Redeeming Hitler

March 16th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 23 comments

When I was a child, one popular TV show was Hogan’s Heroes, a comedy depicting American prisoners of war in Nazi Germany. I found the show deeply offensive. By portraying the Nazis as comical buffoons who were easy to outwit, I felt that the show insulted the millions who suffered and were murdered by the Nazis. Many of the TV Nazis were actually more likable than feared, a rewriting of history that makes the Holocaust not such a big deal. The show denigrated American GIs who, unlike their TV counterparts, did not live pleasant lives when captured. (I know that some World War II vets loved the show–a reaction I still don’t understand.) The movie, The Great Escape, respected and honored the POW experience. Hogan’s Heroes trivialized it. 

Hogan's Heroes

The rampant comparisons of Donald Trump with Hitler do not demean Trump. Instead, they redeem Hitler. They also identify those who cast the aspersions as ideologues. When I first heard the accusation of a Heil Hitler salute being requested at Trump rallies, I looked at the accompanying picture. I saw people waving or holding their hands as if to take an oath.  I have my doubts about Trump but you are living in an alternate universe of Trump hatred if that looks like a Hitler salute to you. Since Hitler (unlike the murderous Stalin) is still pretty much universally reviled in America, referencing the Nazi in the hopes of smearing an opponent is a fine gutter tactic. It’s rather funny how those who (with reason) accuse Trump of gutter tactics seems oblivious when they themselves use them. 

One reason that Donald Trump is popular is his refusal to cringe when certain accusations are thrown at him. Charges of racism, anti-Semitism, etc., long ago became meaningless. Instead, by attributing hatred in order to achieve political ends, a practice in which President Obama excels, a retroactive boy who cried wolf scenario is before us. True evil has become indistinguishable from the buffoonery of Hogan’s Heroes’ Colonel Klink. Hitler is on the road to redemption. 

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23 comments

James says:

What a double-edged Musing! In bringing to mind the maelstrom surrounding Donald Trump it brings forward also the double-edged tactics that surround his surge toward the lead. Why double-edged? This hinges upon his comparison to Adolf Hitler.
(-) Comparison of an opponent to an iconic and cruel dictator is a standard tactic of the Neo-Left, which seems to have fallen into the rut of socialism-communism, including wholesale adoption of the Bolshevik mentality, which is to smear and destroy any opponent using whatever means available, fair,foul or vile. Comparison of Trump to Hitler is what we can expect from that lot.
(+) On the other side, Trump does ride a tidal wave of popular appeal, fueled by fulminating anger at the GOP, who have betrayed their constituency again and again over the last seven years, by repeatedly ‘crossing the aisle’ and making deals with the devil instead of striking him down. Emerson said: ‘The devil can have his way if enough good men do nothing.’ Mr. Trump is regarded as financially ‘incorruptible,’ since he as a magnate needs no money and many theorize that he cannot be ‘bought.’ Still his morality and ethics are questionable, since what he espouses today seems irreconcilable with his decisions and the liberal causes he has supported historically. One talk show host regards him as ‘a moral creep.’ And Mr. Trump exhibits a rare knack for fueling an unequivocal positive response from the masses. Trump riding to the top on a wave of popular anger seems like succumbing to the Dark Side of the Force, which for this reason is not unworthy of comparison to the rise of a dictator. For any given candidate: ‘What You Think You See Ain’t What You Gonna Get,’ but I especially fear this with Mr. Trump, whether or not my fears are justified. Still: can he beat Commissar Hillary?
But you are right: the Nazis were not a bunch of comical, ineffectual sitcom morons. They were servants of a diabolical psychopath, driven by misguided hate and zeal, or else gullible and misled, awakened to the horror when it was all too late, yet driven by abject fear for themselves and especially for their families.

I agree with your concerns. My upset at throwing around Hitler’s name is separate from any support of or objection to Trump.

James says:

Understood! But your Musing is spot on because it just happens to coincide with a media rash of evoking the name of Hitler in comparison to poor Mr. Trump. AJW would tell us that there is no such thing as coincidence. I am hoping the comparison is naught but dirty laundry, hogswallow.

My Musing didn’t “happen to coincide.” It was a reaction to the throwing around of Hitler’s name that has been happening.

Lynn Perrizo says:

What I find offensive and terrifying is Trump’s ability to sway those who follow him. That is the comparison I see between him and past dictators. That kind of mindset in the masses is frightening. Trump proudly says he can’t be bought but yet has made deals, buying them, with Mr. Huckabee, Dr. Carson and others in exchange for their support. His ability to lie about anything is as finely tuned as Obama’s. This whole election process is like a preliminary mess up to a final disaster before the total implosion of our country. I am sick of the games the politicians play with our lives. They show no love for our Constitution or our liberty. My prayer is, God’s will be done. That means I must trust Him and know that all will be worked out as has been planned from the beginning. My faith is sometimes weak.

