- East German jokes
The jokes of the
German Democratic Republic(GDR) frequently included political characters, had an eye towards life in East Germanyand the Socialist Unity Party of Germany(SED) ("Genossenwitze", party member jokes; "Honeckerwitze", jokes about Erich Honecker), or attacked the actual or assumed characteristics of the West Germans.
Comparisons between countries were also common -- for example, between East Germany and West Germany, East Germany and the
Soviet Union, between Soviet citizens ("Sowjets", "Russen") and Americans ("Amis"), between Communists and capitalists, between "Genossen" (members of the SED) and other social and professional groups. In particular, Volkspolizeiofficers were often portrayed as brainless in their respective jokes.
Other, general categories of jokes are also "Fritzchen jokes" (with an unsuspecting young boy),
anti-humor, "hunters' Latin" and "seaman's yarn" cock-and-bullstories, scientific humor, and the presumably self-invented, rather than imported from the west Scotsmanjokes and East Frisian jokes.
The website devoted to GDR jokes [ [http://www.ddr-witz.de/ DDR-witz] , A website about GDR jokes related to books by Ingolf Franke de icon ] related to books by Ingolf Frank has earned multiple German awards (such as "Website of the Week", 100 best Internet Addresses) and positive reviews. [ [http://www.ddr-witz.de/reaktionen/reaktionen.htm impressions about DDR-Witz website] de icon]
Since 1989, but still before the fall of the
Berlin Wall, the humor landscape of east German branched out into jokes about so called "Besser wessis" (a word-play with "West Germans" and "Besserwisser", annoying "know-it-all" persons from the West who consider themselves and their state as superior) and the Ossi-jokes, which within the GDR were told mostly only by immigrated and still uncautious West Germans.
Some cause for bitter laughter was the bestowal of the name "Wendehals" (
wryneck) to opportunistic people who quickly turned from communists to capitalists during German reunification, continuing to hold their offices or even advancing their career.
A similar, but inverse development could be found in West Germany well before 1989, as former GDR citizens carried the GDR-originating jokes and "Besserwessi"-jokes into West Germany and told these predominantly among one another, since the West German citizens mostly reacted very peculiarly to the "Besserwessi"-jokes.
Both types of jokes, the "Ossi"-jokes and the "Besserwessi"-jokes, mirrored the considerable inner and outer contradictions and differences between East and West Germany, between East and West Germans, between their mindsets and character, their history and their goals in life, which was also described by the expression "Mauer in den Köpfen" (wall in the head). They were partly strengthened by the disappearance of the East German state.
Even today, long after 1990, many GDR-originated jokes are still told, especially the Ossi-Wessi jokes. Even old East German jokes about weaknesses of East German society can still sometimes be heard, particularly from critics of East Germany, and they are also sometimes gladly picked up and retold by
Note: The gag in the following "banana jokes" centers on the fact that bananas were very difficult to acquire in the GDR.
* How can you use a banana as a compass? Place a banana on the Berlin Wall. East is where a bite has been taken out of it.
* Two Berliner children spoke to each other over the wall. The little girl in the west says, while eating a banana, "Look - I have a banana." The boy in the East doesn't want to be inferior to her in anything and says, full of pride: "We have
socialism." The girl counters: "So, we'll have socialism soon too." The boy, triumphant: "See, then you won't have any bananas anymore either." (According to the Marxist-Leninist theory, socialism "naturally" follows capitalism. This would never have occurred to the two children, however.)
* In the GDR at traffic hubs and in front of supermarkets there are "banana machines". You stick a banana in and five Ostmarks come out!
* Which three great nations in the world begin with "U"? - "U"SA, "U"SSR, and "o"ur (German:"u"nsere) GDR ("U"SA, "U"dSSR, "U"nsere DDR). ("A play on the way official
discourseoften used the phrase "our GDR", and also often exaggerated the GDR's world status.")
