Memes in 2010: Downfall

Memes in 2010: Downfall

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The Downfall Meme

Hitler’s Downfall is a series of subtitled parodies based on a pinnacle scene from Der Untergang (2004), a German drama revisiting the last ten days of Adolf Hitler’s life and eventual suicide in his Berlin underground bunker. In the scene, Hitler (played by Bruno Ganz) hears from his generals that the final counter-offensive against the Soviets never took place and defeat is imminent. Hitler then orders everyone to leave except the four highest-rank generals, who stay and listen nervously as the world’s most despicable man goes ape shit.


Image Highlights

Today, There are over 1000 derivative videos (*estimates tbd) with subtitles in English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and many others, typically discussing topical events and online gossips of trivial nature.

- The earliest known subtitle spoof of Downfall was uploaded by YouTube user DReaperF4 on August 10th, 2006. Titled “Sim Heil: Der untersim” and subbed in Spanish, the video shows Hitler fuming over the lack of new features in the demo trial of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X, which was later released in October 2006.


  • Jun 7, 2007: Hitler is informed that his gaming account has been banned from XBOX Live.

  • Jun 30, 2008: Hitler finds out he has to go see “Don’t Mess with Zohan,” because tickets for all the other movie screenings are sold out.

  • Jul 1, 2008: Hitler finds out his dog was killed in a road accident, then feels the urge to tweet about it, but much to his disappointment, Twitter service is down.

  • Aug 1, 2008: Hitler freaks out after being informed about President Obama’s visit to Berlin.

  • Nov 3, 2008: Hitler deals with the heavy news of sub-prime mortgage crisis in the U.S.

  • Jul 4, 2009: Hitler goes berserk when Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin resigns from her office.

  • Aug 16, 2009: Hitler cannot hide his shock when Usain Bolt breaks 100m dash world record.

  • Sep 17, 2009: Hitler becomes furious after hearing about Kanye West’s interruption at VMA 2009.

  • Apr 19th, 2010: Hitler is angry about receiving DMCA takedown notice on YouTube.

Director’s Approval

On January 15th, 2010, New York Magazine’s entertainment blog Vulture caught up with Hirschbiegel about his opinion of how the scene has been used online.


Someone sends me the links every time there’s a new one…
I think I’ve seen about 145 of them! Of course, I have to put the sound down when I watch. Many times the lines are so funny, I laugh out loud, and I’m laughing about the scene that I staged myself! You couldn’t get a better compliment as a director.

Read more: The Director of Downfall Speaks Out on All Those Angry YouTube Hitlers -- Vulture

Production Company’s Disapproval

On April 19th, 2010, Techcrunch, Boing Boing and Laughing Squid reported that Constantin Films has begun sending DMCA takedown notices to Youtube on the grounds of copyright infringement. On April 21st, the Associated Press reported that Martin Moszkowicz, Head of Film and TV at Constantin films in Munich, finds many of the parodies distasteful and trivial in light of the seriousness of the Holocaust and World War II.

Know Your Meme PSA: How To Challenge YouTube Takedowns

On April 28th, 2010, Know Your Meme released a public service announcement explaining how to dispute a wrongful copyright claim on YouTube. For more information on the YouTube takedown process, visit the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Guide to YouTube Removals. For more on Fair Use in Online Video, check out the Center for Social Media.

Fair use is a doctrine that provides protection for individuals using copyrighted material without receiving permission. The material can only be used in limited ways like commentary or criticism, and Downfall videos, as well as many other memes, can be argued to fit this criteria.

More Meme Reviews

And don’t forget to check out the rest of 2010 meme reviews!

- KYM Blog – Memes in 2010: Downfall
- KYM Blog – Memes in 2010: Effing Magnets
- KYM Blog – Memes in 2010: Douel Rainbow
- KYM Blog – Memes in 2010: Antoine Dodson

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