A few years ago , on the 22nd of June 2016, to be precise I wrote a blog titled “Holocaust and Humour” . I got a lot of criticism for that. The thing I found extraordinary the criticism didn’t come from people who read the blog, but only from people who read the title.
I didn’t mean to disrespect any of the Holocaust victims and survivors, the opposite was true. I wanted to show my deepest respect because despite all the horrors so many still had a sense of humour.
This blog is also meant as a way of expressing my deepest respect for all Holocaust victims and survivors.
When the Nazis came to power in 1933, the German constitution guaranteed freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Through decrees and laws, the Nazis abolished these civil rights and destroyed German democracy. Starting in 1934, it was illegal to criticize the Nazi government. Even telling a joke about Hitler was considered treachery. People in Nazi Germany could not say or write whatever they wanted.
The Treachery Act of 1934 was a German law established by the Third Reich on 20 December 1934. Known as the Heimtückegesetz, its official title was the “Law against Treacherous Attacks on the State and Party and for the Protection of Party Uniforms” (Gesetz gegen heimtückische Angriffe auf Staat und Partei und zum Schutz der Parteiuniformen). It established penalties for the abuse of Nazi Party badges and uniforms, restricted the right to freedom of speech, and criminalized all remarks causing putative severe damage to the welfare of the Third Reich, the prestige of the Nazi government or the Nazi Party. Anyone ,regardless if you were Jewish or Non Jewish, could face the death penalty for breaking this law.
Father Josef Müller, a Catholic priest, was executed for telling some of his parishioners the following story:
A fatally wounded German soldier asked his chaplain to grant one final wish. “Place a picture of Hitler on one side of me, and a picture of Goering on the other side. That way I can die like Jesus, between two thieves.”
The indictment against Müller called this joke “one of the most vile and most dangerous attacks directed on our confidence in our Führer. . . . It is a betrayal of the people, the Führer, and the Reich.”
I just love it how some Jewish people defied the Nazi regime and coped with the horrors of the Holocaust by using humour.
In some of the the ghettos, Hitler’s self proclaimed “masterpiece” was referred to as Mein Krampf (My Cramp). His ides of the “Master Race” was the subject of many jokes. These are just a few of them.
“There are two kinds of Aryan, Non Aryan and Barb-Aryan”
“Aryan, blond like Hitler, slender like Goering and tall like Goebbels”
Cutting the hair of the prisoners was one of the ways the Nazis tried to dehumanize their victims. It was like taking away their dignity and a sense of identity. But even that act did not stop some women to cope with it in a humorous way. This is just an anecdote on how one woman coped with the ordeal.
“When they cut our hair in Auschwitz, that was something terrible. After they cut off my hair, suddenly I saw some of my girlfriends (as in female friends) who I had known for a very long time, many cried. They cried after long hair and then I started laughing and they asked ‘What, are you out of your mind, what are you laughing about? ‘ I said’ This I never had before, a hairdo for free? Never in my whole life’ And I still remember how they looked at me, they looked at me as if I was crazy”
Another anecdote from a survivor was in relation to the transport on the trains.
“This whole situation, they shoved us into those trains. It was like cattle, it was something awful inside the train. When we have just arrived in Auschwitz everybody ran to the window, to see something, but you couldn’t. The window had shutters, a small window. I also wanted to see where we were. Then a girl friend asked ‘what do you want to see so badly?’. I said: ‘I simply want to see the conductor, ’cause I don’t have a ticket, I want to see when he comes in…’
I have quite a good sense of humour myself, albeit sometimes a bit on the dark side and filled with sarcasm, and I have used in many tragic episodes in my life. However I don’t know if I would have the courage to use humour if I was faced with the horrors of the Holocaust.
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