“Never in history has such ruination — physical and moral — been associated with the name of one man.”
— Sir Ian Kershaw, English historian
Historical milestones seem to be a dime a dozen in today’s hectic world, but Hitler’s impact was so great that each of us should pause to remember the Nazi dictator’s legacy in one way or another. (The 6 million victims of Hitler’s genocidal programs are often cited, but we should also remember that 28.7 million soldiers and civilians died as a result of military action in the European theater.)
Probably my earliest awareness of Hitler (or a Hitler parody) came from reruns of Moe Howard as Moe Hailstone (“Hail, hail, Hailstone!”) in the The Three Stooges shorts “You Nazty Spy!” (January 1940) and “I’ll Never Heil Again” (July 1941). Perhaps on April 30 I’ll fire up my Stooges DVDs again.
In the same vein, YouTube offers assorted videos of the irrepressible Spike Jones & His City Slickers performing “Der Fuehrer’s Face” (Bronx cheers and all), a song that gained added exposure in an Academy Award-winning 1943 Donald Duck cartoon.
If you want to skip past entertainment fare such as They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1968) and 1967’s The Producers (with Mel Brooks’ brilliant “Springtime for Hitler”), there is certainly no shortage of books and documentaries detailing the sacrifices of Allied service personnel and the horrors of the Holocaust.
Pandemic-induced social distancing has caused the cancellation or postponement of numerous 75-year commemorations that World War II veterans had anticipated attending. Under the circumstances, perhaps April 30 would be a good time for families to discuss the war and the reaction to the death of Hitler (“the coarsest, cruelest, least magnanimous conqueror the world has ever known,” as English historian Hugh Trevor-Roper described him).
Younger generations eventually regret not asking more questions, so people who were in the military or holding down the home front should take the opportunity to preserve their memories (via pen-and-ink, audio recording or video recording).
April 30 could be a starting point to cease trivializing Hitler’s evil. The use of the over-the-top term “soup Nazi” in a 1995 Seinfeld episode was clever, but now every single person who disagrees with us in the slightest is denounced as a “Hitler” or “Nazi.”
When EVERYONE is a Hitler, NO ONE’S misdeeds call for a response.
We can certainly ponder the absurdity of a “master race” and contemplate Hitler’s disdain for those he considered to be “Untermenschen” (subhuman). We could stand to think long and hard about those we consider to be less than human, whether because of national origin, criminal record, mental illness, age or occupancy of a womb.
April 30 can be a day of prayer (for those so inclined).
Let’s pray for those alienated individuals who are in denial of Hitler’s atrocities — who think being a “neo-Nazi” is somehow cool and on the right side of history.
Let’s pray for the caregivers of our veterans.
Let’s pray that America will always have enough checks and balances, competing ideologies and selfless citizens that we can avoid the socio-economic conditions that bred Hitler and fueled his quest for a “Thousand-Year Reich.”
Don’t mourn Hitler on April 30. Mourn those who will not learn the lessons of history.
— Satirical columnist Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page Tyree’s Tyrades. He is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.