Gertrud Becomes Part of the Third Reich. A Story of the Nazi Party Rally
Julius Beltz, Langensalza – Berlin – Leipzig
1942 (2nd edition 1943)
- Book Design/Cover:
86 pages, 28 illustrations
Color printed cardboard covers, paper, with personal dedication from the author
21 cm tall, 15 cm wide, 1.1 cm thick
- Collection No.:
The young adult book Gertrud Becomes Part of the Third Reich. A Story of the Nazi Party Rally, by Anna Liebel-Monninger, recalls in its design, format and overall look the successful line of books that the Schneider publishing house had been putting out for young people since 1913 (and is still publishing today). The story too follows a familiar pattern: a young hero (in this case a heroine) overcomes problems posed by the older generation, and begins defining her own life – here, of course, in the new National Socialist spirit.
The author, Anna Liebel-Monninger, tells a love story centered on an orphan named Gertrud, who finds a new friend at the 1937 Party Rally and finally meets the love of her life at the rally the next year. The Nazi Party Rally, of which she has a clear view from her aunt’s home on the Main Market Square, thus becomes an opportunity for her to escape the confines of her conservative environment.
Anna Liebel-Monninger – Author and early sympathizer with right-wing ideology
Anna Liebel-Monninger came from a respected middle-class Nuremberg family that owned a print shop at Maxplatz 44. Her father, Friedrich Monninger, had founded the business and also published a newspaper, the Nürnberger Stadtzeitung. Anna, born in 1869, published novels, novellas and poetry during the Empire era, and worked mainly as a journalist after World War I. She and her husband, Stefan Liebel, became involved early in the populist movement through groups like the Reichsflagge and Altreichsflagge, and joined the National Socialist German Workers' Party in 1931. Their son, Willy Liebel, was also an early member of the Nazi Party, and governed Nuremberg as its mayor from 1933 onward.
As told later by the author – already age 73 at the time when Gertrud Becomes Part of the Third Reich appeared – she originally intended her book only for her grandchildren. Supposedly she did not have publication in mind at first, although this story was probably just camouflage after the fact. After all, Liebel-Monninger was not at first a member of the Reichsschrifttumskammer, the party's organization of professional writers – and she immediately corrected that shortcoming. Had she not joined, the book would not have been approved for release.
After her son Willy's suicide on April 20, 1945, the day when Nuremberg was taken by American troops, the widowed Anna lived in a rear building of her badly damaged compound at Maxplatz 44. Though an early activist in the Nazi movement, she was nevertheless found to be only a fellow traveler in a 1948 denazification proceeding, and escaped with a fine of 1000 reichsmarks. She died at the age of 82 in 1951.
Josef Sauer – A left-wing graphics artist in the Third Reich
Graphic artist Josef Sauer from Bamberg contributed the signed colored cover art and the graphics for the book. This is something of a surprise, since if one looks at Sauer's other work he would seem to have been more an opponent of the National Socialists and a critical spirit. Born in Bamberg in 1893, Sauer studied with Professor Max Körner at the State School of Applied Arts in Nuremberg – Körner was one of the few professors at the school who did not reject contemporary art trends. Sauer was hired by the famed satirical magazine Simplicissimus in 1930, and helped re-found it after 1945. His work prior to 1933 is reminiscent of George Grosz and the "New Objectivity" movement. His 1929 watercolor "Man and Doll" shows that Sauer was a high-quality graphic artist equal to the best of his time; a caricature in the Swiss periodical Eulenspiegel demonstrates his opposition to National Socialist racism. In 1932 Sauer was awarded the Albrecht Dürer Prize from the City of Nuremberg.
The well-behaved, blonde ("Aryan") Gertrud on the cover of Anna Liebel-Monninger's book has nothing in common with Sauer's thoroughly socially critical pre-1933 graphics and caricatures, or his humorous, satirical contributions to Simplicissimus after 1945. But Sauer adapted, and during the National Socialist era became a supplier of mostly locally colored, harmless, apparently apolitical graphics that nonetheless fit in with the new regime’s attitudes to art. Sauer also drew the large sculpture of an eagle with the swastika at the Luitpoldarena. Even his teacher Max Körner fell into line with the new regime after 1933, designing such works as swastika mosaics for the Nuremberg barracks of the SS.
Josef Sauer died in Munich in 1967, by then a well-known draftsman of the Federal Republic.
Out of step with the times – A book about the Party Rallies in the midst of a war
One might easily assume that Gertrud Becomes Part of the Third Reich came out during the era of the Nazi Party Rallies, with an eye to the sales opportunities afforded by these major events. But surprisingly, the book did not appear until 1942.
That means Gertrud's story is mainly a saccharine remembrance of presumably better, greater days: in 1942 the war against the Soviet Union was entering its second year; the Wehrmacht had suffered its first defeat at Moscow, and had been in retreat in the East since the winter battle of 1941–42. There had been no Party Rallies for years. The men were away at war. So Gertrud Becomes Part of the Third Reich is a classic piece of escape literature, an opportunity to forget for a time the increasingly threatening reality of the war. Significantly, the book's second edition of 1943, following the German defeat at Stalingrad, bore the more martial title Gertrud: A Will and A Way.
The book ends optimistically. Plans are under way for the double wedding of the two friends Gertrud and Erika with two Nazi-minded men, while shouts of "Heil" from the Party Rally resound in the background. Given the contemporary background of the war in the East, the book's conclusion seems utterly anachronistic:
"New groups form along the route that the Führer will take with his entourage. Their repeated enthusiastic shouts of 'Heil! Heil!' echo up into Gertrud’s apartment through the open windows.
They sound to the two young couples like a promising omen for the future."
The book, together with many other volumes, was donated to the Documentation Center at the Nazi Party Rally Grounds from a private library in Fürth.
Text and research: Alexander Schmidt (with references from Matthias Klaus Braun)