Saturday, 23 April 2016


It was Hitler’s birthday a couple of day ago. As readers here will know, I’m no Nordicist, and I do not necessarily think that my world would have been better off if the Germans had achieved the type of domination they sought under his leadership, but there are elements within Hitlerism and Nazism that I admire.

The oppositions posed by the Nazi regime – of socialism to capitalism, of labour to speculation, of nationalism to internationalism, of folk to communism, of the iron law of hierarchy to the lie of egalitarianism – represent a Weltanschauung that has been largely overshadowed and expunged by the racist rhetoric and the Holocaust™. So, it was an interesting experience for me to watch the German comedy film Look Who’s Back (Er ist wieder da, 2015), which I viewed on Netflix. It was filmed before the current migrant crisis, adapted from a bestselling novel by Timur Vermes (2012) and directed by David Wnendt.

The whimsical premise is that the Fuhrer suddenly materializes in present day Berlin devoid of memory beyond April 30, 1945, whereupon he is mistaken for a method actor and comedian, and so gains access to national television.

The German philosopher Hegel said that all great world-historic facts and personages appear twice. Karl Marx put an interesting spin on this in his 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte – a tract aimed at the Second Napoleonic Empire – when he commented that the first time it was as tragedy and the second time as farce, which seems quite fitting for this film project.

Welcome to Merkel's Germany
The movie has an interesting motif of going "off-script." Not only does it contain many unscripted, documentary-style scenes, in which the Hitler character, played by Oliver Masucci, interacts with random members of the public, but as part of the plot the Fuhrer is also invited onto TV, where he then proceeds to go "off-script," rejecting the vulgar jokes prepared for him and instead launching into an on-air political oration about the spiritual deterioration of modern Germany – an “unscripted” deviation that was of course scripted:
"Over there someone is holding signs with texts for me to read out. The text is a joke, a joke about immigrants. But why make jokes about immigrants? If you have rats in your house, you don’t get a clown, you call pest control."
The tirade attacks the inane culture of the mass media and the political disavowal that is liberalism. Adolf also describes the phenomena of people greeting him happily in the streets:
"They forgot relatively quickly that the two cameras were running and began to pour their hearts out to this man, to say what was really on their minds."
Older people begin pouring their hearts out to him, often voicing extremist views. "Yes, bring back labour camps," one person says to the Dictator. Masucci, best known as a stage actor, told the German daily newspaper Bild about his mixed feelings while shooting the unscripted scenes with people on the street:
"During shooting, I realized I didn't really have to perform – people felt a need to talk, they wanted to pour their hearts out to a fatherly Hitler who was listening to them. I found it disturbing how quickly I could win people over. I mean, they were talking to Hitler."
One is tempted to view this outpouring sympathetically. As the famous Nazi aviator Hanna Reitsch said:
"And what have we now in Germany? A land of bankers and car-makers. Even our great army has gone soft. Soldiers wear beards and question orders. I am not ashamed to say I believed in National Socialism. I still wear the Iron Cross with diamonds Hitler gave me. But today in all Germany you can't find a single person who voted Adolf Hitler into power... Many Germans feel guilty about the war. But they don't explain the real guilt we share — that we lost."
The film ends with a specter stalking Europe: it seems Hitler cannot be killed. Instead the mythos veers into the esoteric Nazism of Savitri Devi and Miguel Serrano, with Hitler as a demonic force behind the threat of increasing right-wing tendencies within Germany and Europe generally.

On one level the film can be seen as an attempt to put a modern sheen of cynical distance on the phenomenon, to ironicize it and thus lessen its the historical significance, but it was too well made for such a trite goal. Instead, in his guise as the second comedic coming of the Hegelian world-historical man, it allows audiences to laugh with Hitler rather than at him. The absorption of Hitler into the pantheon of celebrity represents a kind of immortality and even a sort of deification. An excellent movie!


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