What is considered a "healthy debate" in Germany

January 14, 2007

Finally, the Germans have found a congenial, humorous (some say not even humorous enough) interpretation of their bothersome recent past. Of course, those party-pooping Jews have kept us far too long from seeing what a big joke killing Jews, and specifically in the millions, is, but finally this film relieves us and lets us whooping it up mightily!

Levi's film is a fictive look at the week between Christmas and New Year's in 1944-45, when it started to dawn on Hitler he was losing the war. Hitler ... is in a severe state of depression, though he is scheduled to deliver a rousing speech to the nation on New Year's Day. Goebbels ... then decides that what the Führer needs in order to deliver a speech that inspires the nation is some help from his former theatre teacher and namesake Adolf Israel Grünbaum -- a Jew...

Of course, what is most interesting about Levy's work is the sort of societal and historical dynamics that surround the release of his audacious, ground-breaking ideas. His films are much more than entertainments, exactly because he treats the plots of his films like normal subjects for a comedy or farce, when in truth these have been, erm, nonkosher for the past sixty years in Germany. In that sense, his films contribute to the healthy debate about how Germans should treat their own recent past...
The same people who are deeply concerned about the evil influence of the "Holocaust industry" are in side-splitting, thigh-slapping, pant-pissing mirth about this film. It is called "Mein Führer – Die wirklich wahrste Wahrheit über Adolf Hitler" (Mein Führer – The truly truest truth about Hitler) and tells us that the Germans only killed the Jews because they got their butts paddled once too often or ate too many paint chips as children or something to that effect. At this level of discourse, it isn't surprising that director Daniel Levy named his Hitler-antagonist Adolf Grünbaum.

You get the gist? A Jew *LOL*. A Jew called Grünbaum *ROFL*. A Jew with the first name "Adolf" *ROFLMAOPMP*. Why, that's the kind of entertainment that is dubbed "grotesque", "funny", "subversive", "intelligent" and a "healthy debate about how Germans should treat their own recent past" here!

The political scientist Clemens Heni has found out more:
The Truth about Adolf Grünbaum

How the recent film about Hitler bastardises the life of a Jew who fought as a soldier against Nazi-Germany.

Charlie Chaplin's film "The Great Dictator" attempts to fight the Nazis by means of satire. Goebbels, for example, goes by the name Garbitsch (=garbage) The recent German Hitler film "Mein Führer – Die wirklich wahrste Wahrheit über Adolf Hitler" (Mein Führer – The truly truest truth about Hitler) by Dani Levy, however, sticks to the real names of the Nazi-celebrities. Goebbels, Himmler, Eva Braun and, of course, Adolf Hitler himself. Just the second protagonist and his wife get – ostensibly – fictitious names: "Adolf Grünbaum" respectively "Elsa Grünbaum". Other people have written about the absurd, anti-educational implications of the film already... But nobody bothered so far to check whether "Adolf Grünbaum" is really a fictitious name.

The film informs us that Grünbaum spares Hitler, even pities the poor German bathtub- splasher with the troubled childhood. "Grünbaum", however, is shot dead.

All this considered, the email the author received yesterday is rather noteworthy.
"It was very kind and thoughtful of you to write me and to have published a short text against the ill-conceived new German Hitler film. (...) I wish I could find out from the producer why he chose my particular name for the pedagogue, but I assume that I would not receive an answer from him if I wrote him; (...) Let me mention that I was born in Koeln/Rhein in 1923 and lived there until my family and I emigrated to the USA in February 1938. I studied philosophy, physics (Master of Science degree, Yale University, 1948, and Ph.D. in Philosophy, also at Yale, 1950/1951, with a doctoral dissertation in the Philosophy of Science). During World War II, I served in US Army Military Intelligence and went into Berlin with the advance party of the US Army, being stationed there in the Wannseehaus, where the then suburban Gestapo Headquarters was the site, as you probably know, of the 1942 planning session of the "Final Solution."

Since 1960, I have held a Chair as Professor of the Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. I have written books in the philosophy of space-time, and two books very critical of Freudian psychoanalysis (Reclam published a German translation of one of them: Die Grundlagen der Psychoanalyse: Eine philosophische Kritik, about 1988)

At present (2006/2007), I am the President of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science. Perhaps I should mention that my website is
http://www.pitt.edu/~grunbaum/

