Mark Meechan, a Scottish man who goes by the YouTube handle Count Dankula, had his first appearance in court yesterday for what may be ruled a hate crime. He was initially arrested after a video he uploaded of his pug performing the Nazi salute went viral. The video itself, titled “M8 yer dugs a Nazi,” has currently surpassed 3 million views. Meechan claims that his video was primarily made to annoy his girlfriend, Suzanne Kelly, but he seems to have gotten more than he bargained for.
In another Nazi-inspired scene from a Count Dankula video, Buddha, his pet pug, is shown watching video footage of Hitler at the Berlin Olympics from a documentary. In the video, Mark has trained Buddha to perform the familiar Nazi salute as he shouts “Gas the Jews” and “Heil Hitler.” Mark and his pug became famous (or infamous) overnight. Not everyone is laughing about the situation, however.
Ephraim Borowski is the director of the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities. He has spoken out about the video, calling it “grossly offensive.”
“It stuns me that anyone should think it is a joke. My immediate reaction is that there is a clear distinction to be made between an off-hand remark and the amount of effort that is required to train a dog like that. I actually feel sorry for the dog. In many ways, the bit I found most offensive was the repetition of ‘Gas the Jews’ rather than the dog itself. The other thing that struck me was the explicit statement that this was intended to give offence and intended to be the most offensive thing he could think of – and then he says he isn’t a racist – but unfortunately we hear that all the time from people. I’m no historian but it is the marching signal of the Nazi stormtroopers who contributed and supported the murder of six million Jews, including members of my own family, and I take this all slightly personally. Material of this kind goes to normalize the anti-Semitic views that frankly we thought we had seen the last of. The Holocaust is not a subject for jocular content.”
Wait a minute, Ephraim, did you say never a suitable subject for comedy? What about the multiple Oscar and Tony award-winning film and musical The Producers? Sarah Silverman is another Jewish comedian who has gotten big belly laughs making light of the Nazis and Holocaust.
In her popular comedy special “Jesus is Magic” she made the following joke referencing her niece.
“Aunt Sarah, did you know that Hitler killed 60 million Jews? I corrected her, and I said, ‘You know I think he’s responsible for killing six million Jews.’ And she says, ‘Oh, yeah. Six million. I knew that. But seriously, auntie, what’s the difference?’ ‘The difference is that 60 million is unforgivable, young lady.’ Kids. Try to figure them out, you can’t: They’re kids.
PBS’ Independent Lens did an entire documentary regarding taboo comedy topics that featured Holocaust humor extensively. The Last Laugh features several Jewish comedians like Gilbert Gottfried, Sarah Silverman, and others making jokes about the Holocaust and exploring other “taboo topics” for comedy.
Mel Brooks has been asked extensively about humor, Hitler, and the Holocaust. In an interview with Spiegel, he explains his practicum for poking fun at Hitler.
“Of course it is impossible to take revenge for 6 million murdered Jews. But by using the medium of comedy, we can try to rob Hitler of his posthumous power and myths. In doing so, we should remember that Hitler did have some talents. He was able to fool an entire population into letting him be their leader. However, this role was basically a few numbers too great for him - but he simply covered over this deficiency.”