Should Germans Laugh About Hitler?

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article at Spiegel Online

This question was asked last week prior to the release of director Dani Levy’s new movie “Mein Führer” starring german comedian Helge Schneider as Adolf Hitler.

Well, you can read what others said about that. I prefer to know what I talk about (well, sometimes) and therefore I went to see the movie tonight. In short: The answer is yes, we should.

And we can. The movie is funny. It’s not perfect but it’s a very brave experiment that in my opinion hasn’t failed. The story in short is that prior to a speech of Hitler on January 1st, 1945 the jewish actor Adolf Grünbaum is asked to work the performance out with Hitler who is depressed and cannot give the speech with enthusiasm.
The movie combines tragedy, comedy and satire quite seamless just like Roberto Benigni in “Life is beautiful”. Helge Schneider, who made several low budget movies himself, is not really famous for playing serious characters but I think he did an incredible job portraying Hitler as the mad and disgusting man he was but also giving him feelings one wouldn’t expect him to have. Levy degrades him and his entourage by creating bizarre situations so the audience can laugh at and about them, destroying any mythic character that may have built up during the last 60 years. I think this is rather important: There are serious scenes depicting the cruelty and those are not to laugh about. As Schneider said during an interview, you may very well laugh about Hitler but you just can’t find anything funny in the holocaust. These are different topics. The movie makes this very clear and is still entertaining.

I’m not going to spoil more so you should just go to a cinema and see for yourself. I think this is a first step and it’s just so funny that it’s acceptable for everybody who is sceptic. But I consider the de-montage of Hitler important for it is the only way to destroy a picture of this man that keeps up a certain myth until today. He is of course responsible for the holocaust but so is anybody who was involved with the system and simply followed the orders knowing that it would kill people. He was a man who was feared, who had charisma to present his ideas. But he was just a man and no human being should be taken too seriously.

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