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And the "victims" had the last laugh: an analysis of Jewish dark and gallows humor in Nazi Germany

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In the time of Nazi Germany the systematic targeting of Jews for persecution and extermination was rampant. Although this was a dark time for the Jewish people in Europe, they

In the time of Nazi Germany the systematic targeting of Jews for persecution and extermination was rampant. Although this was a dark time for the Jewish people in Europe, they did not simply stand idly by and let this happen to them. The Jewish people found a way to make a mockery of the situation that they wee in, as well as a way to poke fun at the people who persecuted them. The Jews used dark humor to mock the situations that they found themselves in. The interesting point here, though, is that they did not use all the aspects of dark humor that exist. The Jews used situational humor, critical humor, and gallows humor-humor about death-according to the incongruity theory of humor, to make a mockery of the plight that they were in. They did not use all of the different aspects of dark humor, but only the parts that would merge with their need to mock their situation, in order to be able to deal with the reality of what was happening in their lives. For the analysis in this thesis, I researched various collections of Jewish humor in Nazi Germany. I analyzed the jokes in relation to the different humor theories, and gave my conclusion on why these jokes were effective. Based on the evidence, I have come to several conclusions. The Jews that made these jokes only used the aspects of dark humor that would fit in with the atmosphere that they were trying to create. They would not use sexual jokes of any kind because of this. They used jokes that could be used as a shield, to comfort not only themselves but also their compatriots given their situation. The use of humor was a coping measure and a sign of defiance, that helped some of the victims of the Holocaust survive the attempted extermination of the Jews. Given the opportunity, I would widen my focus on this topic to include collective memory, as well, however the scope of such a project would be more fitting for a doctoral paper.

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  • 2011