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!
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • 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.