The Hitler costume fiasco shows Japan has lost touch with its past

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The country has changed so much that young people can't conceive their grandparents had any link to the Nazis.

n a scenario that seems like it could have been written as a bad comedy sketch, a Japanese discount chain recently recalled a "Hitler costume" from its shelves after complaints from an American Jewish group. Such a move is reminiscent of the clever Mitchell and Webb skit where two vaingloriously unaware Nazi SS soldiers are chatting and one suddenly remarks to the other: "Uh, Hans … I have just noticed something. Have you looked at our caps recently? The badges on our caps. Have you looked at them?" The first soldier then says incredulously: "They've got skulls on them. Have you noticed that our caps actually have little pictures of skulls on them." He then pauses and upon deeper reflection asks: "Hans, are we the baddies?"

For a British audience, this ironic questioning of how the Nazis saw themselves is deeply satirical because everyone is in on the gag: of course we know how horrible Nazis were, and it's doubly funny that they don't realise it themselves. Such a skit tickles our sensibilities because, as Woody Allen once had a character in a film remark: "Comedy is merely tragedy plus time."...

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