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

(page 2 of 4)

The novel’s humor derives partly from the former Führer’s naive reactions to present-day German life. Having missed out on 60 years of the country’s postwar history, Hitler perceives everything from an obsolete Nazi perspective. He believes, for example, that the presence of Turks on Berlin’s streets is a legacy of his successor Karl Doenitz’s effort to bring Turkey into the war on Germany’s side. And he erroneously thinks that Wikipedia’s linguistic resemblance to Wikinger, the German word for Vikings, means that the website has Aryan roots.

In these and other ways, “Er Ist Wieder Da” allows readers to laugh directly at Hitler. They can laugh at his ignorance, his destitution (he has no money, no job, no home), and the incongruous image of him wearing blue jeans and sneakers, which are lent to him by a kindly Berlin kiosk operator who takes pity on the ex-dictator.

Every one of these examples highlights how Hitler, stripped of his dictatorial power, can be funny. Particularly comical is the fact that Hitler preserves his delusions of grandeur despite his lowly circumstances. Throughout the novel, he insists that “destiny” has enabled him to survive in order to rescue Germany from its present-day plight. Yet he repeatedly runs up against an intractable problem: No one is able to recognize him for who he really is. Instead, ordinary Germans routinely misidentify him either as one of the country’s many Hitler impersonators or a comedian deeply committed to a life of method acting.

This running gag in “Er Ist Wieder Da” is meant to entertain, but it also serves as a critical commentary on the increasingly satirical representation of Hitler in contemporary popular culture. When the novel portrays young German teens as unable to recognize Hitler as a real historical figure, the text critiques the corrosive impact of humor on historical consciousness.

Indeed, as it unfolds, ”Er Ist Wieder Da” takes a moralistic turn by showing the dangers to which laughing at Hitler can lead. Early on, the kiosk owner’s admiration of Hitler’s “impersonation” of the führer prompts him to introduce the ex-dictator to a friend who works for a television station. Before long, the novel (in homage to the film “Network”) portrays how the station, seeking to boost its ratings, invites Hitler to appear as a guest on the talk show of a Turkish comedian. In his short appearance, Hitler predictably launches into an epic rant (mostly about foreigners) and becomes an immediate hit in no time at all, a YouTube sensation.


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!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • 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.