Humor During the Third Reich
As recorded by Richard Grunberger in The 12-Year Reich
Whats the difference between Chamberlain (Prime Minister of England) and Hitler? One takes a weekend in the country the other a country in a weekend.
While fishing the British Premier patiently pays out his line, lights his pipe and within two hours has hauled in a large catch, after which the Duce (Mussolini) hurls himself headlong into the pond and grabs a fat pike. When it is Hitler's turn he orders all the water to be drained out of the pond. Seeing the fish thrash about helplessly on the dry bed, Chamberlain asks, Why don't you scoop them up? Hitler replies, They have to beg me first.
But as the war went poorly, so too did the jokes become more derogatory against Hitler:
A Berliner and a Viennese exchange air-raid reminiscences. The Berliner says, The raid was so heavy that for hours after all-clear, window panes were hurtling down into the street. Thats nothing, says the Viennese fellow, In Vienna, portraits of Hitler were raining down into the streets DAYS after the raid.
Sex jokes about Goering were in marked contrast. Arising at the time of his marriage, they derived additional piquancy from the fact that a year elapsed before his wife, the actress Emmy Sonnemann (who was herself rumored to have shunted her progeny from a previous illicit liaison abroad) became pregnant:
After the honeymoon Emmy Goering relinquished her membership of the church she had lost faith in the resurrection of the flesh.
Others referring to his "Field-Marshal baton" have been tastefully omitted.
Jokes about Gobbles (propaganda minister) sexual peccadilloes as well as the virtue of German women were common:
Residents of the capital would observe that the angel atop the victory column in Berlin was the only virgin left in the capital. (Gobbles was notoriously short)
The Big Brother theme was an obvious source of humor:
The Germans represent a medical miracle. The are able to walk upright in spite of having a broken backbone.
In winter two silent men riding a train make barely noticeable gestures with their hands beneath the blankets draped across their laps. They are deaf mutes telling each other political jokes.
Lastly, what of the Jews themselves? With persecution since time out of mind a living scar across their psyche, the Jews had long been conditioned to assuage pain with the balm of humor. Though impaired, this faculty did not desert them even in the Third Reich:
At Treblinka, where the prisoners were employed to carry gassed corpses of inmates to the crematorium, prisoners who ate too much would be told by their fellows, Hey, Moishe, don't overeat! Think of us who will have to carry you.
At Treblinka, too, the sad consolation to friends whom one had to leave was, come on, cheer up, old man. We'll meet again some day in a better world in a shop window as soap. The appropriate reply to this last remark was, yes, but while they'll make toilet soap from my fat, you'll be a bar of cheap laundry soap.