* The teacher asks in school: "What is the most important thing in socialism?" The students consider and little Fritz ("Fritzchen") answers: "The most important thing in socialism is the human!" The teacher: "That is a good answer, Fritzchen. I will give you a B-grade." Fritzchen is dissatisfied and responds emphatically: "Would you maybe give me an A if I told you what the human's name was?"
* The teacher asks: "Fritzchen, why are you always speaking of our Soviet brothers? It's 'Soviet friends'." Fritz responds: "Well, you can pick your friends."
* Honecker meets Mao and asks him: "How many political opponents do you have in China?" Mao: "I estimate about 17 million." Honecker: "Oh, that's pretty much the same here." (The GDR had 17 million inhabitants)
Honeckerand Mielke are discussing their hobbies.
Honecker: "I collect all the jokes about me that are in circulation."
Mielke: "Then we have almost the same hobby. I collect those who bring the jokes into circulation."
"(A further version also circulated in which
Helmut Schmidtand Honecker conversed.)"
*How can you tell that the Stasi has bugged your apartment?
There's a new cabinet in it.
("This is an allusion to the underdeveloped state of East German microelectronics.)"
*Two Stasi agents are on a surveillance mission and quite bored.
First agent: "Hey, what are you thinking about?"
Second agent: "Oh, nothing special. The same as you..."
First agent: "In that case, you're under arrest!"
*Guest: "A cup of coffee, please!"
Waiter: "Turkish or filtered?"
Guest: "Why, filtered, of course."
Waiter: "Then you'll have to bring your own filter paper for now."
"(This joke satirizes a period when one had to bring his own towel to the hairdresser if he wanted a wet haircut.)"
*What's the difference between an "HO"-sausage and Sputnik?
They've officially confirmed that
Sputnik 2had a dog in it.
"(HO was the state grocery network; the quality of East German wares left something to be desired.)"
These jokes lose most of their humor when translated into English, much as jokes about the speech of US southerners or
New Zealanders would when translated into German, since they both rely on quirks of pronunciation or grammar that would be unknown to non-native speakers of the respective languages. Jokes playing off of the Saxon accent are as old as German itself, but they acquired new meaning after the Occupation Zones cut Saxony in half, with Lower Saxonyin the West and Saxony-Anhaltand Saxonyin the East, and many of the important border crossings occurring within the Saxon-dialect region.
* What was the most-frequently used word at the German-German border? "Goose meat". ("Gänsefleisch", sounds like the first three words in "Genn' se vleisch mal 'n Gofferraum offmachn?", "Können Sie vielleicht mal den Kofferraum aufmachen?", "Could you please open the trunk?") in standard German)
*The doorbell rings. The woman goes to the door and shortly comes back startled and turns to her husband, seeking help: "Dieter! There's a man standing outside who only asks 'Tatü tata'" ("Tatü tata" is
onomatopoeiafor the sound a police car siren makes). Dieter goes to the door and comes back laughing. "It's my coworker from Saxony, asking "is do Dieta da?" ("Ist der Dieter da?", "Is Dieter there?")
The Trabant (an East German Car)
A good deal of jokes plays on the fact that the car was cheap and devoid of any conveniences.
* How do you double the value of a
Trabant? Fill up the tank!
Sachsenring AGbrought out a new Eco-Trabi: Immediately available for delivery, extremely cheap, extremely quiet, extremely environmentally friendly- with electric power train. Small problem: The extension cordis only 20 meters long and not in stock.
Quite a few jokes plays with the widespread
urban myththat Trabant's body was made of corrugated/laminated/reinforced/etc. cardboard, i.e., it was a "cardboard car", playing off of the supposed flimsiness of its body: the Trabant was made of duroplast, a cottonfiber reinforced resin. [Tony Davis (2005) "Lemon!: Sixty Heroic Automotive Failures", ISBN 1560257571, [http://books.google.com/books?id=koSFH2OKdJYC&pg=PA156&dq=trabant+cardboard+-wikipedia&lr=&sig=6o_rb5dnWxmJgzzABUtz818IfdU#PPA156,M1 Chapter "Trabant P601", p.156-158] ]
* During a visit to the
Leipzig Trade Faira filthy rich oil sheikheard that there is a car with a delivery time of over ten years. Since Rolls Royce usually delivers more quickly than that, it must be quite an exceptional car, which he would certainly have to have in his collection.
