When I started out on the long road of producing & digitally re-mastering Third Reich/Nazi-era military music over 25 years ago, I never for one minute imagined that, through Tomahawk Films, we would have the pleasure of not only selling hundreds of thousands of such historical important albums to collectors & enthusiasts around the world, but that I would also embark on a personal 7 year journey of study that would result in my reference book entitled: Military Music & Bandsmen of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich 1933-45 or indeed a new hobby: The German Soldier Song…!
Basing my reference book around the soldier-musicians of the Nazi era, in the course of my research I happened upon a couple of picture postcards sent back from German soldiers fighting in the icy wastes on the Russian Front in 1941 to their loved ones manning the ‘Home Front’ back in Germany and though I was interested in the military Feldpost stampings on the back, it was the front covers that really captivated me, featuring as they did two popular songs of the day, Rosemarie and the famous Wir fahren gegen Engeland..!
Despite having been a collector of Third Reich militaria since that days of my small museum back in my early teens, I had never come across such cards before and immediately set about trying to find a source and so visited my very first postcard collector’s fair in late 1996, armed with my two Third Reich period song cards, which I proceeded to show to any dealer who could spare the time to talk to me.
Unfortunately the general reaction was one of complete mystery, but undaunted I continued to then trudge around as many postcard fairs as I could; even so I only managed to elicit the odd one or two of these rather lovely Third Reich period lyric cards, (which sadly were usually dog-eared or damaged), and the odd, rather attractive First World War card, but I could still obtain no further thoughts from UK dealers as to just how many types of these specific music-related cards there may have been…
Then a year or so later, with just 20-odd cards to my name, two of my new Third Reich music-collector friends, John in the States and Stuart here in the UK,, found that they too were beginning to pick up similar song-cards and suddenly I didn’t feel quite so alone in my pursuit of knowledge!
Exchanges of the limited information available and sometimes swaps of our precious stock began to take place between my two collector pals, whilst two new American dealers I had located, Tom & Greg, very kindly began seeking out such cards, though with the pencilled Deutsche-Mark prices still left on the back of many, it was becoming obvious that they were mostly coming in directly from Germany!
Several years into my study, I was beginning to see a pattern emerge and even at this early stage, (which was still primarily as a part of my research into German military music), and get a feel for what cards had been printed during the Third Reich: ornate cards, plain cards, coloured cards, those that were overtly political & propaganda-based, some that were purely military, whilst others of a more civilian nature offered the words to the most famous songs, and others not so well known; indeed some were gentle in their picture content whilst others represented a German people fully committed to the defence of the Third Reich…
In addition the same names of card producers, such as Horns-Verlag of Gotha, Robert Franke of Hamburg, Greishaber und Säuberlich of Stuttgart and Verlag. J. Bottger of Bad Godesberg were beginning to turn up with some regularity amongst the production details on the backs of the cards.
Despite my on-going research, there was still a strange ignorance on this subject and even a well-known publisher of superb works on WW-II who has produced three volumes of Third Reich Propaganda Postcards was perplexed. Apart from a handful of cards devoted to the Horst Wessel Lied he entirely ignored the German Soldier Song postcard as a genre and on questioning him why this should be, received the answer that his work only revolved around propaganda cards, deeming my cards to be purely German military only which I found odd..!
So though no further forward, at least somebody well versed in German postcards had actually categorised my song card collection and knowing that he deemed them to be German military was fine, but where were all the listings (and dealers), for such cards and where were all the wonderful illustrations in other collectors’ written works for me to compare my growing collection?
The other imponderable was the apparent random pricing structure, as apart from the interest and value attached to the overtly political Horst Wessel Lied song cards with their obvious Nazi link, it often appeared that dealers placed a card value based more on what is/was on the back of the card, i.e. the franking and/or the actual postage stamp, rather than the song & picture details contained on the front; for example I once paid slightly over the odds for two cards bearing songs that weren’t particularly unusual because both cards, when turned over, bore the imprint of the ‘SS Standort Hospital’ at the Dachau Concentration Camp..!
This as a former school-boy stamp collector myself, I quite understand and this has since played to my advantage when I have been fortunate enough to pick up other cards with Nazi songs and imagery that I considered to be scarce, but because they were unissued and blank on the back I was offered them for merely a couple of pounds each, precisely because the dealer in question had seen nothing on the back, such as a stamp or Feldpost imprint, though which he could value the card higher!.
As with my general Third Reich militaria collecting days, I have built up and then sold several Nazi-era song card collections, and am back on the hunt again but as before I try only collect mint-to unissued condition postcards where possible, ( a number of which are featured in my III Reich Military Music & Bandsmen Book), whereas dog-eared, damaged or defaced cards do not normally find a permanent in my Archive after they have served their research purposes, though after many years of searching, the number of new cards turning up is much more limited,
However I know of at least one new collector, (Ian up in Scotland), that started acquiring these wonderful soldier song cards as a direct result of seeing those featured in my book, so that is at least 4 of us I now know for sure are collecting such cards… Happy Days!
Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013