Anti-Allied propaganda in Cambridge University Library’s Nazi Collection

We recently wrote a blog post about a recently catalogued collection of Nazi propaganda. Among these items were some specifically anti-British and anti-American publications which are well worth examining. For instance, the humorous graphic concertina leaflet (leporello) L’Olympiade 1941 (CCC.26:4.620) by Apis (pseudonym for Jean Chaperon, 1887-1969) makes fun of the Allied defeat in Greece, presented in the guise of a failed competition of the British team at the aptly named ‘Olympic games’, under the gaze of Jupiter. In the first two vignettes, a group of Tommies landing in Greece are welcomed with enthusiasm by a young man in traditional Greek costume. But very quickly, the challenge turns sour: the British run away from the German enemy and their best performances consist in their speed at taking flight (running, marathon, jumping, rowing and swimming). The grim outcome is death: “Morts à l’arrivée”.

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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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History in the making – thoughts on cataloguing the Liberation collection (Part 1)

In 2019, I spent 9 months helping to process the Liberation collection, a donation of over 3000 books in French published at the end of the Second World War. As this project is coming to an end, and with the current atmosphere lending itself to pause and reflection, now seemed a good time to share my experience of working with the collection. This will not be a full and objective review of what you can expect to find in it, but rather a more personal spotlight on what struck me the most.

When I started cataloguing it, I expected the donation would give me a complete and accurate view of what these extraordinary times were like in France. Yet if there is one thing that I will take away from it, it is that it is impossible to have a full understanding of history when you are caught in the middle of it. Continue reading

Burning books

2013 marks the 80th anniversary of the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists in Germany. One of the most famous events of that year took place on May 10th 1933 with the public book burning of over 25,000 “un-German” books on Opernplatz in Berlin (now renamed Bebelplatz).

At the beginning of April 1933, the German Student Association proclaimed a nationwide “action against the un-German spirit” throughout German universities. The aim was to remove undesirable professors from their posts, to blacklist “un-German” books and to purify libraries according to National Socialist principles.

A memorial to the Nazi book burning, Berlin 2006

A memorial to the Nazi book burning, Berlin 2006

The campaign reached its climax on the night of May 10th 1933 when students in over 20 university towns across Germany marched in torchlight parades to public book burnings. Students threw books onto bonfires, accompanied by marching bands, songs, incantations, fire oaths, speeches and ritualised ceremonies. The highlight of the evening was the public burning of over 25,000 “un-German” books on Opernplatz in Berlin, which was carried out by students, professors in academic robes and members of the SA, SS and Hitler Youth paramilitary organisations. The event was accompanied by music from SA and SS bands, broadcast live on German radio and filmed by the weekly newsreel “Wochenschau”. At midnight, the Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, addressed a crowd of over 50,000 people  and condemned works written by Jews, liberals, leftists, pacifists, foreigners and others as “un-German”. Continue reading