45Felix & World War 245

Felix's service is cited as an example, five of his photos and one of his documents are used in this article on the occupation of Germany.


English Translation of Flirthinweise fürs Feindesland

July 21, 2008

From EINSTAGES Spiegel Zeitgeschichten auf Spiegel Online

How does one ask in German for the bathroom? A little guide book was designed to help US soldiers to know their way around in occupied Germany. The “Pocket Guide to Germany” contained valuable information, many clichés, and even served as a flirting guide. Now, the historical document is making a comeback.

by Alice Kohli

“Ish bin ah-may-ree-KA-ner. (English: I am American. German: Ich bin Amerikaner). BIT-tuh HEL-fen zee meer“. (English: Please help me. German: Bitte helfen Sie mir). In such a similar fashion, the American army truck driver Felix A. Cizewski from Wisconsin could have introduced himself to a German, if he were to ask for directions in the streets of Munich in 1945. He would have found this helpful phrase in the “Pocket Guide to Germany”, a handy pocket book of the US army.

The spectrum of common use phrases includes the sound alphabet, German grammar, and English translation, which should not only aid the GIs with problems concerning their survival but also ensure easy communication in mundane situations in order to prevent misunderstandings from happening with natives – like the one very practical question mentioned above “VO is tai-nuh two-LET-tuh?” (English: Where is a bathroom? German: Wo ist eine Toilette?).

As humorous as these pronunciation aides are to read such as the following exclamations like “DEK-koong” (English: cover  German: Deckung ) and “guh-FAR” (English: danger  German: Gefahr ), they also serve as a reminder of the dramatic conditions, in which the pocket book was conceived. The pocket book guide was written in 1944 by German experts of the Morale Service Division, who were responsible for the fighting spirit of US troops. The little book should inform the US soldiers at least about the important facts of the country which they were about to conquer and occupy: Germany.

“Lead and Lies”

On June 6th, 1944 the Allied forces landed in Normandy; on October 21st, their troops conquered Aachen, the first big city on German soil. At this time around two million editions of the helpful pocket book guide were in circulation among American soldiers, which not only offered practical survival skills but contained basic geographical information like: (“in central Germany is a mountain range similar to the Catskills or the Blue Ridge”), explanations of the agriculture, information about the weather conditions (“The climate of Germany reminds one of the US East Coast around the area of Baltimore and Washington”).

Additionally, the reason for the GIs presence was enforced one more time: “The occupation of Germany will give you your chance to build up a personal guarantee that as soon as you turn your back to go home, the Germans will not pick up their shooting irons and start throwing lead and lies at an unsuspecting world once more.”

However, after the war, the pocket guide was soon forgotten. Most editions stuck tattered in the backpacks of the returning GIs and collected dust in basements or attics; disposed of like school books after a successful exam. The copy of the army truck driver Felix A. Cizewski from Chicago was found in his estate by his son Leonard in 2004.

Cowboys, Indians, rich uncles

The book of etiquette for soldiers disappeared as such from the collective memory, which had imprinted a picture of Germany on millions of Americans. It was only in 2004 that the Bonn House of History re-published new copies of the traveling guide of a different kind. Now, for the first time, the pocket guide is available in a bilingual edition including an extensive commentary – as a document of international understanding, which back then was not quite the case. In 1944, Germans and Americans were as foreign to each other as never before and never again. “You will discover that many Germans grew up with the opinion that America is inhabited by cowboys, Indians, and rich uncles”, the primer warned the readers of the prejudices of the German population against their homeland.

Despite the fact that among the authors were German immigrants, sweeping sttements were made like this one, for example: “The German youth may be a nice-looking chap, but the difference to American teenagers is to be found inside him – in his character”; and under the title “Danger  Keep your distance” the pocket book warns strongly: “Keep in mind that eleven years ago a majority of Germans through election helped the Nazis to power. The entire German population has read Hitler’s ‘My struggle’”.

Original training film for American soldiers: "Your Job in Germany"

The description of the two countries sizing each other up seems today at times like an embarrassing family gathering of quarreling siblings, who only reluctantly join hands. The soldiers should not act grouchy advised the US War Department but it nevertheless asked for restraint: “At home you only had to deal superficially with many people. You were polite to them, but have never discussed private matters, told them secrets or pulled them into confidence”, the pocket guide lectured: “You should orient yourselves towards this attitude.”

