Please leave Hitler alone

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been introduced to the ‘Make your own Hitler videos’. The idea is that you subtitle your own words over a clip from an old black and white Nazi movie. It can be very funny to interlace the vision of one movie with a completely unrelated script. The passion of the Hitler movie lends itself to making otherwise normal statements seem outrageous and humorous. I’ve watched two of these now. One relates to the election of an Anglican Archbishop in Sydney. The other is a promo for a student conference. While the videos certainly capture our attention, and they generate a lot of humour, I don’t think it’s a good idea for Christians to use them. Here are three reasons:

  1. A few years back I spent a week fishing in the Northern Territory with a Polish Jew in his seventies. He had his serial number from Auschwitz tattooed on his chest. I knew nothing of his situation other than he had spent close to three years in the Nazi concentration camp in his teens. He did not speak of family and I suspect they were executed in the camp. I would be deeply saddened if he watched this video and thought that Christians were making light of the horrors of his experience.
  2. Social media is a penetrating forum. We have very little control over who sees what. Therefore I expect that some, if not many, of the large Jewish population of Sydney (and elsewhere) will see how Christians are using the author of the Holocaust to create funny home videos that promote their causes. Don’t we want Jewish people to take seriously our claim that Jesus is the Messiah? Don’t we want our words and actions to attract people to the good news that God has kept all the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? I believe these videos could make it more difficult for the Jewish community to take Christians seriously.
  3. I understand that the whole concept of these videos is completely tongue in cheek, but I still find it offensive that we would use Hitler to promote a Christian message. How is it in anyway helpful to associate a genocidal megalomaniac, who took the lives of millions, with the humble Son of God, who gave his life for millions? Can’t we do better?

I suspect this is a case of acting without really thinking about the potential implications. I don’t believe for a minute that anyone meant to cause any harm or offense. But please think it through. My recommendation is to leave the ‘Make your own Hitler videos’ alone.

11 thoughts on “Please leave Hitler alone”

  1. Do you think there could be some value in laughing at Hitler though? We certainly can’t laugh at the holocaust, but it seems to me that making Hitler into a joke is a good way to make sure that there’s no glory or honour in Nazism or anti-semitism. By laughing at Hitler we show we don’t respect him, we make him powerless. If it’s done well I think it can actually be a way of standing with Jewish people

    Still, I’m not sure the archbishop video was a great example of mocking hitler well! Also trying to share a christian message through a hitler parody would just be confusing. Perhaps you’re right – it’s safer for Christians to avoid making the Hitler parodies because it can confuse our message and our intention, even though I would say it’s ok to laugh at Hitler.

    I found this article from Jerusalem Post about the meme and differen responses interesting:

    And it’s worth watching the original movie – Downfall – if you can. It’s very anti-Nazi.

  2. Thanks Dave.
    I totally agree with your thoughts. The Archbishop one worried me also because the media will be looking for any avenue to critique and criticise us in this process. The interesting thing is that, having asked both Team Glenn and Team Rick members, no one knows who made it. The anonymity stinks of the creator knowing it was edgy and perhaps shouldn’t have happened. I know lots have laughed and there are some funny lines but to me it’s a real worry.
    Love your blog. Praying for you and the good news!

  3. Hi Dave, it’s always good to be called to reflect on possible in intended consequences, esp of semi sacred things like humor.
    Some thoughts.
    1 it was a Jewish man who first showed it to me. I grew up with many friends whose parents went through Nazi (and Russian) labour camps (Treblinka etc) so am not unaware of the danger of making light of some things.
    I will ask a few of them how they feel and how they imagine others might likely feel.
    2 Almost every joke can remind people of some related very painful memory and so be never used for get of …. I have felt it, watched it and done it. So no humor and no historical allusions, no use of fathers as they have done so much damage etc etc?
    3 once a possible sensitivity is raised it seems insensitive unloving etc to push back a bit. But still felt its important to not allow discussion to be ended when someone says “but what about …. Lets never do/say that again – examples abound.
    Any joke type can be overused, but AB election good humored jokery is for many a helpful in what is a tiring business

