Offered here: 4th edition 1983, Eulenspiegel Verlag, without dust jacket
"Brecht's 'War Primer' is the great anti-war book. It was first published in 1955, a year before his death, and since then (hardly changed, e.g. 1968, 1978, 1994)) in many countries (currently other, older editions are also available at Café Lehmitz Photobooks!). First edition: 10,000 copies.
It is a remarkable volume compiled from Bertolt Brecht's collection of wartime newspaper clippings, gathered during his exile in Denmark. Each accompanied by a four-line poem that he called 'photo-epigrams'.
"In December 1944 Brecht and his collaborator, Ruth Berlau, assembled the photoepigrams.[and] mounted [them] on hand-cut sheets of black construction paper.
It is quite likely that Berlau herself reproduced the photographs from images that Brecht found in various publications, including Life magazine and Swedish and American newspapers.; In 1944 Brecht presented this miniature copy of 'Kriegsfibel ' (engl.: War Primer) to Lion Feuchtwanger, his longtime friend, mentor, and collaborator and a fellow German exile living in Southern California.
Brecht sent another copy to his friend Karl Korsch in February 1945; whether additional copies were created or still exist is unknown. In 1949, after Brecht returned to Germany, he and Berlau assembled the 'Kriegsfibel' for publication; it did not appear, however, until the fall of 1955."
"Bertolt Brecht’s peculiar 1955 book 'Kriegsfibel' (War Primer) repurposed press photographs from World War II, most of them from LIFE magazine. Monumental images of machinery and atrocity acquired new captions, socialist realist epigrams which Brecht composed to denote the ur-meaning of each scene: 'What’s that you’re making, brothers?' 'Iron waggons.' 'And what about those great steel plates you’re lifting?' 'They’re for the guns that blast the iron to pieces.' 'And what’s it all for, brothers?' 'It’s our living.'
The epigrams are especially interesting when they interact with the extant text of an original editorial caption: ‘A Japanese soldier’s skull is propped up on a burned-out Jap tank by U.S. troops. Fire destroyed the rest of the corpse.’ This photograph depicts a sunken, leathery mask of flesh that barely seems human; the casualism ‘Jap’ is a jingoist human error polluting the news-magazine’s officialese. Addressing this fellow of infinite jest, Brecht assumes the voice of Hamlet: ‘Alas, poor Yorrick of the burnt-out tank! / Upon an axle-shaft your head is set. / Your death by fire was for the Domei Bank / To whom your parents are still in debt.’
The current edition was edited by his daughter, Barbara Brecht-Schall. She recalls the genesis of the book and how her father, in exile in Denmark, began collecting clippings from newspapers and annotating these pictorial documents with verse." (publisher's text)
In 2011, the book formed the template for the BROOMBERG/CHANARIN book 'War Primer 2'.
About the author, Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956) and the book's editor, Ruth Berlau
- HC (without dust jacket), 25 x 31 cm., 70 pp., b/w ills., German