Saturday, 4 December 2004

Shock-headed Führer

I wrote recently about a Victorian children’s book called Struwwelpeter. In 1941 Robert and Philip Spence wrote and illustrated a version of it called Struwwelhitler. Not only does it cleverly adapt Dr Hoffman’s stories to a twentieth-century wartime setting, but the style of both the verse and the drawings mimics the original very closely; the booklet is a little masterpiece of parody. It was published by The Daily Sketch to raise money for the War Relief Fund which provided comforts to the armed forces and to air raid victims, and the authors took no fees or royalties.

The Story of the Inky Boys has become the Story of the Nazi Boys, and the black-a-moor has become a little bolshevik boy. Stalin is the giant and dips them into red ink. I would guess that the booklet was written after his pact with Hitler but before Operation Barbarossa when the Russians became our allies, for although he plays the good giant who teaches the Nazi boys a lesson he's not presented as the cuddly old Joe which he later became. It was a confusing time.

The booklet has a special resonance for me in that it inspired the only really successful investment I have ever made in my whole life: I bought it in a second-hand bookshop in Malvern in 2001 and after having a colour photocopy made I sold it on eBay for three times the price I paid. When first published exactly half a century earlier it cost the same as my hardback Struwwelpeter had cost five years before that: 1/6d (7½p).
A slight shadow was cast over my satisfaction when later I saw that booksellers were offering other copies of the booklet for sale at five times the price for which I had let mine go.

1 comment:

zwelgje said...

Picture on front cover shows Hitler wearing only one armband denoting this is the second edition by the daily Sketch & Sunday graphic from 1943
A earlier edition (1941) was published by the Haycock Press and showes Hitler with two armband.