Is it springtime for Hitler in the 21st century?
From eBooks, to Google Maps, to political polemics, to cafes, one of the biggest mass murderers in world history seems to be on many people’s minds. But one thing seems to elude their thoughts: the almost incomprehensible barbarity of one of history’s worst mass murders who snuffed out men, women, children and infants -- and who made his victims’ last minutes so obscenely terrifying.
Suddenly, after being dead for 69 years, Adolf Hitler is a big author again. Earlier this month, it was reported that Amazon and iTunes had a new top-ranked book: Hitler’s 1925, 387-page anti-semitic manifesto “Mein Kampf,” in which he laid out many of his murderous plans. It was also the second most downloaded item from the University Library Project.
For years Mein Kampf was a virtually forgotten book, banned in some countries, available in public libraries, and highly popular on neo-Nazi websites. Most people wouldn’t want to be caught dead seen reading it.
Many factors could explain its resurgence. People want to read something that’s banned. New generations want to go to the source to find out what Hitler actually thought. Violence, anger and hate are commodities routinely marketed by the old and new media: people pay to watch graphic murders on TV and in movies as entertainment. Anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment may make it a must-read for some. But a biggest likely reason: the privacy of reading an eBook, where no one knows what you’re reading.
What to do? The World Jewish Congress asked Amazon to ban it. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, told Fox News that online sellers should only offer annotated versions of Mein Kampf. Hitler’s “ideas” are in the marketplace.
Meanwhile, Google Maps got a suggestion from an anonymous user: Theodor-Heuss Square in Berlin should really be named after Adolf Hitler. So it was changed it to “Adolf Hitler Platz,” until a few days later when outraged complaints poured in, and Google Maps apologized for changing the name of the square to what had been when Hitler was in power.
Everywhere you seemingly look, there’s a reference to Hitler. Last May J.C. Penney sparked a furor over the fuehrer when it put up billboards showing a Michael Graves Design Bells and Whistles stainless steel tea kettle that many felt looked like Hitler. The result? Booming sales of the tea pot.
A month later an even bigger controversy: news reports surfaced about The SoldatenKaffee (“The Soldiers’ Cafe”), a Nazi themed cafe in the western Javanese city of Bandung. News reports noted the big painting of Hitler looming on the wall, and the article’s photos showed swastikas and framed Hitler photos. “I don’t idolize Hitler, I simply adore the soldiers’ paraphernalia,” the owner told AFP.
In Connecticut, New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio recently demanded a Facebook page be taken down because it compared him to Hitler. “This kind of venomous political discourse poisons our community. Comparisons to Nazi-ism are clearly outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior,” the mayor declared on his Facebook page. The image was taken down.
The bottom line is that Hitler will for perpetuity be seen as a human obscenity. He massacred 6 million Jewish men, women and children and was responsible for millions of other deaths. New research suggests over 20 million may have been the total butchered in concentration camps. A multi-part BBC series “Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State” graphically documented how his regime rounded up and murdered millions in that camp and others -- and contained chilling interviews with old Nazis who made it clear they felt absolutely no remorse when they helped shoot or gas Jewish people.
Still, there is some heartening news. Hitler’s toilet has still not been sold. According to Tablet Magazine, the seat from Hitler’s yacht that once supported the dictator’s fanny is owned by Greg Kohfeldt, who keeps it (and uses it) in a garage in his Florence, N. J. auto repair shop. While he hasn’t formally advertised it for sale, it has gotten lots of publicity -- but no one has made an offer.
But wait: the 21st century is still young.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. He also writes for The Week’s online edition. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/joegandelman