I wanted to prepare a suitable version of the advertisement for my book, ‘The Balancing Game’ for inclusion in the website of the San Diego Jewish World, which posts my articles from time to time and whose motto is ‘There is a Jewish Story Everywhere.’ For this purpose I enlisted the help of one of my sons who, among his many talents, is also a designer and a computer whiz.
“Oh, no!” he exclaimed when I showed him the SDJW site on my computer, “not Fractur font. That’s what the Nazis used!”
It seemed to me that the editor had chosen a perfectly respectable, possibly quaint, gothic font for the paper’s logo. Furthermore, it is the font used by the august, now defunct, ‘International Herald Tribune,’ as well as by its successor, ‘The International New York Times.’ The effect it had on me was to call to mind ancient texts and artistic calligraphy, but obviously my son’s association was very different.
Just to be on the safe side, I decided to try to verify what my son claimed. I remembered that tucked away somewhere in one of the three large files of documents, letters and other material that my late father had brought with him out of Nazi Germany in 1938 were a couple of posters put up by the Nazi party and presumably taken down by Dad clandestinely.
Luckily, years before, when I had first opened those venerable files and inspected their contents I decided to index them. My father had put everything in alphabetical and chronological order, but I had removed the yellowing pages from their rusting ring-binders and, keeping their order, placed them in three plastic box-files.
All I had to do was look at the index page at the front of each box file, and within minutes I had found what I was looking for. Sure enough, right at the end of the last of the files, the one containing material from between 1932 and 1934, were two folded-up posters, evidently dating from 1932, both screaming exhortations to the German public to vote for the National-Socialist Party (N.S.D.A.P.), and of course the lettering used was the Fractur font that my son had immediately identified. At first sight, the text seemed fairly innocuous.
In 8 months
2 million workers have lost their jobs and are starving!
Get rid of the class struggle and its parties!
Will restore order and cleanliness!
That is what will be achieved under Hitler’s leadership!
Set the country to rights and restore its honour!
Germany’s honour is your honour!
Germany’s fate is also your fate!
For Hitler and the N.S.D.A.P.
We all know what happened next. However, it seems a shame that this elegant and artistic font should arouse such ugly associations. Such, it would seem, is the power of print and visual association.
The sight of the posters seemed to stun my son. For someone born and brought up in Israel, for whom the Holocaust and the tragedy of the Jews of Europe is something he has learned about from history books or possibly heard about from survivors, to see and touch such tangible evidence from that terrible time was a moving experience.
The posters were printed on poor-quality paper, and are beginning to deteriorate. They are large, measuring 32 inches by 23, and are hence too big to go into my photocopier.
Just for the record, however, I have included the text of that poster in my forthcoming novel, ‘Time Out of Joint: the Fate of a Family,’ which deals, inter alia, with the political currents which swept through Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.