Greetings from the Fatherland: German Picture Postcards and History

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These German picture postcards, dating from 1914 through 1945, represent a small portion of the Andrew Laurie Stangel Collection. The collection as a whole documents German history from the time of Bismarck through the end of World War II in books, postcards, and other printed ephemera and manuscript material, and was a generous gift from Dr. Stangel to Special Collections. We anticipate digitizing more of the collection.

As Dr. Stangel describes, in a project entitled “Greetings from the Fatherland: German Picture Postcards and History,” “Politics, patriotism, propaganda – it was all there and more, much more: the sweep of German history from the trenches of the First World War and the peace settlement at Versailles, through the Weimar period, The rise to power of Hitler and National Socialism, to World War II and the fall of Germany’s thousand-year Reich. In black-and-white and living color on postcards, photographers, painters, and graphic artists contributed their technical skills to the political messages of their government and became mass media specialists in the early 20th century. There was, of course, a similar use of the picture postcard in France and England, and later in America, but not on such a scale and never with such German thoroughness.

Germany gave the world its modern picture postcard at just that time in its history when it first became proper to talk about a German nation. Bismarck’s successes, on the front in the Franco-Prussian war and at home in Parliament, created a unified German empire from the political chaos which followed the collapse of Napoleon’s Europe. This second Reich, as it has been called to distinguish it from that first Reich born in the German Middle Ages and put to death by Napoleon eight and a half centuries later, outlived its founder by little more than two decades. Germany’s millennial Third Reich would last twelve years and outlive its founder by only a few weeks.”

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[Soldiers playing music]