Magazine December 09, 2019, Issue

Jojo Rabbit and the Pitfalls of Nazi Humor

Taika Waititi and Roman Griffin Davis in Jojo Rabbit (Twentieth Century Fox)

One small but reliable way to amaze someone steeped in our own culture of problematics with a dispatch from the not-so-distant past: Tell them that in the late 1960s, one of the most successful sitcoms in America was a broad farce set in a Nazi prison camp. If you want to compound the amazement, you might add that the actor playing the Nazi commandant was Werner Klemperer, a first cousin of Victor Klemperer, he of the famous Nazi-era diaries. Also, the actor who played the camp’s French POW, Corporal LeBeau, was not only Jewish but a survivor of Buchenwald, where

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This article appears as “The Pitfalls of Nazi Humor” in the December 9, 2019, print edition of National Review.

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Readers write in with fond memories of fatherhood, some long-held admiration, and some prefix pedantry.

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