Kent Bonham says:

Hi, Susan! Just wanted to add something on your Hogan’s Heroes comments. I work in TV and I research a lot. Hogan’s Heroes was, essentially for the creators, an inside-joke of sorts. Both Werner Klemperer and John Banner were Holocaust survivors. In fact, many of the cast members were Jewish and, in life, stood by the show. Banner spent some time (briefly) in a concentration camp before the death edicts. Klemperer said he would have left the show if the Germans had succeeded in an episode. The joke, however, was that the Nazis were being played as not just incompetent bumblers, but also by a cast of the very people they persecuted. Yes, it’s lost on today’s audiences, but, back then, it was very much understood. I’m not trying to change your mind about the show. If you don’t like it, that’s OK. Just showing the other side of the coin. People deal with pain in various ways, this was probably one of them.

Lora says:

I don’t know if you know this, but several of the actors on Hogan’s Heroes were German Jews who fled Europe to save their lives. I think they developed the show as a way to laugh at the Nazis; at least, the actors who wanted involved wanted to ridicule the evil of their time.
I loved the show when I was a kid, and my kids liked it too, for a little while. It’s becoming sadly dated along with many other cultural fashions (it’s horribly sexist now, we can see that better after time has passed). I liked it because I had war- history- crazy older brothers and the ‘glory’ of war was still pretty dominant back when the show first aired. Sure, we know better now, most of us. Decades ago, I only knew that an uncle had died in WW II. It wasn’t till I was older that I started to see how this had deeply affected my mother who lost her brother to war when she was a teen. The event filtered through her life all the way into the 21st century. My understanding was that of a child and only matured with time.
My kids loved the whole jokesey way Hogan’s Heroes had of tricking the bad guys. It’s like Bugs Bunny with live actors. They liked the idea that a clever person could outwit the bully- a popular theme for my kids who were in public school at the time. School was a cultural war zone when my kids attended. They still encounter the same issues in cyber school and college, but they feel like they can grapple with it better now.
I also suspect that Hogan’s Heroes was based upon a real person and event, although it was, of course, blown up bigger than life for the small screen. Have you heard of a book titled “The Password is Courage” by John Castle? They made a movie in the fifties on it, though it’s a hard movie to track down. This book details a British officer and his role in WW II, in espionage, sabotage, and his multiple imprisonments, including labor camp. It’s a book full of craziness and heart. The movie is full of laughs. I think it serves as an excellent example of how we can include those odder personalities among us in unusual forms of service rather than just drug them up and force their conformity.
As for the Hitler line, I too am very tired of hearing it. I thought it was overused before Trump even showed up on the political stage! My husband and I had discussed this a couple years ago, and then he started a running joke. If we were in the car and someone turned without signalling, he would tsk-tsk and mutter, “…worse than Hitler…” Or if someone left their shopping cart in the middle of the aisle, he did it then, too. The ‘offense’ had to be something trivial for him to make the comment.It was pretty funny for us, so long as we were the only ones who heard. We understood the running joke between us about how over used and useless the phrase had become. I hope I have explained that in a way that does not offend. It might not be possible to do that- it is such a dangerous word game to play, on some levels.
Hogan’s Heroes has pretty questionable value, I’ll grant that. After all, it’s a TV show! I wonder if, like many books, it serves some people, sometimes, and not others. I can easily see your arguments against it. I suspect I have thought the same thoughts and will probably think them again. In my experience, I find the show more insulting now because of its easy sexual conquest themes. I ignored those when I was a kid because I liked the spy stuff and sneaking through the secret passageways and running away from bad guys. The show ran with the ‘trickster’ mythos that we see in so many cultures.
I also don’t have the Jewish experience you do, and so my perspective may easily lack something.
I hope the people who use the ‘worse than Hitler’ line as a serious statement feel it come back on them asap, so we can rid ourselves of this media fire cracker. My husband and I tired of our joke quickly, I assure you. Even as a joke, it’s lame.

I know lots of people who liked the show -different tastes for different folks. I completely relate to the line you and your husband used. As a high school student we heard so many Holocaust stories that we sometimes used humor to cut the tension. Not proud of it, but that’s what happened. As my husband explains in some of his teachings, humor is dangerous precisely because it draws us in. The first verse of Psalms warns us of that.

Kent, I knew one of the cast members’ WWII backgrounds, but didn’t realize it was so many of the actors and creators. Again, it wasn’t to my taste but I’m not judging the people who made or liked it as bad. I am suggesting that it was a very small part of a slippery slope that by now has turned Hitler into a synonym for “bad guy’ which really minimizes the evil.

Lynn, I am also heartsick about the whole political scene. I wish we could get real reporting instead of the entertainment and propoganda masked as news that we now get. Would love to hear a thoughtful, long and nuanced explanation from Huckabee, Carson, Scott and others rather than soundbites.

