25 jokes from the GDR that show the Stasi couldn’t silence laughter

Citizens of former East Germany were subjected to communist dictators, an all-imposing secret police and material shortages. Yet these issues became the butt of many knee-slapping jokes.

25 jokes from the GDR that show the Stasi couldn't silence laughter

These politically-charged jokes were also a tool for the population to protest, and to voice their discontent.

However, it is important to remember that “subversive provocation” (laughing at the State) was a criminal offence in the GDR, and was punishable by prison time. Jokes were taken very seriously by the Stasi (the East German Secret Police), as they saw them as a violation of Paragraph 19 “State-endangering propaganda and hate speech”.

READ ALSO: Is Germany really united 30 years after the fall of the Wall?

According to research by Bodo Müller, an expert on GDR humour, the hardest punishment for telling a joke was four years in prison. East Germans would face trial for jokes, with friends and neighbours being subjected to interrogations by the Stasi.

Most of the prison sentences for telling jokes happened in the earlier days of the GDR when the Regime was at its hardest and most powerful. Due to high incarceration rates in the 1960s, it became logistically more and more difficult to imprison someone for telling a politically-charged joke. 

The last sentence was handed in 1972 to three engineers who had told jokes in the breakfast break. 

Operation GDR Joke: All Germans take jokes very seriously 

What’s the difference between a fox and a Wessi? The fox is clever and pretends to be dumb, West Germans are the other way around!

In order to better understand the political climate in East Germany and the population's attitude towards socialism, the West German Federal Intelligence Service launched Operation GDR joke, which required spies to collect East German jokes and analyze their wider implications.

Documents containing hundreds of jokes landed on important West German desks, including the chancellor's, the foreign minister's and the interior minister’s. These files were made public in 2009, which allows East German wit to outlive the country it mocked, and of course, we can now all enjoy these side-splitters. 

Photo: DPA

Jokes mocking Socialism and the Soviet Union

1. Capitalism is the exploitation of man by man. What about Socialism? Under Socialism it is exactly the other way around.

2. Why is toilet paper so rough in the GDR? In order to make the last asshole red.

3. The five rules of socialism:
  1. Don’t think.
  2. If you think, don’t speak.
  3. If you think and speak, don’t write.
  4. If you think, speak and write, don’t sign it.
  5. If you think, speak, write and sign it, don’t be surprised.

4. What are the four deadly enemies of socialism? Spring, summer, autumn, winter.

5. What would happen if the desert became a socialist country? Nothing for a while, then the sand becomes scarce.

6. Three ships are lined up ready to set sale. When the captain of the first ship is asked where he is going, he says “to Cuba!”

“What are you loaded with?”

“Heavy machinery!”

“And what are you bringing back?”


The captain of the second ship says he’s going to Brazil.

“What are you loaded with?”

“Telescopes (optical devices)!”

“What are you bringing back?”

“coffee and bananas”

The captain of the first ship and the captain of the second ship ask the captain of the third ship “Comrade, where are you sailing to?”


“What are you bringing there?”

“Oranges, coffee and bananas”

“And what are you coming back with?”

“The train. Obviously.”

7. A school teacher asks little Fritzie: “Fritzchen, why are you always speaking of our Soviet brothers? It's Soviet friends.”

“Well, you can always choose your friends.”

8. Older East German residents are going to receive new, bigger IDs. Otherwise, they won't be able to fit their long faces into the photos.”

9. How can you use a banana as a compass? Place a banana on the Berlin Wall. The bitten end would point East.

Photo: DPA

Jokes mocking the Trabant (the East German car of notoriously bad quality, though the waiting list for one took years!)

10. 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.

11. What is the longest car on the market? The Trabant, at 12 meters length. 2 meters of car, plus ten meters of smoke.

12. A man driving a Trabant suddenly breaks his windshield wiper. Pulling into a service station, he hails a mechanic. “Wipers for a Trabi?” he asks.

The mechanic thinks about it for a few seconds and replies, “Yes, sounds like a fair trade.”

13. Why has the new Trabi been launched with two exhaust pipes? So you can use it as a wheelbarrow.

14. Why are there no bank robberies in the GDR? Because you have to wait 12 years for a get-away car! 

Photo: DPA

Jokes mocking East German leaders

15. Why did Erich Honecker get a divorce? Because Brezhnev kisses better than his wife.

16. “Erich Honecker and Erich Mielke (Head of the Stasi) want to jump from the top of the East Berlin Television tower. Who do you think will land first?”

