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GERMANY: Zitzewitz family



George Sassoon passes on jokes about a distinguished German family: "My Zitzewitz researches reminded me that the family is so famous in Germany that there is a whole genre of jokes devoted to them. Invariably, Zitzewitz is portrayed as an extremely stupid officer who speaks with a thick Berlin accent. This is grossly unfair to our Klaus and to the family as a whole, as I know from having looked up the distinguished careers of many of its members. A selection of the jokes may be found at:
http://www.bigbear.de/humor/index.php?sel=25. I translate some samples:

Zitzewitz is reporting to a fellow officer: "At the opera yesterday, saw Carmen, bit of culture. Servant came to the box, said 'excuse me your Lordship, need an opera glass?'. 'No thanks, drink from the bottle myself.'"

A fellow-officer comes to Zitzewitz: "Yesterday I was in the mess - playing Beethoven." Zitzewitz: "So - you won?"

Major von Bülow and Major von Zitzewitz meet in the mess.
v. B.: "Where were you last night?"
v. Z.: "Last night? - theatre!"
v. B.: "What did you see?"
v. Z.: "Something very odd. Piece by Schiller. Civilian shooting at fruit!"

(William Tell, presumably, and it wasn't by Schiller Von Bülows are another well-known military family).

RH. I don't know why George says the play wasn't by Schiller. His play (1804) was the basis for the opera by Rossini. I have seen several-versions of the play in Switzerland, where is has the status of a national epic. The jokes translated by George deserve analysis. The Germans make fun of the Poles, so that may be why the name was chosen. Berlin is widely disliked outside of Prussia, hence the Berlin accent. The jokes suggest that there was anti-militarism in Germany, as there was in France. I wonder when these jokes started.

Ronald Hilton - 3/12/03


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