Chilling Nazi, antisemitic and anti-Communist propaganda in Cambridge UL’s National Socialism collection

I recently catalogued two dozen of Nazi booklets and pamphlets circulating in France in the 1940s. They are an addition to existing special collections of National Socialist literature at Cambridge University Library; and a good complement and forerunner to the more recently donated Chadwyck-Healey Liberation collection (which focuses on French language works mainly published between 1944 and 1946). A first Nazi literature collection in the University Library (CCA-CCC.25) contains a selection of books representing National Socialist Germany and is based on a collection of 750 items, including school textbooks and songbooks, which were acquired in August 1947 through His Majesty’s Stationary Office.

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Liberation Literature Lecture on 27 April 2021 : booking now open

The 2021 Liberation Literature Lecture will take place online on Tuesday the 27th of April, 2021, from 6pm to 7pm UK time.  Professor Laurence Bertrand Dorléac, the acclaimed art historian and exhibition curator, will speak on ‘Why the story changes : new understandings of art in occupied France’.  Professor Dorléac’s talk and subsequent Q&A with Professor Nick White of Cambridge’s MMLL Faculty will be in French with simultaneous English translation.  All are very welcome.

The lecture series is generously supported by the charitable trust of Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey, who is of course also the donor of the extraordinary Liberation Collection which inspires the series.

Among the artists who continued to produce work in occupied France (and who will be a focus in Professor Dorléac’s talk) was Pablo Picasso. The image shown here is the front cover of the Picasso libre exhibition catalogue which stands in the Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection at Liberation.a.232. The exhibition was held in the summer of 1945 at Galerie Louis Carré in Paris, showing paintings largely carried out under Nazi occupation before the Liberation of Paris in August 1944. The catalogue is large in terms of height (just under 29 cm) but brief: 63 pages of text and 21 plates. The plates are in black and white. I will update this post in due course with a couple of images when I am next in the Library. Current staff and students can look at an online version of the book via HathiTrust, through the temporary ETAS “check out” service: please see this other record in iDiscover.

Booking for the 2021 Liberation Liberation Lecture is now open, at this link [NB there is no need to enter a password, only an email address]. Further details about the event, in English and in French, can be found on this page, as well as contact details for the Library’s External Engagement team who are coordinating arrangements.

Mel Bach

“Sous la botte” (2): the German boot in the illustrated book covers of the Liberation collection (1944-46)

In 2019, I started working on a project aimed at providing access through Cambridge University Library catalogue (iDiscover) to digitised images of book covers of the Chadwyck-Healey collection (about 3000 books in French about the Second World War, the Occupation and the Liberation, published between 1944 and 1946), with photographer Fanny Bara. We were struck by the number of titles and cover illustrations featuring the German boot (see my previous blog post on the use of the expression “sous la botte” in the literature of the Liberation). More than half of the Liberation collection books whose title refers to the German boot feature illustrated covers including an actual depiction of a boot (five covers) or German soldiers in uniform (six covers, three of which are photographic). Only the comic book Biroulet sous la botte by Raymond Sempé, (Liberation.a.37) features a strictly black and white cover illustration: while a stern looking German soldier goose steps, Biroulet, depicted as a mischievous peasant child, wearing clogs and beret, and holding a simple wooden stick, cocks a snook at him.

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“Sous la botte” (1): the German occupation of France and Belgium in the literature of the Liberation (1944-46)

Black jackboots or “marching boots” (Marschstiefel), already used by the German infantry during World War I, were still part of the German army uniform during World War II, though they were gradually replaced by lace-up ankle boots (Schnürschuhe) from 1941 onwards. Although the phrase “sous la botte” was already used to describe German domination during World War I, it became widely used in reference to World War II, sometimes associated in the titles of books from the Liberation collection (1944-46) with a more or less precise time-span, ranging from 1940 to 1943, 1944 or 1945. The expression has become synonymous with that period of German occupation of France and Belgium. The military boot has become strongly associated with the image of the German soldier/officer in popular imagination and cultural representations, from contemporary posters to current historical movies. According to Google search results, they seem to be a particularly successful retail item nowadays, whether as (presumed) original artefacts, or as faithful reproductions. The footwear was used as a potent symbol of the German occupation of France and Belgium and of the oppression endured by the local populations. In particular, the recurring use of the expression “sous la botte” provided an evocative image of the German occupation as an oppressive regime of (military) tyranny (eluding the responsibility of the Vichy government and the question of French collaboration).

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