“Who cares as long as they jump?”

READ ALSO: Honeckers: The most powerful family in communist East Germany. What happened to them?

17. Pieck (the first GDR President) and Grotewohl (the first GDR Prime Minister) are visiting Stalin in Moscow. Stalin gives them a car. But when they want to leave, they realise the car doesn't have a motor. So Stalin says, “You don't need a motor if you're already going downhill.”

Photo: DPA

Jokes mocking the East German Police (People's Police) and Secret Police (Stasi)

18. Why do police always have a dog with them? So that at least one of them is educated.

19. “The East German People’s Police have also been patrolling West Berlin recently.”


“Because stupidity knows no borders.”

20. How many People’s Police officers does it take to milk a cow? Exactly 22. Two hold the teats, while five grab hold of one leg each and lift the cow up and down. 

21. Why did God create the People’s Police? He was making monkeys but ran out of fur.

22. Two People’s Police Officers stopped for a snack during their patrol. They both sat down on the kerb and unwrapped their sandwiches. Suddenly, one of them stood up, crossed the wrote and sat down on the opposite kerb. Puzzled, the other one asked “What are you doing Comrade?”

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He answered, “I was at the dentist yesterday and he told me to chew on the other side.”

23. Honecker and Mielke are discussing their hobbies. Honecker: “I collect all the jokes about me.” 

Mielke: “Well, we have almost the same hobby. I collect all those who tell jokes about you.”

24. Why do Stasi officers make such good taxi drivers? You get in the car and they already know your name and where you live.

25. Why do the Stasi work together in groups of three? You need one who can read, one who can write, and a third to keep an eye on the two intellectuals.

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‘All you need is love’: How the Beatles brought a couple on two sides of the Berlin Wall together

The Beatles famously sang "All you need is love." For Hans and Uschi Kriz, living on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall, both love and grit were necessary for starting their lives together.

'All you need is love': How the Beatles brought a couple on two sides of the Berlin Wall together
Hans and Uschi while they were dating in the Seventies. Photo courtesy of Hans and Uschi Kriz

Like many people from Berlin, the lives and love story of Hans and Uschi Kriz were shaped by the Berlin Wall, which fell 31 years ago on November 9th, 1989. I first met Hans and Uschi when I lived with their son’s family as part of a German language program.

I spent Sunday afternoons at their house having lunch, playing games, and exploring their beautiful gardens. I decided to catch up with them recently to learn more about their family history – and how the Beatles brought them together when Berlin was a divided city. 

Journey to East and West Berlin

Hans and Uschi look back fondly on the many photo albums documenting their life together. Photo by author.

Hans Kriz was born in 1949 in Regensburg in Bavaria to German refugees from Poland and former Czechloslovakia who, like many ethnic Germans, had to flee from their homes after World War II. His parents met in a refugee camp near Regensburg and got married shortly after. 

Uschi was born to two German parents in Ahrensfelde in Brandenburg in 1952, an area that was already under control of the then Soviet Union and very close to East Berlin.  

Both Hans and Uschi showed an early disregard for involving themselves in the predominant political movements of their times.  

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about the Berlin Wall

She was initially the only child in her school class that was not a part of the Junge Pioniere, or the “Young Pioneers,” a subdivision of the larger youth movement Freie Deutsche Jugend (FDJ). 

Her first-grade teacher then came to her home to encourage her parents to let her join so that she could participate in the many activities run by the organisation at school. Although they were anti-Communist, they allowed Uschi to participate.

This group, similar to scouting clubs and meant for children ages six to 14, was the extent of her political involvement in the GDR. She was six years old at the time: “What did I know of the political side?,” she remembered.

Banner aHans was working as a young adult at the German Red Cross as a paramedic when he was approached by the German army and asked to do the same job as a soldier.  

Hans was working as a young adult at the German Red Cross as a paramedic when he was approached by the German army and asked to do the same job as a soldier.

He did not want to be a part of the military and found a way to ‘flee’ to West Berlin, where the occupying powers did not allow the German army to exist. 

Thus, Hans and Uschi both found themselves in Berlin — he in the West, she in the East. 

A shared love of radio

Uschi had grown up watching Western television at home, and her love of beat music followed. Western beat music was officially banned in the GDR in 1965 and the signal from American radio stations in West Germany was suppressed.  

