„From Berlin to Poland in One Tank” – Jokes Told in Occupied Poland

Let me say this, during the years when Germany had its hold on Poland, making jokes about the occupiers was a daily routine. You’d think, with the danger of death hanging over their heads, people would stop making them. Nope, not even close!

Thousands of these wisecracks popped up everywhere. Underground newspapers printed them, folks whispered them around the dinner table, and brave souls even told them on the streets. Let’s have a peek at a few of these daring jibes.

Can You Reach Poland from Berlin with Just One Tank?

One of these jests, „From Berlin to Poland in one tank”, takes a jab at a specific event from World War II, giving it a twist of humor with some wordplay. Now, let me take you back a bit. When Nazi Germany started their invasion of Poland in 1939, they threw everything they had at it, including a whole lot of tanks. That’s how the whole World War II mess started. The joke pokes fun at this by referring to the distance between Berlin and Poland and the use of „one tank”.

Here’s where it gets fun. The phrase „one tank” has a double meaning, a pun if you will:

  1. A military tank: This is the straight-up reference to the history I just mentioned.
  2. A gas tank: With this twist, it’s like saying you can zoom a car from Berlin to Poland on just a single tank of gas.

I know, humor can be a touchy thing. Some people might crack up over this joke because of the smart wordplay. But, on the other hand, others might feel it’s a bit harsh because it’s tied to a pretty violent piece of history.

I think it’s worth saying that humor is a very personal thing. What has you rolling on the floor, might not get even a giggle from someone else. So, I can’t really say whether all Polish folks would find this funny. But hey, I got a chuckle out of it!

If there’s one thing I can tell you about Poles during those times, it’s that they made fun of absolutely everything. Why? To lift the dark cloud of fear spread by the occupiers. Folks living under the General Government came up with some hilarious gags. Let me share one with you.

„Blonde Like Hitler…”

Adolf Hitler himself was often the star of these wisecracks. Even before the war broke out, there was this description of what a true German, or in another spin, an Aryan, should look like. The joke went something like this: He should be „blond like Hitler, tall and slender like Goebbels, and fit and athletic like Göring„.

Years later, another joke made rounds:

Who is the perfect man? -Hitler -??? „I don’t need meat – except for cannon”.No smoking except in crematoria. He does not pick up cards – except for geographical ones.

If you want more chuckles, here’s another one. This one pokes fun at the tensions between the allies. Picture this: An Italian, a German, and a mother and daughter are all riding in the same train car. As the train goes into a tunnel and everything gets dark:

Suddenly, there’s a sound of a smooch and a smack. The mother thinks: I’ve raised my daughter well! The daughter thinks: I didn’t expect my mom to still be this attractive. The German thinks: the Italian kised the girl, but why did I get punched in the face! The Italian thinks: if there’s another tunnel, I’ll just kiss my hand again and slap the German in the face!

I am convinced you’re laughing now. Who knew history could be this entertaining, right?

„Have You Seen Hess?”

Every setback faced by Germany caused quite the stir over at the Vistula River. Let me tell you about one such incident. It’s about the time when Rudolf Hess decided to fly solo to Great Britain on May 10, 1941. When the word got out that one of the top Nazis had landed in the lap of the English, folks started spreading this gem:

Hess touches down in England.

_- Who are you? – the home guard asks
– Rudolf Hess?
– That nutcase?

  • No, his first deputy._

Now, check out another jest about the packed trams in Warsaw. Picture this, a pasenger asks a lady blocking his way: „Why are you standing here like Hitler near Stalingrad?”.

After Marshal Paulus’ 6th Army got the boot, whispers floated around that Stalingrad should be renamed Hitlergrab (Hitler’s grave).

„Post-War Punchlines”

As it became clear that Germany was heading towards defeat, wisecracks popped up about the fate waiting for the Nazi top brass. In one, Hitler, standing in front of his own portrait, asks:

– What will become of us, the war is over? „It’s simple”, said the picture. „They’ll take me down and hang you”.

Then, in another joke where Hitler, Göring, Himmler, and Goebbels are about to be hanged, the commander of the Luftwaffe proudly pipes up:

„Didn’t I tell you, boss, that the war would end in the air”.

I think it’s fair to say that even in the face of adversity, the people of Poland sure knew how to lighten the mood!


  • Wicek Warszawiak, Humor during the Occupation , Nowy Świat Publishing House, 2009.