Too often is it that we come across things on social media and, though we want to, are not able to do the research necessary to grasp the full context of the find. This is probably a function of how fast things move on social media platforms like Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook and others but it's troublesome (from our point of view anyway) because it encourages the loss of understanding about the thing we're interested in enough to say "ooo" and "aaaah" about but for some reason not interested in enough to spend the time to fully comprehend.
On Saturday we came across a post by @mimetalk (Victoria Van Patten) that interested us so much that we absolutely had to research it. Victoria had shared it, we imagine, for it's artistic qualities (she's a filmmaker and illustrator) but being the history weirdos we are we had to have more. Here's the image:
It looks very menacing, doesn't it? When I initially saw it I thought it was a heavily anthropomorphized metaphor about the Hiroshima bombing. Indeed, if you look at the evil character who is the focus, you see (what seems to be) attributes which match the racially-charged stereotypes of the Japanese by Allied propaganda in the late 30s and 40s.
But then I noticed the date given in the original tweet: 1912. Couldn't be Hiroshima... so what was it? There were no bombings of Austria in 1912, though I do believe the Austrians bombed the Italians somewhere around that time. In any event, if this wasn't the the personified metaphor of a bomb destroying a city, what was it?
It took a lot of looking but eventually, using small clues in various online versions of the image, combined with the artists name I was able to discover that this image first appeared in print in early 20th century Austria's most well-circulated publications: Die Muskete.
The Muskette was a humorous weekly magazine, which was published every Thursday from October 5th, 1905 and was published until 1941. Adolf Moßbäck was the editor and responsible editor . He described the program direction of the new paperback as follows: "And we want to be Austrian. Native artists, local authors. Austrian will also remain in our position as an army, to which a part of the contents is particularly devoted to [Austrian culture]."- From Wikipedia
After discovering this, all that remained was to search the archives at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Austrian National Library) for Die Muskete's 1912 issues. A few clicks later and bam! November 14th 1912:
The original text is poorly translated by Google but seems to tell the story of an Austrian stenographer named Friedrich Popper and his vision of a war or his witnessing of a war, or something else - we don't spreken ze deutsch so good (and by "so good" we mean "not at all"). If any of you out there can translate, we'd love to know what the article is about so we can get closer to fully understanding the context of this amazing photo.
For now we're going to take a break. We'll revisit this when we have a good translation of the article.
Update: A most beneficent reader!
Charlotte has been kind enough to stop by and do a bit of translating for us. We don't know Charlotte but boy she sure is nice to give us her time and expertise! Read more from her in the comments but here's the gist of the poem:
…And God spoke coolly: “The people want war. –
So descend to the excited flock
And see that their wish is fulfilled
And whip them on to mass murder and victory!”
And he descended. Reached out his hand,
Indifferent and hard, for young warm life.
And see: joyfully it was given unto him
For an idol. They call it Fatherland.
Eternal urge to spill the heart’s blood
For this hot, storm-borne word!
We see it in young peoples there
And want to take it as our example,
And want to be firm as iron, not limp and soft.
What does it matter if old women lament
And fearfully weep over our tomorrow?!
By dint of our strength Austria remains strong.
To us it seems like this is re-enforcing a brutish Nationalism, perhaps the preexistence for attitudes like this are what made the initial annexing of Austria into Germany so easy for the Nazi party of the late 1930s.