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, 29 July 2010

America's Tragedy: Third Reich Perceptions of the United States

I love it when a plan comes together...

In a development which I feared would never actually take place due to my usual scatty and disorganised state of operation, work which I've done for this blog is going to form part of my soon-to-be-completed but largely-not-written-yet Masters dissertation. The topic can be roughly summarised as 'Third Reich perceptions of the United States' - hopefully it will explain how positive and negative views were reconciled in the minds of the general public once it became clear that Germany and America would be at war for a second time. Kurt G. Sell's Worüber man in Amerika spricht, which I've posted passages from before (see tag list) makes an appearance, alongside six more or less similar books. You can expect a smattering of translations from these to appear over the next few weeks, whenever I'm avoiding doing the more important work on the dissertation itself.

The following argument is taken from Menschen Wie Wir? Ein Amerikabuch für Europäer (Berlin, 1943) by Edmund Fürholzer, who I still no next to nothing about. The aim of his 400-page book is to explain why, when the US benefitted from the hard work of German immigrants and the support of German politicians, they are nevertheless prepared to go to war against Germany. In his words, Americans 'share our blood but not our spirit', 'us' being the Europeans. So whose spirit to they share? A soulless, materialistic pairing of Anglo-Saxon and Jewish, passed down from the Pilgrim Fathers.

Obviously I don't agree with any of the following, this is a translation of something I think is insane*.

From its first beginnings, the state of New England was anchored in an Old Testament mindset. State and religion were one, and there was no going back. The more it became clear that running the state along biblical lines would be impossible, the more fanatically the Puritans clung to the illusion; America's tragedy began to run its course. Intellectual Phariseeism and empty form replaced the original heroic spirit. The attempt at transplanting the Jewish Old Testament state into the Christian seventeenth and eighteenth century was doomed to failure. [...]

Der Staat Neu-England war von seinem ersten Anfangen an in den Gedankengängen des Alten Testamentes verankert: Staat und Religion bildeten eine Einheit. Es gab kein Zurück. Je stärker die Unmöglichkeit einer altbiblischen Staatsführung offenbar wurde, um so fanatischer klammerte sich das Puritanertum and den Schein; die Tragödie Amerikas nahm ihren Anfang. An Stelle des ursprünglichen heroishen Geistes trat intellektuelles Pharisäertum und tote Form. Der Versuch, den Judenstaat des Alten Testamented mit seinen Gesetzen und Anschauungen in das christliche sibzehnte und achtzehnte Jahrhundert zu verpflanzen, mußte scheitern.

We can see from looking at some of their laws and customs just how closely the Puritans followed the letter of the Bible.: They called themselves “the Christian Israel“, they spoke of their emigration to America as the „flight of the children of Israel“. Their god was Jehovah, their constitution was in line with the laws of Moses. In place of the Christian Sunday came the Jewish sabbath. The boys were circumcised. The Puritans took their festivals from the Old Testament. The self-righteousness and hubris of old Judaism ran in their veins. Whether to absolve themselves from mistakes or to justify their very unchristian conduct towards colonists of other beliefs, they always had an apt Bible quote to hand. [...]

Wie stark die Puritaner sich nach den Buchstaben der Bibel richteten, ersehen wir bei Betrachtung einiger ihrer Gesetze und Sitten: Sie nannten sich ,,das christliche Israel“; von ihrer Auswanderung nach Amerika sprachen sie als der ,,Flucht der Kinder Israel“. Ihr Got war Jehova, ihre Verfassung war den Gesetzen des Moses angepaßt. An Stelle des christlichen Sonntags trat der jüdische Sabbath. Die Knaben wurden beschnitten. Die Feste entnahmen die Puritaner dem Alten Testament. Selbstgerechtigkeit und Hybris des alten Judentums gingen ihnen in Fleisch und Blut über. Sei es zur Beschönigung ihrer eigenen Fehler oder zur Rechtfertigung ihrer sehr unchristlichen Handlungsweise gegenüber andersgläubigen Kolonisten - stets hatten sie ein passender Bibelzitat zur Hand.

