The JDL vs. Spike Jones

One of the curious things about the difference between the WWII generation and ours is the way in which we deal with the figure of Adolf Hitler. The generation that actually defeated Hitler heaped gobs of ridicule on him:

When Der Fuehrer says, “We ist der master race”

We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Der Fuehrer’s face

Not to love Der Fuehrer is a great disgrace

So we HEIL! HEIL! Right in Der Fuehrer’s face

When Herr Göbbels says, “We own der world und space”

We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Herr Göbbel’s face

When Herr Göring says they’ll never bomb this place

We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Herr Göring’s face

Are we not the supermen

Aryan pure supermen?

Ja we ist der supermen

Super-duper supermen!

Ist this Nutzi land not good?

Would you leave it if you could?

Ja this Nutzi land is good

Vee would leave it if we could

We bring the world to order

Heil Hitler’s world New Order

Everyone of foreign race will love Der Fuehrer’s face

When we bring to der world disorder

When Der Fuehrer says, “We ist der master race”

We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Der Fuehrer’s face

When Der Fuehrer says, “We ist der master race”

We HEIL! HEIL! Right in Der Fuhrer’s face!

Similarly, you find contemparies like Tolkien referring to Hitler as “that ruddy little ignoramus” and that “ignorant cad”. He is, for the generation that defeated him, but a puny little humbug.

But as the Holocaust and the full depth of Hitler’s evil has taken root in the imagination of passing generations, something has happened that is not altogether healthy, I think. He has acquired the status of an evil demigod. Attempts to humanize him, that is, to remind us that he sprang from the stock of Adam, and not from the pit of hell, are now condemned as attempts to make him a sympathetic figure.

Sight unseen, “Max” has been condemned by the Jewish Defense League and others. “The film is in bad taste,” says a statement posted on the JDL Web site. There is nothing human, it says, “about the most vicious, vile murderer in world history.”

This is, I think, understandable but very dangerous. Turn Hitler into a remote demigod of evil and you imply that human beings could not do what he did again. The whole point of Hitler’s story is that he was a man, not a god or a devil, and that what he became any of us could become. Our fathers and mothers (or grandfathers if you are a Gen Xer) had a certain common sense in laughing at this ignorant little cad and not just falling silent in a sort of distorted act of reverence. He was, when all the trappings of power were stripped away, a vanishingly small and stupid little creep, but a little creep with human blood who was made in the image of God and who twisted that image beyond recognition. He was not a fallen angel, not something that sprang from nowhere, not a foreigner to the human race. Magnifying him into something superhuman or stripping him of humanity cuts us off from learning the lesson that we too are fallen and capable of his evil folly.