Two German-French phrasebooks


If after Monday’s blog you were hoping to be pleasantly surprised by the absence here of phrases such as ‘if you lie, you will be shot’, prepare for disappointment. It is hard to tell the exact date of these, though the Haasmann is generally dated 1915, and the Sulzberger is dated by some as as early as 1900, though the appearance of ‘tanks’ on p26 argues a post-1916 revision; there are aeroplanes too, not in the French military before 1909.




Haasmann has no such useful list of weaponry, and is perhaps the less belligerent of the two, asking in an engaging way on page 26 for clothes to be repaired. Sulzberger may be deceptively agreeable on the first page, but then takes on a harsh tone pp4,5

1 3

2,3 4,5


‘Wir sind sehr friedlich / Nous sommes très paisibles’ (we are very peaceful) says Haasmann (p22) – but this is when they are billeted – and asks ingenuously ‘Sind die Einwohner feindlich / Les habitants sont-ils hostiles?’ (are the locals hostile?) (p4). Sulzberger asks the same – ‘les habitants sont-ils pacifiques?’ It is noticeable that in both texts this question is asked after a very definite threat: for Haasmann ‘Wenn Sie weggehen, schiessse ich / Si vous vous sauvez, je tire’ (if you run away I will shoot); and Sulzberger ‘Wenn Sie lügen warden Sie erschossen / Si vous mentez, vous serez fusilé’ (if you lie you will be shot).


And yet, Haasmann page 7 brings ‘tell the truth or you will be shot’, page 10 brings ‘you are staying here as a hostage’, page 14 brings ‘if you lie you will be shot’, and page 20 ‘if the locals hide rations, the village will have to pay a ten thousand franc fine’. Both texts carry the voice of an occupier: empty your pockets, your bag; a curfew; house that people shoot from will be burnt, and their inhabitants shot.

6,7 14,15

Haasmann’s Germans get a quarter of a pound of vegetables daily, Sulzberger’s only 100 grammes, which cannot have been good for peace of mind.

20,21 22,23

A nice bit of etymology; when we said ‘budge over’ at school we never imagined we were using a word taken from French. ‘Rühren Sie sich nicht von der Stelle / Ne bougez pas de là’ says Haasmann; in English ‘don’t budge’.








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