“Do you know what?”
“Did you know that Hitler was actually a Nazi?”
My six year old continues to master world history.
Actually, it’s funny when I think about it. “Nazis” have now acquired a sort of non-human iconic status like goblins or orcs. They are no longer people. They’ve morphed into subhuman (or, in Hitler’s case, demigodlike) figures of Pure Evil. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing, since it makes it easy to forget that the Holocaust was the work of… well, a pudgy corporal with a knack for rabble-rousing, a failed chicken farmer, a war hero, a bunch of academics and jurists, and milkmen, toy makers, riff raff, solid citizens, and various other specimens of homo sapiens who lived, not in the Land of Mordor, but right here.
One of the things I’ve always found curious was how *small* a figure Hitler seemed to his contemporary enemies. Awed by the horrific magnitude of the Holocaust and the war, their children have lost the ability to do what they did frequently: laugh at him. Spike Jones wrote “Der Fuehrer’s Face”. Tolkien called him an “ignorant little cad”. Chaplin made jolly sport of him. But we tend to speak of Hitler and the Nazis as Wagnerian demonic deities and so inadvertantly adopt a sort of negative reverence for them. I think they’d be pleased, since they desired to be feared. Or else we magnify their evil so much that we put ourselves in danger of forgetting that these were men, not demons, and that we can repeat their horrors since we too are men.