What's all this then?


My name is Victoria Stiles and I'm an Early Career Historian currently doing whatever odd research / consulting / outreach / tutoring jobs come my way. I blog here about some of the interesting texts I've found.
My research focusses on books about Britain and the British Empire which were in circulation in Nazi Germany but you'll also find a smattering of school textbooks, witchcraft beliefs, bog drainage, bemused travellers and weird illustrations that caught my eye.
Translations from German are my own. Comments are currently unmoderated and are mostly spam for leather jackets anyway.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

On a people's failure to ripen

Not strictly within the aims of this blog but still an interesting quote, and one which returns to the odd idea of geographic determinism (is there an official term for this?) which we saw here. The following is taken from Irish Witchcraft and Demonology (1913 / 1972) by St. John D. Seymour, BD. Quite wonderfully, the whole book is available online.

It is often said that Irishmen succeed best out of Ireland; those qualities they possess, which fail to ripen and come to maturity in the lethargic atmosphere of the Green Isle, where nothings matters very much provided public opinion is not run counter to, become factors of history under the sunshine and storm of countries where more ample scope is given for the full development of pugnacity, industry, or state-craft. At any rate, from the days of Duns Scotus and St.Columbanus down to the present, Irishmen have filled, and still fill, positions of the highest importance in every part of the globe as friends of kings, leaders of armies, or preachers of the Truth - of such every Irishman, be his creed or politics what they may, is justly proud.

You hear that Ireland? It's the weather you've been oppressed by all these years, and nothing else. On the other hand, it's still a more positive view of the Irish than in the first textbook we looked at.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Kurt G. Sell on "the great melting-pot"

More thoughts from the Nazi-era cultural commentator. For an explanation of who Kurt G. Sell was and why I'm reading his book, see this post. My two other posts on this book are here and here.

According to our guide, New York represents everything bad about "the great melting pot". Sell repeats his earlier assertion that it's the less worthy / capable / hard-working immigrants who stay in the East Coast cities, and then presents us with some statistics:

Total population of New York: 7 million

Negro population: 440 000

Jewish population: 2 million

The Jews are by far the most numerous: at 2 million they make up 27% of the population of New York, while the figure for the whole of the USA is only 3.6% (4.6 million). With the Jews, then, the disparity [of New York?] with the rest of America is far more drastic and one would be completely justified in calling the largest city in America "jewified". More Jews and Negroes live in New York than in any other city in the world. (p.85)

,,Die Juden sind bei weitem am zahlreichsten: mit 2 Millionen bilden sie 27% der New Yorker Bevölkerung, während für die gesamten USA. nur 3,6% (4,7 Millionen) gezählt wurden. Bei den Juden ist also das Mißverhältnis zu dem übrigen Amerika noch viel drastischer und es ist durchaus berechtigt, wenn man die größte Stadt der USA. als ,,verjüdet" bezeichnet. In New York leben mehr Juden und meahr Neger als in irgeneiner anderen Stadt der Welt."

1st or 2nd generation immigrants: 73% of the NY population

Without these immigrants (whom, Sell is keen to point out, the inhabitants of more provincial states would not consider to be Americans at all), New York would have a similar population to Detroit. Sell doesn't name a source for his numbers, but based on the Detroit / New York comparison, I'd say there's a good chance that he's using census results from 1930 (presuming he had access to these at that time). The population given here for New York was 6,930,446 and for Detroit 1,568,662. If he was also excluding the black population from the "American" inhabitants of New York, then the figures would roughly match up. On the other hand, the 1931 census report (full, huge, beautiful pdf here) gives the black population of the whole state as only 412,814. This is the point where I admit that statistics aren't really my bag.

Immigrant population by nationality (in the order Sell lists them):
Italians: 1 070 000
Russians: 945 000
Germans (incl. Austrians): 888 000
Poles: 458 000
Englishmen: 178 000
Hungarians: 11 500
Romanians: 93 000
Czechs: 72 000
Immigrants "from 40 other countries of the world": 800 000

It seems utterly bizarre to me that immigrants of Irish descent haven't been given their own category. Surely the census form can't have ignored such an important (and emotionally charged) distinction? I've a suspicion that Sell has casually swept them under the "Englishmen" heading, as he no doubt did with the Scots and Welsh. What is this German aversion to the words "Britain" and "British"?

Moving on, what, according to Sell, has this genetic gumbo done to parts of New York? Nothing positive:

Of the 38 million immigrants between 1820 and 1930, nine tenths landed in New York, and almost one sixth of them stayed in New York. New York is, by American standards, a very old city but she has failed to take care of either her welfare service or her many inhabitants. These have to then bunk down with their countrymen. So it was that the terrible slums came into being, and these have still not been cleaned up, despite the fact that the better class of New Yorker and the loudmouthed New York press constantly gab about the cultural peaks that America has reached, far above the "poor Europeans". The Lower East Side of the island of Manhattan, which stretches from south to north and accommodates the most important part of the city remains the worst slum in the western world. Here dwell Jews, Chinese, Armenians, Greeks, Slavs, Czechs, obviously no Germans. A stroll on a hot summer's evening through Orchard or Rivington Street or through any part of Lower East Side is like a visit to a run-down goat shed.

,,In New York landeten zwischen 1820 und 1930 neun Zehntel der 38 Millionen Einwanderer, und fast ein Sechstel davon blieb in New York. New York ist nach amerikanischen Begriffen eine sehr alte Stadt, aber weder um soziale Einrichtungen noch um die vielen Einwohner hat sie sich gekümmert. Diese suchten daher bei ihren Landesleuten Unterschlupf. So entstanden die furchtbaren Elendsviertel, die heute noch nicht gesäubert sind, obwohl der bessere New Yorker und die großmäulige New Yorker Presse andauernd von den kulturellen Gipfel schwatzt, den Amerika erreicht habe, weit über den ,,armen Europäern". Der untere Osten der Insel Manhattan, die sich von Süden nach Norden erstreckt und den wichtigsten Teil der Stadt beherbergt, ist immer noch der übelste Slum der westlichen Welt. Dort hausen Juden, Chinesen, Armenier, Griechen, Slawen, Tschechen, selbstverständlich keine Deutschen. Ein Spaziergang an einem heißen Sommerabend durch Orchard oder Rivington Street oder durch das Lower East Side-Viertel überhaupt ist wie ein Besuch in einem verwahrlosten Ziegenstall."

You know what's the coolest thing ever? Thanks to the wonders of technology, I can show you exactly what the corner of those two streets looks like today:

View Larger Map

Complete lack of goats but still, I love the internet.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

"the most worthy-to-be-visited of all historicoromanticalbeautyspotagglomerations"

Title: Germany
Author: Gerald Bullett

This is my first purchase since moving back to England. It's from "Black's new series of coloured books" and has 32 colour illustrations by E.T. Compton and E.Harrison Compton (who I think did the illustrations for other books in the series too).




It was published in 1930 and the text has a whimsical P.G. Wodehouse / Jerome K. Jerome feel to it. The reader and three travelling companions - a brother and sister as well as the author - are touring Germany together, very much not mentioning the war. We start our sightseeing in Cologne:

And, let me confess at the outset, we have not among all three of us more German than could be written on the back of a postcard. When Alf was at school the language of Goethe and Beethoven fell into disgrace before he had begun to master it; Angela, for a similar reason, was never given a chance; and so it falls to me to be the linguist of the party. I do my best; and the resulting dialogue, if it could be rendered in English, would be something after this fashion:
Q. Please how much clock goes the boat by with or from Cologne?
A. (but this, you must understand, is pure guesswork). Please a very fine express steamship will in the early morning down the beautiful Rhine a much-to-be-enjoyed journey make.
Q. Boat. The Rhine. How much clock?
A. The distinguished gentleman will the ancient and sumptuous castles on the many hills situated to enjoy not fail.
Q. Please how much clock?
A. It is the considered opinion of ladies and gentlemen the best and wisest that the Rhine country is in the whole world the most worthy-to-be-visited of all historicoromanticalbeautyspotagglomerations.
Q. What is the weather? I wish, how much clock?
A. Please very much.

In the end we discover what we want to know from a time-table hanging on the wall; and, having time to spare, we go and look at the Cathedral. [...] When you suddenly come upon it in the middle of Cologne its size and splendour make you gasp. And inside, lost in its vastness, you almost wish it would dwindle and become a small parish church. (pp.2-4)

And just because I like showing off, here are some of my photos of Cologne Cathedral, taken last month.



