“The Sitzkrieg of Private
(Sieg! Sieg!, 1961) by Erich Kuby is an autobiographical novel
set in France during the German invasion of 1940.
in diesem Buch wurde erfunden." (Nothing
in this book was invented). E.K.
The starting point in the novel is
village named Pütz (Prüm in Mein Krieg). The main
are Stefan Wolzogen-Kuby [a play on “wohlerzogen” or well
behaved?]), his best friend and sculptor Ernst Benhard (Hansheinrich
Bertram), and his nemesis and the personification of Hitler on
earth, former SA storm trooper Sergeant Hahl (Unteroffizier H. oder
Hahn in Mein Krieg).
I quote from Mein Krieg:
pg. 143: The silent protest: I do
belong to the H's. I don't mean with that the the Nazi H[itler]. The
Nazi H. is the German H[ahn or Hahl in the novel], is one of 80
million who, just like him, imagine that they are their way world
domination, which they no more qualified to exercise than a tribe of
pg. 150: The one H[itler] leaves me
indifferent, but the other H[ahn or Hahl in the novel] has driven me
nuts, or rather that I had to run up against the former in the person
of the latter in order to lose control of myself and stop winding my
way through the mess.
The novel ends with Stefan's
court-martial in Le Creusot, France and his being sent to military
prison in Germany. The actual trial took place almos a year later in a
village near Leningrad in 1941. In Mein
Krieg, a general named Jahn reduces his sentence of 1 year and 9
months of imprisonment to 9 months of probation and says
(Mein Krieg, pg. 158) – “If I had been your company commander
the whole thing would
never had happened.” The novel has a classic open end: “And now
Stefan Wolzogen's war began.” Somewhat like Hans Castorp at the end of
Mann's “Magic Mountain” which Kuby must have read.
To those of you who do not and
will read German well enough to get through Kuby's “Mein Krieg,” I
recommend this (somewhat condensed) translation of the novel. In a
nutshell, it describes Kuby's dilemma with the Wehrmacht, and its
dilemma with him. There is also much material that was not included in
Mein Krieg. You could say that, in this novel, Kuby really "packt aus"
(unpacks, unloads). To be sure, the translator, a native German and
expert in German literature, occasionally has difficulties with
colloquial English and slang, and much of the humor in the original
is untranslatable. But don't let that stop you, this novel is the
easier way to get Kuby's message from Mein Krieg.
I include here the complete chapter
Invasion of Paradise” as a kind of introduction. It corresponds
roughly to the chapters “Kriegsreise durch Frankreich” and
“Als Sieger im Paradies” in Mein Krieg.
In addition you find below the
diatribe of reserve Captain Geiler, Notar or lawyer from Düren and
viola player, in
which he lays out to Stefan
(Kuby) his plan for Le Creusot, the French city he is governing. In Mein Krieg the commander of Le
Creusot is a Captain von Bissing, mentioned briefly twice on page 56.
Chapter"Machine Kaputt" in Sitzkrieg, pg. 349-50
"But you know, sir, we're working on the war chronicle."
"And when do you work on that?"
"Every day, sir," Stefan said.
"What period are you going to cover?"
"Up to the armistice. Perhaps there'll be a short chapter on the
occupation. That will depend on how long we're going to stay in
"In that case you might as well get ready for supplements.
Here we are and here we stay."
"That isn't funny," the captain said. "We'll have to govern
France just as we're governing Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland,
"Holland, Belgium. . . ." Stefan continued.
"Exactly, all of Europe. That's what we're going to
and nobody will be
able to stop us. That's the mission which
history has assigned
to us. I'd like to see what you're writing
about Le Creusot when you get that far. You might make a copy
for me. I have started a collection, 'Le Creusot 1940,' for my
grandchildren. I think that ought to be quite insructive. Europe
in statu nascendi. And I'll
be able to say, 'I was there.' The
French are like clay
in our hands. We'll make something of them.
"So far we haven't finished the Polish campaign."
"Campaigns are a bore. When I was your age . . . how old are
"I was two years younger than you when I joined up in '14.
The war was still interesting then; we went in there, well, the
Deluge of Steel. Well, you know about that, Ernst Jiinger and
all that, but now, that's no war at all. . . . We just shake the
tree and all Europe
drops to the ground. We're the only people
with an idea. The
others are helpless. We'll put the Frenchmen
back on their feet
too. They're like a tree on which ivy has crept
up. That kills any
tree. We have ro get rid of the ivy. With an
axe! Did you
ever take a look at what crawls around here? Poles,
Russians, Letts, Estonians, Negroes, Jews. . . . We have to get rid
of all that – they must go, all of them."
"But those people work here, sir."
"Work! I'm sure the French will be glad for every job they
can get themselves now. But that's not even the point. The ques-
tionl is the rejuvenation of the whole people. It has to find itself
again. We can only build Europe with healthy nations...The
war we carry on now,
without tanks, without medals, without fanfare,
but with the brutal
severity without which both we and Europe would be
lost – that's worth
writing about. Wait another six months be-
fore you write your chapter about Le Creusot. I'll transform this
decadent hole into a French town again, a town that fits into our
Europe. I'll transform it."
"With an axe."
"That won't be
necessary," said the attorney [Notar] from Düren. "I'll
throttle this rabble
with silk gloves. With ration coupons. And
the French will help
me do it. To lead means to do nothing your-
self. It means to see that sornething is done. In another six
months the Polish quarter will be deserted, the Marolles will be
depopulated, the whole gang will have disappeared. . . ."
"Where to, sir!"
"The lowest of the
low will be eliminated. It will be a total
process is going on both in the East and in the
West. Hunger makes
people asocial. And we have camps. They
are the garbage dumps
of Europe. I repeat, take a look around
here, Le Creusot will
be a model. It's
ridiculous to describe the
war without making
clear its meaning...."
The Captain v. Bissing (Geiler) procured for Kuby the
quarters so that Kuby could begin the work on a "Kriegschronik" of the
division. A team
of five soldiers came together (In Mein
Krieg Kuby, Bertram, Manteuffel the pastor,
Prestel the actor, and Fehrman the film producer) which used the "work"
on the project as an excuse to escape duty and pursue their own
On 19 Sept. 40 the unit was transfered to Franktfurt on the Oder (today
on the border with Poland), and the team stayed together throughout the
winter of 1940/41, practically exempt from duty. The "Kriegchronik" was
never completed. However, during this period Kuby produced from his
letters and diary the manuscript "Kriegsfahrt durch Frankreich" (War
trip through France)." At the beginning of August, Kuby had gone on
leave to his family on the Bodensee (according to the epilogue of Demidoff in September). There a
circle of friends encouraged him to turn his letters into a book. The
publishing house was ready to publish it, but it first had to be
submitted to the censor of the Oberkommando of the Wehrmacht for
approval, and that's
when Kuby's troubles began.