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”.
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.
In the first part of my blog-post on working with the Liberation donation, I explored the fragmented and sometimes contradictory vision of history that the books in the collection offer, each point of view representing only a tiny portion of the actual events. In this second part, I want to expand on the odd feeling I sometimes had that the entire collection itself, despite offering quite a complete view of the period’s publishing landscape in France, was only a fraction of the whole story. I don’t mean to diminish the importance of the collection; indeed, what it doesn’t say is just as interesting from a historical point of view as what it does say.
Everybody knows about Ruth Klüger or Primo Levi; Imre Kertész won the Nobel Prize in literature in 2002, and Elie Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. These authors are famous for their autobiographical texts about the Shoah, which they wrote after having survived the Nazi extermination camps. Their books are well known, they became part of the literary canon and have led to a lot of scholarly research.
The Chadwyck-Healey Liberation Collection in Cambridge University Library offers a promising addition to that field of research, because the collection keeps very similar, though much lesser known books. As the Liberation Collection focuses on books published between the Liberation of Paris in August 1944 and the end of 1946, the collection’s accounts of the Holocaust rank among the earliest testimonies of Nazi crimes, deportation and mass murder during the Second World War. These testimonies range from written accounts to documents and even paintings and illustrations. Even for research focused on books about the extermination camp of Auschwitz, the Liberation Collection offers a diversity of genre, tone, biographical background and emphasis.
Originally posted on the Special Collections blog:
On Thursday 22nd February Sir Charles Chadwyck-Healey will give a talk to the Cambridge Bibliographical Society on ‘The power of the image in liberated France, 1944-46’.
His talk is inspired by imagery from the collection he has put together (recently presented to the University Library) on the German occupation of France during the war and its liberation by the allied forces. Beautiful books began to be published immediately after the liberation of Paris in August 1944 even though the war was still being fought in France. Once Paris was free and the Vichy government had collapsed, censorship came to an end, and it is the immediacy of this response and the quality of the books themselves that makes this period so interesting for the history of the book.
Talk starts at 17.00. Tea from 16.30 before the talk.
Free event, no booking required. Members and non-members of Cambridge Bibliographical Society welcome.
All welcome; booking not required