Friday, 9 October 2009

Categorising the Americans

I've given you Kurt G. Sell's views on American food and women, but what of the population as a whole? The well-travelled journalist acknowledges many differences between Americans from different areas and states, despite the homogenising effects of chain-stores and migrating army communities:

It is very difficult to start a conversation with people from the eastern states. Even when they discover that someone is from the same town, they maintain their reserve and keep the conversation to strictly impersonal topics such as the weather or baseball. Drivers whose cars have New York license plates will stare straight past each other, even when they meet on a country road thousands of miles from New York. In the same situation, drivers from the small but hugely self-confident state of Indiana, always willing to sing their home's praises, will throw their arms around each other. If an Illinois traveller on a bus sees a car from Illinois drive past, he will practically fall out of the bus with excitement and holler loudly, "Helloooo Illinois". Fall into conversation with a Midwesterner and he'll tell you outright where he's from, what his job is, what he has planned for the moment and so on, because he believes he owes you this information out of politeness. People from the southern states even go a step further by adding a philosophical undertone to their explanations, professing, without being asked, their views on religion, women, Negroes, on "sin" in general, and on a hearty bout of drinking. (pp.30-1)
,,Es ist sehr schwer, mit Leuten aus den Oststaaten in ein Gespräch zu kommen. Selbst wenn sie erfahren, daß man aus derselben Stadt kommt, so bleiben sie reserviert und unterhalten sich allenfalls über streng unpersönliche Dinge wie Wetter oder Baseball. Autofahrer, deren Wagen eine New Zork Lizenz hat, sehen glatt aneinander vorbei, auch wenn sie sich irgendwo, tausend Meilen von New Zork entfernt, auf der Landstraße treffen. Autofahrer aus dem kleinen, aber ungeheuer selbstbewußten und stets die Reklametrommel der Heimat schlagenden Staat Indiana fallen sich aus gleichen Anlaß um den Hals. Wenn ein Reisender aus Illinois im Bus einen Wagen aus Illinois vorbeifahren sieht, so fällt er vor Begeisterung fast aus dem Bus und juhuut ganz laut: ,,Helloooo Illinois". Unterhält man sich mit einem Mittelwestler, so erzählt er Ihnen ohne Umschweife, woher er kommt, welchen Beruf er hat, was er augenblicklich vorhabe usw., weil er glaubt, er sei deise Auskünfte schuldig. Leute aus den Südstaaten gehen noch einen Schritt weiter: Sie bringen philosophierenden Unterton in ihre Ausführungen und bekennen unaufgefordert, was sie über Religion, Frauen, Neger, über ,,Sünde" im allgemeinen und über eine ausgiebige Zecherei denken."


Can you imagine this guy "youhooing" from a bus?

He also gives a brief history of immigration to North America, to explain the lack of upper-class and other social phenomena. I'm going to attempt to give an even briefer version in my own words, without necessarily agreeing or dismissing any of the content of it. Analysing the accuracy of Sell's views would take a lifetime that I can't spare.

Two groups arrived in the 17th century: rich sons of English aristocrats seeking their fortune by setting up plantations, and the "real emigrants", the pilgrims of the Mayflower, who were fleeing the horror of religious persecution in England. Have you spotted the source of all evil yet? You will.

The native population refused to work for the English plantation owners, leading to the establishment of "white slavery" in America, "following the famous English model" of punishing contracts and a scrip system for the workers but a life of luxury for the owners. Once the horror stories had reached home and white labour became hard to find, black slaves were imported from Africa via the West Indies:
"Black ivory" was the name for the cargo which the cultured Englishmen had brought to them in the most terrible conditions in the holds of ships. [...] Runaway slaves were pursued with bloodhounds, and when the North finally attempted to introduce more humane conditions in 1861, it was the cause of (or at least the excuse for) a civil war which lasted until 1865 and ended with the defeat of the English South.
The plantation owners had to set their slaves free but the Negroes, who had been somebody's property for generations, were at a loss in this new situation in which nobody advised or supported them, and so began the sad and also dangerous chapter of the USA's Negro problem. (p.14)

,, ,,Schwarzes Elfenbein hieß diese Fracht, die die englischen Kulturträger in den Laderäumen der Schiffe unter den furchtbarsten Verhältnissen heranschaffen ließen. [...] Flüchtige Sklaven wurden mit Bluthunden gehetzt, und als der Norden endlich 1861 etwas menschlichere Zustände einführen wollte, da kam es darüber (wenigstens was das der äußere Anlaß) zum Bürgerkrieg, der bis 1865 dauerte und mit der Niederlage des englischen Südens endete. Die Pflanzer mußten ihre Sklaven freigeben, aber die Neger, die Generationen hindurch Leibeigene gewesen waren, wußten mit dieser neuen Lage, in der sie niemand beriet oder unterstützte, nichts anzufangen, und so begann das traurige, ja gefährliche Kapitel der Negerproblems in den USA."

As if to balance out the empathy shown at the beginning of that extract, here's how the book describes the distribution of later immigrants:

The flow of new blood always came from the east - in other words, from Europe - and the pressure of the continually-gathering masses on the East Coast caused the country's borders to be pushed further and further west until they reached the Pacific Ocean. The incapable and the scum stayed in the great cities of the East, particularly in New York; the others, especially the Germans and Scandinavians, pushed on into the Midwest and North-West and built there new homes for themselves. (pp.17-8)
"Der Zustrom neuen Bluts kam immer vom Osten ß das heißt von Europa - und durch den Druck der Massen, die sich an der Ostküste immer wieder ansammelten, wurden die Landesgrenzen immer weiter nach Westen vorgeschoben, bis man endlich am Stillen Oyean angekommen war. Die Unfähigen und der Abschaum blieben in der großen Städten des Ostens, besonders in New Zork; die anderen, insbesondere die Deutschen und die Skandinavier, drangen vor zum Mittelwesten, zum Nordwesten und schufen sich dort einen neuen Hausstand."


It's impossible to say whether this is Sell's own opinion or something added at someone else's insistence. I was certainly surprised to read the word Abschaum (which I've translated as 'scum'), which I feel doesn't really fit with the tone of most of his writing here.

One reason I find books like this fascinating is because they can reveal such strange combinations of opinions which simply don't square with the simplified categories we try to put squash historical ideas and personalities into. Nazi Germany clearly wasn't a three-way battle between "real" Nazis, brave anti-fascists and an apathetic mainstream, in common with all societies, there were endless constellations of opinions on thousands of different issues. You had people like Sell here, who could empathise with the plight of black slaves, but still believe in a hierarchy of races (much more dealing with this theme will follow soon), just as you have people in modern Britain who are against racism but don't mind if items important to members of other cultures are banned. How will they be classified when kids are learning about "Computer Age England", or whatever the course will be called?

So, would I describe Sell as a "Nazi" writer? To borrow a term from science blogging, I think you'll find it's a bit more complicated than that.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

American women - the view from the Third Reich

In my first post on Worüber man in Amerika spricht, (far too many moons ago) I dealt with the foreword and anything I had managed to find out about the author, his life, industry and colleagues. To summarise: Kurt G. Sell was a German journalist and diplomat who acted as foreign correspondent, providing background information (for German news agencies and a regular radio bulletin) on American politics, society and culture. When the United States entered World War Two, he and his colleagues were imprisoned and later flown back to Germany. This book, "What America is talking about" (roughly translated), was published in 1943 and gives his impressions of his former adoptive home It's a strange mix of genuine affection, Nazi ideology and bewilderment at America's funny foreign ways and it's very difficult to say how much of it represents Sell's own opinions or the work of the censors. Either way, it's a fascinating read.

Details from the front and back covers


In this section, Sell describes how women have "feminized" American society, their two chief obsessions being comfort and eternal youth:

The woman is responsible for the fact that not only every office building but also every reasonably modern apartment building has an elevator as she doesn’t like to walk, let alone climb stairs. [...] Cars are used, even when the destination is only three blocks away. When choosing a car, the woman has the last word, and so it is primarily for her that they are built. The upholstery, and in many cases also the outer paintwork, is of two tones. Armrests and adjustable seats turn the car into a motorised divan: it goes without saying that heating and radio are provided. (p.21-2)


Die Frau ist dafür verantwortlich, daß nicht nur jedes Bürogebäude, sondern auch jedes einigermaßen moderne Mietshaus einen Fahrstuhl hat, denn sie mag nicht gehen, geschweige Treppen steigen. [...] Autos werden benutzt, auch wenn das Ziel nur drei Häuserblocks entfernt ist. Bei der Auswahl des Wagens hat die Frau das letzte Wort, und daher ist er hauptsächlich für sie gebaut. Die Polsterung, vielfach auch die Außenlackierung, ist in zwei Tönen abgestuft. Armstützen und verstellbare Sitze machen aus dem Auto einen fahrbaren Diwan: für Heizung und Radio ist selbstverständlich gesorgt.