Warm best wishes and many thanks,
Adolf Grünbaum"
So Adolf Grünbaum was really born 1923 in Cologne, a Jew who was lucky enough to escape – just – with his family to America, who came back in WWII and had to lodge at the Wannseehaus in Berlin, who studied physics and philosophy and who is currently one of the worldwide most renowned philosophers of the logical empirics of the former Vienna Circle. No film could be more absurd in his concept, more German and more grotesque than Dani Levy's Mein Führer – The truly truest truth about Hitler. It takes half a second to find out that there, in fact, is a real person called Adolf Grünbaum, but it seems plausible that Levy didn't even attempt to do that. And should he have done – even worse. Then it can be safely assumed that he took pleasure in making his film the travesty of a Jew, to ridicule him and to have him killed in the end. However, let's assume that this director did not ask Google but just made-up the name. Then he has just one option left, really. He will have to retire his film Mein Führer and apologise for the infamous derealisation of the real Dr. Adolf Grünbaum's history and to apologise. During the reign of National Socialism, to be precise late in 1944, the period, in which the film is set, Grünbaum fought as a Jewish soldier and interrogator in the US-Army. Dani Levy, however, who can be described as ignorant at best, the director of a film that lends a totally new dimension to the Theatre of the Absurd, plays coquettishly with the death of a Jew who is, in reality, alive – Just like Martin Walser in Death of a Critic (Tod eines Kritikers).

Levy and his Crew – namely Ulrich Mühe, this old GDR-actor – are using the well-known name of a well known professor of philosophy to spread their primitive anti-educational theory. Adolf Grünbaum has to serve as a collaborator to satisfy the German longing for Hitler's exculpation. Since 1945, the German society is working to marginalise, to conceal or to relativise the Nazi-crimes and now this film even manages to boost the knee-jerk secondary antisemitism by fending off remembrance. It exploits the name of a man, easily retrievable in the times of unlimited research opportunities, not to tell the true story of a Jew who was born in Cologne in 1923, who had to free "his country" 1945 from itself. None of that. This story is dismissed, as if Adolf Grünbaum, the real Adolf Grünbaum, had never lived.

How must Adolf Grünbaum from Pittsburgh feel if even the New York Times publishes an article about this new Hitler-film and he has to read his name several times there? What will Konstanz University say, who awarded an honorary doctorate to Adolf Grünbaum, when they discover how this great name is besmirched by a German "comedy"? How could it happen that feature writers and pundits didn't twig that Levy, different from Chaplin (who, as we know, wouldn't have made his "Great Dictator" in the same way post-Auschwitz), didn't alienate the names of his main characters – apart from this obscure "Adolf Grünbaum"? Without the outstanding flair for spotting correlations of the publicist Gudrun Eussner, I wouldn't have found this Adolf Grünbaum. But now the name is clearly and unmistakably deciphered.

It is now up to Dani Levy to retire his film Mein Führer – The truly truest truth about Hitler, to apologise and, when embarking on his next film (which we will not miss should he refrain from making it) to have a brief look at Google before he robs another true story of its reality, like this one about a Jew from Cologne in the uniform of the US-Army.
I, personally, think that Clemens Heni is expecting too much. Dani Levy, the man who is too dumb, lazy or uninterested to perform a simple Google search, will do NOTHING of that sort. He won't even understand the issue. After all, we are talking about the man who is playing with "his audacious, ground-breaking ideas" court-jester for the same people who chased a man like Adolf Grünbaum, the real Adolf Grünbaum, away.


Clemens Heni's article was translated by me and I say "thank you" for letting me have it. The German version appeared at my all-time favourite blog Lizas Welt together with Liza's own interpretation.

10 Comment(s):

Anonymous said...

There is a place for satire of Hitler. Chaplain did it and Mel Brooks did it several times. Jews being caled Nazis is the worst anti-semitic sterotype.

Quick question Is America Alone by Mark Steyn available in German? Not that you couldn't read it in English, but I am curious.

Has there been any attempts to mittigate the Armenian Genocide in Germany. I got a copy of Toynbee's book on the subject and it is hair raising.

The_Editrix said...

Chaplin (who was a gentile) made his film BEFORE the world knew of the holocaust. As to Brooks... at least he knows how to make a good film. Maybe in bad taste, but well made nevertheless. I saw it many years ago, but it is difficult for a history-aware German to find that sort of stuff funny.

According to amazon.de, there is no German translation of Mark Steyn:
http://www.amazon.de/s/ref=nb_ss_w/303-0656149-0910669?__mk_de_DE=%C5M%C5Z%D5%D1&url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Mark+Steyn&Go.x=7&Go.y=8&Go=Go

The Armenian genocide is not a topic of great interest in Germany. After all, it doesn't do anything for the sick fascination Jews hold for the average German. You may find this interesting:
http://editrixblog.blogspot.com/2007/01/hyphenisation-of-german-political.html

JMK2006 said...

Psychologist Alice Miller, best known for a short tract that privileges childhood experience -- The Drama of the Gifted Child -- wrote about Hitler's childhood in one of her other books.

I'd forgotten about that, but this subject jogs my memory.

