Making Fun of Hitler

Northwestern University Library
Northwestern University Library

“Hitler has only got one ball.

Goering has two but very small.

Himmler has something sim’lar.

But poor Goebbels (‘Go balls’) has no balls at all.”


For humorists it’s gratifying to learn that satirists in the 1930s and 1940s employed their comic arsenal to ridicule Adolf Hitler in an attempt to keep him from being taken seriously as leadership material.

Before he became dictator, the New York Times characterized him as Germany’s “political clown” and asserted, “The things he says are regarded by politically sensible people as pure ignorance and demagogy.” The Times also disparaged Hitler in the early days as a mere “showman.”

Other humorists focused on Hitler’s appearance.

The Reader’s Digest contended he was “completely unimpressive” and satirized him as looking like a “‘Moravian traveling salesman’ with a ‘vacuous face’ who had ‘grown fat.'”

The Literary Digest described him as a “slight, timid mild-mannered man with a Charlie Chaplin mustache” and said he “grabs the world by the ear to roar about his plans.” Hitler’s mustache—this distinctive bit of facial hair—was of course an easy and frequent target for humorists, and its similarity to comic actor Chaplin’s mustache obviously helped lead to the production of Chaplin’s film The Great Dictator, made in 1940.

Though the satirical attacks did not ultimately prevent Hitler’s rise, humor continued to be used against him, perhaps most notably in the song parody quoted above. There were several variations to this song, one of the most interesting involving a reversal of the first and second lines:

“Goering has only got one ball. / Hitler has two but very small.”

It apparently amused Hitler’s critics to call attention to the (alleged) imperfection of his genitals or to disparage their (supposedly) tiny size. But, sadly, even the frequent ridicule of Hitler’s hair and small genitals did not keep him from achieving apocalyptic power.

According to Albert Speer, Hitler himself “had no humour.” Similarly, Anat Feinberg says, “Hitler had no sense of humor or self-irony whatsoever” and points out that Hitler declared in Mein Kampf, “I can’t stand jokes.” There’s also evidence that Hitler was somewhat thin-skinned. One German woman told the following joke: “Hitler and Goering are standing atop the Berlin radio tower. Hitler says he wants to do something to put a smile on Berliners’ faces. So Goering says, ‘Why don’t you jump?'”

For telling this joke, the woman was executed by guillotine. Talk about a tough crowd.

Even more telling, after Hitler viewed The Great Dictator, he quickly sent out a brief telegram for public worldwide distribution saying, “Charlie Chaplin is not funny. Just tried watching this showunwatchable! Totally biased, not funny and the Chaplin impersonation just can’t get any worse. Sad.”

Thank goodness we’ll never have to worry about a goofy-haired, tiny-appendaged, humorless Hitler—ever again.

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