The Erich Kuby Source Page  
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     Dedicated to the author of "Mein Krieg" (My War)   
 
The most controversial of the
diaries by a soldier of the German Wehrmacht
     - So demanding is our people when in possession of power, so servile when they have gambled it away... I  say: Nothing can be expected of them, although they created Sedan, provoked the first World War, made 1933 possible, set the second World War in motion...everything for nothing and again nothing.
- My analysis of the times doesn't go from top to bottom, but rather from bottom to top.
- They will talk about Hitler instead of about themselves. Oh, the poor people!
Mein Krieg, pp. 307, 150, 308
- We are a people with no concept of freedom. Demidoff, pp. 37-8,  51
- Nevertheless, there is something that some of us....fear more than the German defeat, and that
is the German victory. Thomas Mann, "Schicksal und Aufgabe," 1944
- What will it be like, to belong to a people whose history bore in itself  this horrible failure...?
Serenus Zeitblom in Thomas Mann's Doktor Faustus,  Seite 644
Erich Kuby landscape Demidoff Russia

Mein Krieg

My War, 1975, 1999, 2000

Timeline of Mein Krieg
and Erich Kuby biography

Review of Mein Krieg by Felix Florian Weyh

Demidoff, 1947, with sketches

Das Ende des Schreckens (The end of the Horror), 1956

Das ist des deutschen Vaterland, 1957

Nur noch rauchende Trümmer (Siege of Brest), 1959

Sieg! Sieg! (autobiographical novel, 1961, available in English as "Sitzkrieg of Private Stefan"). Companion piece to Mein Krieg.

Die Russen in Berlin 1945
 The Russians and Berlin 1945, 1965

Die deutsche Angst (the German Angst), 1970

Als Polen Deutsch war (When Poland was German), 1986

Der Preis der Einheit (The Price of Unity), 1990

Deutsche Perspektiven (German Perspectives), 1993

Lauter Patrioten (Nothing
but Patriots here), 1996

Mein ärgerliches Vaterland (My Troublesome Fatherland), 1990, 2010

Compare and contrast:
Deutsche Hörer! (Listen, Germany!) by Thomas Mann

Photos of Erich Kuby

My other website:
Gen. George H. Thomas, and the Army of the Cumberland
A critique of our historical Establishment.

The Germans hate themselves – that is the only possible explanation. Mein Krieg, p. 462
Cliquez içi pour lire cette introduction en français, qui per quella in italiano.

Erich Kuby was a German chronicler, author, journalist, publicist, and fiercely independent observer of and commentator on politics and history. His most important book Mein Krieg – Aufzeichnungen aus 2129 Tagen (My War – Notes from 2129 Days) is based on his diary entries and the thousands of letters he sent and received while serving 6 years as a common soldier in the Wehrmacht (no battle medals), including 8 months in American capitivity.

Kuby was born on 28 June 1910 in Baden-Baden, today located in Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany. The last 25 years of his life he resided mainly in Italy, and he died on 10 September 2005 in Venice where he is buried. Erich Kuby in Demidoff Russia

Mein Krieg (the title is a satirical reference to "Mein Kampf") is unique because of Kuby's combination of extraordinary narrative talent, refusal to bend to relentless authority, his access to informaton as a Signals corpsman, his extensive exposure to both the Russian and French theaters of war as a private and (for six weeks) infantryman, and a lot of good luck without which he would not have survived. Part of this luck was timing: due to sickness and a stint in military prison, he was withdrawn from the eastern front 3 times at critical moments. He was a gifted musician (organ and violin), fairly talented sketch artist, and imbued with the German and French literature of his time. In short, a prize in a normal civilian cultural setting, but a thorn in the side of many military pen-pushers. While he was persecuted by many of his superiors, in fairness it must be stated that others (such as the Generals Lichl and Jahn, Captain Kaletta, commander of the military prison in Smolensk, the Viennese Sergeant Stifter, down to the company clerk Brosius in Kempten, and others unnamed) recognized his genius and protected him. Then there is the relatively cultured Colonel Maydorn who refused to intervene when Kuby was sent from Demidoff back to a military prison in Smolensk. A few hours before he left Demidoff, the last gasp German sommer offensive of 1942 had begun from which few participating soldiers returned. Careful reading of both Mein Krieg and Demidoff leads me to the tentative conclusion that this colonel deliberately saved Kuby from the offensive, although the possibility seems not to have occurred to Kuby. In any case, auch das hat es in der Wehrmacht gegeben. That too was possible in the Wehrmacht.

