Were Nazi jokes funny?

I have read much of the book, but I’ve yet to find a good chuckle.  This narrative is typical:

Waehrend der Eingeborenenaufstaende in Deutsch-Ostafrika erlaesst das Kaiserliche Ministerium in Berlin folgende Anweisung an die zustaendigen Stellen: "Die Eingeborenen sind dahingehend zu instruieren, dass sie under Androhung schwerer Strafen jeden Aufstand sechs Wochen vor Ausbruch schriftlich anzumelden haben!"

Translation drains away the "humor," but it uses awkward bureaucratic language to report that "the natives" in East Africa have been told that if they wish to revolt, they must first submit six weeks written notice.  If there is anything vaguely funny about this, it concerns how the German language can formalize even very brutal topics, alternatively a simple German street sign can become ridiculous through long constructions and the use of the passive voice.  But I don’t think that was the point of the joke, which I take to be mocking the German bureaucracy.

Moral issues aside, I believe the Nazi jokes are not funny because of their monotone nature, their lack of irony, and the lack of reflective humor behind the putdowns.  A victimized group will be mentioned, and put immediately in a subordinate position, but only rarely is that group the direct butt of the joke.  The oppressed group is there en passant, so to speak.  The resulting incongruity is scary rather than funny and I suspect this would remain the case even if we were not well-informed about what the Nazis did.

Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, while scary, is also funny in parts.  It mocks the ridiculous element in Hitler.  The Nazi jokes have a huge and ridiculous elephant(s) in the room, so to speak, but by refusing to mock those beasts the rest of the joke almost certainly cannot be funny.

The chapter on the Holocaust is of course chilling.

It can be argued that no one should write a book "reselling" and thus profiting from Nazi jokes (or for that matter blogging them).  I take this point of view seriously, though ultimately I believe the story should be told.

The tough part is that good humor is often brutal rather than morally pure, so the question remains what exactly distinguishes funny brutality from unfunny brutality.

Social scientists do not devote enough attention to the phenomenon of humor, and I found this book one of the better places to start.

Here is an article on the book.  Here is a new book on tourism to Nazi Germany.

Comments

(singing) "Springtime for Hitler in Germany...."

I laughed at the play-within-a-play Nazi jokes in The Producers, but maybe this shows my bad taste. (Mel Brooks isn't really for someone with a refined sense of humor.)

Laughing when your good friend receives a funny insult might be taken to signal your disloyalty. One function of laughing is to tell people where your loyalties lie.

Still, I think that if you found a funny Nazi joke, I'd want to hear it. It's a taboo mental plaything--like the fact that Hitler was nice to animals or his mother. Just make sure you preface the joke with some anti-Nazi, group-loyalty talk so that we can laugh.

As for jokes about Nazis, I like the gay Hitler character that Chris Kitan played on SNL. (Sorry, I can't find it on youtube.)

The only funny remark I recall by a Nazi was from some functionary in Poland, who opined taht if he looked like Himmler, he wouldn't be going on about the Aryan master race quite so much.

(It's quoted in Cameron Watt's How War Came, of which I lack a copy.)

If it is to draw a parallel with Communist era humour, people who have not lived through communism don't find these jokes funny either.

Whenever I tried telling these jokes to my friends they are a bit bewildered and take them far too serious:

i.e. A: How long will Ivan be in jail?
B: For 3 years.
A: What did he do?
B: nothing.
A: For nothing, you get only 2 years in this country"

or Ceausescu going to Japan to brag about his plans for developping Romania. After listening to him the emperor asks: "why didn't you try cianide?"

Conclusion: these jokes tell something about the absurd of the situation in a certain times and speak to those who experience this and are plainly stupid to the others (though, frankly, I don't find the " give a 6 week notice if you want to revolt"-joke that unfunny.)

Q: What do you get when you cross 1 German and 6 million Jews?
A: 1 German

One thing are jokes about Hitler or Stalin , the people making fun of dictators .Is a way out for frustartion.And other jokes that nazis or communist made about the people.That was missed in many commentaries here.
This one have been told of URSS ,Poland ,Germany and Cuba. A citizen from one of the countries arrives in Germany , the USA or Uk.He is asked
Was the food good?I can not complain.
Was your job good? I can not complain
Was your life good? I can not complain
What are you doing here? I want to complain

The late Petr Beckmann had a good collection of Soviet and Iron Curtain jokes called Hammer and Tickle in its second edition. A lot of them are pretty funny, in a sharp-edged, sad-if-you-think-about-it kind of way.

A Soviet woman decides to buy a Lada. She goes over and makes her request. They explain the waiting list is very long, but they have an one available in exactly six years. They ask her to return then. She looks at her calendar replies, in the morning, or the afternoon. The salesman says "Comrade, that is six years from now, what difference does it make?" The woman replies "that is the day they deliver my television set".

Derek,

My wife's version of that one has Lenin at first explaining
that one appeals to the revolutionary fervor of the workers.
And the Khrushchev answer is to "tear up the tracks from behind
the train and put them in front of the train." The other two
are approximately the same, definitely a Brezhnev era joke.

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