It also seems to be a feminine element of civilisation that the Americans eat every dish (including the dessert but excluding the soup) only with a fork and then only use the knife, kept in reserve, when the meat cannot be separated with the fork. This procedure is very laborious and repeatedly presents a shock to the foreigner: one holds the fork in the right hand and with it picks up a piece of food, which is taken to the mouth with that fork. Then one takes the fork in the left hand, reaches for the knife, and cuts oneself a small piece of meat. However, under no circumstances does one ferry it to one’s mouth with the left hand. Far from it! One puts the knife to one side, passes the fork back to the right hand and uses it to eat the cut off piece of meat. This action is repeated throughout the entire meal and leads to the situation whereby everyone rests their left elbows on the tabletop and lets their left hand wave freely in the air. It doesn’t look very attractive but the American woman has instituted this for reasons of comfort, and the meat is usually brought to the table in such a way that one need hopefully never reach for the knife. This spares the teeth the need to chew; they are as unable as the knife to prove what they are there for.” (p.23)


Ein weibliches Zivilisationselement scheint es auch zu sein, daß die Amerikaner jede Speise (einschließlich der Nachspeise, aber ausschließlich der Suppe) nut mit der Gabel essen und das in Reserve gehaltene Messer nur dann benutzen, wenn sich das Fleisch mit der Gabel nicht zerteilen läßt. Diese Prozedur ist sehr umständlich und für jeder Ausländer immer wieder ein Schock man hat die Gabel in der rechten hand und pickt damit ein Stück Nahrung auf, das man mit dieser Gabel yum Mund führt. Dann packt man die Gabel in die linke Hand, greift yum Messer und schneidet sich ein kleines Stück Fleisch ab. Das führt man aber keinesfalls mit der linken Hand in den Mund. Weit gefehlt! Man legt das Messer weg, übergibt die Gabel wieder der rechten Hand und holt sich damit das abgeschnittene Stück Fleisch. Dieser Vorgang wiederholt sich während des ganzen Essens und führt [...] dazu, daß jeder den linken Ellbogen auf die Tischplatte stützt und die linke Hand frei I’m Raum schweben läßt. Das sieht nicht sehr schön aus, aber die amerikanische Frau hat das aus Bequemlichkeitsgründen eingeführt, und meist kommt das Fleisch schon so auf den Tisch, daß man möglichst gar nicht zum Messer zu greifen braucht. Das erspart den Zähnen auch das Zerkauen; sie können ebensowenig wie das Messer noch zeigen, wofür sie da sind.

After the provision of comfort, a woman’s priority is to maintain her youthful appearance for as long as possible:

From behind, even the older American woman looks like a young girl: shoes, stockings, very short skirts, hairstyle, are the same from the ages of 16 to 60. [...] The hunt for a husband has become difficult; so many men have been called up, and immigration has ceased, and so one must arm oneself against the competition. (p.24)


Von hinten sieht auch die ältere Amerikanerin wie ein junges Mädchen aus: Schuhe, Strümpfe, ganz kurze Röcke, Haartracht sind von 16 bis 60 Jahre gleich. [...] Die Jagd nach dem Mann ist schwierig geworden: so viele Männer werden eingezogen und die Einwanderung hat aufgehört, also muß man sich für der Konkurrenzkampf rüsten.

He goes on to say that life has become less comfortable since the declaration of war, with rationing, a shortage of cars, and no delivery service from grocery stores. I'm not sure if this is a pure statement of fact or if there's an element of "serves them right" in there.

I'm going to eat my lunch now, using only my fingers, with both elbows on the table (it's a sandwich).

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Meanwhile...

Now that I'm back in the UK and under the same roof as a scanner, here are some pictures from Greater Britain (original post here). I'm still in the process of dismantling my life as a teacher and setting up again as a student, so posts may be even less frequent than usual.
You should be spending the time on www.futilitycloset.com anyway.

Front cover


Titles pages introducing the series ("French and English prose texts") and the book.


Map comparing pre and post-canal routes to India, p.2


Map of Africa, p.99


Pull-out map of the world, inside back cover.


Other offerings from the same publisher.

Monday, 24 August 2009

A Nazi-Era History of Hamburg

... Not that you'd really know, for the first three quarters of the book. And I was looking very closely for signs of fanatical revisionism because these 80 page volumes from Christmas 1941 come with a “get well soon” message from Hamburg Gauleiter Karl Kaufmann - a name which by rights should be as infamous as Goebbels, Goering and Himmler.

"Get well soon" message

It briefly describes Hamburg’s development from a small, dependent settlement on the Elbe, to a wealthy, independent merchant city, to Germany’s largest harbour and gateway to the world. At no point does it mention the contribution of Jewish merchants to Hamburg’s prosperity but then it doesn’t mention Jews at all. Apart from taking the side of the Saxons against Charles the Great, Hamburg’s earlier history is dealt with in the same brief, upbeat, “didn’t we do well” manner you find in most local museums.
There are some facts about Hamburg’s prominence after the French Revolution which might not stand up to scrutiny; apparently, all of England’s trade with mainland Europe ran through Hamburg, and it was this English connection that dragged the ever-neutral Hamburg into the fight against Napoleon, in which they suffered the worst treatment imaginable. Then we hit the World War One, in which Hamburg allegedly proves its loyalty to Germany and shares in its cruel treatment at the hands of its opponents:

The historical development of our city could easily create the impression that Hamburg had placed her own interests over those of Germany. However, we must not overlook the fact that it was only through this political independence that the Hamburg’s inner strength of purpose, enterprising courage, tenacity in the face of set-backs, and flexibility in the conquering of new markets could develop, and could blossom among Germany’s ranks. The successful utilisation of these qualities for the city simultaneous meant service to the interests of Germany; Hamburg’s profile in the world was Germany’s vindication, Hamburg’s economy was the German economy. The fact that Hamburg, despite all her international connections and despite the various points of contact with foreign ways and customs, remained truly German at heart, is proven by the inscription on the memorial columns in Adolf Hitler Square: “40 000 sons of this city gave up their lives for you!” (p.62-3)

Der geschichtliche Werdegang unsere Stadt könnte wohl den Eindruck erwecken, als ob Hamburg seine eigenen Interessen über die Deutschlands gestellt hätte. Es darf aber nicht übersehen werden, daß sich nur in dieser politischen Selbständigkeit die den Hamburgern innewohnende Tatkraft, der Mut zu großen Unternehmungen, die Zähigkeit bei Rückschlägen und die Geschicklichkeit bei der Eroberung neuer Märkte entwickeln und in den Zeilen der deutschen Zerrissenheit ungehindert entfalten konnten. Der erfolgreiche Einsatz dieser Kräfte für die Stadt bedeutete aber gleichzeitig Dienst an den deutschen Interessen; denn Hamburgs Ansehen in der Welt war Deutschlands Geltung in der Welt, Hamburgs Wirtschaft war deutsche Wirtschaft. Daß der Hamburger trotz aller internationalen Bindungen und trotz der vielfachen Berührungen mit fremdlündischer Art und Sitte in seinem Kern echt deutsch geblieben ist, beweist die Inschrift an der Gedenksäule am Adolf-Hitler-Platz: ,,40 000 Söhne dieser Stadt ließen ihr Leben für euch!”

This paragraph shows one of the problems that more extreme nationalists faced in Germany. The aims of independence and unity had mostly been achieved but people’s identity was (and to some extent is) bound to their city or region. This must have been especially strong in Hamburg - the most successful of the old hanseatic cities - which had fought so long for independence from outside interference and restrictions, and which was very international in its outlook. This combination of weak internal ties and strong international ones meant that, similar to their Italian counterparts, the Nazis had to work hard to create a sense of the whole of Germany standing shoulder to shoulder against the rest of the world.

