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I mentioned in a previous blog that Martin Miller was asked to broadcast his parody of a Hitler speech on the BBC’s German Service radio as a follow-on from his original Hitler sketch at the Laterndl in January 1940. The first speech was broadcast on 1 April 1940, but the BBC regarded it as successful enough to have him perform several variations on the spoof over the following two years.1
There are numerous drafts of several of Martin’s parodic speeches in the collection. To mark New Year 2013 (well, just about!) I thought I would translate and post the first section of one entitled ‘Hitler’s New Year Message’, which was broadcast at 9.00 pm on 27 December 1941.
Roughly translated, the speech reads as follows:
Members of the armed forces and National Socialist German men and women! My message today coincides with the end of the year; of the year 1941, for which I have guaranteed you the final victory. But this year has only ended in calendar terms – in that Gregorian calendar, which was imposed on the German world by a Roman Pope by the name of Gregor, bribed by international Jewry and Freemasons!!! Should we National Socialists, who have given the world a new order, allow ourselves to be dictated to by shady foreign characters about when a year begins and ends? No, my fellow Germans, when a German year starts and ends, that will be decided by me alone!
This speech, like the other parodies of Hitler that Martin wrote and performed, captures the expressions, sentence structure and confused logic typical of Hitler’s orations. A German colleague of Martin’s at the BBC later stated that his imitations were brilliantly funny, because they were as realistic as they could get.2 The speech would certainly have been instantly recognisable as a mockery of the Führer to the secret BBC radio listeners in Germany and Austria.
The BBC began to use satire in their broadcasts as a part of their propaganda war against the Third Reich in 1940, and Martin’s impersonations appear to have been regarded by them as a significant part of this campaign. In a letter dated 6 October 1942 to the German and Austrian Labour Exchange, the BBC wrote that ‘when we wished to give an imitation of Hitler speaking, Mr Miller has both written a script and performed. He is the only man in London we have been able to find to do this’.
1 Charmian Brinson and Richard Dove, ‘«Just about the best actor in England»: Martin Miller in London, 1939 bis 1945’, in Exilforschung: ein internationales Jahrbuch, ed. by Claus-Dieter Krohn (Munich: Text und Kritik, 1983- ), XXI: Film und Fotografie, ed. by Claus-Dieter Krohn and others (2003), pp. 129-140 (pp. 130-131), and Charmian Brinson, ‘The Go-Between: Martin Miller’s Career in Broadcasting’, in Yearbook of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies, vol. 14 (Amsterdam: Rodopi, forthcoming).
2 Carl Brinitzer, Hier spricht London: von einem der dabei war (Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe, 1969), p. 112.