Oliver Cromwell, the greatest of all Puritans, celebrated his victory over Ireland, which he depopulated with inhuman cruelty, turning it into a land of pestilence and hunger, with the words; „And now we ask ourselves: who has completed this great work? It was not done through our power; God the Father delivered it to our hands.“ Jews as the chosen people of the Old Testament and England as the chosen people of the New Testament; these become one in Cromwell's words. It should therefore come as no surprise that he allowed England's Jews to travel freely to the transatlantic colonies. It was strictly forbidden for the island's Catholics to settle in the New World. [...]

Oliver Cromwell, der größte aller Puritaner, feierte seinen Triumph über Irland, das er mit unmenschlicher Grausamkeit entvölkert und zu einem von Seuchen heimgesucht Hungergebiet gemacht hatte, mit den Worten: ,,Und nun wllen wir uns fragen: Wer hat dieses große Werk vollbracht? Nicht unsere Macht war es; Gott der Herr hat sie in unsere Hände gegeben.“ Juda als das auserwählte Volk des Alten und England als das auserwählte Volk des neuen Testamente verschmolzen in Cromwells Worten zu ein und demselben Begriff. Daher kann es auch nicht wundernehmen, daß er den Juden Englands die Auswanderung nach den transatlantischen Kolonien freigab. Den Katholiken der Insel war die Ansiedlung in der Neuen Welt strengstens verboten.

The resistance of other protestant religious communities failed due to the Puritanisms heavy political clout. They were English to the full; the common belief in an Anglo-Saxon divine calling proved a unifying bond, even in the face of bitter contradictions in the application of dogma, all taken from the same Old Testament. The most radical political course cut through all ecclesiastical differences; in the end Puritanism was able to claim for itself leadership of the New World's Anglo-Saxon church state. This attitude outlasted the colonial period, going on to determine the public life of the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It was the spirit of Judaism which American Christianity adapted itself to. [...]

Der Widerstand anderer protestantischer Religionsgemeinschaften gegenüber der Neu-England-Richtung scheiterte an der stärkeren politischen Durchschlagskraft des Puritanertums. Engländer waren sie alle; der gemeinsame Glaube an eine göttliche Sendung des Angelsachsentums erwies sich als einigendes Band, selbst bei erbitterten Gegensätzen in Auslegung der Dogmen, die alle auf dem gleichen Alten Testament fußten. Die radikalste politische Richtung setzte sich gegenüber allen kirchlichen Differenzen durch; schließlich behauptete sich der Puritanismus doch als Führer des kirchlich-staatlichen Angelsachsentums der Neuen Welt. Dieser Geist überdauerte die Kolonialzeit und bestimmte in neunzehnten und zwanzigsten Jahrhundert das öffentlichen Leben der Vereinigten Staaten. Es war der Geist des Judentums, dem sich das amerikanische Christentum assimilierte.

The racial Jew arriving in America really did find the Promised Land. He did not need to adapt to new conditions, as instead the foreigner had assimilated to his beliefs, his thoughts, and his behaviour.

Der nach Amerika kommende Rassenjude fand tatsächlich das Gelobte Land vor. Er brauchte sich nicht neuen verhältnissen anzupassen, sondern die Fremde hatte sich von selbst seinem Wesen, seinem Glauben, seinem Denken und Handeln angeglichen.

(Fürholzer, pp.30-2)

*Shouldn't need saying, but this is the internet and some people aren't big on context

Saturday, 1 May 2010

"No time for dissatisfaction": Thomas G. Masaryk on suicide

Long before Thomas G. Masaryk became father and first President of the new, independent nation of Czechoslovakia, he wrote a doctoral thesis on suicide. Suicide and the Meaning of Civilization covers a whole spectrum of possible causes for this act, which, as the 19th century drew its final gasping breaths, was talked of as an epidemic in many European countries. I've been cheating a little by reading an English translation from 1970 (meh, I've got coursework to write), but the German version is available to read online here.