Front cover

And so onto the next chapter, dealing with the First World War and its aftermath:

Hamburg’s decline
The development of the German state ran almost parallel with the proud developments in Hamburg. The kingdom which had been created in Versailles in 1871 had become a great power, whose flag flew over all seas, whose hard work had led to the creation of her colonies, and whose highly-valued industrial wares were gladly bought in all the world’s markets. It had also become a military power, with a decisive voice in Europe.
The rise of the state, whose glory sadly hid here and there bitter political and social injustice, was viewed as increasingly dangerous by other world powers. They were working on a plan of war against Germany.
The shot in Sarajevo, hardly thought to be significant at first, was the decisive signal. Within only a few weeks almost the whole globe stood in arms against Germany. The state marched into the greatest war in the whole of history. At one stroke, all the life which had given Hamburg its face died out in the city. Hardly a single ship left the harbour. The trade fleet floated in long lines against the quayside, was interred in enemy ports or stayed in neutral harbours.
Large and small ships served as support vessels. Many sank under fluttering flags of war. Life in the shipyards continued regardless. One after the other, battleships grew on the Helligen [?*]. Men and women stood at the lathes, in order to supply the fighting front with granades.
However, a hunger blockade lay around Germany like an iron belt. Women and children were becoming paler. Hunger was found everywhere in Germany and Hamburg. The Hamburg Regiment, the 76th Infantry regiment, had gone to the front in the very first days of the war. In difficut battles it had bled for the great empire. [...] Then came, whilst the front was still standing, Germany’s most shameful hour: revolution in Germany. (p.64-7)

Hamburgs Niedergang Mit Hamburgs stolzer Entwicklung fast gleichlaufend war die Entwicklung des Reiches gegangen. Das in Versailles 1871 entstandene Kaiserreich war zu einer Großmacht geworden, deren Flagge auf allen Meere wehte, die mit Fleiß sich der Erschließung ihrer Kolonien widmete und deren hochwertige industrielle Güter auf allen Märkten der Welt gern gekauft wurden. Es war außerdem eine militärische Macht geworden, die in Europa ein entscheidendes Wort mitzusprechen hatte. Der Aufstieg des Reiches, hinter dessen Glanz sich allerdings hier und dort bittere politische und soziale Ungerechtigkeit verbarg, ward in den Augen anderer Großmächte für diese immer gefährlicher. Planmäßig arbeiteten sich auf einen Krieg gegen Deutschland hin. Der Schuß von Sarajewo, zuerst kaum gewertet, war das entscheidende Signal. In wenigen Wochen stand fast die ganze Erde gegen Deutschland in Waffen auf. Das Reich zog in den größten Krieg der Geschichte aller Zeiten. Mit einem Schlag erstarb in Hamburg alles Leben, das ihm bis dahin sein Gesicht gegeben hatte. Kaum ein Schiff mehr verließ den Hafen. Die Handelsflotte reihte sich in langer Linie an den Keimauern, war in feindlichen Häfen interniert oder lag in neutralen Häfen. Große und kleine schiffe taten als Hilfskreuzer Dienst. viele sanken unter wehender Kriegsflagge. Das leben auf den Werften aber ging unentwegt weiter. Kriegsschiff auf Kriegsschiff wuchs auf den Helligen. Männer und Frauen standen an den Drehbänken der Fabriken, um der Kämpfenden Front die Granaten zu liefern. Um Deutschland aber legte sich wie ein eiserner Gürtel die Hungerblokade. Frauen und Kinder wurden bleicher und bleicher. Der Hunger ging um in Deutschland und Hamburg. Das Hamburger Regiment, das Infanterieregiment 76, war in den ersten Kriegstagen schon nach dem Westen gegangen. In schweren Schlachten blutete es für das große Reich. [...] Dann kam, während die Front noch stand, Deutschlands schmählichste Stunde: Revolution über Deutschland.


Again, no mention of Jews or even weak liberals, and no resort to stabbed-in-the-back imagery. These are all elements I’ve been taught to expect from Nazi propaganda dealing with the end of the First World War, and they are all conspicuously absent.
Back to the text, and the “revolution”: Workers begin to demonstrate in Hamburg, stirred up by outsiders but also by anger; their wives and children are starving, their politicians have betrayed them and they are effectively disenfranchised by Hamburg’s class-based voting system. All of these things apparently make life easy for Marxist agitators. Hamburg’s soldiers return to find a “town beset by choas and hunger, wailing masses and incompetent leaders.” (p.67: aufgewühlte, hungernde Stadt, lärmende Pöbelhaufen and unfähige Führer. Die vierzigtausend Söhne der Stadt schienen umsonst gefallen zu sein.) Hamburg in the hands of the workers doesn’t provide much work, though the author also refers to international reasons for the crisis:

Hamburg becomes a national-socialist city
The heart of Hamburg, the harbour, and its life-blood, the ships, showed how Germany’s largest harbour was dependent almost exclusively upon trade across the globe. The decline of the world economy hit Hamburg hard, doubly so, as it was quite clearly shown in this and later years just how senseless the demands made by our opponents in the World War were.
Thousands and thousands lost their jobs, ship after ship was chained up in Walterhofer Harbour, machines rusted, factories fell into disrepair, life expired again in Hamburg. Year after year passed by, and each held less comfort than the last. (p.72)

Hamburg wird eine nationalsozialistische Stadt Hamburgs Herz, der Hafen, und sein Element, die Schiffe, zeigten, wie sehr Deutschlands größter Hafen fast allein abhängig war von Handel und Wandel in der Welt. Der Rückgang der Weltkonjunktur traf Hamburg schwer und hart, traf es doppelt hart, da sich in diesem und in den späteren Jahren erst richtig zeigte, wie sinnlos die Forderungen der Weltkriegsgegner waren. Tausende und tausende wurden erwerbslos, Schiff am Schiff wurde in Walterhofer Hafen an die Kette gelegt, Maschinen rosteten, Fabriken verödeten, das Leben erstarb wieder in Hamburg. Jahr um Jahr kam herauf und versank. Und jedes Jahr war trostloser als das andere.

According to the book 1929, first year of the Great Depression, was a decisive year for Hamburg because Adolf Hitler appointed Kaufmann as its Gauleiter. He is to unite the squabbling factions in the local branch of the NSDAP and “win” Hamburg for the national-socialists. The next passages are full of war metaphors (which are pain to translate) and there is a definite conflation of an election campaign with a military campaign (the German word Kampf has many uses).

For weeks and months the drumfire from National-socialist meetings rang out over the proud, dying city. The different groups within the party aligned themselves firmly behind their Gauleiter. In difficult battles in meeting halls they showed their political opponents that they were willing to meet terror with terror.
However, as the National-socialists grew, so did the communists. the front lines became clearer. On both sides stood fanatics. On both sides stood fighters.
And so, in 1930, Paul Keßler became the first National-socialist to fall. The fight became bloody. During the campaign for the Reichstag elections, the communists’ best troops, the Red Marines, were soundly beaten. (p.73-4)

Wochenlang, Monatenlang geht über die stolze, sterbende Stadt das Trommelfeuer nationalsozialistischer Versammlungen. Die verschiedenen Gruppen der Partei richten sich klar auf ihren Gauleiter aus. In schweren Saalschlachten zeigen sie dem politischen Gegner, daß sie gewillt sind, Terror gegen Terror zu stellen. Mit den Nationalsozialisten aber wachsen auch die Kommunisten. Die Fronten werden klarer. Auf beiden Seiten stehen Fanatiker. Auf beiden Seiten stehen Kämpfer. De fällt, 1930, als erster Nationalsozialist Paul Keßler. Der Kampf wird blutig. Im Reichstagswahlkampf wird die beste Truppe der Kommunisten, die rote Marine, zusammengehauen.

And so the strident prose continues, with more fighting, both politically and on the streets. More talk of fanatics, of Hamburger workers, of deaths in the ranks. The tone changes suddenly and we learn that two important organisations within the NSDAP were founded in Hamburg. Then we return to a list of party members who died, including one who was “shot down”, though we aren’t told who did the shooting. Finally, the breakthrough (although we don’t learn exactly how this was achieved):

By April 1932 the NSDAP is Hamburg’s strongest party. New electional campaign continue to come. The depression continues to worsen. The number of people without work continues to rise. Germany, and with her Hamburg, seems ready to lie down to die. Then, in January 1933, Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany, and a few weeks later Hamburg’s government becomes National-socialist. (p.75)

Im April 1932 ist die NSDAP. Hamburgs stärkste Partei. Immer neue Wahlkämpfer kommen. Immer größer wird die Not. Immer mehr Menschen sind ohne Arbeit. Deutschland und mit ihm Hamburg scheinen sich zum Sterben legen zu wollen. Da wird, man schreibt Januar 1933, Adolf Hitler Reichskanzler und Hamburgs Regierung wenige Wochen später nationalsozialistisch.

Title page with drawing of a large wooden buoy

The final chapter affected me quite strongly. It claims that the Nazis delivered the population of Hamburg from years of misery and were leading them into a brighter future. Anyone who has seen the arial photographs of Hamburg’s streets after the firebombings of 1943 will understand what kind of deliverance fascists bring their active and passive supporters. When extremists are in control, it’s never only the minorities who suffer.

