Liévin, March 7, 1918

Thursday        Stood to at 5:30 – did not fire A white frost this morning observation none too good, misty in the distance, Fritz dropped lots of minnies [minenwerfers] up forward this a.m. its coming cloudy like rain (2 pm)  The rain kept off Am suffering from a sore throat otherwise not feeling too bad

“Minnenwerfer.[sic] A high-power trench mortar shell of the Germans, which makes no noise coming through the air. It was invented by Professor Kultur. Tommy does not know it is near until it bites him; after that nothing worries him. Tommy nicknames them ‘Minnies.'” (1)

Raemaekers Kultur.jpgProfessor Kultur, to whom Arthur Empey assigns credit for the minenwerfer, is personification of the cultural aggression which British and Allied propagandists connected with German military ambitions. “Kultur” is synonymous not with “culture,” but with savagery. Empey repeatedly refers to Kultur as the source of destruction and horror, describing liquid fire, for instance, as a “striking example of German kultur.” (2) Rather more lightheartedly, the propaganda wars appear in his definition of rats as the “main inhabitants of the trenches and dugouts. Very useful for chewing up leather equipment and running over your face when asleep. A British rat resembles a bulldog, while a German one, through a course of Kultur, resembles a dachshund.” (3)

The poster is an example of American propagandists’ view of Kultur, from the Library of Congress via a website devoted to World War I propaganda.

For more on the use of the word kultur by the English, see  Lynda Mugglestone’s English Words in War-Time which examines the work of the Reverend Andrew Clark, one of the many volunteers who collected words and citations for the first edition Oxford English Dictionary. When war broke out in 1914, Clark began to record the effect of the war on the English language.

(1) Empey, Arthur Guy. “Minnenwerfer.” Over the Top by an American Soldier who Went. 1918. 300.
(2) Empey. “Liquid Fire.” 297.
(3) Empey. “Rats.” 305

Copyright 2018. See “More about this project.”

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