University of Rochester Library Bulletin: German Literature from the Western Front

Volume I  ·  February 1946  ·  Number 2
German Literature from the Western Front

Soon after the armed forces of the United States and her allies were firmly established on the continent of Europe, rather large packages of books and other printed matter began arriving at the University of Rochester. Sent by Lt. Col. Charles Storrs Barrows, '12, to Dean Lester O. Wilder of the College for Men, this material was intended for the University Library. By the end of December, 1944, scores of booklets, brochures, leaflets, daily and weekly newspapers, and illustrated periodicals, as well as publications of the German armed forces had been received and were put on exhibit in Rush Rhees Library through January, 1945.

Since that time, the collection has been expanded by additional shipments from Colonel Barrows, by the gift, from Dr. Dexter Perkins of the History Department, of a scrapbook of clippings reporting the organization and activities of the "Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei: Ortsgruppe Kronach" from November, 1932, to 1936, as well as by a shipment of approximately sixty books received from Lt. David Perkins, '41, through Professor Curt Stern of the Biology Department. The variety of publications contained in the whole collection of several hundred items offers an interesting and enlightening cross section of the efforts made within the Reich to keep life going as normally as possible during the war and to build up and bolster morale on the home and fighting fronts.

A brief summary of the content of the collection, avoiding profuse lists of individual items, will reflect its current and historical significance to the University Library:

Illustrated weeklies, depicting the war for the home front, include such well-known titles as Das Illustrierte Blatt (Frankfurt-on-the-Main), Illustrierter Beobachter (National Socialist Party publication in Munich), Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, and Hamburger Illustrierte.

Among the newspapers reporting for readers within the Reich are copies of Das Reich (Propaganda Minister Goebbel's weekly newspaper), Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, and Volkischer Beobachter (National Socialist Party organ); among those reporting for the members of the armed forces are Front und Heimat (published by the National Socialist Party Press) and Soldat im Westen (published by the Propaganda-Kompanie, reporters and correspondents of the Propaganda Ministry attached to the military forces); reporting for the French is the Pariser Zeitung (published daily in Paris by the German occupying forces). The last three contain much material on the expected invasion, the one-man torpedo, and the V-1 Fernwaffe (V-1 Long-range Weapon). Presenting the post-invasion phase, the collection has a wide assortment of copies of the continental and Paris editions of YankStars and Stripes, and New York Herald Tribune, received quite recently.

Especially informative is the Reichshaushalts und Besoldungsblatt (Reich Budgetary and Salary Publications) published at irregular intervals by the treasury department of the German government and giving official information on salaries, indemnification, pensions, insurance, and many other budgetary matters for the Reich, annexed, and occupied territories. The series is fairly complete (109 issues) for the period beginning January 10, 1940, and ending April 27, 1944. The taxpayer's personal financial viewpoint is reflected in a booklet entitled Wie habe ich meine Einkommensteuer-Erklarung abzugeben? (instructions on reporting income tax returns). A typical booklet for bolstering morale on the financial front bears the title, Was geschieht mit unserem Geld? (What is being done with our money?), by Fritz Reinhardt of the Reich treasury department.

There is a wide range of National Socialist publications on Communism, the Jews, Russia, England, the British Empire, France, Spain, Poland, the Ukraine, the Balkans, Turkey, and the Caucasus. Books on the doctrines and philosophy of National Socialism bear the names of such authors as Darre and Rosenberg. Among the published speeches there is an address by Joseph Goebbels to the faculty and students of the University of Heidelberg, Der geistige Arbeiter im Schicksalskampf des Reiches (The Intellectual Worker in the Fateful Struggle of the Reich), which had the obvious intention of lifting the spirits of a class bearing the brunt of criticism. Die soziale Revolutionby Ferdinand Fried deals with economic and social changes resulting from the totalitarian state and the war.

The collection contains eighteen paper-bound books from the series Soldatenbriefe zur Berufsforderung (Letters to Soldiers for Professional Advancement), an educational service of the High Command to the members of the armed forces. They were published by Ferdinand Hirt in Breslau under such titles as: Commercial CourseBanking,Basic Course for Government EmployeesConstruction EngineeringAutomotive EngineeringThe West (Special Course), The North (Special Course), The East (Special Course). The last three were designed for occupation troops, each book being divided into four parts: History, Geography, Civilization, Language. "The West" deals with France and the French language, "The North" with Denmark and Norway and the Danish-Norwegian language, "The East" with Poland and the Polish language.

A set of leaflets, Mitteilungen fur die Truppe, published from January to May, 1944, offers information which officers should pass on to their troops in company discussions. Among the topics to be discussed are: Should one marry in wartime?, What are we fighting for?, Eleven commandments for men on leave, Enemy propaganda, Anxiety about post-war employment. An interesting addition to these leaflets is a pamphlet instructing officers on their relationship to their subordinates.

There are a great many items published by the High Command of the German Armed Forces in a series called Tornisterschriften (Knapsack Booklets) the contents of which range from indoctrination and propaganda articles to literary contributions and more or less innocuous and sentimental stories. These booklets contain many contributions by members of the military forces.

Miscellaneous books extending over a wide field of reading interest, serious literature, poetry, humor, political satire, songs, and popular fiction, bear the stamps of service libraries, thus giving some indication of the reading material offered to the German soldiers stationed on the Western Front.

Among the volumes received from Lt. David Perkins are a number of secondary-school textbooks published as late as 1942, books on nationalistic education, two rather large volumes of short biographies, a biography of Hermann Goring, and a rather impressive volume titled Rundfunk und Film im Dienste nationaler Kultur (Radio and Motion Pictures in the Service of National Culture).

The Library has, through the good services of Colonel Barrows, Lt. David Perkins, and Dr. Dexter Perkins, come into possession of a collection of material published within Germany during World War II -- material which, because of its integration into the National Socialist program and total war effort, is of current and future interest. This material, added to that already contained in the Library on the development of Germany, will constitute an excellent source for the study of the National Socialist period in German history.