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Trench Papers in the Collection

Le Pépère | America in Europe | Le Héraut

Le Pépère

The French army was the war's most prolific producer of trench newspapers. Le Pépère — Journal Gai du 359ème Régiment d'Infanterie (Merry Newspaper of the 359th Infantry Regiment), appears in two different issues in the Collection. Its name refers to un pépère — a diminutive word for grandfather that came to be used as a synonym for poilu. The first issue in the Collection (XS-019) dates from April 21, 1916, two days before Easter. Accordingly, the front-page feature is "Les Oeufs de Pàques" (Easter Eggs) which lists the regiment's officers next to what each should ideally receive in his oeuf, drawing on a French Easter tradition of exchanging candy eggs full of surprise gifts. Missing letters have been replaced with punctuation marks, perhaps due to a shortage of letters in the type. The issue also includes a wry open letter complaining of rats, lice and fleas in the trenches, as well as short personal messages to members of the regiment and satirical advertisements. The Collection's second copy of the newspaper bears the name Le Paix-père (S-095) (a pun on pépère with paix meaning peace), dated Dec. 25, 1916 and containing a seven-scene musical, starring the 359th regiment. Both issues are priced 10 centimes for a single issue, 3 francs and 60 centimes for a year's subscription and 117 francs and 50 centimes for the projected duration of the war.

America in Europe

The subtitle of America in Europe reads A Paper Published in the Interest of Good Fellowship among All Nations while in reality it is an example of German propaganda aimed at undermining American soldiers' resolve. On the front page of the August 5, 1918 issue (S-003), a caricature of British Prime Minister Lloyd George addresses an American soldier with the words: "My boy, are you able to appreciate the high honor that you are permitted to die for England?" Below, articles offer similar dissuasive opinions, revealing to the Sammies that the lofty ideals they believe they are defending are "nothing but camouflage, nothing but a hiding screen for the real thing you are fighting for — the Sacred Pound and the Almighty Dollar!" The collection's second issue of America in Europe (S-002), dated September 30, 1918, also features a Lloyd George caricature and is likewise full of pacifist articles directed toward Americans. Notable is an open letter to President Wilson on page three, in which Alsace-Lorraine native Friedrich Lienhard attempts to disabuse the American president of the notion that Alsace sees itself as a part of France. The earlier issue is punctured in two corners where it was attached to the balloon that dropped it in American territory.

Le Héraut

Le Héraut, Echos du Camp de Zossen (M-093) was produced by French prisoners of war Leon Niémack, Eugene Dienne and Luc Fichtner. Written in the German P.O.W. camp of Zossen, which contained tens of thousands of primarily French prisoners during the war, Le Héraut was published only once, with 300 copies made. Dated October 18, 1914 and written on a large sheet folded twice, the paper is eight pages long and contains articles related to camp life, songs, poetry and an editorial advocating solidarity between prisoners. Above the paper's masthead runs the text "Souvenir vendu au profit des prisonniers de guerre alliés et de la Croix-Rouge française" (Souvenir sold for the benefit of Allied prisoners of war and for the French Red Cross), suggesting that issues of the paper were intended not only for the entertainment of the prisoners of Zossen but also to be sold for charity. Though not printed on the frontlines, Le Héraut, like a traditional trench newspaper, aimed to unite individuals sharing an experience of the war.

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