The Goofy, Anti-Nazi Parody Video That Enraged Goebbels

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Dec. 19 2014 9:15 AM

The Goofy, Anti-Nazi Parody Video That Enraged Goebbels

As Sony cancels the Christmas release of "The Interview" following a hack likely engineered by North Korea, our thoughts turn to movies and TV that mocked (and, sometimes, enraged) a previous dictator of note: Adolf Hitler. Below is a 2013 Vault post on one of those, a short film titled "Lambeth Walk--Nazi Style," which was released in 1940.  

Rebecca Onion Rebecca Onion

Rebecca Onion, who runs Slate’s history blog The Vault, is a writer and academic living in Ohio. Follow her on Twitter.

The “Lambeth Walk” was a popular dance craze in the U.S. and the U.K. in the late 1930s. The song, from the musical Me and My Girl, referred to a street in a Cockney district in London. Dancers strode back and forth, punctuating their “walk” with high kicks and broad gestures. (You can see a rendition from a 1984 production of the musical here. Advance to the 2-minute mark to see the whole cast dancing the Walk.)

In 1940, an enterprising official at the British Ministry of Information put together this video, “Lambeth Walk—Nazi Style” The official, Charles A. Ridley, edited parts of Leni Riefenstahl’s 1934 propaganda film Triumph of the Will to make it appear as though Nazi soldiers and Hitler were doing the Lambeth Walk.

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The gag was all the sweeter because a Nazi Party member had publicly denounced the dance in 1939 after the craze caught on in Berlin, calling it “Jewish mischief and animalistic hopping.”

Partisans on both sides recognized the effectiveness of this bit of parody. Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels apparently ran out of a screening room in a rage after viewing it. And according to historian Erik Barnouw, the Danish resistance used to enter cinemas in occupied Denmark and force projectionists to show the short.

The Ministry of Information distributed the video without narration to newsreel companies, who supplied their own commentary. This 1942 version is from Universal Studios and was titled "Gen. Adolph Takes Over"; it's available in several formats on the Internet Archive.

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