Rare Books discoveries, 2: Picture book of Hitler’s navy

from Sarah Wheale, Rare Books, Department of Special Collections

Not everything discovered during the recent emptying of the New Library ahead of the refurbishment was old or rare, but their subject matter or form brought them to our attention. One such item is a picture book of Hitler’s navy containing 270 photographs, looking much like cigarette cards, pasted into an album.

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Unsere Reichsmarine : Bilder aus dem Leben der Matrosen was probably published in 1934 in Hamburg and was based on an earlier book published in the previous year entitled Matrosen, Soldaten, Kameraden by Max Burchartz and Edgar Zeller (Hamburg, Hanseatische Verlagsanstalt, 1933). This new edition was greatly enhanced with an additional 80 photographs by Burchartz but the text was largely taken from the earlier edition.
It covers every aspect of a sailor’s life at sea, from firing practice to disarming a sea-mine to keeping exotic pets on board ship. The intention is clearly to portray the Reichsmarine as a modern, well trained and well equipped service at a time when Hitler was pressing to increase the size of Germany’s marine forces beyond that stipulated in the Versailles Treaty. With full German rearmament just over the horizon this picture book was doubtless intended to justify the need for a larger navy, and the Introduction clearly draws comparisons between the size of the other great marine forces (America, Great Britain, Japan) and the depleted size of Germany’s.
There are few clues as to how this item came to the Library. It was found in the stacks of the New Library (construction completed 1940) in 2011, as material was being prepared for removal preceding renovation of the building (see http://www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/about/projects/new_bodleian).
It is now kept at shelfmark: Rec. d.494.