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Dead Funny: Telling Jokes in Hitler's Germany [Kindle Edition]

Rudolph Herzog , Jefferson Chase
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In Nazi Germany, telling jokes about Hitler could get you killed
Hitler and Göring are standing on top of the Berlin radio tower. Hitler says he wants to do something to put a smile on the Berliners’ faces. Göring says, “Why don’t you jump?”
When a woman told this joke in Germany in 1943, she was arrested by the Nazis and sentenced to death by guillotine—it didn’t matter that her husband was a good German soldier who died in battle.
In this groundbreaking work of history, Rudolph Herzog takes up such stories to show how widespread humor was during the Third Reich. It’s a fascinating and frightening history: from the suppression of the anti-Nazi cabaret scene of the 1930s, to jokes made at the expense of the Nazis during WWII, to the collections of “whispered jokes” that were published in the immediate aftermath of the war.
Herzog argues that jokes provide a hitherto missing chapter of WWII history. The jokes show that not all Germans were hypnotized by Nazi propaganda, and, in taking on subjects like Nazi concentration camps, they record a public acutely aware of the horrors of the regime. Thus Dead Funny is a tale of terrible silence and cowardice, but also of occasional and inspiring bravery.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3665 KB
  • Print Length: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (26 April 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004C43G9M
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #561,436 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Sample only - more dead than funny 21 Oct. 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
I wasn't expecting a book about German comedy - of any nature - to be an absolute ribtickler, and sure enough, this wasn't. Dull? Yes. Funny? No. The examples given, such as the joke about Goring's medals, are so painfully unfunny, I thought I was missing something. The examples are scattered amongst page upon page of well-written but dry-as-dust analytical body text that (understandably) tiptoes around all the pitfalls such a sensitive subject inherently brings, and the translation is somehow rather too concentrated to read comfortably. By the end of the sample, there were comparisons with the Romans, which was ironically the only part that contained anything recognisable as a joke.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent thought provoking read 9 Oct. 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A totally absorbing work that I read in two evenings. Beautifully written & researched. A very serious look at an unlikely subject. This book is a definite must!
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A German Joke is No Joke, or was it under Hitler? 15 Oct. 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Rudolph Herzog, son of New German Cinema film director Werner, himself a director, has worked very hard to erase at a stroke first the British stereotype myth that A German Joke is no Joke, and then the post war German idea that Hitler and his tyrannical Nazi regime was no laughing matter unless one considered adhering to the band which comprises David Irving Hitler's War: And the War Path questioning the truth and seriousness of one of its human crimes, such as the Holocaust, including the elimination of German and Austrian cabaret performers, comedians and actors such as Kurt Gerron, Fritz Grünbaum, Willy Rosen and Otto Wallburg, something which a high majority of contemporary Post War Germans would gladly run a million miles away and hide.

Herzog in this book, aimed at the general readership (Barthes and his jargon seems to have wandered off the scanner)Barthes: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions), fully armed with a gutsy assortment of brief witty cracks and longer waggish yarns, informs British readers that German laughter is not akin to British humour; that political jokes existed previously throughout the Kaiser's reign, that neither the arrival of Hitler to the Chancellorship in January 1933 marked the death of cabaret night-life or of funny artistes, nor that humour and in particular political genre thereafter became totally verboten.

Wit, the author considered, acted as the essential release valve against growing stress and anger.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well done ! 5 Aug. 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I loved this book , well written, well researched and thought provoking . I cannot recommend it highly enough. You will not be disapointed .
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insight to Humor During Hitler's Reign 19 Sept. 2011
By B. Barden - Published on
When reading the Sunday paper in the United States (and other countries where it is permissible) we can often see political comics- poking jabs about those in power. It wasn't quite the same in Hitler's Germany but there were jokes, political and meant to `jab', aplenty. It helped people to deal with the state of affairs. There were plenty of individuals who were bothered by the direction that Hitler and others in power were taking the country in. But as Herzog points out, the jokes and comics were only a way to ease the tension for the people, not the country. Herzog shows that many knew what was going on and were bothered by it, but not to the point of action.

The book is a good read that will make one think. It is sometimes difficult to understand the jokes passed during these times if one is not familiar with the German/Jewish cultures before and during the WWII era. For those who are interested in history, this book is a good glimpse into the mindset of those during this time.