Hamburg becomes a Reichsgau**
After years of depression and poverty, the first glimmer of hope shone over the city.
Adolf Hitler himself created the first great supply of work through ambitious planning and gigantic projects. At first, this was predominantly restricted to the domestic market. Only later was Hamburg, the harbour city, gripped by the wave of work and progress. However, what Hamburg could do on its own, it did.
The chimneys began to smoke once more, the machines ran again. The graveyard of ships on Waltershofer Harbour emptied slowly.
Meanwhile, the Leader was building the empire. His Hamburg Gauleiter, Karl Kaufmann, became Reichstatthalter on 15th May 1933, and Hamburg became an inseperable part of the one, great empire. [...] In August 1934, the Leader called the German people to a referendum. Almost unanimously, Hamburg answered him with a “yes”. (p.76)

Hamburg wird Reichsgau Nach Jahren der Not und des Elends leuchtet der Stadt zum ersten Male wieder ein Hoffnungsschimmer. Adolf Hitler selbst schafft in gewaltigen Planungen und gigantischen Projekten die ersten großen Arbeitsvorhaben. Sie sind zuerst vorwiegend auf den binnenländischen Markt beschränkt. Hamburg, die Hafenstadt, wird von der Welle der Arbeit und des Aufstieges zwangläufig erst später erfaßt. Was Hamburg aud Eigenem schaffen kann, aber schafft es. Die Schlotte beginnen wieder zu rauchen, die Maschinen werden wieder blank. Der Schiffsfriedhof in Waltershofer Hafen leert sich langsam. Der Führer aber baut das Reich. Sein Hamburger Gauleiter, Karl Kaufmann, wird am 15. Mai 1933 Reichstatthalter und Hamburg unlösbar Teil des einen, großen Reiches. [...] Im August ruft der Führer das deutsch Volk zur Volksabstimmung. Fast einmütig antwortet ihm Hamburg mit ,,Ja”.

According to the book, things were looking up in Hamburg: industrially, economically, culturally. “Once again, Hamburg has become the old city of hard work, of enjoyment, of merchantile daring. Hamburg is a city of workers. Hamburg is also a KdF. city***.” (p.78: Hamburg ist wieder die alte Stadt des Fleißes, der Lebensfreude, des Kaufmännischen Wagemutes. Hamburg ist Stadt der Arbeiter. Hamburg ist auch KdF.-Stadt.) Then the writer describes what he sees as the most important development. On the advice of Goering and Kaufmann, Hitler redraws the political borders in the North of Germany. Hamburg’s boundary is widened to include surrounding towns and villages, including Altona (in the East), Wandsbek (in the West) and Harburg-Wilhelmsburg (South of the river Elbe). In exchange, other small communtities and the towns of Cuxhaven and Geesthacht are given to Prussia. This leads to a sentence you don’t hear very often: “A centuries-old fight was ended on the orders of Adolf Hitler” (p.79: Ein jahrhundertalter Kampf wird durch den Befehl Adolf Hitlers beendet.).

Finally, Hamburg can grow out of its corner, finally the different harbours of Hamburg and Prussia have been united under one great, decisive leadership. Space for new settlements is there, sites for factories can be found everywhere. Hamburg is Reichsgau through the action of the Leader. Hamburg is growing and growing. In order to withstand crises, it is building up new industries alongside its harbour, its trade, its wharfs. It is rebuilding the banks of the Elbe, creating new harbours, allowing new fisheries to develop. Hamburg has grown a new face; a German, a global face. For before Hamburg, the Reichsgau, there now lies a new, bright future as Germany’s gateway to the world. (p.80)

Endlich kann Hamburg aus seiner Enge herauswachsen, endlich sind die verschiedenen hamburgischen und preußischen Häfen unter einer großen, umfassenden Leitung zusammengeschlossen. Raum für Siedlungen ist da, Platz für Fabriken liegt überall. Hamburg ist Reichsgau durch des Führers Tat. Hamburg wächst und wächst. Es schafft sich, um Krisenfest zu werden, eine neue Industrie neben seinem Hafen, seinem Handel, seinen Werften. Es baut sich sein Elbufer neu, schafft sich neue Häfen, läßt große Fischereianlagen entstehen. Hamburg erhält ein neues Gesicht, ein deutsches, ein weltweites Gesicht. Denn vor Hamburg, dem Reichsgau, liegt nunmehr sonnenhell eine neue Zukunft als Deutschlands Tor zur Welt.


*
I'm stumped. I've searched for this word and possible typo variations and am still stumped. Help.

* The NSDAP, and later the Third Reich were divided into large administrative areas called Gaus and the leaders were known as Gauleiters. I couldn't find a sensible way to translate either term.

** Kraft durch Freude, I think. I'm not sure what being a "KdF city" actually involved though.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Trivia: Greater Britain

These extracts didn't really fit in with my previous post on Greater Britain (1900), but I thought they were too interesting to leave out completely. Here are three bits of antique trivia for your Friday afternoon enjoyment:

1. Origin of the phrase "white elephant" to describe something expensive but useless.

"Higher up the course of the Irrawaddy lies Upper Burma, which we took possession of more recently, to deliver it from the tyranny of its native king. Before that his subjects used to cross our border to be safe from their oppressor; and since it has become British the country is much more prosperous.
A well-trained elephant here is worth 5000 rupees, that is £500 of our money. Far more valuable, however, in the eyes of the natives, are the so-called "white elephants", in this part of the world reverenced as living idols. They are not really white, but piebald, with flesh-coloured or light-brown patches, a peculiarity perhaps caused by the animal rubbing itself against a tree to get rid of the flies that torment the cracks in its thick hide. Kings used to go to war for such a treasure, which at their courts would be lodged in a gilded pavillion, waited on by noblemen, and fed from vessels of gold - as if the poor beast were any better for such distinctions." (p.39-40)

2. Possible origin of the term "Indian summer".

"The autumn [in Canada] is generally a very pleasant time, when may be expected the short season of calm sunny days and gorgeously coloured woods which is known as the Indian summer. It is said to have been given the name by early American colonists, because the Indians then made their last raids against the settlements before snow came on to shut them up in the deep woods." (p.46)

3. Report of a macabre but somehow impressive mechanical toy captured in India, as well as an explanation of how hunting is a brave and manly pastime, but only if you're English.

"A menagerie of wild beasts often makes part of an Indian court; and the degenerate rajah, who perhaps dare not hunt them in their native jungle, takes delight sitting in a safe place, to see the captive creatures let loose on one another, for so does cruelty go with cowardice. The Sultan Tippoo, one of the worst of the tyrants from whom we delivered India, used to keep savage tigers in his palace to tear in pieces those who has displeased him and when his capital was taken by our soldiers, they found among his treasures a machine representing a tiger as large as life in the act of devouring an Englishman. in the body of it was a sort of organ giving out sounds to imitate cries of distress mixed with the tiger's horrible roar. This pretty toy for a sovereign to play with was brought home to an English museum. [...]
Such a [rich, Indian] sportsman does not much care to seek out a tiger alone, and meet him face to face, as Englishmen often will." (p.32-3)
The tiger is now in the Victoria & Albert Museum and there's a very informative description of it's origin, workings and symbolism here.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

"A progressive people, such as we are"


Title:
Greater Britain
English geography textbook adapted for German learners of English.

Ed. Dr. J. Klapperich, Oberlehrer an der Oberrealschule zu Elberfeld (senior tutor at Elberfeld Realschule)
From the series: Französischer und Englischer Prosaschriften (French and English prose)
Publisher: R. Gaertners Verlagsbuchhandlung / Herman Heyfelder, (BERLIN, 1900)

This book brilliantly exemplifies the mixture of misapplied progressive ideas and ingrained, matter-of-fact racism that characterised a lot of late 19th century writing about the British Empire. Perhaps the best example is this phrase from a passage about the abolition of slavery: "it was wrong to treat the most barbarous of our fellow-creatures like beasts". This is nothing unusual for it's time, but I find it important to remember that children in Britain and Germany who read this book at school, would have been in their fifties at the outbreak of the Second World War; experienced and respected members of the community, teachers, civil servants and politicians, and most of them voters.
Anyway, why were German children reading about the British Empire? Here's an extract from the (German) foreword:

In our time, when German and English interests are brushing against one another in all parts of the globe, it should be of particular advantage to gain a more accurate knowledge of the efforts and campaigns of the English beyond the European seas.
The language is easy, clever and completely modern; the original work from which the following chapters have been taken was written in the past few years by a noted author, for the highly recommendable collection of geographical teaching material published by Blackie & Son, Glasgow. In order to make the reading material even easier, I have, wherever possible, removed the more difficult and far-lying names. [...]
On behalf of the publishing company Blackie & Son, Mr Walter W. Blackie of Glasgow has allowed the publication of the following extracts in friendly rememberance of his time spent as pupil of Elberfeld Realschule. For this, I offer him here once again my sincere thanks.

