Hitler's Return

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Monday, October 26, 2015

Hitler's Return

It’s been more than 70 years since Adolf Hitler, the infamous Nazi leader, shot himself dead in a Berlin bunker. Yet in the new film, “Look Who’s Back,” his return is explored. In Germany, no less.

The twist is that, in “Borat” form, the returned Hitler presents himself and his ideas to ordinary people who are, in fact, ordinary people. They are not actors. They are real people interacting with a fictional portrayal of Hitler.

And that is when it gets disturbing.

Yes, you have the expected posing of these people with the notorious leader for selfies; some even adding the famous Hitler salute. People were both excited and amused. The producers wanted the director, David Wnendt, to include more negative reactions to the Nazi leader, but he couldn’t. Out of 300 hours of filming, there were only two negative reactions.

As an article in the Washington Post observed, the “largely positive reaction to Hitler among Germans may remind some of the way Mao Zedong is treated in China or Joseph Stalin in some parts of Russia — as a kitsch curio.” 


But it went further. 

People enthusiastically embraced the actor’s portrayal of classic Hitler propaganda, such as disgust with immigration and democracy. When Hitler asked one woman to pinpoint the source of the problems in Germany, she immediately pointed to the foreigners who are arriving. Another man tells him that immigrants from Africa are dragging down Germany's average IQ by around 20 percent.

In one of the more worrying scenes, Hitler is easily able to persuade a group of soccer fans to attack another actor making anti-German comments, forcing the film crew to step in and protect the man. As the director noted, “It was so easy to get them to do that.”

And these were not neo-Nazis, but normal middle-class people. All stimulated simply by standing in front of a man dressed as Hitler, espousing Hitler’s ideas.

“Look Who’s Back” opened in Germany at the beginning of October and prompted a robust debate within the country about its meaning. It should have. As the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper wrote in one review, it was as if Hitler “never really left.”

The film’s director, David Wnendt, said he is happy with the response to the film. “People leave the cinema discussing the subject,” he said. “They’re asking, ‘Is it really that bad in Germany? Would Hitler really have a chance again nowadays?’”

The disturbing answer is, apparently, “yes.”

James Emery White


Adam Taylor, “A new film asks what would happen if Hitler returned to Germany. The answer is worrying.”, The Washington Post, October 22, 2015, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.