Black on White

One of the strange bitter-sweet by-products of dictatorship in Europe today is—Humor. A sad, sardonic, slightly mad humor that flourishes in the half-light of secrecy and is watered by its own tears. A Pagliacci humor that cloaks pain with laughter.

Wherever democratic forms have been wiped out—in Germany, Italy, Austria, Russia—contraband political humor is passed from mouth to mouth, in whispers, often in fear, always with misgivings. It is spread by faithful supporters of the dictated Causes no less than by their enemies and victims.

For all of them it is the only safety-valve under conditions of absolute suppression of free speech and press. Some of the humor is bold mockery of those in power, their foibles and their pretensions. Much of it is subtle allegory, rich in overtones and multiple meanings.

But all of this curious stifled laughter is significant. The jokes are often enough a direct reflection of the conditions under which they were invented and spread. Some, indeed, are so intimately related to the local policies or events out of which they arise that only those in the know can get the point.

A few of the better-known, with the inevitable Jewish angle, drawn from the sad repertory of humor in the present-day Germany and Russia, may be cited as examples:

THE JEWS AT FAULT

Hitler was addressing a mass meeting on the last World War. The real culprits, he insisted, were the Jews. The Jews were responsible for the fact that Germany lost the war, he thundered.

In the front row sat a man who was unmistakably a Jew. But he nodded his head vigorously in agreement every time Hitler repeated that the Jews were to blame. Hitler noticed this.

“There,” he shouted, “even a Jew agrees with me.”

Then he addressed this Jew, and demanded to know why, in his opinion, the Jews were to blame for Germany’s defeat.”

“That’s simple,” the Jew said. “There were too many Jewish officers.”

“But you’re mistaken,” Hitler said, perplexed. “We didn’t have any Jewish officers in the German army.”

“I mean too many Jewish officers in the French army,” the Jew explained.

SILENCE IS GOLDEN

Haim and his wife Yente were on a crowded street car in Moscow. Haim bethought himself of his variegated troubles and shook his head sadly. “Oi, oi, oi…” he sighed aloud.

Yente, scared, dug her elbow into her husband’s side.

“Haim!” she whispered. “How many times must I tell you not to talk counter-revolution in public.”

ECHO, SORROW, ECHO

Rabinovich, a former “Nepman.” had just been through a seige at the G. P. U. and was on the street car on the way home. His heart was laden with sorrow. If only he could tell his troubles to someone, he felt, he would feel better. But there was nobody to talk to, and besides, he had been warned to keep his mouth shut. So he merely {SPAN}###{/SPAN} loud.

### oi, oi…” the sigh escaped ### and echo## thtrough the car.

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