How We Got Hitler-ized

What the Ubiquity of the Führer Says About Our Culture

By Gavriel D. Rosenfeld

Published June 26, 2013, issue of June 28, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Various observers have pointed out that among the countless memes that have spread on the Internet, one of the most familiar has been Adolf Hitler. He has been featured in online videos and photographic images; he has inspired groan-inducing puns and mindless games. The forms have been diverse, but what links them all is the use of humor. Whether employing irony, parody or satire, Internet representations of Hitler have been linked by the playful tendency to exploit his legacy for laughs.

The Hitler meme first attracted notice in 2006 with the first of what have since become thousands of YouTube video parodies of the German film “Downfall” (2004). Users combined clips of Bruno Ganz’s famous German-language meltdown scenes from the film with new, humorous and often profane subtitles expressing complaints about unrelated topics, whether the foibles of politicians, the music of teen heartthrobs or the late arrival of pizzas.

That same year, the Hitler meme found more bizarre expression with the creation of the website Cats That Look Like Hitler. Created in Europe, the site was devoted to posting user-contributed photographs of felines (called “Kitlers”) that allegedly resembled the Nazi dictator by virtue of the dark markings under their noses.

Soon thereafter, the spin-off site Things That Look Like Hitler was created, featuring photos of random objects (light switches, smoke alarms and belly buttons, among countless other things) that allegedly displayed signs of the Führer’s physiognomy, especially his moustache, parted hairstyle and upright arm.

The playfulness of Things That Look Like Hitler was soon echoed in actual Internet games involving the Nazi dictator, such as “Six Degrees of Hitler,” in which Web users employ Wikipedia to try and land on Hitler’s entry in the fewest possible clicks from an initial, randomly generated entry. In 2012, an actual app for the game became available on Google Play.

The Hitler meme has spread most dramatically, however, in the form of image macros. Composed of photographs with ironic, superimposed texts, image macros have quickly become a staple of Internet visual culture — a classic example being “LOLcats” (photos of cats with grammatically stilted slogans, such as “I Can Has Cheezburger?”). Most Hitler macros are parodies of existing memes. One image pokes fun at LOLcats by portraying a Kitler with the accompanying caption, “I Can Has Poland?” Tens of thousands of other examples can be found on sites like Meme Generator, with many of them aspiring to incongruous absurdity (“Disco Hitler,” “Advice Hitler,” and so forth).


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!
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • 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.