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In Nazi Germany, telling jokes about Hitler could get you killed.
Is it permissible to laugh at Hitler? This is a question that is often debated in Germany today, where, in light of the dimension of the horrors committed in the name of its citizens, many people have difficulty taking a satiric look at the Third Reich. And whenever some do, accusations arise that they are downplaying or trivializing the Holocaust. But there is a long history of jokes about the Nazis.
In this groundbreaking volume, Rudolph Herzog shows that the image of the ridiculous Fhrer was by no means a post-war invention: In the early years of Nazi rule many Germans poked fun at Hitler and other high officials. Its a fascinating and frightening history: from the suppression of the anti-Nazi cabaret scene of the 1930s, to jokes about Hitler and the Nazis told during WWII, to the collections of whispered jokes that were published in the immediate aftermath of the war, to the horrific accounts of Germans who were imprisoned and executed for telling jokes about Hitler and other Nazis.
Significantly, the jokes collected here also show that not all Germans were hypnotized by Nazi propagandaor unaware of Hitlers concentration camps, which were also the subject of jokes during the war. In collecting these quips, Herzog pushes back against the argument, advanced in aftermath of World War II, that people were unaware of Hitlers demonic maneuvering. The truth, Herzog writes, is more troubling: Germans knew much about the actions of their government, joked about it occasionally . . . and failed to act.