I did think that this book was going to share more of the specific comics/jokes that were written/voiced during Hitler's Germany and it does, dispersed throughout, share some specific ones. However, it is more of a history of the time and the people's attitudes, with some examples of `humor' that circulated. Interestingly, the jokes did not often center around the Nazi brutality but instead was more popularly politically themed. Goring was made fun of for the excessive number of medals on his suit- and his enjoyment of food.

Herzog does recount some of the deaths that were the result of the public jokes against Hitler and those in power but I gathered that the deaths (many from being in concentration camps) were ordered later in Hitler's reign. After the Reich was losing the war and was becoming much less popular.

Some examples of the `jokes':

A 'law' that was rumored to be passed by the Nazis is as follows:
1. Anyone who does something or fails to do something will be punished.
2. Punishment will be handed down according to popular opinion.
3. Popular opinion is defined by the Nazi district leader [Gauleiter].

Another example:
A high-ranking Nazi official visiting Switzerland asks what a certain public building is for. "That's our Navy Ministry," his Swiss host explains. The Nazi laughs and says: "Why does Switzerland need a ministry of the navy? You've only got two or three ships." The Swiss answers, "Why not? Germany has a ministry of justice."

But as Herzog goes on to say after telling of over 250 well-known authors who were stripped of their citizenship, prominent culture figures and the friends of these individuals generally `adapted to the times'.

" this didn't aim any serious criticism at the paramilitary nature of Nazi organizations. At most, such witticisms targeted the disruptions to normal life party duties entailed..." (in reference to jokes about party name acronyms)

If you are interested in history, WWII history, perhaps sociology, and/or a look into the mindset of some people during the WWII era, this book may be worth a read. It does contain profanity and some explicit language.

I received this book from Melville House Publishers via NetGalley.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Pages and Hooked 21 Jun. 2011
By Craig Gottlieb - Published on
Can you laugh at Hitler? During the Third Reich, it might have gotten you killed. Today, it might earn you shocking stares. As a military antique dealer that specializes in German artifacts from the Nazi period, I'm used to the second reaction. Well, by page 5 of this book, Rudolph Herzog had me hooked. What struck me is that the structure of political jokes don't change, just the characters do. Easy to read, full of insight into the politics of past and present. Recommend!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dead Funny : Humor in Hitler's Germany 19 Sept. 2011
By A.O. - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had never thought humor could be used by anyone during Hitler's rule. To read how humor was used to get through these times and the consequences for doing so was unsettelling to say the least. There were also other bits of information that were new to me. Very interesting reading.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nazi Germany in a Different Light 11 Sept. 2014
By G. Poirier - Published on
Over the decades, I’ve read a number of books on Nazi Germany, Hitler and World War II. However, for me, this one is a first. The idea that an oppressed people, even the persecuted Jews, would often freely invent and tell jokes about their overlords, and even about their own horrible demises, is not one that would come to my mind. That’s why I was so intrigued when I saw this book. Now, I am quite happy to have read it.

The author briefly recounts the coming into power of the Nazis, their march towards world domination and their ultimate downfall, as described in so many other books. But in this case, the people’s discontent, low morale and negative opinions of the Nazis are reflected in jokes that they created at the time and retold. The Nazis’ reactions to these jokes and those who propagated them are also well described. Several jokes are recounted throughout the book - their themes reflecting the main events of the time.

Despite the fact that his book is a translation from the German, I found that it was very well done. The jokes are clear and the punch lines are unambiguous. When a German word used in a joke can have two meanings, both of these meanings are explained prior to providing the joke, thus enabling the reader to appreciate its nuances. I also found the author’s prose to be friendly, lively, accessible and immensely captivating. I believe that anyone can enjoy this wonderful book - especially history enthusiasts.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No, German humor (or even Nazi humor) is not an oxymoron 19 Aug. 2012
By Meaghan - Published on
I wasn't sure what to expect out of this book, but I was impressed by it. The thesis is that you can prove just by the jokes floating around Nazi Germany that the German people knew perfectly well what that terrible things were going on. Maybe they didn't know exactly what was happening, but they had a pretty good idea. There are also mini-biographies of German comedians (which sounds like an oxymoron, I know) and filmmakers, and how they were affected by the Third Reich and censorship. I learned a lot from this book, including some nice jokes I'll be sure to try out on my friends.
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