Corporal Hitler and the Great War 1914-1918: The List Regiment

By John F. Williams | Go to book overview
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A week before his first experience of battle, Hitler scribbled a hurried note to the Popp family, promising a more descriptive effort as soon as 'we have arrived at our destination'. 'I hope we shall get to England', he added. Newspapers now stressed that England was the principal enemy and London, rather than Paris, the site of the most desired German victory parade. With German papers now advertising special rates for 'field-post subscriptions' (Feldpostabonnements), it appeared to be a civilian's patriotic duty to subscribe on behalf of the men at the Front. As a newspaper enthusiast, Hitler was probably as aware of Germany's official version of the war and the associated ideology as most civilians in Cologne or Berlin. While keeping up to date with news from home, he, like most of his comrades, was being painlessly indoctrinated into a patriotic perception of global events beyond their immediate environment. 1

Global perspectives on the war and selective material from the home front were all there had been since the Battle of the Marne. Sir James Edmonds' admission that the function of an official communiqué was to reveal 'as little as possible' could have been written with the German efforts of September-November 1914 in mind. As yet, there was no such thing as a dispatch by a German war correspondent. Where the French installed a few tame journalists in châteaux and called them 'war correspondents' and the British arranged for celebrity newsmen, like Philip Gibbs, to be accredited as 'official correspondents', the Germans seemed at a loss to know what to do with journalists who wanted to report the war. Civilians and soldiers alike would soon demand more than brief, noncommittal and often deliberately misleading official communiqués. As well, in Germany and the Entente powers, proprietors and editors had papers to sell and profit to be made from a public clamouring for war news. Yet in those early days, the German press, led by the governmental Norddeutsche Zeitung, was reduced to excerpting dispatches by enemy correspondents or reports in neutral newspapers. So often were Dutch papers quoted that the German public might have thought the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, the Allgemeen Handelsblad or Amsterdam's Nieus van den Dag had battlefield access and exclusive rights to OHL. Finally, the Germans began printing a folksy war correspondence, using 'letters' from the

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