“You must speak.” “I can’t.” “You must, it’s our only hope.”

In the Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin plays a Jewish barber who is mistaken for the mad dictator of Ptomania, Adenoid Hynkel. Hynkel’s party wears the insignia of the Double Cross. Circumstances force the shy barber to give a speech to millions of Hynkel’s followers. What follows is one of the most extraordinary speeches in cinema history from the most celebrated silent film star ever. Click on the video above to play.

7 thoughts on ““You must speak.” “I can’t.” “You must, it’s our only hope.”

  1. too bad the world wasn’t listening. always amazes me when life went on as usual in Hollywood and elsewhere while millions of Jews were being taken away and murdered. My mother’s family was rounded up at Passover

  2. Yes, the silence was deafening.
    The film was completed in early 1940, before the US entered the war, so Chaplin was ahead of the curve. Paulette Goddard, who was his co-star and third wife, had a Jewish father.

  3. Great Post Jack.. Thank You for Posting this… I remember this speech as well… Could you make a presentation and play it on the Show?

    Best Wishes to You for this Holiday Season,

    As Always, Sincerely,


    • Thanks, Danah.
      It’s funny, the first time I saw the movie, I was a “sophisticated” college student, and I thought that the final speech was mawkish and overly sentimental. I thought I was too hip for it.
      It took some time before I realized what an incredible risk Chaplin had taken. Now it gives me shivers every time I see it.
      It might be interesting to talk on the air about the speech in a larger film context, perhaps looking at anti-fascist sentiments in the cinema, but I’m not much of a film historian. Maybe you or someone else might do it.

  4. Maybe in our very bigoted world, where bigotry is big business that turns some people into millionaires and billionaires part of the problem is thinking of problems as “Just a Jewish problem” or “German problem” . This thinking excludes 2.5 million Gypsies, countless millions of “good dead Indians”, countless millions of dead enslaved Africans, Koreans enslaved by the Japanese, 7 million Cambodians killed in Nixon’s “secret” bombing, Darfur, the war in the Congo, the past 100 years in Haiti, a reported 6 million in India cut off from food by the British, Kurds killed with our tax dollars and British tax dollars and way too many more

    but what the hell can we do about it? A little every day. We can all think of something to try to help.
    I still boycott Nestles. I know that the Holocaust Germans and Austrians ( and Vichy French, Quisling Norwegians etc) are almost all dead from old age, but I still feel quezy before seeing something to buy made in Germany, so I don’t. It is difficult to resist scribbling a message on a Mercades, but I haven’t yet. ( I’d never buy a Ford for the same guilty feeling I would have if I owned one)I still boycott Hitler’s Chase and Citibank branches also Bayer aspirin and Miller beer.

    I try to buy Fair Trade, buy from friends who make things,try to find the safest charities. There is no shortage of good things to try to do to stop supporting the bad companies.

    One more thought- most people rely on the news from the easiest sources- the local radio , TV and the corporate “major media ” news papers . DON’T . The corporate media is owned by the same corporate directors who get rich from the other corporations they have big investments in- gun companies, companies making huge profits from fighter planes, attack helicopters, corporate prisons . The news owned by those people will not report about the horrors of the wars or genocides. A lot of US news papers and magazines and radio stations did not tell anybody about the Holocaust until it was too late. Some German Jews begged Jewish Press all over the world to report about Nazism in the 1920’s and 30’s . They had no luck. They were called crack pots, paranoid, communist, trouble makers, mentally ill, etc.

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