Austrian Sigmund Freud articulated the view that humour may surface in the most unlikely places as a way of bringing relief from an otherwise insufferable situation. That would explain why those who lived through the Sho’ah (Holocaust) would sometimes joke about their experiences. But would it ever be fair for others to look at the Sho’ah comically? This question has resurfaced with the recent screening of an Austrian film entitled My Best Enemy that farcically depicts a Jew who takes on the identity of a Nazi with all its affects in order to save his life. The story ends with the Jew being saved and the Nazi being punished. I have not seen the film so I cannot comments on its artistic merits. But if Kant and Kierkegaard are correct, all humour is based on incongruity, that is, the distance between the ideal (what is expected) and the real (what actually happens). The brutality and magnitude of the Sho’ah seems to us the wrong place for comedy. But that that is just the point. It is in the tragedy of the Sho’ah that comedy is effective. Even so, I am not sure the world is ready to set aside its revulsion at the idea of the Sho’ah as the backdrop for humour.
Rabbi Wayne Allen
After being graduated from New York University with a B.A. in philosophy and Phi Beta Kappa, Rabbi Allen attended the Jewish Theological Seminary of America where he earned a Masters degree in Rabbinics and went on to receive rabbinic ordination. He has served as a congregational rabbi for almost 34 years, taking on postings in New York City, Los Angeles, and Toronto.