Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 301–313 | Cite as

Holocaust Laughter and Edgar Hilsenrath’s The Nazi and the Barber: Towards a Critical Pedagogy of Laughter and Humor in Holocaust Education

  • Michalinos Zembylas


This article tries to defend the position that Holocaust Education can be enriched by appreciating laughter and humor as critical and transformative forces that not only challenge dominant discourses about the Holocaust and its representational limits, but also reclaim humanity, ethics, and difference from new angles and juxtapositions. Edgar Hilsenrath’s novel The Nazi and the Barber is discussed here as an example of literature that departs from representations of Holocaust as celebration of resilience and survival, portraying a world in which lies, hatred and violence are still perpetuated. Because of its transgressive qualities, Hilsenrath’s narrative of the Holocaust as a satire with elements of black comedy can offer pedagogical openings for using laughter to interrupt normative constructions of the Holocaust as an unspeakable and sacred event that lies outside history, and thus beyond the capacities of human understanding. It is argued that laughter is an important modality for inviting deep thinking about the Holocaust, to move it from a transcendent phenomenon to an immanent event, situated clearly in the realm of human action and worthy of understanding so as to prevent it from happening again.


Holocaust Critical pedagogy Laughter Humor Holocaust Education 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Open University of CyprusLatsiaCyprus
  2. 2.Nelson Mandela UniversityPort ElizabethSouth Africa

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