Masaryk's treatment of the subject, published in Vienna in 1881, comes across as a strange pick-and-mix bag; admissions that the available statistics are insufficient to reach conclusions amongst bold, unsubstantiated assertions. This is not all that surprising when you consider that at this time sociology was only just beginning as a discipline. The following are some of the statements I found less believable but hey, I'm not expert on the subject:

Chapter 2, Section 1

5. Wind. The wind and suicide are already related in the popular belief that strong winds rise whenever someone hangs himself. In any case, certain winds are pernicious, as for instance, the sirocco; Cheyne claims the fall and west winds are responsible for suicides in England, and Osiander makes the same assertion for northern Germany. But how hot, drying winds, or cold and damp winds exert their unfavorable effects is evident to all. Think, for example, how the drying winds of America cause a degeneration in the glandular system, which causes the striking difference between the Yankee and his Uncle Bull* and also in part his irritability.

6. […] Women, it is said, choose Sunday with relative frequency, no doubt for religious reasons; Saturday, as housecleaning day, allows them no time for dissatisfaction with life; Monday is also supposed to be very unpleasant for women.

7. With respect to time of day, most suicides are generally committed during the day, the fewest at night. Night has something soothing, life-giving, and restorative about it; also, most men are born at night, when the fewest deaths occur. The bright day excites and stimulates. While the darkness of night leads to understanding, peace of mind, and sleep.


(translation: William B. Weist and Robert G. Batson)

*John Bull, i.e. the English?

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

England's Mask has Fallen - Index

Another one from the British Library. England's Mask has Fallen (,,Englands Maske ist gefallen") is a 68-page paperback from 1939 with no attributed author. Priced at 30 Pfennig, it has the same cheap, flimsy feel to it as ,,Das ist England!" and the cover style is strikingly similar. I couldn't find a picture online (although there's what seems to be an abridged version knocking about on ebay and some rather questionable online bookshops) so a description will have to do.

Imagine, if you will, an angled, three dimensional map of the British Isles, with London marked as a black hole. Thin waves of smoke emanate from this blot, forming the shape of a looming figure of death, complete with scythe. In front of him is the disembodied head of Winston Churchill, with obligatory cigar and Union Jack top-hat. The title is jovially scrawled across the top in red, cartoonish letters. Classy, I think you'll agree.

For such a short publication, the index is amazingly detailed, although the subheadings don't appear in the main text (and until I read the whole thing, I wouldn't trust all of my translations):

The Strangler at her Side
England conducts an economic war - Pirates for centuries - The destruction of Poland is a slap in the face for England - English freebooters across the globe - How England robbed Spain, Holland, Portugal and France of their former power - The old enemy of neutral countries - Germany's correct treatment of neutral countries - England's blockade, this time without hope of success.

A Hero's Death for Money
England praises with silver bullets - Money, the soul of England's policy - Poland as the latest victim of English warmongering - South-east Europe withdraws from England's moneybag policies - Dishonourable English controls - The City charges usurious interest - England's currency wavers - Isolation attempts fall apart - Security in Europe only possible without England's machinations.

The Poison Trade
The infamous Opium War against China - A people's health is ruined - England destroys Chinese cultural artifacts - England's typical mass-smuggling operation - Use of violence against Chinese protests - England's ever-increasing blackmail of China - Trust in England not justified.

Protector of the Jews
The Jews rule in England - Kings and lords in the service of Jews - Jewish war profits in England for centuries - The Jew in the British Parliament - All influential positions overrun with Jews - Cromwell and Queen Elizabeth in Jewish hands - A Jew as British Prime Minister.

Hunger and Superstition
Areas of poverty in England - Terrible plight of the unemployed - A hundred thousand unemployed Englishmen undernourished - English working class families going hungry for years - The youth without vocational training - The impoverished people of England suffer from despair - Comfort through a love of gambling - The unemployed gamble away their pittance - Football betting a mass swindle - The richer England fails to care for the sons of its homeland.

An Empire Expires
Weakening vitality of the English nation - Decline of the population - Birth rates too low - England is aging - The old English hypocrisy - Birth rates in the British Empire also developing unfavourably - The English unwilling to raise families - 25 percent increase in birth rate needed to maintain England's population - The English no longer a pioneering people, but colonial rentiers - England's demographic and political decline.

