Is it OK to laugh about it yet? Hitler Rants YouTube parodies in Hebrew

Liat Steir-Livny

Abstract


The Holocaust was and remains a central trauma in Israel’s collective memory. For many years, the perception was that a humorous approach to the Holocaust might threaten the sanctity of its memory. Official agents of the Holocaust memory continue to believe in this approach, but since the 1990s, a new unofficial path of memory began taking shape in tandem with it. It is an alternative and subversive path that seeks to remember – but differently. In the last decade, YouTube has become a major cultural field including new humorous representations and images of the Holocaust. The article analyses a virtual phenomenon – “Hitler Rants” (or “Hitler Reacts”) parodies in Hebrew. These are internet memes in which surfers take a scene from the German film Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel 2004), showing Hitler ranting at his staff as the end of WWII approaches, and they add parodic subtitles in which Hitler rants about completely different things – current affairs and pesky little details. The incompatibilities between the visuals, the German screaming, and the subtitles turn Hitler into a ludicrous individual. The article objects to the notion that views the parodies as “cheapening” the Holocaust, and rather claims that they underscore humour’s role as a defence mechanism. Israelis, who live in a society in which the Holocaust memory is intensive and creates constant anxiety, seek to lessen reactions of tension and anxiety, even for a few minutes, and they do so through humour.


Keywords


Holocaust Humor, Hitler, Defense mechanisms, Israeli popular culture, social media, Youtube, Incongruity Theory; Superiority Theory; Relief Theory

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7592/EJHR2016.4.4.steir

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