Kuby loved his first book Demidoff more than all of the later ones, but he called Mein Krieg his "dauerhafteste Publikation" (most durable publication). However, until now (see my partial translation) it has never been available in other languages, partly because of its length, but mostly because his basic message disturbs even today many Germans. Namely, that "Nazism was a disease of the body politic, and it too was deliberately contracted" (Introduction to Thomas Mann's novel Doktor Faustus, English translation, pg. x).  Moreover, he cuts the ground out from under those non-German writers, readers, and History Channel producers who are content with the easy explanation that the Germans were misled by one man (Hitler) or by Hitler and his power sharing clique. Kuby demonstrates that the mass ("99%") of Germans supported the goals of the Nazi regime, and explains why, namely that the national impulse to expand eastward dated back centuries. He wrote: "My analysis of the times doesn't go from top to bottom, but rather from bottom to top" (Mein Krieg, pg. 150). At the announcement of victory in Poland, Kuby writes: "The Volk began to glow – the bellowing of the Führer was answered by an erotic moan from the people which hadn't been heard until then...that was not the work of propaganda, but rather erupted from the nation's depths. All of a sudden, not being a Nazi was useless" (pg. 22, Sieg! Sieg!, 1961). Hitler (in my words) was not the great Führer, but the great Follower who sensed what his people collectively wanted, and gave it to them. He (der große H.) learned his trade through his early speeches and the public's reaction to them. He discovered that he was good at whipping up, at first, small crowds into a frenzy, that he really liked such power (the most potent of drugs), and that a path to dominating (and being controled by) even greater crowds was open before him. Ecce homo. It turned out to be a Faustian bargain, both for him and for Germany. Rest assured, if someone back in Vienna had paid good money for Hitler's paintings (not that bad, really, just old fashioned), there would still have been a Führer, but with another name.**
*See Thomas Mann's radio address to Germany of Aug.1941, pg. 24.
**See Thomas Mann's radio address to Germany of 28 March 1944, pp. 124-5.

Three of Kuby's other books (Demidoff, Nur noch rauchende Trümmer (about the defense of the fortified city Brest in France), and the novel Sieg! Sieg!) are also drawn from his diaries. Mein Krieg, first published in 1975, deals with these episodes as well, but more succinctly, edited, and somewhat "verklärt" (softened). Of his books based on his experiences in the war, his novel Sieg! Sieg! (translated into English in 1962 as Sitzkrieg of Private Stefan) is the most extensive rendering of his notes and memories, and it covers the period from his arrival in an army signals unit (Nachrichtendienst) stationed in the Eifel region in Nov. 1939 to the end of his participation in the first French campaign in September 1940. The novel ends with his court martial which actually took place almost a year later in Russia (near Leningrad) in August 1941. The writing in Sitzkrieg (the English version) is sometimes clumsy, as the German translator, an authority in German literature, wasn't at home with English vernacular and slang. Nevertheless, it is an essential companion to Mein Krieg because, in the novel, Kuby really "packt aus" (unpacks or unloads). For one example among many of the tidbits left out of Mein Krieg, Captain Geiler, the viola player and Notary from Düren (Hauptmann v. Bissing in Mein Krieg) reveals to Stefan what the Nazis have in store for all of Europe. For the besessenen Erneuerer (obsessed reformers, sound familiar?), not only were the Jews in the way of the Germans' carrying out their "historic mission," but all of the other unwanted peoples as well. The French, to be sure, were not to be exterminated, but merely purified and fundamentally transformed (sound familiar?), with velvet gloves and food rationing. And when that wasn't enough...

On this site I present present English translations of key parts of My War (Mein Krieg), including the prefaces and epilogue, memorable quotes, and the entire chapters "In den Krieg gleitend" (Sliding into War), "Als Infanterist" (Foot Soldier Kuby), "Glücklicherweise ins Gefängnis" (Luckily into Prison), and "Vom Dnjepr Rückehr unerwünscht" (From the Dnieper Return Undesired). This last chapter throws a particularly uncompromising spotlight on the Wehrmacht in dissolution. His immediate superiors in a reserve unit in Kempten, upon sending the troublemaker back to Russia, had included in his military files a letter with the stamp "R.U." (Return Undesired) and the explicit instruction that soldier K. was "to be used in a way as to prevent his return to the homeland" – which was intended as a death sentence. But not to worry. On the transport train, in an escapade worthy of the proverbial good Czech soldier, Kuby managed to have a harmless letter substituted for the poisoned one. "One letter is as good as any" (Brief ist doch Brief, pg 351). In any case, the commanders of his new unit in Krementschuk, a small town about 200 km southeast of Kiev on the Dnieper river, had more pressing matters on their minds than delving into Kuby's record. The unit had already been punished at Kharkow, and now a veritable storm was brewing just to the East. On 20 November 1943, a week after Kuby's arrival there, the Soviet Dnieper offensive was renewed, and the Wehrmacht simply collapsed. A precipitous withdrawal turned into an utterly chaotic retreat, with apocaplytic scenes reminiscent of the retreat of Napoleon's army from Moscow in 1812. "The steely criminality unravels, the paint is peeling, and behold, it wasn't made of steel at all! It was made of Braunau cardboard" (pp. 374-75). Language like that still gets under the skins of many Germans. I give this chapter the subtitles "Blitzkrieg in Reverse" or "The Oven of Defeat" (a quote from  the chapter).  If you can and want to read the digitized book in German, use your ingenity to find the file /MeinKrieg.pdf.

