Peter C. Appelbaum

Broken Carousel


Selected, Edited, and Translated
By Peter C. Appelbaum
with James W. Scott

ISBN: 978-1-942614-26-5

Available for Sale at:
Stone Tower Books

The Tragedy of The First World War shaped the twentieth century. War changes lives in ways otherwise unimaginable and creates generational legacies of loss. Giving voice to the traumas and experiences of war is something that is frequently best expressed through the words of poets who can speak with one voice for many soldiers. Their words convey emotions, sentiments, and experiences that are often too dif cult for others to express.

There are many familiar names among the war poets of the war, but most of them are British—Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon, Isaac Rosenberg, Ivor Gurney, and a score of others. What is largely absent and overlooked is the perspective of soldiers from the Central Powers. This volume provides English and German readers the poetry of German Jewish soldiers.

Breathtaking and heartbreaking, the poems show that the traumas of war know neither boundaries nor national allegiance.
Among the poets presented are:

  • Emmanuel Saul
  • Walther Heymann
  • Ludwig Franz Meyer
  • Alfred Lichtenstein
  • Samuel Jacobs
  • Leo Sternberg
  • Hartwig Heymann
  • Jacob Diamant
  • Ernst Toller
  • Kurt Tucholsky

The Authors

Peter C. Appelbaum is Emeritus Professor of Pathology at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine. After more than four decades in infectious disease research, Appelbaum is spending his retirement years writing and translating books on modern-day Jewish military history. He is the author of Loyalty Betrayed and Loyal Sons and, together with James Scott, has translated a bilingual anthology of war essays and poems by Kurt Tucholsky. Broken Carousel, his bilingual anthology of German-Jewish soldier poems is forthcoming.

James W. Scott is Emeritus Professor of German at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania. His scholarly presentations range from Rilke’s prose and Kafka’s short fiction to cabaret in East Germany and communicative testing. At present he is editing Ebernand von Erfurt's Kaiser und Kaiserin and preparing a new translation of Iwein, an Arthurian epic by Hartmann von Aue.

Reviews & Other Notes of Interest

TLS In Brief October 12, 2018


How many Jewish poets of the First World War can you name? Britain’s Isaac Rosenberg had numerous German counterparts, and in this anthology Peter C. Appelbaum presents seventeen of them, some extremely obscure. The first eleven poets all perished at the front. Their work has been recovered from published volumes, the contemporary Jewish press, and sometimes from archives and family papers. The poems are given in German, with facing-page translations, often excellent, by James W. Scott.

The poets find various ways of articulating a German-Jewish identity. One of the best, the Zionist Ludwig Franz Meyer, writes explicitly from exile (“Galuth”), anticipating a future in the land of Israel. At the other extreme, Walther Heymann celebrates his home province of East Prussia and assails the enemies of “Deutschtum”. The only religious Jew appears to be Samuel Jacobs, represented by a series of poems recording Tisha Be’av (the day of the destruction of the Temple) in successive years of the war. The complexities of German-Jewish allegiance find striking expression in the long blank-verse poem by Immanuel Saul expressing his enthusiasm for the German people despite the slights visited on Jews, citing the Maccabees as models, and welcoming the “holy war” against the real oppressors of Jews – Russia, the scene since 1880 of pogroms that shocked the world. The collection ends with poems by the forgotten Jacob Diamant about the sufferings of Jewish civilians in Galicia (now western Ukraine), a territory over which Russian troops invaded Austria in the first winter of the war, driving innumerable refugees to find shelter in Prague or Vienna.

Formally, many poets favour the quatrains familiar from Romantic poetry, a richly expressive mode despite its seeming simplicity. We sometimes find the dreamy mood rudely shaken by Heine’s technique of Stimmungsbruch, as when Julius Fürst’s “Pachantenklage” (“Backpacker’s Lament”) ends with death and indifference: “It’s nothing but one more poor soul that just died, / And no one today gives a damn”. Elsewhere, long unrhymed lines illustrate the influence of Whitman on early twentieth-century German poetry. There is very little doggerel here, and many literary discoveries. The compilers deserve gratitude for their work of poetic archaeology.

Britten Sinfonia

Britten Sinfonia presented Nico Muhly’s The Last Letter to commemorate the end of the Great War. The Last Letter sets a moving selection of letters by First World War German and English soldiers and their loved ones, interspersed with music and poetry written by composers and poets on both sides of the conflict. The evening included a reading of some of Leo Sternberg's work from Broken Carousel as edited and translated by Peter Applebaum.