  4. Hi Ian, Laura and whoever,

    Thanks for replying and pushing back a bit. I chose to say something about this because I’m not a Sydney Anglican and shouldn’t be seen to have any political axe to grind. I agree that humour in the AB election is a great thing. All the more please!
    I found many elements of the AB Hitler video very very funny. But I am concerned that it could damage potential gospel witness. For this reason I figured it prudent to raise questions.
    To be honest when I first saw the AB one I didn’t react negatively. It took me some time to think about potential implications. What tipped me to write was the second video, seen on the AFES website, where Hitler is promoting a student conference on the Cross of Christ. Seriously!?

    On a related and personal note. I posted one of my recent blogs on cancer humour to a major cancer forum recently, assuming other cancer patients (like me) would appreciate a joke at their own expense. Unfortunately, I deeply offended someone who blasted me for my insensitivity. Surely, I’m allowed to laugh at cancer? It was too close to the bone, so I took it down.

    Cheers, Macca

  5. Though now I’m not sure whether or not you’re intentionally quoting the [entirely different] ‘leave Hitler alone’ video or not :/

  6. Excellent, wise advice Macca – and very well said! Looking forward to seeing you & Fiona et al on Friday afternoon before the game. Best wishes Xx

    Kylie Virtue m: 0412 746 212

    Sent from my iPhone so please excuse any typos!

  7. Hi Dave, very good advice. Someone also led me to the AB version of this. I think that one of the best things to do about Hitler is to poke fun at him, and I have no problem with humour about the election, or many other things we Christians do and say. It’s an essential part of our health – self-mocking is absent, for instance in the cults, or at least among the mormons and the JW’s.
    What stuck in my craw firstly was that the attempt at making fun of the election was anonymous. Why? No courage of convictions?
    Secondly, it used probably the most significant figure of the 20th century whose achievement of that status depended to a large extent on his treatment not only of the Jews but also Socialists, Christians, homosexuals, twins, gypsies, the mentally ill and the disabled. Sometimes Hitler is seen in the words of one recent biographer as an “unperson”, as though his madness and cunning was all there was to him. That is to trivialise the depth of passion, intellect and sense of being the only person capable of restoring Germany to its place in the world following its dastardly treatment by the Allies, especially France, after WWI. Anyway, do the Christian people using this footage in the clip understand this monster was responsible for the deaths of thousands of evangelical believers, our brothers and sisters in Christ, to say nothing of the millions of others? I felt physically sick that the name of the Lord’s people was made the subject of a cheap and not very funny shot in this way. I did ask for someone to pass on my request to have it taken down but I don’t know whether it was.

    Dave, so grateful to God he is preserving you with us!

  8. I have watched Downfall it is an excellent movie so I am aware of the scene and background to the footage used. I have few of the hitler movies and the recent Archbishop one recently posted. I laughed a good deal I must admit and is very clever who ever did it. What was done in WWII was so horrible that I would say it wise to stay away from any connection to this man and Christian humor as it WILL offend someone at some point and we don’t want to put stumbling blocks for those offended.
    Personally I was not offended by it and understood the context having watched the movie and being aware of this movement of posting Hitler movies. I always err on the safe side when it comes to these things. It will be misunderstood if one doesn’t have the context to the many Hitler videos posted on youtube and for that reason I would keep away from using this form of social media.

  9. Im with Ian Powell.
    Also, if using some tongue in cheek humour weakens our gospel message (not that either of the video’s referred to the ‘gospel message’, rather an institution) – our gospel message is pretty weak!

  10. The article from the Jerusalem Post mentioned in one of the comments above is very good. People often say to me that they choose to take the humour/satire approach with Hitler and often mention two of the films mentioned in the article: The Great dictator and the Marx brothers film. I think it is important to take note of when the films were made (1940 and 1941). This was even before the Wannsee conference so the question is: would they have been made at a later date when the full details were known about what Hitler really did? I think removing those videos was a good move.

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