Spasm said...

In am just writing an academic paper on that very subject and must say I am appalled by the many misunderstanding of Dani Levy's purposes that are to be found in this article. Moreover, Comedy does not have to relate the truth, that is why it is called "comedy" and not "documentary film". We should not forget that HitLer's image was entirely built up by the NSDAP. Relying on such representation forms is actually using the material prepared for us by the NS-Party. But what strikes me in this puddle of nonsense is the importance accorded to Adolf Grünbaum (the "real" one). If you had watched the film carefully, you would have seen that the film's Grünbaum is said to be born on November 17th 1884 (00:03:06 to give the exact place). I don't think taking the name of a real person is a crime, when there is no risk of confusion.
Moreover, your article entails about every last prejudice we Europeans have on Americans. You are doing no good to your people by showing off such extensive displays of ignorance.
And please, please, try to learn a bit more about Germany before embarking upon dubiously racist statements.

The_Editrix said...

"Moreover, your article entails about every last prejudice we Europeans have on Americans. You are doing no good to your people by showing off such extensive displays of ignorance.
And please, please, try to learn a bit more about Germany before embarking upon dubiously racist statements."

I AM German (incidentally one with a higher degree in history) and I am not terrifically confident as far as your academic progress is concerned in the face of the many comprehension errors you managed to cram into a relatively brief comment on a relatively brief blog entry.

Julio César Fernández said...

I did not see the movie but I think polemica.Igual depicts that the Germans will have received the best.

fpb said...

I think it would be worth telling the stories of Jews who entered Germany in the British and American armies (the Soviets were another matter), many of whom, like Dr.Gruenbaum and the famous translator at Nuremberg, Captain Wolf Frank, had fled Germany in the previous decade. For that matter, some Gentiles had taken the same path: one of the American prosecutors, Robert Kempner, had actually been a high-level civil servant in the Reich Interior Ministry and briefly served under Minister Frick, one of the men he helped prosecute. These are fascinating stories, and I doubt that anyone ever paid attention to them; possibly because the idea of an exiled Jew coming back to Germany gun in hand as part of the victorious armies does not fit the stereotype of the defeated and persecuted Jew.

As for this movie, it sounds like the worst kind of Italian comedy, ill-judged, in bad taste, and presuming to speak of arguments that it does not have the education or depth to understand. However, I don't think anyone ever chose World War Two for this kind of unwise and unfunny treatment (the worst I can remember is a "funny" treatment of the threatened coups against Italian democracy in the late sixties and early seventies), probably because the execution of Mussolini, the civil war of 1943-45, and the massacres at Marzabotto, Sant'Anna di Stazzena, the Ardeatine Pits and so on, were too serious and close for irresponsible comedians to touch. The one comic creation about WWII, the late Bonvi's Sturmtruppen (which I have seen translated into German), is an extremely bitter and black kind of comedy, which at least does not treat its subject as though it had no weight.

The_Editrix said...

Fabio, my father, who was known to the Americans as an "underground man" even before the war ended, and who worked together with the Brits after they took over, often spoke of an officer who was a German Jew. My father never learned his real name, although they worked closely together for quite some time. The lie that "Jews don't fight" is the most vile one in the millennia-old propaganda war against the Jews.

The film is bad enough per se, but what I find even more repulsive is the reaction to it. So making jokes about the Holocaust is a "healthy debate about how Germans should treat their own recent past"? Germans will jump at any opportunity to relativize their past either by considering tripe like this film a "healthy debate about how Germans should treat their own recent past" (of course, that somebody called Daniel Levy made it helps a lot) or by self-loathing, breast-beating, hair-shirt-wearing "Sündenstolz". It is OUR Holocaust and nobody will do anything like that again in a hurry. No, a HEALTHY debate has yet to start in Germany.

fpb said...

Jack Kirby, the great man I have repeatedly quoted, was a strange mixture of street smarts. stratospheric intuition, and a strange underlying naivety. In the course of his war in 1944, he found himself naturally having to deal with German prisoners. He relates how struck he was by their incredible arrogance; and it never seems to have occurred to him that it might have anything to do (not that German officers didn't have a deserved reputation for that sort of thing!) with the fact that he addressed them in his paternal Yiddish! I imagine there must have quite a few other Yiddisher Ashkenazim in the armies of the West.

The_Editrix said...

"...and it never seems to have occurred to him that it might have anything to do (not that German officers didn't have a deserved reputation for that sort of thing!) with the fact that he addressed them in his paternal Yiddish!"

I seem to remember a story about a (British or American) officer of Jewish-German stock who spoke Yiddish to the Germans to humiliate them. But to do so to then be amazed about the reaction is very naive indeed. His American background is bound to be the reason for that.