The Epitome of Evil: Hitler in American Fiction, 1939-2002 by M. Butter

By M. Butter

This examine explores the literary representations of Adolf Hitler in American fiction and makes the case that his determine has slowly built from a way of left-wing critique right into a equipment of right-wing confirmation.

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6 Accordingly, it is hardly surprising that only a handful of fictional texts featured Hitler as a character over the next two decades. What is surprising, however, is Hitler’s comeback at the end of the 1960s and his conversion into a powerful trope of evil for American culture. This development, I argue in the next part of this chapter, is tied to reconfiguring the extermination of the Jews as the Holocaust, and I approach it 28 The Epitome of Evil from this angle. Consequently, Hitler disappears for a few pages from this study, just as he disappeared from American culture at the end of World War II.

Thus, however, asserting the fundamental evil the Holocaust represents becomes a kind of explanation in itself: The Holocaust happened and could happen again, because evil exists. Obviously, this new conceptualization of the Holocaust did not emerge as suddenly as my juxtaposition with the old one suggests. Regarding the Holocaust as the manifestation of an ontological and inexplicable evil only gradually became the dominant way of thinking during the 1960s and 1970s. And, of course, many people in the States and elsewhere still favor historical or sociological explanations of the Holocaust.

Until the end of 1943, American propaganda maintained a clear distinction between a small group of guilty Nazis and the majority of Germans, who were regarded as the Nazis’ first victims. As Benjamin Alpers has shown, the war in Europe was conceived as an ideological conflict between democracy and fascism and not as a traditional war among nations; it was “a war against Nazism, not the German people” (193). Although novelists and playwrights were not as directly influenced by the OWI as Hollywood filmmakers were, they too usually maintained the clear distinction between Nazis and ordinary Germans that the OWI encouraged.

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