August 24, 2011

Great Moments in Sarcasm #1: Sigmund Freud & the Nazis.

Kinda sorta a follow-up to this.

Much loved by comedians and malcontents, sarcasm has long been denigrated by overly sincere yogis, well-meaning counselors and Pink Floyd songs. Nonetheless, there are times when following Emily Dickinson’s advice to tell the truth, but tell it slant may be the best way to get a point across, particularly when more direct speech can get you killed. The following is first in what could end up being a series.

In 1938, after much harassment by the Gestapo, Sigmund Freud was permitted to leave Austria on the condition that he sign a document stating that he’d been treated with all the respect and consideration due to my scientific reputation, that I could live and work in full freedom.

This was, of course, completely untrue. But, as a Jew who’d been named an enemy of the Reich, his books specifically targeted for burning when the Nazis came to power in Germany five years earlier, Freud had little choice but to sign. He could not, however, resist adding a postscript: I can most highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone.

Thanks to a lack of ironic sensibility typical of fascists, the Nazis failed to see the sarcasm dripping from his words, and Freud was allowed to emigrate.

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