Time is working against England
Germany has prepared in time - A long war is to England's disadvantage - England's currency in free-fall - England losing ground in world trade - Question mark over British Army's oil supplies - England's dependence on iron and food imports - England must risk her foreign possessions - England's gold reserves pumped dry - England's power is crumbling - Time is on Germany's side.

The two things that strike me about the structure, as set out above, are the amount of repetitions and the lack of chronology. I'll be interested to see how coherent the whole text is, and what level of detail is provided.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

"That's England!" Cover and index

I had my first visit to the British Library a few weeks ago (such a wonderful, friendly, relaxing place that for the first time ever I actually wished I lived in London) and looked at a couple of Nazi-era books on the British Empire. Time and money constraints meant that I only made a few notes and copied down the indexes, but they're illuminating enough.

First up, That's England! World Domination through Blood and Gold by Fritz Reipert, published either 1939 or 1940. It's only forty pages long, cheaply bound and priced at 40 Reichsmarks*. The cover alone puts it firmly in the categories 'popular' and 'subjective'.

Index: (Bear in mind that German employs exclamation marks far more liberally than English. The author also uses 'Britain' and 'England' interchangeably.)
1. England - same as ever!
2. The bloodstained path to a British Empire
3. The sanctity of contracts - as England sees it!
4. England in the stocks!
5. British conduct during the World War
6. Versailles: new edition - England's dream!
7. German peacekeeping - English warmongering
8. England is to blame for the war!
9. England's blood-guilt in Poland
10. Lies and horror stories - England's weapons!
11. Abuses of neutrality - the prerogative of British warfare
12. England's last resort - hunger blockade!
13. England's big mistake!

*Trying to figure out what that is in today's money, or any other meaningful comparison has me beaten so far. I'm still working on it.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

On leprosy, salmon, and Irish gluttony

Some medical information for you, heavily laced with no-holds-barred racial prejudice. This is from Irelands Naturall History by Gerard Boate (1657:

Ch. 24. Sect. 4. Of the Leprosie

The Rickets are of late very rife in Ireland, where few yeares agoe unknown; so on the contrary it hath been almost quite freed from another disease, one of the very worst and miserablest in the world, namely the Leprosie, which in former times used to bee very common there, especially in the Province of Munster; the which therefore was filled with Hospitals, expresly built for to receive & keep the Leprous persons. But many yeares since Ireland hath been almost quite freed from this horrible and loathsome disease, and as few Leprous persons are now found there, as in any other Countrie in the world; so that the Hospitals erected for their use, having stood empty a long time, at length are quite decayed & come to nothing. The cause of this change is not so obscure nor unknown, as it is in most other changes of that nature. For that this sickness was so generall in Ireland, did not come by any peculiar defect in the Land or in the Air, but meerly through the fault and foul gluttony of the inhabitants, in the excessive devouring of unwholesome Salmons. The common report in Ireland is, that boiled Salmons eaten hot out of the Kettle in great quantity, bring this disease, and used to be the cause why it was so common: and some famous Authors have not stuck to relate as much for a truth. But that is a fable, and Salmons have not that evill quality, which way soever they be eaten and prepared, but when they are out of season, which is in the latter end of the year, after they have cast their spawn: upon which they doe not onely grow very weak and flaggie, but so unwholesome, that over their whole body they break out in very filthy spots, just like a scalled mans head, so as it would loath any man so see them; nevertheless the Irish, a nation extremely barbarous in all parts of their life, did use to take them in that very season, as well as at any other time of the year, and to eat them in very great abundance, as easily they might, every river and rivelet in most parts being very full of them, and by that meanes that horrible disease came to be so common amongst them. But the English having once gotten the command of the whole Countrie into their hands, made very severe laws against the taking of Salmons in that unwholesome season, and saw them carefully observed; whereby hindering those barbarians against their will to feed on that poisonous meat, they were the cause that the woefull sickness, which used so mightily to reign amongst them, hath in time been almost quite abolished: which great benefit, with so many others, that hatefull people hath rewarded with seeking utterly to exterminate their benefactors.