Bits of Rag Paper

Hans Ostwald, Sittengeschichte der Inflation (Berlin: Neufeld & Henius, 1931), p. 275 (my translation):

Lining up for food was not the worst thing. Even sadder were the other lines, the gold and silver lines. These were lines of sellers, not buyers, made up entirely of women who waited patiently in front of the places where precious metal was purchased. When they were asked for their identity cards, they pulled them out of their old, shabby purses in a shy and embarrassed way. They gave away their gold wedding rings and their silver — often very thin spoons and some pathetic-looking jewellery from better days — in exchange for the bits of rag paper they needed so urgently to buy the bread and fat that would prevent them from starving.

Settling up at a barbershop in Ochsenfurt: 2 eggs for a shave, 4 eggs for a haircut

I recently learned that photographs taken before 1948 are in the public domain in Canada, regardless of when the author died. This means I’ll be able to include almost all of the original illustrations from Ostwald’s book in the English edition, including the one above (which was probably taken by Willy Römer).

The Mood of an Age

Hans Ostwald, Sittengeschichte der Inflation (Berlin: Neufeld & Henius, 1931), p. 218 (my translation):

It is extraordinarily amusing to see how the mood of an age is always reflected in its dance songs, especially in the refrains. Nothing can give a better picture of the nature and condition of the dancers, and thus of the population as a whole, than the songs the jazz bands play in the dance halls, bars, and coffee houses — and which maids sing as they wash dishes in the kitchen, and boys whistle in the street. Most of the lyrics suit the music and melodies perfectly, and they characterize the people who dance and twirl to them. Here one can truly say, “Tell me what music you like to dance to, and I will tell you who you are.”

I am nearly finished translating this history of the Weimar inflation. Last week I spent some time (Wasted you say? Surely not!) looking up some of the songs Ostwald mentions as being emblematic of the period and find that Marlene Dietrich sang one of them as part of her screen test for The Blue Angel (see this video at the 2:41 mark):

Wer wird denn weinen, wenn man auseinander geht,
Wenn an der nächsten Ecke schon ein andrer steht?
Man sagt auf Wiedersehn! und denkt sich heimlich bloß:
Nun bin ich endlich wieder mein Verhältnis los!

I’ve translated it as:

Who would weep, if we should part?
Just around the corner waits another sweetheart.
You bid goodbye, and to yourself quietly say:
There’s another one who is out of the way!

An image and closed captions from Dietrich’s screen test (1930)

Uhu Magazin

I see that the back issues of the German magazine Uhu (1924 to 1934) have been digitized and are available at Some good reading for those interested in the era.

The image above is the cover of the October 1930 issue, which includes a piece by Heinrich Hauser about his early life, the first in a series of articles about how young people lived during the Weimar Republic.

Aside: has a copy of Hauser’s My Farm on the Mississippi.

A Review of Lulu xPress

I was intrigued when I heard that Lulu had created a Shopify app that allows publishers to accept single, print-on-demand orders through their own web sites.

I spent some time and money setting up and ordering samples of several titles. To save others the trouble of conducting similar experiments I shared the results in this, my first YouTube video:

The short answer is that all of the matte covers were badly curled — absolutely unsaleable. I uninstalled the Lulu xPress app in Shopify and will sticking with my current printer.

Betrayed by High-Sounding Phrases

Henry Williamson, “I Believe in the Men Who Died,” Daily Express (17 September 1928):

I am standing on a duckboard by a flooded and foul beek in the Salient, listening in the flare-pallid rainy darkness to the cries of tens of thousands of wounded men lost in the morasses of third Ypres. To seek them is to drown with them… The living are still toiling on, homeless and without horizons, doing dreadful things under heaven that none want to do, through the long wet days and the longer nights, the weeks, the months, of a bare, sodden winter out of doors.

The survivors are worn out; some of them, tested beyond breaking point, put the muzzles of their rifles in their mouths, in the darkness of the terrible nights, and pull the trigger.

Those at home, sitting in armchairs and talking proudly of patriotism and heroism, will never realise the bitter contempt and scorn the soldiers have for these and other abstractions; the soldiers feel they have been betrayed by the high-sounding phrases that heralded the war, for they know that the enemy soldiers are the same men as themselves, suffering and disillusioned in exactly the same way…

And in the stupendous roar and light-blast of the final barrage that broke the Hindenburg line I see only one thing, which grows radiant before my eyes until it fills all my world: the sight of a Saxon boy half crushed under a shattered tank, moaning ‘Mutter, Mutter, Mutter’, out of ghastly grey lips. A British soldier, wounded in the leg, and sitting nearby, hears the words, and, dragging himself to the dying boy, takes his cold hand and says: ‘All right, son, it’s all right. Mother’s here with you.’

Frederick Varley, For What? (1917-1919)