09/06/2013 07:38 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Has Hitler Become Darth Vader?


This week, German prosecutors recommended war crimes charges be brought against dozens of alleged former Auschwitz guards, just as a German court began its trial against Siert Bruins, (92 years old) a border guard in Hitler's SS charged with killing a Dutch resistance fighter in the waning days of WWII.

As Jews around the globe celebrate Rosh Hashanah -- the Jewish New Year -- it's the perfect time to pause and consider the following:

  1. The last of the Nazi WWII atrocities took place nearly 70 years ago.
  2. Any remaining perpetrators left to be brought to justice are in their mid-90s.
  3. In a year or two or three all of today's surviving Nazi criminals will be dead.

Now, the story behind the photo above...

Over Labor Day weekend, I went to a convention in Atlanta, called DragonCon. It's a gathering of more than 50,000 fans of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Science, Space, etc. Most people come dressed in elaborate costumes -- which they take pride in making themselves. There were scores of people dressed as Batman, Superman, Hobbits, etc.

However, there was just one Hitler.

I found the costume wildly inappropriate and horribly offensive, to say the very least. I said as much to the guy in the outfit. His response? He said his costume was no more offensive than the costumes depicting other horrible figures. I reminded him that the horrible figures he referred to were fictional and that Dumbledore, et al didn't actually kill 6 million Jews, along with millions of others.

(Note: Please do not write in the comments that he has a right to dress however he wants. Even if what he wants to be is an asshole. Of course he has the right! That's now what this is about.)

Oh, and when I went to take this photo above, "Hitler" gave the salute without any prompting.

According to "Hitler", I was the only person to complain to him about his outfit. Did all 55-thousand people in attendance see him dressed as Hitler? That's not likely. But many many thousands surely must have.

Before I wrote this piece you're reading now, I posted the photo to my Facebook page as well as on the photo sharing site, Imgur as well as on Reddit, in order to gauge people's response to it.

First, a selection of comments from my Facebook page:

  • "If a guy is going to wear that getup to a genre convention... there's no way to explain to him how egregious it is, as he doesn't really understand what he's presenting."
  • "I would have dressed up as a Holocaust survivor and hope he wasn't offended when I kicked his sick ass across the convention floor."
  • "What a creep."
  • "What a complete waste of DNA."
  • "Nazi bastard."

Yes, of course, the people who I'm friends with on Facebook are likely to have an opinion similar to my own. That's the point I'm hoping to make. Hang in there, trolls.

And now, a selection of comments from Imgur:

  • "I think you're a whiny little bitch and you need to grow a pair. He's in a fucking costume, he's not actually Hitler. No fucking biggie."
  • "This isn't new or weird. Try harder."
  • "If you're offended, it means you're not mature enough to control your own emotions."
  • "I don't care much if anyone dresses up as Hitler"

So -- who are the people on Imgur? Mostly people in their 20s.

And, from Reddit, I got these responses:

  • "Wow the fact that you're actually offended by that is severely stupid. /die please."
  • "Because you're offended by that makes you look stupid. That happened years and years ago. drop it dude."

And who are the people on Reddit? Again, mostly people in their 20s.

So, what's my point? My point is that the Holocaust happened nearly 70 years ago... and while my survey isn't entirely scientific, it does benefit from some actual evidence -- rather than just say, my intuition. And for at least some of today's 20-somethings and presumably many more among the generation that follows, Hitler is just Darth Vader; a bad guy from a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away.

And, too many people clearly haven't been sufficiently told about...what so many have pledged to never forget.

Jon Hotchkiss is the creator of the new science series, This vs That. Please like him on Facebook, here.