"Hi Hitler" offers a fascinating look at contemporary culture and the various forms the memory of the Holocaust and Hitler have taken in today's society. The text features six chapters with the most interesting (for this reader) being the first three, which highlighted how our memory of the Second World War as the 'Good War' has continued to be challenged by various authors, discussions revolving around the 'uniqueness' of the Holocaust, and how counterfactual history is applied to the Holocaust.
In the first chapter the author traces the
numerous volumes that have recently appeared challenging the
well-entrenched narrative of the Second World War as being something
unrepresentative of the facts. Rosenfeld himself never really comes out
with his own opinion on whether the Second World War was a 'Good War'
but allows the reader to view the intricacies of the debate(s) that have
raged around the question, the authors who've written on the topic, the
reviews their books have received, and the validity of the information
presented in respective publications. Some are easy to critique and
show for the shallow efforts that they are, while others raise important
questions about the nature of war and how war remembrance is embraced
within societies and then helps to shape their views and ideas up to the
present (more than once is the connection made to our post 9-11
rhetoric). Similar themes are explored in regards to Europe (both
western and eastern) in how they've treated the Second World War,
especially the numerous attempts by various organizations and
governments to equate the Nazi regime with that of Stalin's Soviet
The second chapter was quite fascinating in that the
author presents how we are constantly walking a fine line in how we view
the Holocaust and its history. Should we consider it a unique event or
can we normalize it? How will they change our treatment of the
Holocaust and its legacy? The same somewhat applies to Hitler and the
history of the Third Reich in general. Keeping these events in a cocoon
limits how we view their history and memory but allowing for
normalization could mean creating a discourse that's both difficult to
control and justify. Some have argued that allowing for a
'globalization' of the Holocaust, creating comparisons to numerous other
events in our recent history, has resulted in an awareness of how
devastating some situations really are, but the Holocaust then begins to
lose its uniqueness. These ideas come into play in later chapters
which discuss how movies and literature discuss Hitler and how the
internet has become a democratic forum for Hitler-izations of everything
in the form of memes. If we treat Hitler as any other human being, how
does that help us understand what took place in the Second World War
and Germany? If we treat him as the embodiment of evil, do we then
close ourselves off from questioning if in the future others might
emulate and possibly achieve even greater heights of destruction and
Personally, I think the Holocaust was unique to Germany for many reasons. But that's not to say that mass murder/genocide is limited solely to Germany. Many, if not the majority, of the nation-states that exist today have acts of mass murder as part of their histories. Be it the treatment of Native Americans and African Americans in the colonies and the United States, the Belgians in the Congo, the British in India and Africa, the Soviets under Stalin, China under Mao, the Spanish and Portuguese in the 'New World' and their role in the Slave Trade, and the French during the French Revolution and the Crusades against the Cathars (in some ways the Crusades in general), these are just some examples (many others include Darfur, Cambodia, etc.) of when mass murder, wanton destruction and mayhem are a part of a nation's past but each is unique to the people they occurred to and environment they occurred in.
The third chapter takes a look at how alternate histories
that have dealt with the Second World have impacted how we view the
Holocaust, Hitler, and the Third Reich. While I'm somewhat resistant to
'what if' scenarios, there are times when they are quite helpful in
understand the numerous strands that go into making an event possible.
Thus allowing for limited questioning of how changing one or two events
could impact others creates an environment where discussions can become
fruitful if limited to historians or experts in the field. For
instance, if someone is interested in questioning the ability of the
allies to bomb concentration camps (like Auschwitz), they'd have to
explore how much the allies knew, how much they believed, what their
capabilities were, what possible outcomes would have resulted, etc.
This allows for a greater understanding of not just the allied bombing
campaign but their intelligence, beliefs, and abilities during the war.
Overall, this is a fascinating look at memory and remembrance of the
Holocaust and Hitler and the impact the Second World War continues to
generate on our society today.