However, Uschi and many others were still able to find a signal from the BBC and loyally sat by the radio every week to hear the program “Eine Kleine Beatmusik” at 9 pm. 

Hans also listened to the program and decided that he would love to meet young people in the GDR who also loved Beatmusik to learn about their lives behind the Berlin Wall. He wrote a letter to the BBC in London, asking them to broadcast his address and request. They agreed. 

READ ALSO: Berlin Wall fall: 'It was like Easter, Christmas and NYE rolled into one.'

For two weeks there was no answer. Then, Hans received a box full of letters, probably from “everyone who heard it in the whole GDR,” he speculates.

At first he thought he would write back to all of them, but he realised that he must choose a few to answer; Uschi’s was one of the letters he randomly selected. 

“I wanted to connect with a Beatles fan from West Berlin,” she explained.  

Love and music across the border 

Thus began their relationship over a shared love of the BBC, Beatmusik, and the Beatles in 1969. 

The letters they exchanged began as a friendly discussion about music and their lives on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall. Uschi was happy living in the GDR at the time. She had her friends, her family, a garden, and her education. 

Hans would visit her as often as possible, even though doing so was difficult with the high fees and strict rules to return to the border by midnight.

Hans and Uschi's photo book shows many of the famous sites of divided Berlin. Photo courtesy of Hans and Uschi Kriz. 

Over time, they fell in love and decided to get married. Uschi remembers how risky this choice was for her: “I still had a lot of questions. What was the living situation?…I couldn’t meet his family.” It is “very complicated when one is blind and in love,” she said.   

Hans arranged for a lawyer in the West to help Uschi obtain a pass to leave East Berlin. She was working at the library of the Naturkundemuseum in Berlin when she received an unexpected phone call telling her that her pass was ready and where and when to pick it up. 

“Basically, one could say the GDR practically sold me to the West,” she explained. 

Only four weeks later on July 20th, 1975, she joined Hans in the West. Many dates are blurred in her memory, but Uschi said, “I know this one exactly.” 

They honeymooned in London, in honour of the BBC. 

Watched by the Stasi?

I asked them whether or not they felt the GDR Ministry for State Security, known as the Stasi, was monitoring their correspondence from 1969-1975.

Hans answered without hesitation: “I have a very thick Stasi file.” 

The file revealed that he was followed by members of the Stasi in both East and West Berlin. 

Uschi said she has also read her file, but much of it was nonsense to her: “I don’t understand it at all.”  

READ ALSO: How Germans are reconstructing Stasi files from millions of fragments 

The Mauerfall 

One of the photos in the Kriz family album shows a view of the TV tower at Alexanderplatz with the barbed wire of the Berlin Wall in the foreground. Photo courtesy of Hans and Uschi Kriz. 

Hans was near Checkpoint Charlie working the night shift for his job at Axel Springer when the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989.

He returned to their home in Frohnau and woke Uschi, who like many slept through the surprise “Mauerfall.” She had worked a long day and was so sleepy that she didn’t believe him. It wasn’t until she saw the television coverage the next morning that she realised what had happened. 

Both Hans and Uschi were delighted when the capital of the reunified government returned to Berlin. 

I asked them if they still experience the Mauer im Kopf, or “Wall in the head,” that many German politicians and intellectuals describe as existing to this day. 

Hans immediately answered “Yes,” while Uschi said, “The Wall fell quickly for me.” 

She said that many people still view differences between the East and West very strongly. 

“My neighbour says I’m a Wossi, more Wessi [West German] than Ossi [East German],” she said, “I feel like more of an Ossi.” 

However, Uschi always viewed Berlin as one city, even when the wall still existed. She never thought of it as the capital city of the GDR, regardless of what the state authorities said. 

“I’ve always seen Berlin as one, Berliners together. For me, Berlin was always Berlin.” 

Remembering the Wall 

In Frohnau, right along the border of Brandenburg in northern Berlin, one can visit the Postenweg, the former path of the Wall that has been converted to an open bicycle path. There are still Wachturms, or ‘watch towers,’ standing. 

Hans and Uschi's son helps chip off some of the remaining Wall in Frohnau after its fall. Photo courtesy of Hans and Uschi Kriz.

Both Hans and Uschi wish that more parts of the Berlin Wall were left in place, “Perhaps even in front of the Brandenburg Gate,” said Hans. They worry that young people have no idea where the Wall was and therefore forget the history. 

Hans sighs, then quoted the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want.”