In June 1934, Adolf Hitler broke onto the dark comedy scene with this howler: “At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense I tell you that the Nazi movement will go on for 1,000 years! … Don’t forget how people laughed at me 15 years ago when I declared that one day I would govern Germany. They laugh now, just as foolishly, when I declare that I shall remain in power!”
Six months later, the Minneapolis Star published an editorial that took the Nazis to task for failing to see a joke at their expense. Was anyone still laughing at der Führer by then?
Those Humorless Nazis
|A dead-serious War Production Board poster from 1942. (Image courtesy mnhs.org)|
People whose position of power is none too stable are notoriously unable to see a joke at their expense. The man with a loud but flimsy argument is generally poorly armed against fun aimed at himself.
Similarly, the Nazis of Germany, in high and mighty dudgeon, are going to banish from Germany forever (or at least until the Nazis are thrown out) a naturalized American girl who had the temerity to laugh at Nazi storm troop uniforms.
The poor girl probably couldn’t help herself, and forgot that in Germany you can’t do what in America is perfectly natural and also constitutional — laugh when the impulse strikes you to laugh. The inability of the Nazis to see a joke on themselves may help, eventually, to topple them. A sense of humor is a vital ingredient of stability. How else could the American democratic form of government have endured so long?