(In unseren Tagen, wo deutsche und englische Interessen sich in allen Erdteile berühren, dürfte eine genauere Kenntnis von den Bestrebungen und Erwerbungen der Engländer jenseits der Europöischen Meeren von besonderem Vorteil sein.
Die Sprache ist leicht, gewandt und durchaus modern; das Originalwerk, welchem die folgenden Kapital entnommen sind, ist für die sehr empfehlenswerte Sammlung geographisher Unterrichtmittel, herausgegeben von Blackie & Son, Glasgow, erst in verflossenen Jahre von einem namhaften Schriftsteller verfaßt und veroffentlicht worden. Um den Lesestoff noch weiter zu erleichtern, habe ich fernliegende und schwierigere Namen nach Möglichkeit gestrichen. [...]
Mr Walter W. Blackie in Glasgow hat in freundlicher Erinnerung an die Zeit, welche er als Zögling der Realschule zu Elberfeld verbrachte, namens der Verlagsfirma Blackie & Son die Herausgabe der folgenden Abschnitte gestattet. Hierfür spreche ich ihm an dieser Stelle nochmals meinen besten Dank aus.)

The core of the book consists of 119 pages of text, divided into 42 short chapters, covering India, Canada, Australia, Africa and the West Indies. There is also a 7-page overview at the back, listing all British possessions along with their area, population and principle exports. A second volume contains a full glossary, although some explanatory notes on the language are provided at the back of the main volume too. There are no illustrations apart from 4 maps and there is a pull-out, coloured map of the world on the inside back cover.
The book describes, in a colourful and interesting way, transport routes to different colonies, the landscape and climate compared to Britain, the flora and fauna, main industries, and several principle cities. Sometimes the author also gives a little information about how Britain acquired the land in question. Of course, in some countries we were just there to lend a guiding hand:

"Britain has large property in this [Suez] canal, and, to keep it safe as the gate between Europe and Asia, British officials are at present directing the government of Egypt, the country having been brought to the brink of ruin by its own unwise and selfish rulers." (p.3)

In other areas, we fought bravely against the odds to save the native population from their self-imposed lack of freedom, and we should be damn proud of ourselves for it:

"India, or Hindostan, has been called the brightest jewel of the British crown. The people of such a tiny island as ours may well be proud to have conquered so great a country. Our other possessions beyond the sea were mostly won from small tribes of ignorant savages, too much occupied in fighting each other to join in defending themselves against the swords and guns, the ships and horses, that made them think Europeans supernatural beings. But India, when we first knew it, was filled with many millions of people, in some ways as learned and civilised as ourselves, among whom we found powerful rulers, large armies, and magnificent cities." (p.1)

"The story of this great conquest by small bands of Englishmen reads more like a fairy tale than plain history. The fact is that the Bengalees, with whom we had first to do, were so slavish and timid that any bold soldier among them would be like a dog driving a flock of sheep. [...]
We had most trouble in subduing the Sikhs, a manly nation of Hindoos inhabiting the Punjaub in the northwest of India. The Goorkhas, also, and other hardy hill tribes, long held out against us in their mountain strongholds. But these brave foemen, once beaten, have usually turned out our heartiest friends among the natives, while those who more readily cringe before us, keep longer a secret hatred of the conquerors whom they durst not opporse openly." (p.12-3)

Apart from this hint at smoldering resentment, absolutely no causes are given for the "Indian Mutiny", just a description of how bravely the colonists held out before reinforcements could arrive. Then, its aftermath and the changes that were imposed:

"When the mutiny had been thoroughly put down, it was felt that India could no longer be governed by a company of merchants, as it had hitherto been. The famour East India Company was dissolved and our Queen was proclaimed sovreign of Hindostan, in place of the Grand Mogul's descendant, who had allowed himself to be made a figure-head for the Mutiny.
In the name of the Queen, who there takes the title of Empress, India is now ruled by a Governor-General at Calcutta, with subordinate governors at the other Presidencies of Madras and Bombay. Under them the country is managed and the laws are administered chiefly by British judges and magistrates, but some of the most trustworty among the natives are also put into high positions. What makes our magistrates respected, above all, is that the native know they will tell the truth and try to do justice. Lying is the weak point of eastern nations, as of all who have not been used to freedom; yet they understand what an advantage it is to have to do with men whose word can be trusted.
The most sensible of the natives must see also the benefits of British rule. Other conquerors have overrun foreign lands merely to plunder and destroy; but we think of the real good of the people. We give them roads, railways, canals, telegraphs, and schools. We keep them from fighting with each other, as in old times, and do not allow their own princes to oppress them." (p.14-5)

The author is just as up-beat about the situation in New Zealand:

"The islands, when we came to them, were inhabited only by a race called the Maoris, who seem to have been originally South Sea Islanders. Though given to cannibalism, which they may have taken to because they found here so little flesh for food, the Maoris were far above most savages - brave, warlike, and with some notions of arts and industry; their better treatment of women also showed them superior to the miserable aborigines of Australia. At first, the settlers got on with them pretty well, but by and by there came quarrels, leading to a series of wars lasting for a quarter of a century. At one time there were 10,000 English soldiers in the field against them, but the Maoris defended their palisaded forts so well that we can hardly be said to have got the nest of it. At last peace was made, and the Maoris are now so far civilised that they vote like other citizens, and some even sit as members of the colonial parliament." (p.93-4)

Elsewhere, the indigenous population was less satisfactory, and had to be "tamed" rather than "civilised". In Africa, for example:

"This is not the place to tell the story of the wars which both we and the Dutch have again and again had with the Kafir tribes. Peaceful missionaries, also, have faced dangers and hardships to carry light among these darkminded barbarians. The religion of the Kafirs is a cruel superstition, only too true to their fierce nature. They believe much in witchcraft and evil spirits. Their priests are cheating conjurers, who pretend to be able to bring rain and work other miracles. If anything goes wrong, such impostors try to throw the blame of it on anyone who may have offended them, and often thus get innocent people put to death on suspicion of being wizards and witches.
When the Kafirs showed themselves so cruel to their own countrymen, it may be supposed what they were to their enemies. But, between our missionaries and our soldiers, the tribes near the colonies have now been tamed so far as to keep from interfering with the settlers, and many of them are learning to live quietly and industriously." (p.108)

And worst of all in Australia:

"In the early days of the Australian colonies, the Blackfellows made dangerous neighbours, being always ready for massacre and treachery, but slow to be won over by kindness, as Captain Cook found. It is to be feared that kindness has been too little tried on them; but at least they have learned to be afraid of our superior strength. Not so much by our weapons as by the diseases we have introduced among them, and by the fatal strong drink which we carry with us to curse all lands, they seem likely to be exterminated before long. There were believed to have been no more than 150,000 of them when we first came; but now the dwindling and degraded tribes cannot number half as many." (p.77)

There is no difference in tone between this passage and the description of the (at that time) near extermination of the buffalo from the plains of Canada; no sense of injustice, only mild regret at the result of a natural process. However, when other European nations were responsible for genocide, the author is far more indignant in his description:

"The first Spanish settlers in these islands [The West Indies] behaved very cruelly to their original inhabitants, and killed almost all of them off in a short time, though they had received the strangers with friendliness. Other white men who sought to make their fortunes here were less cruel, but not less lazy and greedy than the Spaniards. to work for them in the hot sun of this climate, they brought negro slaves from Africa, whose descendants now make up a great part of the population. By and by it began to be felt, first of all in England, that it was wrong to treat the most barbarous of our fellow-creatures like beasts, tearing them from their native soil and families and driving them to toil under the lash for the profit of their masters. the shameful slave-trade was first put down; then slavery was abolished wherever the British flag flies, an example since imitated by all civilised nations. but when the negroes were no longer obliged to work, they showed themselves as much disposed for idleness as their masters; and the West Indian Islands have not flourished in freedom, especially since sugar, one of their chief products, has come to be largely made in Europe." (p.115)

This idea of laziness as the cause of other peoples' misfortune is a common theme in Greater Britian. Cowardice and superstition are also vices that the author abhors and parts of the book read like morality tales on a national scale:

