Rebooting The Führer

Adolf Hitler Brought Back To Life in German Hit Novel

kurt hoffman

By Gavriel Rosenfeld

Published February 19, 2013, issue of February 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Although he has been dead for nearly 70 years, Adolf Hitler continues to make headlines. In recent years, the Nazi dictator has become an inescapable presence in Western political and cultural life, serving as a polemical trump card in political debates, a demonic star in feature films, a marketable symbol in advertising campaigns and an iconic figure on Internet websites.

Every time Hitler makes an appearance in the news, commentators rush to interpret its significance. In the same way that Kremlinologists during the Cold War sought to determine how the latest Politburo statement reflected shifting Soviet policies, today, scholars of memory seek to determine what the latest Hitler headlines reveal about contemporary views of the Nazi past.

The latest example of this phenomenon is currently taking place in Germany, where a new novel featuring Hitler has recently shot up the best-seller lists and has prompted reflections about the reasons for its success. Written by German journalist Timur Vermes, Er Ist Wieder Da” (“He’s Back”), features an unusual counterfactual premise: What if Adolf Hitler suddenly came back to life in present-day Germany?

In pursuing this fanciful premise, “Er Ist Wieder Da” adopts a satirical approach that accounts for much of the novel’s popularity. Indeed, its best-seller status testifies to the yearning of many Germans to adopt a more normalized perspective toward the Nazi era.

Er Ist Wieder Da” is narrated in the first person by Hitler himself in a longwinded, histrionic style familiar to readers of “Mein Kampf.” As the novel opens, the ex-dictator describes waking up in an empty lot in the middle of Berlin, unclear as to why he is still alive. Like a Japanese soldier emerging out of decades of self-imposed jungle isolation, Hitler spends many of the early chapters trying to make sense of his new surroundings.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.