East Germany jokes

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East German jokes, jokes popular in the German Democratic Republic (GDR, also known as East Germany) between 1949 and 1990, reflected the concerns of East German citizen and residents. Jokes frequently targeted political figures such as Socialist Party General Secretary Erich Honecker or State Security Minister Erich Mielke, who headed the Stasi secret police. Elements of daily life, such as economic scarcity, relations between GDR and the Soviet Union or Cold War rival United States were also common. There were also ethnic jokes, highlighting differences of language or culture between Saxony and Central Germany.


Economic scarcity[edit]

  • What would happen if the desert became a socialist country? Nothing for a while, and then there would be a sand shortage.
  • 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.
  • A customer orders a Trabant car. The salesman tells him to come back to pick it up in nine years. The customer: "Shall I come back in the morning or in the evening then?" The salesman: "You're joking, aren't you." The customer: "No, not at all. It's just that I need to know whether the plumber can come at 3pm or not."

Country and politics[edit]

Erich Honecker presents an award to Stasi chief Erich Mielke, 1980
  • Which three great nations in the world begin with "U"? - USA, USSR, and Our GDR (German: USA, UdSSR, Unsere DDR). This alludes to how official discourse often used the phrase "our GDR", and also often exaggerated the GDR's world status.

In German - Was sind die drei großen Nationen der Welt , beginnend mit "U" ? USA, UDSSR, und unser DDR

  • A school teacher asks little Fritzie : "Fritzchen, why are you always speaking of our Soviet brothers? It's 'Soviet friends'." Fritz responds: "Well, you can always choose your friends."


  • Honecker and Mielke are discussing their hobbies. Honecker: "I collect (ich sammele) all the jokes about me." Mielke: "Well we have almost the same hobby. I round up (ich sammele... ein, figuratively) all those who tell jokes about you."
  • How can you tell that the Stasi has bugged your apartment? There's a new cabinet in it and a trailer with a generator in the street. (This is an allusion to the underdeveloped state of East German microelectronics.)


Brezhnev locked in a mouth-to-mouth kiss with Honecker
  • 'Early in the morning, Honecker arrives 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 arse. I'm in the West now."' (from the 2006 Oscar-winning movie The Lives of Others)
  • "What's the difference between Honecker and a telephone? None! Hang up and try again." This is a pun with the German words aufhängen, neuwählen, meaning both 'hang up the phone and dial again' and 'hang him and vote again'.
  • Leonid Brezhnev is asked what his opinion of Honecker is. "Well, politically - I don't have much esteem for him. But - he definitely knows how to kiss!"


Show-cased Trabant 601, 1963
  • What's the best feature of a Trabant?: There's a heater at the back to keep your hands warm when you're pushing it.
  • What does "601" stand for?" (in German 601 is said "six hundred - one")
    • 600 people ordered cars, but only one has had it delivered.
    • (in 1990) 600 cars on the forecourt, but only one customer.
    • Space for 6 people, comfort for zero, and one to push it.


  • The doorbell rings. The woman of the house goes to the door and quickly returns, looking rather startled. She turns to her husband, asking his help: "Dieter! There's a man standing outside who just asks "Tatü tata?" (Tatü tata is onomatopoeia for the sound a police car siren makes). Dieter goes to the door and comes back laughing. "It's my colleague from Saxony, asking "s do Dieta da?" (Ist der Dieter da?, "Is Dieter there?")

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • de Wroblewsky, Clement; Jost, Michael (1986). Wo wir sind ist vorn: der politische Witz in der DDR oder die verschiedenen Feinheiten bzw. Grobheiten einer echten Volkskunst [Where we are is the Front: The Political Joke in the GDR or the Subtlety and Cruelty of Genuine Folk Art] (in German). Rasch und Röhring. ISBN 3-89136-093-2. 
  • Franke, Ingolf (2003). Das grosse DDR-Witz.de-Buch: vom Volk, für das Volk [The Big Book of Jokes from DDR-Witz.de: By the People, for the People] (in German). WEVOS. ISBN 3-937547-00-2. 
  • Franke, Ingolf (2003). Das zweite grosse DDR-Witze.de Buch [The Second Big Book of Jokes from DDR-Witz.de] (in German). WEVOS. ISBN 3-937547-01-0. 
  • Rodden, John (2002). Repainting the Little Red Schoolhouse: A History of Eastern German Education, 1945-1995. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-511244-X.