"The Hindoos belong to the same branch of the human family as ourselves, that called the Aryan, whose various languages are so like each other as to be evidently related. But this race are our elder brothers. When the peoples of Europe were still ignorant barbarians, their far-off kinsmen in Hindostan wrote thoughtful books, made wise laws, and could defend themselves manfully as well as obey their rulers, qualities without which there cannot be a great nation.
By and by the Hindoos degenerated, grew cowardly and superstitious, and could no longer keep to themselves the rich country that tempted invaders. Then came swarms of pirates and mountain robbers, who mostly belonged to another stock, and had this in common that they followed the faith of Mohammed, the Arabian prophet, who more than a thousand years ago set up a bitter rivalry to Christianity." (p.10)
"A progressive people, such as we are, is one not too slow to change its habits, thoughts, and actions when good reason has been shown. A superstitious people is the opposite of this: one that, without regard to right or wrong, will go on doing as its ignorant forefathers did, and so falls behind in the world.
In India, the bulk of the population are Hindoos, by religion at least, and the Hindoo religion is a sadly superstitious one. It was once a much nobler way of thinking, but through sloth and slavery of mind it has grown corrupt, as weeds will flourish rather than flowers or fruit when a garden is left to itself. Pious Hindoos honestly believe that they are right in their worship; but it seems worse than wasted upon hideous idols and degrading ceremonies." (p.15-16)
"The lazy fellow who has no other trade, likes to be a servant or an official, with not much to do and plenty of other hands to do it for him. [...] Their chief ambition is to get some place under government, as policeman, doorkeeper, or clerk, which gives them a chance to play the great man in a small way and to take bribes for doing favours. Backshish, which means money given and taken as from master to slave, not earned in fair wages, is the curse of India, as of all eastern lands, where poor men will cringe like dogs, and lie and flatter where they dare not bully. That is what comes of being born out of a free country." (p.36)
"Destructive fires are very common in the American forests, as also on the prairies, where, however, the grass is sooner burned up. We have seen how lazy farmers clear the ground by fire, and the wasteful Indians would think nothing of burning a wood to have a better crop of berries by and by." (p.54-5)
"Some [Kafirs] are still proud barbarians who care for no work but that of killing. Others are found serving the colonists as herds, grooms, and labourers on the land where they were once masters. A Kafir is usually a strong fellow, who will work well while he is at it, but does not keep long in a mind for industry. Often he comes down to the settlements for a spell of work till he has earned enough to buy a gun, a wife, or some cattle, with which, for the rest of his life, ge can set up as an idle gentleman among his own people." (p.108)

However, the author does posit the idea that the English could have turned out just as lazy, under different circumstances:

"The climate of a country is important, not only for the comfort of those who live in it, but as having a great deal to do with their character. We British would not have conquered or colonised so much of the world, but that we belong to a country where the weather stirs us up to be active and hardy. [...] But it would have been very different with us had we been born under the Indian sun. There the climate makes it difficult, often dangerous, to be out-of-doors during a great part of the day. To live in warm, damp air softens both body and mind. So, rich people in India are not ashamed to grow fat and lazy, while the poor, who have to work as well as they can, lose their spirit, and would like to be idle if they could.
In some ways it is not so hard to be poor in India as in Britain. The heat makes a great saving in food, clothes and houses. [...] A servant may be hired for a few shillings a month, out of which he keeps himself. A native soldier's pay is about sixpencea day, to support himself, his horse, and his family. [...] Give the Hindoo one cooked meal of rice a day, a thatched roof to keep off the sun, a grass mat or a frame of wicker work to lie upon, a cotton cloth to wrap about his waist, and he is not disposed to take much more trouble, unless to please the priests and the idols he worships." (p.8-9)

There are some other attempts to draw comparisons between British customs and those of other peoples, but these can't make up for the contemptuous language used in the descriptions of physical characteristics, religions and lifestyles, and in the placing of different peoples on a scale from savage to almost civilised. None of this makes particularly pleasant reading;

"We found this vast country [Australia] inhabited by a peculiar race of savages, who, in many respects, are among the lowest of the human race. The "Blackfellows", as they were nicknamed by the settlers, are rather dark brown, with thick black hair, and a coating of grease and dirt that hides the natural colour of their skin. Herded together in wandering tribes, they have no fields or villages, and only faint idea of religion, government, or comfort. [...]
They are truly savage in their treatment of women. or "gibs", who count as little better than beasts of burden. An Australian savage buys or steals his wife, sometimes knocking her down by way of courtship; and when he is in a bad humour will punish her by a blow on the head from a heavy club, or by running a spear through her limbs. [the author mentions this later, as a common punishment for stealing]. There is a story that an explorer was asked if the bullocks he brought with him were the white man's "gibs", because they carried the baggage!" (p.74-5)
"The bodies of [Aborigine] boys and girls are often horribly gashed with sharp stones to leave raised scars, which are admired as marks of manhood or beauty. The nose is pierced to have a long bone stuck through it, as we have ear-rings. In some parts a boy's two front teeth have to be knocked out when he reaches a certain age. Such disfigurements are common to all savages, and have not wholly died out among ourselves, when one comes to think of it. The tattooing of the sailor, the shaving of the soldier, like a girl's ear-piercing, are remnants of our savage ancestry." (p.76)
"The Hottentots are a stupidly barbarous people, with yellowish-brown faces, black wooly hair, flat noses, and thick lips. The most remarkable point about them is their language, which has some curious clicking sounds hardly pronounceable by Europeans, and not unlike the cackling of geese. [...]
Of the same stock as the Hottentots, apparently, are the Bushmen, who, like the Australian aborigines, count physically among the lowest of savages, though is some ways they seem more intelligent that they look. In height the men are only about four and a half feet, the women even smaller. Their poisoned arrows made them dangerous enemies; but they were hunted away like beasts by the original settlers, and only a few of them are now found hiding in the deserts and caves upon the edge of the colony." (p.106-7)
"Here and there at the stations [on the Canadian railways], or hanging about the villages, we catch sight of a group of Indians, who, dressed in a ludicrous mixture of their own costume and cast-off white men's clothes, stare wonderingly at the "fire-waggons" which are beyond their comprehension. They cannot be expected to like having their old hunting-grounds turned into farms; but they are harmless enough, so long as not allowed to get at whisky, and are kept in order by a few hundreds of mounted police." (p.63-4)
"Now and then the train may give us a peep of an Indian camp, tall pointed tents of smoky skins or canvas, round which feed their troops of active ponies. We have reached the country of the Blackfeet, fiercest of all western Indians, as the Iroquois were in the east; but both of them have long ago learned that the white man must be master." (p.65)
"The Mohammedans, too, have their superstitious customs; and there are smaller bodies with peculiar ones of their own. in Bombay, especially, may often be seen the high black hats and white garments of the Parsees. These are descendents of old Persian fire-worshipers, who many centuries ago went there as exiles from their native land. Though not numerous, they are an intelligent and progressive people, who take kindly to many of our ways, and sometimes even beat us at cricket, which has become their favourite game. Like the Jews, they succeed as money-makers and men of business; and a great part of the trade of India is in their hands." (p.17-8)
"It is often said that a Burman is fit for nothing but steering a boat or driving a cart, but they show themselves able to work hard when their living depends on it. Though they do not take readily to business for themselves, they can be useful as clerks and assistants to the English merchants who are opening up the resources of this country." (p.41)

The pride in Britain's / the English people's achievements is overwhelming, and must have had a strange effect on German pupils. Here are two final extracts for you. The first one is almost funny in its patriotism, the second is the final paragraph of the book:

"New Zealand was originally discovered in 1642 by the Dutch navigator Tasman, who naturally called it after a part of his own country, as Australia was first named New Holland. In the next century it was visited by Captain Cook, after whom came other Englishmen, till towards the middle of this century it began to be settled as a British colony. [...] A much better name for the country would be New England, if that had not already been taken by our great colony in America." (p.91-2)

"But here must end a list of a chief colonies, which might have been spun out to far greater length. They are to be numbered by hundreds in all, if we count every island. Scattered over the face of the earth, they are calculated to cover one fifth of the world, and to be sixty or seventy times the size of Great Britain, whose bravery and enterprise has won such wide dominion, that on the British Empire, it is truly said, the sun never sets." (p.119)

Monday, 25 May 2009

"Little Folks in England"

A mere slip of a book for you today. It's a collection of 'easy' reading material from 1925 which, according to the editors, could be used after just one year of English lessons. All texts are taken from other volumes of reading material and centre around the 'typical' daily life of English children; how they play, what they do at school (especially the sports they play), and the stories they read.
The foreword explains the necessity of teaching with texts that introduce learners to the characteristics and culture of foreign peoples, not only to the language. The second book in the series is (was to be?) "England and the English".
Here are a few scans, a list of texts used, and my favourite text: "A Jolly Cricket Match".

