Does anyone remember when Nazis were considered figures of ridicule? Once upon a time, people who purvey our popular culture made fun of individuals who dressed up in brown uniforms, carried swastika flags, and strutted about ranting about the Aryan race and the Jewish conspiracy. A classic example took place during the 1980 celebration of excess, “The Blues Brothers,” in which Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, coming upon a Nazi rally being led by Henry Gibson, gunned the engines of their automobile and charged said brownshirts, causing them to scatter and leap off a bridge into a stream, humiliating them to the laughter of the onlookers.

Springtime for Hitler

Mel Brooks knew exactly how to deal with Nazis. In his classic film “The Producers,” which was remade into a Broadway musical and then another movie, he depicted two con artists who were in search of the worse musical play ever. They hit upon one called “Springtime For Hitler,” written by a former Nazi, and concluded that it was so offensive that it would open and close on the same night, making them millions in an illegal accounting scheme. However, the play turned out to be unintentionally funny, as the gentle reader will see from the clip below. Brooks would go on to poke fun at Nazis in a remake of “To Be or Not To Be.” Brooks, who is both Jewish and who understood the power of humor, knew that the most effective way to deflate Nazis was to make them look absurd.

Nazis as comic book villains who get beat up by Indiana Jones

Steven Spielberg trotted out Nazis not once but twice as comic book villains for Indiana Jones to overcome. The original three Indy movies were homages to 1930s and 1940s style serials in which, more often than not, brownshirts turned out to be the heavies. The Nazis in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” were strutting, smirking characters whom one loved to hate and about whom one cheered when Indy smacked them.

Spielberg went on to direct “Schindler’s List,” a serious, shocking, and in some parts moving depiction of the Nazi Holocaust from the point of view of a German who wound up saving over a thousand Jews from the gas chambers. The movie is his best work. However, having delved into the greatest evil ever committed by human beings, Spielberg pronounced himself incapable of using Nazis as comic book villains ever again.

That fact is one reason why Indiana Jones did battle with the Soviets in his next film.

Deflating Nazis and other racists through humor

When one finds out that a group of alienated young men has chosen to march under the swastika the natural reaction is to feel outraged. Didn’t we fight a world war to put these creeps down? However, it seems that the best way to deal with them is to deflate them through humor. So I leave you with a video of a gentleman named Buck who showed up at a KKK march recently and offered a soundtrack with his tuba.