Friday, November 12, 2010

Learning German...Army Style

Guten Morgen...Goo-ten MAWR-gen...Good morning!

Yesterday, I talked about how my grandpa was drafted into the service during World War II and that several years ago my grandma gave me his German Language Guide from his time overseas.

As I was looking through the booklet again, I was amused by some of the illustrations and some of the phrases the Army thought the soldiers might need while over fighting a war.

For example, the guide showed how to ask when the movie starts (Wann beginnt das Kino?). Maybe the guide was generic and used for soldiers stationed overseas during non-war times as well. It just struck me as funny.

There were several phrases that I'm sure were very useful, including Gefahr (Danger); Hilfe (Help); and Ich habe mich verlaufen (I am lost).

Another thing that caught my attention was that cigarettes were featured prominently in both the text and the illustrations. It was a different world back then in many ways. Cigarettes were obviously not as taboo as they are these days. Can you imagine the outrage if the Army published the same guide today?

(I'm glad that they included bacon!)

There were some pages that made a lot of sense, including this one...

(Read the guide...No Admittance...turn around!!)

I wish I asked my grandpa more about his experiences during the war. Not so much about the fighting or the being a prisoner of war. More like what the local people were like? What he did when he wasn't on duty? Did he really use this language guide to talk to locals? Definitely a missed opportunity to know more about him.

Unterhosen...that means undershorts! Sorry, I was looking for a cool phrase to end this post and that's what caught my eye.

Guten Tag!


  1. Some people absorb new languages like sponges do water. Others, not so easily. I always catch on right away how to order "more red wine, please" while my husband looks for the universal picture signs for the WC. :) Sadly, we are loosing our WWII veterans at an astonishing number of 500 a day world wide. There are fewer and fewer of them left to tell us thier stories. It is up to those of us left behind to carry on remembering their sacrifices on our behalf.

  2. What a treasure! I like your take on the differences in our societies. It's crazy how quickly things change!



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