June 18, 2013 1:07 pm
Updated: June 18, 2013 6:33 pm

He’s Back – German author’s comical, modern-day Hitler book tops charts

MUNICH – Modern-day Germany is an open, affluent and multicultural democracy. But, what would Hitler think?

That’s the question author Timur Vermes dared to ask in his book, Er ist Weider Da – or He’s Back, in English.

It’s an absurd story told from the Nazi dictator’s perspective, taking place after Hitler awakens from his Berlin bunker, in 2011, but is mistaken for a comedian look-alike.

He rants against cyclists, dog owners who don’t clean-up after their pets and speeding drivers.

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“You can see how it is to be seduced, to follow [him],” the 46-year-old author told Global News’ Stuart Greer, in Munich. “A normal human would not have been that dangerous, if not all the people had followed him.”

In the book, Hitler becomes a TV personality, a YouTube sensation and goes into politics.

He’s Back has been translated into 28 languages, so far, and an English version is in the works. There is reportedly talk of a film version as well.

The success of He’s Back seems surprising, even to Vermes.

“Why do people suddenly want to see the world further explained, but this quite real Hitler,” he said. “It’s a little bit spooky.”

But, German readers can’t seem to put the 400-page book down. It’s been at the top of Germany’s best-seller lists – selling more than 400,000 copies in first six months following its Sept. 2012 release –and the audiobook version has been one of the successful ever sold in the country.

“So, funny it is on one hand. On the other hand, you see all the danger that his thoughts can bring,” book store owner Christoph Stempfl told Greer.

But, members of Munich’s growing Jewish community have raised some concerns about the light-hearted look at the man whose regime led to the deaths of millions of Jews.

Aaron Buck, of the Munich Jewish Cultural Centre, said although he welcomes the book, he worries about the portrayal of Hitler as a comical figure.

He worries that it runs the risk of washing away his responsibility for the mass murder of millions.

“It’s very powerful,” Buck said. “But, I’m afraid that not everyone, especially young people, will have this consciousness and responsibility for the past.”

He’s Back is not the only characterization of Hitler in modern society.

He’s been the subject of an online comic strip called “Hipster Hitler,” which has been turned into a book and sold online and in stores.

The cardigan-wearing Führer, with thick-rimmed glasses, laments having not being able to find an SS uniform that’s not conformist, and gets angry with [Joseph] Goebbels trying too hard to be cool.

“Hipster Hitler was born on a dark and ironic night when Mars, named after the Roman god of war, lined up perfectly with the American Apparel on North 6th Street in Williamsburg,” creators James Carr and Archana Kumar explain on the Hipster Hitler homepage.

“In constructing Hitler as a Hipster we’re offering a new way of disliking Hitler and laughing at the ‘lazy dictator’ he was, who is known for being indolent, maniacal at times, with violent bursts of enthusiasm,” the pair wrote.

Vermes’ book does have some connection to reality, in that Hitler has already become a YouTube star.

A clip from the Oscar-nominated 2004 film Downfall, depicting the final days of Hitler’s rule, has been re-purposed numerous time to show the Nazi leader reacting to moment in pop culture and current events. The videos have been watched by millions and show Hitler reacting to everything from the the iPad going on sale to Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift’s MTV Video Music Award speech.

© Shaw Media, 2013

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