I realised only Christmas Day, that I had borrowed this book at the library, paid reservation fee, and not read it yet. And it is due back today so yesterday I sat and read the 342 pages. My first opinion of it was, that it is not an easy read. The translator’s comment on the last page, ought to have been on the first page to prepare one for what was to come. From that comment, I draw the conclusion, that author Timur Vermes, who is a German journalist, read “Mein Kampf” and was inspired to write this book in the same style of writing. The translator calls the language in this book, bureaucratic and difficult, Vermes says the following about the language in “Mein Kampf”: “A man who fears that he will be suspected of stupidity tries to appear as educated as possible by writing in such a complicated language that everyone realises that it was not written by someone educated”. This book is supposed to give the impression that Hitler is writing it himself, so on purpose Vermes uses a bureaucratic and difficult language to sound authentic. But it was a tough job for the translator that no doubt did his best. And here and there, it is a tough read and one doesn’t really understand what “Hitler” is trying to say.
The book starts with Hitler waking up in an abandoned area of Berlin, where once the bunker existed. Well, it does exist today, under ground, filled with cement and there are high rising houses and parking lots on ground level. He is found by boys playing soccer and he naturally assumes they are Hitler Jugend and that they ought to be ashamed of themselves for not showing him proper respect and saluting their Führer in the proper manner. He walks around realising that Berlin is no longer bombed out, that his people has risen again, even though he left nothing for them, and to his horror he discovers that it is 2011. Clad in his dirty soldier’s uniform, he finds a kiosk owner that takes pity on him. The man not only offers him to sleep in the kiosk at night, but to try to get him in contact with show business people. Because he naturally thinks that Hitler is putting on an act, that he is an extremely good impersonator.
Hitler of course rants on, like it was still 1945, and does nothing to pretend that he is not who he is. But people don’t believe he is anything but an actor who never steps out of character. Soon two head hunters show up from the agency Flashlight and both Sensenbrink and Sawatzki become very impressed. Sensenbrink is the one in charge and he is given the task of solving the problem of Hitler not having any papers. Sawatzki gets to fix a cheap hotel for Hitler. And then he is taken to their boss, Bellini, who also is so impressed that she puts him in a stand up comedian’s show, to boost the figures. Ali Wizgür, is not really impressed by Hitler’s “act” but suddenly his program becomes very popular.
Why does Hitler become so popular then? Well, as soon as he has woken up in Berlin, he starts observing what has happened since 1945. And he points out all the absurdities. Like in the first program, that Ali, who is Turkish, makes fun of the Turks. Of course Hitler feels that it should be Germans doing it, for the reason that he is a racist but people around him does not understand that all that he says, is just the Nazi party line. So they think it is funny. He becomes an instant hit on YouTube.
Many thoughts that he discusses with himself, make a lot of sense of course. He looks at himself, who went in to politics as a 30-year-old with life experience, while today, he notices during all those hours he watches TV in the hotel, young people opt away a career and education, to go in to politics and make that their career. Totally insane according to him, since they know nothing of life and who does not agree with this thought?
One of the funny observations he does on a daily basis are the feeble-minded ladies that walk around picking up their dogs’ poop. He feels so sorry for them and thinks about how one must get rid of them first of all, when he gets back in to power. Like one did in the T4 program. To someone who lived back in 1945, it must seem insane when humans walk around and pick up dog poop!
I did laugh really hard when reading about him answering his mobile telephone for the first time. Sawatzki, who becomes his most genuine admirer, and who Hitler recognises is the sort of person that would join him in a bunker and die with him, sees to that Hitler gets a secretary, Miss Krömeier, a Goth. Hitler of course is shocked at her appearance but soon takes to her. She teaches him about the internet, gives him an e-mail address of führerheadquarters@… and she puts on the ride of the Valkyrie on his telephone as a ring signal, after he goes crazy over the clown music it comes with. (Pointing out that he had to give up lederhosen because he was not taken for serious in them, nor would he be taken for serious with such a ring signal.) So, the ride of the Valkyrie starts sounding and Hitler answers Adolf Hitler, and nothing happens. He is standing at the time by the kiosk with the owner that has helped him so much, and he starts screaming Adolf Hitler, the Führer’s Headquarters and the Valkyrie rides even louder. When someone finally screams to him to push the green button and he tries to do that, I was in tears! He finally is taught how to slide the green bar and hold the telephone to his ear. But it makes for a very funny episode.
You also get to see Hitler adapting with his time, which is why he once could get in to power, no doubt. When Sawatzki proudly shows their new homepage with the old nazi font style and Hitler sees that Sawatzki has written Home in German, he gets angry and says, what home? It is called a homepage and one should call things by their given names. Sawatzki objects and says “but the Führer can’t accept a foreign word!”. Well, Hitler says, they do not call the tank a self-moving caterpillar-foot canon just because it was the British that invented the tank. Point well taken!