Sight unseen, he made a request to order this Trabant. In Zwickau they're aware of this great honor, so they immediately change the running
Five-Year Planand bring forward a specimen. In the container, the car reaches the emiratein a handful of weeks. The happy oil sheik immediately called his friends together, opened the container, and exclaimed in surprise: "Gosh, they have incredibly long delivery times, but at least they send you a cardboard model in advance — and the best, you can even drive it!"
* Another joke tells of a West German businessman who is driving a Mercedes through East Germany on a rainy night when his windshield wipers stop working. He takes it to an East German mechanic, who tells him there are no Mercedes windshield wiper motors in the GDR, but he will do his best to fix it. When the businessman returns the next day, to his surprise the windshield wipers are working perfectly. "How did you find a Mercedes windshield wiper motor in the East," he asks the mechanic. "We didn't," replies the mechanic, "We used the engine motor of a Trabant."
Jokes about differences between the East and the West
Jokes about differences between
Ossis and Wessis were very popular in East Germany; the ones that still make sense after reunification are also still popular.
* Why are there so many bananas in the west? Answer: Because the westerners are descended from apes.
* What's the difference between a Western necktie and a cow's tail? The cow's tail covers the whole asshole.
* At the peak of the wave of East Germans fleeing through
Hungaryand Czechoslovakiain 1989, the persons still staying in East Germany (DDR) were called the "Der Dumme Rest" (the dumb remnant).
* What do you get when you cross an Ossi with a Wessi? An arrogant unemployed person.
Erich Honecker's eighteen-year leadership (1971-1989) of the East German government and the SED, he became the target of a large number of jokes aimed at his leadership style and his demeanor.
The following joke is typical; it was featured in the Oscar-winning movie "
The Lives of Others".
:Early in the morning,
Honeckerarrives at his office and opens his window. He sees the sun and says: "Good morning, dear Sun!" :The sun replies: "Good morning, dear Erich!" :Honecker works, and then at noon he heads to the window and says: "Good day, dear Sun!":The sun replies: "Good day, dear Erich!":In the evening, Erich calls it a day, and heads once more to the window, and says: "Good evening, dear Sun!":The sun is silent.:Honecker says again: "Good evening, dear Sun! What's the matter?":The sun replies: "Kiss my ass. I'm in the West now."
Another Honecker joke in the film, difficult to translate, runs as follows:
:"What's the difference between Honecker and a telephone? None! Hang up and try again."
This is a
punwith the German words "aufhängen", meaning both 'hang up' and 'hang', and "neuwählen", meaning both 'dial again' and 'elect another.'
*Clement de Wroblewsky: "Wo wir sind, ist vorn Der politische Witz in der DDR", Hamburg 1986, ISBN 3-89136-093-2de icon
* Ingolf Franke: "Das große DDR-Witz.de Buch", 500 kommentierte DDR-Witze, Forchheim 2002, ISBN 3-937547-00-2 de icon ("The Big Book of Jokes from DDR-Witz.de," 500 commented GDR jokes)
* Ingolf Franke: "Das zweite große DDR-Witze.de Buch", weitere 500 kommentierte DDR-Witze, Forchheim 2003, ISBN 3-937547-01-0de icon ("The Second Big Book of Jokes from DDR-Witz.de," other 500 commented GDR jokes)
*John Rodden (2002) "Repainting the Little Red Schoolhouse: A History of Eastern German Education, 1945-1995", ISBN 019511244X, [http://books.google.com/books?id=LSzZlw2jBTIC&pg=PA482&dq=%22ddr+jokes%22&sig=tLUPKWhWcoxwaDDoaZ7WK1tgr0I#PPR15,M1 pages 139, 143, 163, 164, 186, 189, 190, 394, 424, 425, 442] (search for "jokes")
* de icon
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