Hangman’s Humor, or Gallows Humor, was one way prisoner’s dealt with the tension of their life-threatening situation. What is hangman’s humor? Dark humor or black humor. Something used when fear of death is imminent. It is sarcasm in the face of one’s own mortality.
Joseph told me a story about how he was slated for execution when someone in his work group had run away. The practice was to execute the entire group of 50 as punishment. Joseph found out there was to be a public hanging. But, first everyone had to go to work. Joseph’s work group was supervised by a special guard that day and away they went to their assignment. While working on a barrack Joseph found a brand new pair of shoes. This was quite a find! But, what use did he have for new shoes when he would be dead in a short while? Regrettably, he left the shoes where he found them. The prisoners were allowed a lunch break and here is where the joking began. The prison group was deciding who would walk up the gallows steps first.
“After you,” one prisoner said to Joseph.
His reply: “No, please you go first, I will follow.”
And so it went.
Really, there is no funny side to to the Holocaust. But, this particular type of humor displays just how the human spirit refuses to be conquered by the trauma about to be experienced.
To read more please click on the link for The Altered I, a Holocaust Memoir.
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