The romance of Siberian captivity: German POWs of the First World War in Friede H. Kraze's interwar novel the magical forests
The literature of the Eastern Front during World War I has not received the same critical attention as has that of its western counterpart. This article will address this lacuna by focusing on a neglected but at the time popular prisoner-of-war novel: Friede H. Kraze's The Magical Forests (Die magischen Wälder) (1933) published under the pseudonym Heinz Gumprecht. The Magical Forests reworks experiences of wartime captivity in Russia and places them in a narrative that demonstrates the prisoners' loyalty to their comrades and to the nation. Russia is portrayed in the novel as feminine, primitive, and backward, qualities that the prisoners find to be both exotic and attractive. The novel is unique in that it not only focuses on the prisoners' suffering but also presents Russian captivity as having allowed the prisoners to forge a revitalized national community based on the values of male soldierly comradeship. This article will analyse Kraze's depictions of the natural landscape and peoples of Russia encountered by the prisoners. It shows how the masculine bonds of comradeship among the prisoners are both reinforced and challenged by their relations with Russian women. While The Magical Forests articulates colonial fantasies of settling and developing Russian territory, the novel also displays a more complex identification with the lands and peoples of the country that challenges the notion of a straight path from turn-of-the-century Russophobia to Nazi anti-Bolshevism.
|Keywords||captivity in Siberia, collective memory of World War I, German images of Russia, interwar Europe, nationalism in literature, representations of prisoners of war in literature|
|Journal||First World War Studies|
Casteel, J. (2014). The romance of Siberian captivity: German POWs of the First World War in Friede H. Kraze's interwar novel the magical forests. First World War Studies, 5(3), 287–304. doi:10.1080/19475020.2014.999813