“DO NOT FRATERNIZE” – friendship is forbidden: This warning could be read in capital letters on the cover of the pocket guide. Yet the editors were well aware that the booklet would help to foster fraternization. In small letters one could find then, after the explanations of the German healthcare system, a chapter titled “Marriage Facts”, valuable information about marriage ceremonies. A marriage with a foreign woman would be a complicated event, warn the authors in the passage and point towards the different legal problems. This one or the other German-American marriage may have nonetheless begun with a clumsy phrase from the pocket guide – cleverly employed, the pocket guide could very well function as a flirting device: VAHN buh-GINT dahss KEE-no, FROY-lain SHMIT? (English: When does the cinema start, Miss Schmitt? German: Wann beginnt das Kino, Fräulein Schmitt?)

Translation of  photo captions:

Picture 1
US occupiers in Heidelberg: “Before the war American tourists poured into Germany during the summer in order to visit the Rhine with its old castles, the Black Forest, the Bavarian Alps and medieval cities like Brandenburg by Berlin”, reads chapter three in the 1944 pocket guide. “Today Americans do not come as tourists to enjoy the scenery but rather as soldiers with a military order.”

Picture 2
Do not Fraternize: The sticker on the title page of the “Pocket Guide to Germany” was to emphasize to its readers that any friendship with Germans was undesirable.

Picture 3
Landing in Normandy: In the morning of June 6th, 1944, the long awaited Allied invasion began in Normandy. In October Allied forces occupied the first German cities. Around two million copies of the “Pocket Guide to Germany” had already been distributed.

Picture 4
Your mission in Germany: “The occupation of Germany will give you your chance to build up a personal guarantee that as soon as you turn your back to go home, the Germans will not pick up their shooting irons and start throwing lead and lies at an unsuspecting world once more.” (From: “Pocket Guide to Germany”)

Picture 5
GIs in Hessen: The American occupation forces find a traumatized civil population, worn down from the war.

Picture 6
Contents of the “Pocket Guide”: The “Pocket Guide to Germany” offered with barely 40 pages the most important information for American soldiers – and answers to questions like: What is the Second World War about? What happened in Germany and how did it come to this situation? How do I politely keep my distance from the population?

Picture 7
German civil workers: Under the watchful eyes of American guards Germans must dig up graves in the beginning of 1945.

Picture 8
Back cover of the pocket guide: Welcome to Schilderwald  The last page of the pocket guide included a practical compilation of the most important signs in Germany.

Picture 9
Felix A. Cizewski in Munich: In the background is a pick up truck of the type MAN F8. If the motor pool and army dispatcher were to have lost sight of his buddies the pocket guide would help him: “VO ZINT dee a-may-ree-KA-nee-shen zawl DA-ten?” (English: Where are the American soldiers? German: Wo sind die amerikanischen Soldaten?)

Picture 10
Eisenhower’s order of the day: “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayer of liberty – loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine.” US commander-in-chief Dwight D. Eisenhower had this order of the day from June 6th, 1944 distributed to the invasion troops. Felix A Cizewski carried this page with him until the end of the war; his son found it along with Cizewski’s copy of the “Pocket Guide” in his estate.

Picture 11
National Socialist art temple as US-casino: Felix A. Cizewski poses with comrades on the steps of the “Haus der Deutschen Kunst” (The House of German Art) in Munich. The American occupation used the building as an officer’s casino.

Picture 12
In the lion’s den: GIs in front of Hitler’s mountain residence in Obersalzberg in 1945. Today the Kehlstein (stone) house in the Berchtesgarden countryside is a popular tourist destination for American visitors.

Picture 13
GI in front of a FW 190: “Bach, Germany” is written ons the backside of the picture from the estate of the US veteran Felix A. Cizewski (copyright Leonard H. Cizewski), which was probably taken in May 1945. The airplane is a Fokker Wolf 190 with the title inscripted “Verkaaft’s mei Gwand, I foahr in Himmel” (English: Sell my clothing, I am going to heaven). Even with his pocket guide, Cizewski might have had difficulties in understanding this phrase.

Picture 14
After the war propaganda: The movie “Your Job in Germany” belonged to a series of educational films, which the Oscar winner American film producer Frank Capra (Arsenic and Old Lace) made for the US army. The film warned the GIs, who have been deployed to occupy Germany, not to trust Germans.

Picture 15
Felix A. Cizewski in Fürstenfeldbruck: The 45th Infantry Division was stationed around Munich after the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp. Cizewski never spoke about his experiences in Dachau, according to his son. But throughout his life he kept a copy of the news letter of the 45th Division in which the Dachau’s liberation had been mentioned. The pocket guide could not prepare the American GIs for the horrors of the concentration camps.


Translation from German by Kornelia Engelsma

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© 2007 Leonard H. Cizewski
Last Modified on October 20, 2008
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