slaughter. In my movie I am God and I am above Hitler. I know I cannot change anything from the catastrophe, but I do have the power to create new images,” Levy said.

The German Jewish community, however, did not like the movie and blasted the director. Stephan Kremer from the German Jewish Federation said that turning the issue into a comedy is dangerous, unnecessary, and very shallow. Historians and officials in the Jewish community were quoted saying that the issue was no laughing matter. Historian Hans Weiler said that it is better that figures such as Hitler and Stalin are dealt with scientifically and historically, not through satire.

On the other hand, Walter Rothschild, Chief Rabbi of Schleswig-Holstein, said that Germany could better heal itself by using laughter. Fritz Pleitgen, manager of the WDR radio station said that the movie unveils the inhumanity of the Nazis and the movie can be a tool for the young generations to learn about Nazi history.

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