Was it okay for Germans to make fun of Hitler? What do jokes tell us about the social climate during Hitler’s reign? What place does this humor have in post-war German society? In Dead Funny, Rudolph Herzog explores these questions and more. As he explores the humor of this time through jokes found in post-war pamphlets, Herzog uncovers the changing relationship between people and state and the perceptions/understanding of the German people.
I enjoyed this book! While I initially thought that it would be more of a showcase of brilliant zingers against Hitler, I nevertheless found it engaging. Herzog’s work really filled out my understanding of the social conditions of Nazi Germany. I enjoyed Herzog’s discussion of German humor to address questions about the social conditions and popular understanding during Hitler’s reign; I think this point of access is unique and a good way to show people’s understanding of their situation, the party’s sense of security, and the resulting shifts. For those readers who did not find the jokes very funny, I will remind them that context is extremely important, and that lack of context may affect your understanding. In that regard, reading this book in a class or after doing some background reading may be helpful. I believe that Herzog does a great job of conveying the importance of context, without taking too many liberties in his analysis. The writing allows both historians and non-historians alike to read and enjoy this book.
If you’ve got an interest in Nazi Germany and its social conditions, definitely check it out!