“Dead Funny: Humor in Hitler’s Germany” by Rudolph Herzog— Can We Laugh at and about Hitler?

Herzog, Rudolph. “Dead Funny: Humor in Hitler’s Germany”, translated by Jefferson Chase, Melville House, 2011.

Can We Laugh at and about Hitler?

Amos Lassen

I have to admit that anyone would write a book about Nazi humor is appalling. I just do not know how we can read a satire about Hitler. Am I saying that by laughing at Nazi jokes, the Holocaust becomes trivial? I am pretty sure that is what I am trying to say but I read this book any.

In the book Hitler comes across as the “ridiculous Fuhrer”. I learned that in the beginning of the rise of Nazism, Hitler and other Nazi officers were the butt of jokes. Herzog takes us on a tour of the anti-Nazi cabarets here Hitler was actually laughed at in these night spots. There were what Herzog calls “whispered jokes” that were actually published after the war along with the accounts of Germans who went to jail for poking fun at the Third Reich.  In this book we see the kinds of jokes that were told by those people who were not satisfied with Hitler or the Nazi party. It is significant to know that not all Germans supported Hitler and his propaganda machine and many of them had no idea about the concentration camps. Herzog takes another view that many Germans knew about what was going on and joked about it (that makes me feel sick). Herzog takes the point of view that Germans loved jokes about their leaders and there were many. He throws out the idea that the Germans did not know what was going on and he shows this by letting us see the many jokes made about the camps. Many thought it funny that naysayers, dissidents and even Jews joked about the Nazis. The humor here is dark and chilling and it is very interesting to see how these jokes were found.

Several have compared the American political cartoons are on the same level as German jokes and in both cases these jokes help us get through. It does take some background of German/Jewish relations and cultures both before and after the war. Some of the jokes are included right here in the book. We have not associated humor with Nazism in the past—in fact, we never even considered it. It is disparaging to know that humor was used as people died needless deaths. I did not laugh at any of the jokes and I do understand what Herzog has to say… I just do not agree with it.

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