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Culture

Donald Fights the Nazis

Hitler's "Mein Kampf" has surfaced in a new Mickey Mouse comic book -- on the garbage heap. And not for the first time, either. Disney comics frequently take ironic jabs at Germany's Nazi past.

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Nazi parody: Huey, Dewey and Louie as boy scouts

In a heap along with a broken drum, an old tire and other garbage lies a green book, right where it belongs. The title? "Mein Kampf." It's just one inconspicuous detail in a new Donald Duck comic which came on the German market in time for April Fool's Day.

The story finds Donald's nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, rummaging around in a garbage dump. The balloon above Hitler's doctrine of hate reads: "They're always good for an April Fool's joke."

"The story originated in 1948, so you have to see it in its historical context," said Andreas Platthaus, head of D.O.N.A.L.D, a German fan organization dedicated to the study of 'Donaldism'.

Comic: Donald Duck, 1. Bild

The "de-Nazified" version: In some editions, the book on the garbage heap bears the title "Mein Kampf."

Platthaus has combed through all the Donald Duck stories, looking for instances where the characters drag the Nazis through the mud. Sometimes, the originals have been retouched.

But according to Platthaus, "Mein Kampf" can also be found in the garbage dump in the American original. "That the Americans would joke about it is hardly surprising," he said.

The Donald comics' German translator, Erika Fuchs -- who herself fled the Nazis -- would also often build in references, the Donaldist said.

Comic: Donald Duck, Bild 2

Once upon a time, Donald spoke of the Wehrmacht in this balloon -- now he refers to the "pioneers."

"For example, in 'Die braven Brückenbauer' (The Chickadee Challenge) there's a boy scouts leader who in one edition was a former employee with the German army, but in another edition, she's a former restaurant employee," said Platthaus. "There are at least two or three dozen Nazi references in the Donald Duck stories" he estimated.

Need to laugh

And in no way should they be interpreted as a glorification of the regime, stressed D.O.N.A.L.D's president Patrick Martin. Whether it is books added to a garbage heap or particularly authoritative structures in the boy scouts: "Germany still has an unnatural way of dealing with the past. Poking fun in this way is important, because you have to be allowed to laugh about it -- within limits, of course."

While the Nazi jibes in the 1950's-era comics are hidden in tiny details, Disney cartoons made during World War II often contained overt anti-Nazi propaganda.

Comic: Donald Duck, 5. Bild

Donald's nephews say "Hallo" where they once said "Heil."

"The most famous film is 'The Fuehrer's Face' from 1943," Platthaus said. "In it, Donald Duck dreams that he is an assembly-line worker in Nazi Germany, and is forced to salute the Führer every time his picture appears. In the last shot, you see him hugging the Statue of Liberty."

Superworker?

Other comic heroes were also called upon to battle the Nazis during wartime.

"Of course there were comics where Superman beats up Hitler," Platthaus said. Looney Tunes and Warner Brothers explored similar anti-Nazi themes.

Comic propaganda even persisted during communist times in East Germany, for example with the 1970's-era series "Fröhlich sein und singen" (Be happy and sing) -- albeit featuring specially-developed worker-hero characters.

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