Soon, Hitler has grown out of Wizgür’s program and gets to have his own. They build the studio up just like the Wolfsschanze, he gets to wear his uniform, have a blonde Teutonic helper and when he goes out to film on town, his whole crew comes in uniform. On one such outing, he goes to visit the neo-nazis finally. He is appalled by the building and the young person that opens the door is a disgrace according to him. He doesn’t salute him, nor does he look as fit as party members ought to be. Another funny episode ensues while they are waiting for the leader of the party, who is reluctant to come. He asks the young man if he has ever heard of “fast as a greyhound, tough as leather and hard as Krupp steal”. The man says yes, and Hitler asks him if he agrees that those are good features to have, to reach a goal. The man agrees and that he has them, but Hitler tells him that he is slow as a snail, fragile like an elderly man’s hips and soft as butter. That all women and children would have to be evacuated behind the front that he defends and that he needs to shape up, before they see each other again. He also adds that the young man needs to quit smoking since he smells like cheap ham.
The meeting with “his own” does not turn out well at all. He realises that the new movement is not as radical as his was, that they have not really understood what he and the nazis were about, that they have not read his book and understood it, that they have become weak. As dangerous as the neo-nazis can be, they are not the same as the original party was. They have grown up under other circumstances and it is more of a rebellion, a way to shock, something for outsiders, to attach themselves to.
Hitler is not just on TV and on YouTube. More and more magazines and newspapers try to understand the phenomena and the magazine Bild takes up a smearing campaign since they are seriously concerned. They find it irresponsible of the TV to let him have air time, they bring up his clearly nazi statements. His secretary starts getting hate mail after Hitler opens the door for her one evening and Bild accuses them of having an affair. But this is not all, during a visit to her grandmother, Miss Krömeier is ordered to quit working for him. because her grandmother thinks he sounds just like the real thing. Hitler is shocked when Krömeier tells him that she must quit for her grandmother’s sake. This is when his deeds really dawns on him. She shows him a photo of a happy, smiling family in 1943. The father is tall and handsome, the mother blonde and beautiful and so are the little smiling boys. They died six weeks after this photo was taken, says Krömeier to Hitler. He assumes that it was Churchill’s bombs that killed them and tells her to tell her grandmother that he will see to that it never happens again. That is when Miss Krömeier tells him, that the photo was taken by her grandmother, that it was her Jewish family in the photo, Jews that did not wear their stars of David, trying to fool everyone, and when caught, were gassed to death. The only reason why Krömeier works in the office, for him, is because she thinks that his act is all about making sure that nothing of 1933-1945 will ever happen again. Hitler doesn’t tell her the truth, but wiggles out of it all by saying that women are too emotional. That men don’t think in categories of horrible, they concentrate on a problem, and sees to that they reach the goal, without letting emotions get in the way. He points out that what happened is in the past. That wrongs don’t exist for us to regret but for us not to do them again. If his house burns down, he does not sit and mourn it, but builds a new, stronger, better house. He also tells her that in 1924 a few “swines”, as she calls them,” tried to dupe an entire population but that in 1933 the people chose the Führer in a democratic way. Either did the entire people consist of swines. Or what happened was not ‘swinery’ but the will of the people”. “Either you follow the NSDAP’s party line that only the Führer is responsible for everything. Or you have to accuse the people who elected the Führer and the ones that did not dispose of him. It was ordinary people who chose to put their country’s fate in his hands.” After his long speech, Miss Krömeier decides to stay, since to her it sounds like they are on the same side after all, and he also successfully persuades her grandmother.
Bild finally gets its interview with him and a very frustrated journalist called Ute Kassler, leaves after an interview that went along like this: “- Is it true that you admire Adolf Hitler? – Only in the morning, in the mirror! – Do you admire Adolf Hitler’s deeds? – Do you admire Ute Kassler’s deeds? – We are not getting anywhere like this, she said angrily, I am not dead am I? – It might upset you, said I, but nor am I.” A perfect example of how many of his conversations in the book, go.
How does the book end? Well, it doesn’t really. Sawatzki and Miss Krömeier, are his devoted co-workers and they fall for each other, perhaps because of all the antagonism that surrounds Hitler’s person and TV programs. They marry and start a family. Hitler himself though, go on trying to get back to power and people just thinking that he is just an act. Some people who is. Like the right-wing men that almost beat him to death one evening, accusing him of being a Jew that is defiling Germany and who has had plastic surgery to look like Hitler. Politicians though, beg him to come join their parties, after the assault, but Hitler has other plans. He has never just wanted to be one person in a big party, he wants to be IT. In 1919 a small party let him become just that. After being offered a book deal, by a lady that sounds like she really believes that he is who he says he is, he decides that the money from this new book and the TV program, will go towards a propaganda offensive. Sawatzki has already printed up old posters with a new slogan “all was not bad”.
The book gives you a lot of food for thought. It points out all the weird things in our society. It also points out what Hitler could have done, had he lived today instead, with the help of Internet, TV and so forth. (He is amazed in the book that people are allowed to say what they like on Internet without any regulation at all.) How people today would laugh at his message, just like they did then, not understanding how dangerous it was. And most of all, it takes up the blame and the guilt that Germany still battles with. Whose fault was it REALLY? Was everything HIS fault or was it the people who elected him, who should carry all the blame?