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‘Just like Hitler’: Comparisons to Nazism in American culture

Brian Johnson, University of Massachusetts Amherst


‘Just Like Hitler’ explores the manner in which Nazism is used within mass American culture to create ethical arguments. Specifically, it provides a history of Nazism’s usage as a metaphor for evil. The work follows that metaphor’s usage from its origin with dissemination of camp liberation imagery through its political usage as a way of describing the communist enemy in the Cold War, through its employment as a vehicle for criticism against America’s domestic and foreign policies, through to its usage as a personal metaphor for evil. Ultimately, the goal of the dissertation is to describe the ways in which the metaphor of Nazism has become ubiquitous in discussion of ethics within American culture at large and how that ubiquity has undermined definitions of evil and made them unavailable. Through overuse, Nazism has become a term to vague to describe anything, but necessary because all other definitions of evil are subject to contextualization and become diminished through explanation. The work analyzes works of postwar literature but also draws in state sponsored propaganda as well as works of popular culture. Because of its concentration on Nazism as a ubiquitous definition of evil, it describes American culture through a survey of its more prominent, popular, and lauded works.

Subject Area

American studies|American history|American literature

Recommended Citation

Johnson, Brian, "‘Just like Hitler’: Comparisons to Nazism in American culture" (2010). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3409601.