Monday, September 27, 2010

The last months of peace

This item in our library is a momento of the days before most of Europe (and British colonies elsewhere) were plunged into a major war.

This huge two volume Deutsche Reichsbahn (German Empire Railway) Kursbuch or Passenger Timetable was issued for the summer of 1939, valid from 15 May to 7 October of that year. Well, it didn't get to 7 October before a replacement timetable had to be issued with a much reduced offering of trains - on 1 September Hitler invaded Poland and World War 2 began. Not only did Poland suffer, Germans suddenly found themselves faced with restrictions on travel and consumer items, as well as, of course, having a large part of their male workforce drafted into the armed forces. This later became increasingly severe and although forced labourers from occupied countries bore the brunt of consumer product limitations, all city dwellers - and quite a few small town dwellers - were subject to constant destructive air raids, particularly after America became involved after December 1941.

Thus this timetable shows all the many places you could travel by train before the war began, and the trains you could use, not only in Germany but in neighbouring countries. There is a wealth of historical information in it, not solely because many railway lines subsequently disappeared for various reasons. And after the war, Stalin reallocated 24% of Germany's pre-war territory to Poland (and the northern part of East Prussia to Russia). This timetable includes the Sudentenland as part of the Reich as well as the "Protectorat" of Bohmeia and Moravia, all of which now form the Czech Republic.

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