From Richard Schickel’s The Disney Version, which offers up a fairly pungent critique of Uncle Walt’s sensibility. He’s Disney on Hitler ~
“Mr. A. Hitler, the Nazi old thing, says Mickey’s silly. Imagine that! Well, Mickey is going to save Mr. A. Hitler from drowning or something some day. Just wait and see if he doesn’t. Then won’t Mr. A. Hitler be ashamed!”
As Schickel points out, what Hitler had actually said was, Mickey was “the most miserable ideal ever revealed … mice are dirty.”
I find the statement by Disney funny and surreal, though not in an intentional way. It’s clueless. Disney was certainly a wee bit antisemitic himself, and also like most of the studio bosses he wanted to keep making money out of Germany. Warners, the most courageously anti-Nazi studio, only shut down operations in Germany when their Berlin man was viciously beaten up for being Jewish. Disney, who was one of the only producers to welcome Leni Riefenstahl when she visited Hollywood, was obviously worried that the Führer was not a Mickey fan, as this had potential commercial consequences. He felt the need to respond, but couldn’t be inflammatory about it. “The old Nazi thing” is as insulting as he can bring himself to get, and his idea of a comeuppance for Hitler is that Mickey will do him a good turn.
I’m not saying Disney was a Nazi! It’s just unfortunate, is all. The cartoon is my way of showing I have something in common with Uncle Walt: neither of us can draw Mickey Mouse.