It was recently revealed that the recently deceased Michael Jackson thought he might have “cured” Adolf Hitler of his evil ways if he’d had an hour or so alone with the Number One Nazi. That would have had to be one hell of a moonwalk. For although Jacko believed that even the Führer possessed enough goodness in his heart to be saved from his own Dark Side, most people prefer to think of him as incurably and inexorably nefarious. They would presumably use their Hour with Hitler not to dissuade him, but to dispatch him to the nether regions of the hereafter. In popular culture, Hitler is not just an example of evil, he is its epitome – as close to the devil incarnate as ever a mortal man is likely to get.
As he now almost completely overlaps with the concept of evil in the public’s eye, so Hitler once also symbolised the country he led, iron-fistedly, from hubris through hatè to nemesis (the Greek version of the warning that who lives by the sword shall die by it). The Germans, who excel at describing complex phenomena with single words, also have one for this particular period of their own history, when Shepherd and Flock were as one: Hitlerdeutschland.
But to have political leadership personalised to the extent dictators are wont to do (or unable to avoid), also means exposing the entire regime to the ridicule directed at its leader. Hitler’s temperamental rhetorical style opened his whole ideology up to parody (e.g. Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator). His personification of the Nazi regime also facilitated Allied propaganda during World War Two, as exemplified by this map.
A hand reaching out from the west is seen strangling a Germany in its pre-war borders – a shape cleverly concomitant with Hitler’s silhouette. The Weser estuary doubles as Hitler’s contorted mouth, the Schleswig region near the Danish border is his nose. His cap is captured by the winged layout of German territory in the east, with Pomerania in the north and Silesia in the south. Berlin is Hitler’s eye. Hitler’s throat, being strangled by the Allied hand, is the industrial area of the Ruhr, no doubt a reference to Allied air raids meant to cripple Nazi Germany’s capacity to wage war.
Many thanks to Ilya Vinarsky for sending in this map (found here), which unfortunately is rather low-res, rendering the writing rather illegible. Any higher-resolution images are welcome.