This temporary Reading Room exhibition displays some of the Library’s collections of rare Tarnschriften (hidden resistance writings).
Tarnschriften were pamphlets produced as a form of political resistance to the Nazi Party’s rule between 1933 and 1945. The Tarnschriften were created by various anti-Nazi groups including the German Communist Party (KPD), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Comintern (Communist International), The Black Front, The German Popular Front, German Communist Youth (KJD) and Catholic organisations.
To avoid detection and to allow the pamphlets to be more easily smuggled into Germany, many Tarnschriften were expertly disguised as everyday items, including advertisements for common products or places, information manuals or pieces of popular German literature.
Containing 460 pamphlets, the Library’s rare collection of Tarnschriften is the biggest of its kind outside of Germany. Over the past year, the Library has digitised its entire Tarnschriften collection to safeguard the preservation of these historically important materials and increase accessibility to them. This exhibition celebrates the conclusion of this important project.
This pamphlet is disguised as an information manual entitled ‘Eyes Open! The little book on accident prevention for young and old.’
While the first five pages offer medical guidance on how to treat or prevent minor accidents, such as cuts and burns, page six of the pamphlet reveals its true content: the Number 8, 1937 issue of The Communist International: Journal of the Executive Committee of the Communist International.
A publication disguised as a pamphlet on air-raid protection, entitled ‘Gas and Bombs Threaten!’ which, in fact, conceals the 1 May 1938 issue of The Communist International.
This pamphlet, ‘Dictatorship, Pogrom, War!’, contains anti-Nazi material published by Otto Strasser and Hans Jaeger c. 1939.
Otto Strasser was a German fascist politician and former Nazi who broke away from the Party in 1930 and formed a rival group known as The Black Front. Hans Jaeger belonged to the Popular Socialists’ Movement of Germany.
This pamphlet for a 35mm folding camera conceals materials produced by the German Popular Front and the German Freedom Library (one of the names used to refer to the SPD and KPD’s united approach to the Nazi Party) and contains essays by German Jewish writers Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann, and Rudolf Breitscheid, c. 1936.
‘Sending and Receiving of Short and Ultra-Short Waves’ published by Rolf Wigand in 1938 actually contains concealed instructions on how to build and operate a secret wireless station to receive and listen to anti-fascist broadcasts.
Entitled ‘Yearbook for the German Soldiers in the North’ this pamphlet contains anti-German and anti-Nazi material and was published c. 1943.
These pamphlets were distributed by the British and aimed at German soldiers. It details alternative Allied information about the Second World War and includes an excerpt entitled ‘Sickness Saves’, which advised soldiers how to fake illnesses in order to be sent away from the front line.