When the Nazis came to power in January 1933, the party only won 37 percent of the vote across Germany. In the Reichstag, the German parliament, the National Socialists only controlled a third of the seats when Hitler came to power. When they held another election two months later, after crushing other parties and quieting opposition, they still only won 43 percent of the vote and less than half of the Reichstag.
So it’s safe to say that not every German was huge supporter of the Nazi party and its leadership. But after a while, criticizing the government became more and more hazardous to one’s health. How does a population who can’t openly object to their government blow off the built-up popular anger among friends? With jokes.
For many Germans, laughing at Hitler within their homes was the most they could do. Far from brainwashed, they were fed up with the laws forcing them to do things against their will. As Rudolph Herzog writes in “Dead Funny: Telling Jokes in Hitler’s Germany,” these jokes could get you in a concentration camp or in front of a firing squad. These are the jokes people living under Hitler and the Third Reich told each other.
1. The crude behavior of regime officials offended Germans immediately.
The German word “wählen” means “to dial someone” and “to vote for someone.”
2. Did you notice a lot of Nazis were overweight? So did the Germans.
3. Not all Germans were thrilled to greet each other with “Heil Hitler.”
4. Everyone knew who really set the Reichstag fire.
5. Clergy were the first to point out Hitler’s hypocrisy.
6. Germans wondered why the Nazis pretended to have a justice system.
7. Many Germans knew of some concentration camps and what happened to dissenters there.
8. Dachau was the one everyone knew about.
9. German Jews who escaped joked about those who stayed.
10. The people knew what was coming.
11. Their Italian allies weren’t exempt from ridicule.
12. Italian inability didn’t go unnoticed.
13. After a while, the German people felt stupid for believing it all.
14. They got more cutting as time passed.
15. Telling this joke was considered a misdemeanor:
16. The end became apparent in jokes long before the reality of the situation.