Anti-Nazi jokes were used as a way of expressing discontent with the Nazi regime in general, or with specific policies. In a regime that demanded complete conformity and removed the freedom of the press, telling anti-Nazi jokes provided a way to criticise and resist the regime with a much smaller risk of punishment.
Anti-Nazi jokes were on a variety of subjects: anti-Jewish policies were mocked, as well as economic policies and even Hitler himself.
In 1939, Count Alfred Hessenstein (who was previously part of the German Grand Duchy of Hesse and had emigrated to Britain) collected and published a volume entitled The Joke’s on Hitler – Underground Whispers from the Land of the Concentration Camp [J.M Dent and Sons, England, 1939].
Two of the jokes from the collection are used as examples below. The first implies that Hitler has lost his mind and is unfit for office. The second suggests that only lunatics or the mentally ill would perform a Heil Hitler salute.
I stepped into the popular Aschinger restaurant in Berlin and ordered a Bismarck herring. ‘I beg your pardon, sir’ apologized the waiter, ‘I can only serve you a Hitler herring’. ‘Well – what is the difference?’ ‘The Bismarck herring had a head, sir; the Hitler herring hasn’t’’.
The Führer visited a lunatic asylum. All the patients were told to stand in a row, and they were given instructions on how to salute him. When Hitler approached they all raised their right hands and shouted: ‘Heil Hitler!’ Only the last man in the row uttered no sound and did not raise his hand. Red with rage Hitler stepped up to him and shouted: ‘Don’t you know who I am? Why don’t you raise your hand?’ ‘I beg your pardon,’ replied the man politely, ‘I am the doctor. I’m not a lunatic’.’