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I Was Hitler’s Cat

by N.J. Dodic

Any book that plays Hitler for laughs has its work cut out for it. First, there are the jokes themselves, which must succeed on every page, given the very small market for Nazi comedy. Second, there is the larger problem of Hitler humour in general. Hitler and laughter have made an uneasy alliance. Of course there have been subtle, even profound satirical portraits of Hitler (mostly by German filmmakers) but for unknown reasons most Hitler humour resembles Hogan’s Heroes or Mel Brooks’s The Producers: farcical, old-fashioned satires that somebody’s uncle used to enjoy when vaudevillian pratfalls and shouting were considered funny.

I Was Hitler’s Cat – the title pretty much sums up the plot – is the brief, precocious, catty memoir of a sarcastic furball named Tutti Hitler – “Male, uncastrated. Green eyes” – an all-seeing, wisecracking, sardine-eating witness to history who comes to live in the notorious Berlin bunker. Tutti, who narrates like a combination of an erudite Brit and David Letterman, has got everybody’s number: Speer is an automaton; Eva Braun is an airhead; Mengele is a dumb sophomore. Hitler himself spouts middle-management jargon, like a crazed Saturn salesperson. The cat, who arrives just as the Reich begins to seriously disintegrate, watches everything and everyone in the bunker go from bad to completely, incredibly bad.

In the great scale of Hitler humour, I Was Hitler’s Cat works as a medium-funny sitcom. It has a cast of quirky characters, lots of insults, an immediately recognizable milieu, and plenty of leather sofas. Think That ’70s Show with bratwurst and goosestepping, or any kids’ animated series with an added layer of offensiveness. Which leaves us with the key Hitler humour conundrum: morally, are jokes about Hitler a good idea? Do we lose something every time we gain a laugh?

Readers will judge for themselves. The following is a typical observation from that darn cat: “Hitler, while picking at his toast (whole wheat, plain), suddenly flew into a rage and began pounding a glass on the table. He said (or so I thought), ‘I hate the juice! Everything wrong in the world is the fault of the juice! We must eliminate the juice!’”