The Sitzkrieg of Private Stephan” (Sieg! Sieg!, 1961) by Erich Kuby is an autobiographical novel set in France during the German invasion of 1940.

"Nichts in diesem Buch wurde erfunden." (Nothing in this book was invented). E.K.

The starting point in the novel is a village named Pütz (Prüm in Mein Krieg). The main characters are Stefan Wolzogen-Kuby [a play on “wohlerzogen” or well behaved?]), his best friend and sculptor Ernst Benhard (Hansheinrich Bertram), and his nemesis and the personification of Hitler on earth, former SA storm trooper Sergeant Hahl (Unteroffizier H. oder Hahn in Mein Krieg).

I quote from Mein Krieg:

pg. 143: The silent protest: I do not belong to the H's. I don't mean with that the the Nazi H[itler]. The Nazi H. is the German H[ahn or Hahl in the novel], is one of 80 million who, just like him, imagine that they are their way world domination, which they no more qualified to exercise than a tribe of aborigines.

pg. 150: The one H[itler] leaves me indifferent, but the other H[ahn or Hahl in the novel] has driven me nuts, or rather that I had to run up against the former in the person of the latter in order to lose control of myself and stop winding my way through the mess.

The novel ends with Stefan's court-martial in Le Creusot, France and his being sent to military prison in Germany. The actual trial took place almos a year later in a village near Leningrad in 1941. In Mein Krieg, a general named Jahn reduces his sentence of 1 year and 9 months of imprisonment to 9 months of probation and says (Mein Krieg, pg. 158) – “If I had been your company commander the whole thing would never had happened.” The novel has a classic open end: “And now Stefan Wolzogen's war began.” Somewhat like Hans Castorp at the end of Thomas Mann's “Magic Mountain” which Kuby must have read.

To those of you who do not and never will read German well enough to get through Kuby's “Mein Krieg,” I recommend this (somewhat condensed) translation of the novel. In a nutshell, it describes Kuby's dilemma with the Wehrmacht, and its dilemma with him. There is also much material that was not included in Mein Krieg. You could say that, in this novel, Kuby really "packt aus" (unpacks, unloads). To be sure, the translator, a native German and expert in German literature, occasionally has difficulties with colloquial English and slang, and much of the humor in the original is untranslatable. But don't let that stop you, this novel is the easier way to get Kuby's message from Mein Krieg.

I include here the complete chapter “The Invasion of Paradise” as a kind of introduction. It corresponds roughly to the chapters “Kriegsreise durch Frankreich” and “Als Sieger im Paradies” in Mein Krieg.

In addition you find below the revealing diatribe of reserve Captain Geiler, Notar or lawyer from Düren and viola player, in which he lays out to Stefan (Kuby) his plan for Le Creusot, the French city he is governing. In Mein Krieg the commander of Le Creusot is a Captain von Bissing, mentioned briefly twice on page 56.

Chapter"Machine Kaputt" in Sitzkrieg, pg. 349-50


"But you know, sir, we're working on the war chronicle."
"And when do you work on that?"
"Every day, sir," Stefan said.
"What period are you going to cover?"
"Up to the armistice. Perhaps there'll be a short chapter on the
occupation. That will depend on how long we're going to stay in
France."
"In that case you might as well get ready for supplements.
Here we are and here we stay."
Stefan laughed.
"That isn't funny," the captain said. "We'll have to govern
France just as we're governing Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland,
Denmark,Norway...."
"Holland, Belgium. . . ." Stefan continued.
"Exactly, all of Europe. That's what we're going to do now
and nobody will be able to stop us. That's the mission which
history has assigned to us. I'd like to see what you're writing
about Le Creusot when you get that far. You might make a copy
for me. I have started a collection, 'Le Creusot 1940,' for my
grandchildren. I think that ought to be quite insructive. Europe
in statu nascendi. And I'll be able to say, 'I was there.' The
French are like clay in our hands. We'll make something of them.
"So far we haven't finished the Polish campaign."
"Campaigns are a bore. When I was your age . . . how old are
you?"
"Twenty-seven."
"I was two years younger than you when I joined up in '14.
The war was still interesting then; we went in there, well, the
Deluge of Steel. Well, you know about that, Ernst Jiinger and
all that, but now, that's no war at all. . . . We just shake the
tree and all Europe drops to the ground. We're the only people
with an idea. The others are helpless. We'll put the Frenchmen
back on their feet too. They're like a tree on which ivy has crept
up. That kills any tree. We have ro get rid of the ivy. With an
axe! Did you ever take a look at what crawls around here? Poles,
Russians, Letts, Estonians, Negroes, Jews. . . . We have to get rid
of all that – they must go, all of them."
"But those people work here, sir."
"Work! I'm sure the French will be glad for every job they
can get themselves now. But that's not even the point. The ques-
tionl is the rejuvenation of the whole people. It has to find itself
again. We can only build Europe with healthy nations...The
war we carry on now, without tanks, without medals, without fanfare,
but with the brutal severity without which both we and Europe would be
lost – that's worth writing about. Wait another six months be-
fore you write your chapter about Le Creusot. I'll transform this
decadent hole into a French town again, a town that fits into our
Europe. I'll transform it."
"With an axe."
"That won't be necessary," said the attorney [Notar] from Düren. "I'll
throttle this rabble with silk gloves. With ration coupons. And
the French will help me do it. To lead means to do nothing your-
self. It means to see that sornething is done. In another six
months the Polish quarter will be deserted, the Marolles will be
depopulated, the whole gang will have disappeared. . . ."
"Where to, sir!"
"The lowest of the low will be eliminated. It will be a total
purification. That process is going on both in the East and in the
West. Hunger makes people asocial. And we have camps. They
are the garbage dumps of Europe. I repeat, take a look around
here, Le Creusot will be a model. It's ridiculous to describe the
war without making clear its meaning...."

The Captain v. Bissing (Geiler) procured for Kuby the quarters so that Kuby could begin the work on a "Kriegschronik" of the division. A team of five soldiers came together (In Mein Krieg Kuby, Bertram, Manteuffel the pastor, Prestel the actor, and Fehrman the film producer) which used the "work" on the project as an excuse to escape duty and pursue their own interests. On 19 Sept. 40 the unit was transfered to Franktfurt on the Oder (today on the border with Poland), and the team stayed together throughout the winter of 1940/41, practically exempt from duty. The "Kriegchronik" was never completed. However, during this period Kuby produced from his letters and diary the manuscript "Kriegsfahrt durch Frankreich" (War trip through France)." At the beginning of August, Kuby had gone on leave to his family on the Bodensee (according to the epilogue of Demidoff in September). There a circle of friends encouraged him to turn his letters into a book. The List publishing house was ready to publish it, but it first had to be submitted to the censor of the Oberkommando of the Wehrmacht for approval, and that's when Kuby's troubles began.