Lora says:

Yes, I can certainly see that. If we had stuck to that joke we would have given it much more power, so to speak. Humor can be tricky.
I appreciate your insights, especially during this political season. When the various nominees started lining up initially, I thought, ‘hey, there’s hope for once’, and now, I don’t know what I feel…some sort of stunned amazement.

Kent Bonham says:

No problem. You wrote something about something which I never thought of. Keep up the good work!
We’ll get through this election cycle soon enough.

Lynn Perrizo says:

I would really like to hear from Candy Carson. She is always so supportive of her husband but I’m not sure how I would feel aligning myself with someone who called my husband a pediphile. Thanks for posting that link. I had not seen it and it does help me soften a bit in regards to Dr. Carson’s decision. But not completely. I don’t see Mr. Trump as someone who will seek advice. He stated the other night that HE is his advisor on foreign affairs! This is what is so frightening. He is incapable of listening to anyone’s advice and even if he did he sees himself as far more intelligent and better equipped to make decisions. There are rumors that he has stated that his border stance is not something he would actually follow through on and that seems to be the issue that has attracted most people to him. Prayer. Prayer and more prayer is needed. For this election and our country. God knows who our next president will be. What I need is to seek God in who to vote for if it does end up being a Trump/Clinton race. Put the two of them in a bag, shake it up and pull one out. I don’t see a whole lot of difference in them. I believe they will both bring our country down. It hasn’t far to fall at this point! Saving the GOP is a lost cause. The leaders can lay the blame for that at their own feet. They are no different than their counterparts in the Democrat party and that is why the GOP is divided and falling apart. Bless you Susan.

Lynn, I pretty much agree with your assessment.

Nancy says:

This does coincide with Shabbat Zachor, however, and I think that is very relevant to this topic. Another coincidence that I derived from Susan’s previous musing, is the death of Scalia, being (a) Justice, having been followed by the death of Lady Reagan, her name meaning ‘grace’, almost symbolic of the two fallen witnesses of Saint John’s revelation, as I see it. Justice and Grace overcome by partiality and clumsiness, giddily dancing at their fate. Although I do not subscribe to the rapture theory, nonetheless, I do expect our redemption to be drawing nigh.
At this point, I can’t tell who’s playing who on this stage, so I can only trust God does know all hearts. And, I do believe there is at least one candidate offered that holds. as truly dear, the heart of the nation.
Shabbat Shalom! and Sameach Purim!

For those who don’t know what Shabbat Zachor is, it is the Shabbat before Purim. There is an obligation to hear the command to wipe out Amalek, the nation that attacked Israel after they left Egypt and is the antithesis of a Godly people. (My husband has a great deal of amazing ancient Jewish wisdom on them and their manifestation as Nazis and their current form in Clash of Destiny: Decoding the Secrets of Israel and Islam). In its most basic form it is an annual reminder that evil does exist and it is our obligation to fight it, sometimes physically and always by being bearers of God’s light in this world.

tz says:

Your husband is on TheBlaze and is friends with Glenn Beck.
Glenn Beck has been one of the most vocal critics comparing Trump to Hitler (instead of some more reasonable discussion).
Someone coined the term Trump Derangement Syndrome.
The problem is it shuts off debate. After insulting, defaming, gossiping, slandering, you cannot credibly shift to a reasonable line of argument. After being Mr. Hyde as flamethrower, switching to Dr. Jekyll as trying to be kind and reasonable doesn’t work.
Do not burn the bridge you might need to cross later.

Lynn Perrizo says:

I’d say the pot often calls the kettle black. This goes in both directions. I have been insulted and maligned by some Trump supporters for only pointing out a truth. Are you saying Trump has not insulted, defamed, gossiped or slandered anyone in this election process? What bridge are you speaking of?

Lynn and TZ, I think the coarseness of discourse is one of the saddest ‘advances’ of the past years. This election is breaking ground only in a candidate’s willingness to get in the gutter, but the vulgarity of the culture is widespread. There are clearly strong emotions being engendered and I wish the conversation was more elevated but one thing Trump has sadly proved is that polite doesn’t get listened to. I disagree with Glenn on the way he has spoken but I believe it comes from his heart. I am repulsed by the way Trump speaks and still could vote for him. That’s our world right now.

Nancy says:

Having been personally compared with the whore of Babylon, the use of sever hyperbole is a common when people become frustrated by trying to ‘prove’ what they would like other to be to a valid argument. For example, I believe a vote for anyone but Kasich is a vote for a Madame President, except that it is another overly used fallacy in the political argument that only gives room for more argument. I find increasingly harder to fight succumbing to the urge of making these comparisons, but perhaps it is only coming from a place of frustration in an inability to illustrate my views.
Perhaps the frustration comes from the fact that a minority actually agree with me, as evidenced by this overused strategy, that a vote for should not be used as a vote against but should be maintain a certain integrity, and thus hold some similitude to a sound vote.
Look, Guess What? That’s what. What? Exactly!

There sure is a lot of frustration!

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