NEW YORK — Adolf Hitler, for years a vessel of frustration in a popular Internet video, has been quieted.
"Downfall," a German film released in 2004 about Hitler's last days, has been adopted for wildly popular YouTube parodies that have spanned mock rants about topics as varied as playing Xbox video games to Kanye West to Apple's new iPad.Every spoof is from the same scene in the film: A furious, defeated Hitler, played by Bruno Ganz, unleashes an impassioned, angry speech to his remaining staff, huddled with him in his underground bunker.
The scene takes on widely different meaning when paired with English subtitles about, say, a late-season collapse by the New York Mets. Most any subject could be — and was — substituted, made even funnier by the scene's intense melodrama, artful staging and timely cutaways.
It was the viral video that refused to die — until it did.
On Tuesday, the clips on YouTube, many of which had been watched by hundreds of thousands, even millions, began disappearing from the site. Constantin Films, the company that owns the rights to the film, asked for them to be removed, and YouTube complied.
Martin Moszkowicz, head of film and TV at Constantin films in Munich, said the company had been fighting copyright infringement for years. Jewish organizations have also complained about the tastefulness of the clips, he said.
"When does parody stop? It is a very complicated issue," Moszkowicz said. "So we are taking a simple approach: Take them all down. We've been doing it for years now. The important thing is to protect our copyright. We are very proud of the film."
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the league was "delighted."
"We find them offensive," said Foxman of the videos. "We feel that they trivialize not only the Holocaust but World War II. Hitler is not a cartoon character."
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