I have translated into English the complete radio play from "The Siege of Brest" along with some passages from the court procedings it elicited. I also offer partial translations and/or summaries of some of his other books which are most relevant to an understanding of the Third Reich, including "Lauter Patrioten" (Nothing but Patriots, 1996, a history of his family before WW2), "Als Polen Deutsch war" (about the German occupation of Poland from 1939 to 1944), and the two prefaces of the 1986 reprint of "The End of the Horror" (Das Ende des Schreckens, first published in 1956). In 1986, Kuby was 76 years old, so the newer preface represents Kuby's matured viewpoints and insights. I may get around to translating parts of "Der Preis der Einheit" (The Price of Unification, 1990) about, you guessed it, German reunification. Mind you, his unbending and very German socialism can be tiresome. Also befremdend is his downplaying of the brutality and corruption of the SED regime in East Germany.

I am less interested in his books about post-war Germany. Events have overtaken many of his views about the Federal Republic, his fear of a renewed German militarism has turned out to be groundless. Monet (one of the founders of the European union) took care of that by severely restricting Germany's sovereignty. Moreover, England, France, Russia, and probably Poland as well, have the bomb. Politically Kuby stood aloof from all parties, and in this respect he was an equal opportunity "Nestbeschmutzer von Rang" (very distinguished person who fouls his own nest – witticism borrowed from Heinrich Böll). Despite the common attribution, he was not an extreme leftwinger. "Lenin would have called us [Kuby und Dr. Hanko] two conservatives" (Mein Krieg, p. 455). Of all of his 30 or so works, only three have been published in English: "The Russians and Berlin 1945," the novel "Sitzkrieg of Private Stefan," and the novel "Rosemarie" (The Favorite Child of the German Miracle, 1960) about the unsolved murder of a call girl from Frankfurt. "Rosemarie" has been translated into 17 languages, making it his most popular book, although, in my opinion, the corrupt milieu he describes is in no way specific to Germany or to the period. You can buy the book in English at Amazon, and see portions of the movie on Youtube. I find its critique of the consumerism of post-war Germany strident, again a phenomenon not limited to Germany or those times.

As a complement to Mein Krieg I include here extensive Kostproben (samples) from Deutsche Hörer! ("Listen, Germany!"), Mann's 58 + 1 BBC radio broadcasts to Germany during WW2). Some of these passages I have taken from Thomas Mann's own translation, others I have translated myself. I include also some passages from his novel Doktor Faustus as translated by Lowe-Porter.

When I first stumbled on Mein Krieg in 1976, I was a student in Bonn. It overwhelmed me with its uncompromising portayal of the common man's Third Reich. Over the years I have pondered the tendency of most historiographers to shovel the problem of Nazi-Germany into one man's shoes, and lamented this book's continuing relative obscurity. Now I am doing something to remedy this situation.

By the way, no study of the German participation in WW2 is complete without reading "The Chief Culprit" by Viktor Suvorow (in German "Der Eisbrecher" or Icebreaker, Stalin's pet name for Hitler). This book is required reading for anyone who wants to understand the Second World War.
                          
Sayings by me (they have much more punch in German):
  • Ich habe die Welt nicht erfunden, sondern nur vorgefunden.
  • Kein Volk verurteilen, keinem Volke vertrauen. (Spruch auf die Deutschen gemünzt, aber allgemeingültig)
  • Es wird dafür gesorgt, daß die Suppe doch manchmal so heiß gegessen, wie sie gekocht wird.
  • Ein ins Unermeßliche gesteigerter Geltungsdrang stammt aus einem ins Unermeßliche gesteigerten Minderwertigkeitsgefühl.
  • Es fehlt in der Welt nicht an Geld, sondern an Geltung.
  • Der Erzwidersacher Luzifer sitzet allerweil zur linken Hand des Vaters.
  • Die Geschichte der Menschheit in zwei Sätzen. – Der böse Krieg ergibt den wurmstichigen Frieden, aus dem der böse Krieg hervorgeht.     (Nur eineim Blöden leuchtet es nicht ein, daß all das in den Kram des lieben Gottes paßt.)
  • Meine Katze versteht wenig von meiner Verzweiflung um die Menschheit, aber immerhin etwas.
  • Das Schlimmste ist Menschliches, Allzumenschliches. (Eigentlich eine Umschreibung von Göttliches, Allzugöttliches.)
  • Ich pfeife wortwörtlich auf die tröstlichen Mythen und deren Anhänger.
  • Daß wir einen freien Willen haben, ist eine dürftige Notlüge.
  • Und Gott schuf den Menschen und den Schimpansen nach seinem Bilde.
Project begun 31 March 2015 – redmanrt at yahoo dot com

Last updated 9 Aug. 2016
 
                                                                                  
For a complete list of Kuby's works and their translations into other languages, see the catalog of the DNB (German National Library).

The best place to buy Kuby's books in German is www.booklooker.de. Its affiliated dealers' international shipping rates are reasonable, and payment is through Paypal. You find his books which have been translated into English, and Mein Krieg which hasn't, at Amazon.com. ILL is a long shot.

 

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The online dictionary I use.
More than a million entries:

 German-English Dictionary

Short Biography of Erich Kuby

For more information about Kuby go to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
Erich_Kuby or (if you prefer to read in German) de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Kuby.