An essay by Kathryn Huether, visiting assistant professor of musicology, has been published in the online educational journal Music and the Holocaust. “Heiling or Holding? Jojo Rabbit (2019), the Beatles, and Cognitive (Sonic) Dissonance” offers an introspective insight into the coupling of visual and musical symbolism, focusing on the way that the film Jojo Rabbit uses popular music and visual and vocal icons of the Holocaust—specifically the “Heil Hitler”—as a way to convey engagement with Nazi symbolism as it would have been experienced by its followers.
Sound and contemporary Holocaust memory was the focus of my dissertation, which was the germination for my now book project. My work is intimately wrapped up in mass consumerism and considers what I call the “normalization” of Holocaust memory, or the processes by which this horrible history has become a common and accepted topic for film and TV. For a long time I didn’t know what to make of Jojo Rabbit, always treading a line between loving it or despising it, but this essay embraces that tension and challenges us to consider our own individual roles in the success of the media we consume. My favorite line is my closing sentence, “Jojo Rabbit challenges us all to consider our daily passivity, an act intimately wrapped up with our own part in mass consumerism, and asks if we, too, would cheer for fascism if it was accompanied by the right tune.” – Kathryn Huether