Collection English Life, Part I: Little Folks in England
A. Schwieker & Dr. F. Schwieker
Otto Meissners Verlag, Hamburg




The following text is the only one in the collection which isn't credited. The text after it is from Tom Brown's School Days but I'm reasonably sure that this one isn't.


9. A Jolly Cricket Match

1. "I am sure you must be very stiff, Frank, after your hard work yesterday," said Mrs. Langham, when the family met in the breakfast-room on the Saturday morning following a grand cricket match; "yet I am very pleased indeed to see that you have made the effort to be down in good time for breakfast this morning."
2. "Now, Frank, tell us all about the match yesterday," said Bella, when they were all seated at table.
"There's not much to tell," said Frank. "our side won, as you know, and they played very fairly on the other."
"Our side smashed the other fellows all to bits," exclaimed Jack, "and old Frank scored the greatest number of runs on either side; I heard several say he was the best batsman by far on the field."
"You shut up, old fellow," replied his brother; "That's all stuff; there was plenty of good batting on the other side; it was a jolly match altogether."
3. "I do wish I could play in a real match," said Ben.
"You play!" said Frank, "Why such a bit of a chap as you would be mistaken for one of the wickets and get continually bowled down. how would you like that?"
"Never mind, Ben," said his mother, "go on growing, and some day you will be really the 'Big Ben' you are now called in fun, and then you will play with as much spirit as any boy."


The sources (exactly as they appear under each text):

Longman's British Empire Readers (Game of Leap-frog, Playing at Horses, Little John Going to the War, Jack and Jill)
Mc.Dougall's Suggestive Lessons in English, Book I (An Unlucky Drive, A Children's Party
Mc.Dougall's Suggestive Lessons in English, Book VI (A Letter telling about a Pet Canary)
Collins' Second Story Primer (A Tug of War, Roy and Toby at the Sea-side)
Waddy, The English Echo (On the Heath)
Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays (Football, A Jolly Cricket Match[?], At Rugby School)
Mrs Hawtrey (The Holiday)
A Day on the Sands - Nelson's Picture Readers (The Little Sailors, Oh, What Fun!, Crabs for Tea, Sand Castles)
Little Dots (Willie's Fishing)
Daily Chronicle, July 1924 (The Pierrots appeared, Afloat on the Rolling Deep, Man Overboard)
The Child's Companion (The Schoolboys are snow-balling)
Standard American Series. Third Reader (A Brave Boy)
Baret, The First English Lessons (Santa Claus)
E.M. Towle (School Life)
Oliver and Boyd's Excelsior Readers, Book I (The Flower Castle, A Flower Story: St.Leonard and the Dragon)
Chamber's Stepping-Stones to Literature, Book I: Stories from Near and Far (The Story of Catskin, Lazy Jack, How Maize Came)

Friday, 22 May 2009

England: The Robber State (I)

I first came across Raubstaat England (England the Robber State) at a fleamarket a few months ago (and blogged about here). I managed to persuade myself that 40 Euros was too much to pay for 1941 cigarette card album but put up far less of a fight when I found it in a shop for 3/4 of the price.
Unlike typical British and American albums, most of the space is given over to text, making it more like a history book with the illustrations removed. It is, however, a history book with a very clear aim. Here are the front and inside covers:


The introductory chapter to Raubstaat England is called ,,Vorkämpfer der Freiheit" (champions of freedom). The title is in quote marks although there's no indication of who might have said this, or if it's a view attributed to a whole group of people. It's amazing how punctuation can indicate so much sometimes. The author (Dr E. Lewalter) starts with a description of his first English lessons, shortly after the turn of the century, in which he and his classmates were taught to recite a sea-shanty. Firstly, a bit of a dig at the unfamiliar pronunciation:
"[...] with amazement we became aware of which contortions the human speech apparatus, and of which uncleanliness the voicebox must be capable of, in order to bring forth truly English sounds."

(,,[...]wir wurden mit Staunen gewahr, welcher Verrenkungen die menschlichen Sprechwerkzeuge, welcher Unreinlichkeiten die Muskulaturen des Kehlkopfes fähig sein mußten, um echt englisch klingende Laute hervorzubringen.")
Eventually the class are trusted to recite the full sea shanty in chorus, pre-pubescent voices escaping through the open classroom window to declare triumphantly to the world:
"And 't is our endeavour
In battle and in breeze
That England shall ever
Be Lord of the seas."
I agree with the author that this is a slightly dubious thing for German children to be memorising and chanting in the middle of an Anglo-German arms race. On the other hand, he has beefed up the militarism in his translation:
,,Ob Schlachten toben,
Ob Stürme dräun,
England muß Herrin
Der Meere sein."
which, brought back into English, goes something like: "Whether battles rage or storms threaten, England must be ruler of the seas". This rather unfairly changes the song from one of ambition to one of jealous protection of superiority, which nicely sets up the central message of the book.*

Lewalter wonders why nobody worried about Germany's youth, even after World War One, being taught using such anglophile material, which he feels must have led to a creeping sense of awe regarding England's naval power. Apparently the rest of his old textbook failed to provide balance and consisted of moving and edifying texts on, for example, the death of General Wolfe**, the Battle of Blenheim (with no mention of Prince Eugene), and all manner of English victories, including against the Scots and the Irish.
Two impressions arose through exposure to this material:
1. that the English always had right, and therefore the sympathies of the young German reader, on their side.
2. that the English had always been friends and allies of the Germans; their "cousins across the Channel" (,,Vettern jenseits des Kanals")
So where is he going with all this?
"However different the experiences of individual youths may have been, taken as a whole one is able to say that the German youth before the world war was raised in a strange, almost resigned reverence towards England - to be followed by a harsh awakening when England allied herself with our enemies right at the start of the world war."

,,Mögen solche Jugenderlebnisse auch im einzelnen recht verschieden gewesen sein, im ganzen wird man sagen dürfen, daß die deutsche Jugend vor dem Weltkriege in einer seltsamen, fast resignierenden Englandfrömmigkeit auferzogen wurde - aus der dann ein böses Erwachen folgte, als England sich gleich zu Beginn des Weltkrieges auf die Seite unserer Feinde stellte."
Lewalter makes it clear that this attitude only applied to England and that it would be unthinkable, especially after the war of 1870, for French grammar textbooks to contain texts glorifying French imperialism. He admits that German sympathies for the Boers during the Boer War "cast a threatening shadow over Anglo-German relations" (,,einen bedrohlichen Schatten auf die deutsch-englischen Beziehungen geworfen") but this was not seen as grounds to change the way in which Germany's youth were taught.

Without knowing which textbook was inflicted upon the author and his classmates, it is impossible to judge whether his assertions are accurate or exaggerated. None of the pre-1914 English textbooks I have found so far deal so thoroughly with England's military history. However, the re-use of texts by English authors seems to have been common (quicker, easier, more authentic and no doubt cheaper than having German authors write sample texts from scratch) and the chosen texts were never intended to provide a balanced view of history, but to serve as interesting reading exercises. Also, this problem hadn't gone completely unnoticed before the 1940s, as shown by the foreword to the 1939 rewrite of Pleasant English II.

So that's brought us to the beginning of page two. The other 128 pages will have to wait.


*Interestingly enough, a similar process - that of interpreting a patriotic song as having an overly aggressive, expansionist message - has also been carried out on the German national anthem.


**Benjamin West's painting Death of General Wolfe is the first collectible picture in the album and has the following caption:
"General Wolfe's death in Quebec", a picture which has been reproduced countless times and is widespread not only in England, but also across the whole of Europe. The sentimental portrayal glorifies one of the most brutal violent actions of English history: the plundering of Canada.

,,General Wolfes Tod bei Quebec"
, ein Bild, das in unzähligen Wiedergaben nicht nur in England, sondern in ganz Europa verbreitet wurde, Die rührselige Darstellung verklärte eine der brutalsten Gewalttaten der englischen Geschichte: den Raub Kanadas."

Links
Here are a few resources on the history of cigarette card collecting in Germany:
  • http://www.germancards.com/GeneralStuff/germancards.htm
  • http://www.franklyncards.com/one/german.htm
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cigarette_card
And this is a list of other albums published by the Cigaretten-Bilderdienst: http://www.worldcat.org/identities/lccn-n79-106295