Grandnephew Bob Hitler, Carnival Barker
If you should happen to be right in the center of historic old Cologne, Germany, at exactly eleven minutes past the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year — or, in other words, at precisely 11:11 a.m. on November 11th — you will bear witness to the beginning of the traditional German festival known as Karneval, which marks the start of the Lenten season of denial. And, if so, you are likely to see that Karneval kicked off with a roisterous and rousing rendition of Rhineland huckstering, as performed from the makeshift podium of Mr. Bob Hitler of Austrian lineage (oh yes, he is a surviving grandnephew of that Hitler!).
For Mr. Bob, as he is invariably known to one and all about the sawdust-strewn streets and alleys of the makeshift midway of merriment, is the hailer, the hawker, the hortatory host of this sprawling scene of revelry and mayhem. Games and amusements abound for the little kinder, while rides, floats and parades entertain those of greater years. Adults are invariably drawn to the drinking songs and contests of the beer tents and temporary alehouses, while many menfolk finish off the evening with a brief visit to The Snakewoman, The Hareem, Elena the Exotic, or any of the other more sordid, sexy, sleazy attractions.
Through it all, above it all, in front of it all, Mr. Bob maintains his perch of primacy as the emcee to each day’s activities (as well as the sole ticket-taker). His straw boater is always firmly in place, pinning that distinctively slicked set of forelocks diagonally across his forehead. His bow tie is eternally tightly tied about his corded Teuton neck, so much so that it waggles entertainingly as his Adam’s apple bobs with each spiel. The pastel pink pin-stripes of his linen barbershop-quartet-style shirt are perennially perfectly perpendicular to the horizon. Best of all — and very unlike his much more famous great-uncle — Mr. Bob’s facial expression never varies from a blankly bland and vacuous stare into the middle distance, displaying no emotion, nor any workings of an inner mind, and thus upsetting absolutely no one.
You might therefore say that Mr. Bob Hitler, carnival barker par excellence, is a cipher, a shell, a nix, a nil, a blank, a void, a clean slate, a goose egg, a ghost, a specter, a nothing, a naught, a nobody, a zero.
(Well, as we learned only too well during the days of the Third Reich, there’s a lot worse things one can be than a zero!)
Since the end of World War II in 1945, virtually all of the living descendants of Hitler’s extended family have altered their names, to disguise any connection with their reviled ancestor. However, since the reputation of a typical carny worker cannot be much besmirched by — and may, in fact, be elevated by — an association with an assuredly mad and pathological dictator, Mr. Bob has dutifully opted to keep his original family surname.
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