The Hitler costume fiasco shows Japan has lost touch with its past





The country has changed so much that young people can't conceive their grandparents had any link to the Nazis.

n a scenario that seems like it could have been written as a bad comedy sketch, a Japanese discount chain recently recalled a "Hitler costume" from its shelves after complaints from an American Jewish group. Such a move is reminiscent of the clever Mitchell and Webb skit where two vaingloriously unaware Nazi SS soldiers are chatting and one suddenly remarks to the other: "Uh, Hans … I have just noticed something. Have you looked at our caps recently? The badges on our caps. Have you looked at them?" The first soldier then says incredulously: "They've got skulls on them. Have you noticed that our caps actually have little pictures of skulls on them." He then pauses and upon deeper reflection asks: "Hans, are we the baddies?"

For a British audience, this ironic questioning of how the Nazis saw themselves is deeply satirical because everyone is in on the gag: of course we know how horrible Nazis were, and it's doubly funny that they don't realise it themselves. Such a skit tickles our sensibilities because, as Woody Allen once had a character in a film remark: "Comedy is merely tragedy plus time."...

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