With a print run of 360,000, the book, “Er Ist Wieder Da,” (“He’s Back”) has been at the top of the bestseller list for weeks. It will be published in French, English and in 15 other languages, soon, and the German media is already talking about a movie deal.
This is not the first time that Hitler has been recycled by humorists and artists. Charles Chaplin was the first to ridicule the Fuhrer in his 1940 movie “The Dictator.”
Yet Timur Verme’s novel created much controversy in Germany. Daniel Erk, author of the “So Viel Hitler War Selten” (“We Have Never Seen So Much Hitler”), a book that criticizes what he calls “mainstreaming evil,” is worried about the multiplication of comedies about the Third Reich. “Instead of asking why there is still such a profound anti-Semitism in German society today, we continue to say this crazy man is only person to blame. This is how Germans absolve themselves of any wrong-doing and responsibility. This Hitler is the sole person responsible for the war and genocide,” he says.
Timur Vermes says this is exactly why he wrote this book. In it, he describes a Hitler who is scared, who worries when the public, who does not fear him, resists him.
“We don’t have too much Hitler,” says Vermes. “We have too many Hitler stereotypes, which are always the same – the monster that enables us to reassure ourselves. I too, for a long time accepted this vision of Hitler. But this vision is not enough. Hitler continues to have a real fascination. If so many people helped him commit his crimes, it is because they liked him. People don’t elect a nut job. They elect someone whom they are attracted to and that they admire. To present him as a monster is to call those voted for him idiots. And that reassures us. We tell ourselves that today we are smarter. We would never elect a monster or a clown. But at the time, people where just as smart as us – this is what is so painful."
Vermes concludes: "Often, we tell ourselves that if a new Hitler came along, it would be easy to stop him. I tried to show the opposite – that even today, Hitler might be successful. Just in a different way.”
Vermes’ book shows how, in 21st century Germany, a demagogue would have a chance – the ways to conquer the masses have changed, they have modernized. But the intention stays the same. One German book critic summed it up this way: “Vermes holds a mirror to German society which, despite the laughter. shows an unflattering image.”
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