Donald Duck in Der Fuehrer’s Face

Like most humanities teachers know, when writing and designing lessons, it is best to relate to the *-shudder-* humanity. Therefore, it is often not a bad idea to introduce culture. While the 1960’s have been the center of such cultural education for years because of incredible music and graphic imagery. Other eras work well too. Having taught at both the high school and university level, I have found that cartoons, especially funny ones stick.

When teaching World War II, I come across a standard conundrum. On one hand, yes, thanks to movies, video games, and other culture (including a fairly consistent historical message from elementary through college of the horrors of the Holocaust) most people know how bad the Nazi’s are. However, like most history, this is myopic. I am not saying that the Nazi’s aren’t evil, they were, but this fails to address some of the complexities of the question.

For example, yes the Nazi’s and Hitler were in charge of Germany at the time, but why the branding of Nazis? Were the Germans on board? How does someone like Hitler come to power and stay there when Mussolini fell and was killed by Italians? A lot of this comes from post-War remembering and rewriting. At the time, though there was an attempt to recreate the War in terms of Race.

While the racial “inferiority” of the Japanese was understood to Americans and the “swarthiness” of Italians was untrustworthy, the Germans had been accepted into culture with the notable exception of World War I. Therefore, when World War II came, racial epithets about the Japanese can be seen in highly racialized cartoons like the Warner Brothers Looney Toons short Tokio Jokio or Tokio Woes. However, the Germans were more difficult. While Warner Brothers slotted a dopey German into an Elmer Fudd role in a Bugs Bunny cartoon in Hare Meets Herr, the real star is Der Fuhrer’s Face. While both play with the cult of personality around Hitler, Der Fuhrer’s Face has it in spades.

Originally called Donald in Nutziland, Donald Duck wakes up in Nazi Germany in this hilarious and Academy Award winning short in 1943. Leonard Maltin introduces Der Fuhrer’s Face.

 

Comments are closed.

Post Navigation