Thursday, December 15, 2005

Mon Village en Alsace

From the end of the Franco-Prussian war in 1871 until the end of World War I, the Alsace region of France was ruled by the German Empire (and again during WWII). Many of the residents were unhappy about the annexation and retained an allegiance to France.

Jean-Jacques Waltz (1873-1951) was one of those strongly pro-France Alsatian residents who happened to have an aptitude for both illustration and satire. Together with his brother, he drew cartoons mocking German tourists to the region, among other similar subject matter, which were published in school magazines under their adopted pseudonym of Hansi.

Waltz eventually took over the pseudonym as his own and studied art and had his illustrations featured in newspapers while his brother became a pharmacist. Prior to the outbreak of the great war, Hansi published a couple of very popular illustrated books which continued the satirical portrayal of Germans, particularly those in authority, and so displeased the German government that he was sentenced to a year in jail. The start of the war and the embarrassing publicity for the goverment enabled his early release after which Hansi enlisted and served as a translator.

One of those books that secured both his notoriety and infamy was Mon Village, Ceux qui n'Oublient pas [My Village that won't be Forgotten] which was released in 1913. Despite being a children's book, the richly detailed illustrations contain unflattering depictions of Germans (or at least heavily stereotyped). No doubt there are further symbolic elements at play beyond the imagery in the clouds above.

Hansi pursued illustrating between the wars and published a few more books. But he remained unpopular with the German leaders, culminating in a severe beating by the gestapo during WWII. He ended up living in Switzerland until end of the war.


pita said...

I love the book , beautiful illustrations ,thanks!

pk said...


Isil said...

You save me from studying, around 1 hour per day. THANks!
Dont let us all down.

Buster Brumit said...

I think it''s fucking gorgeous.

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