Wednesday, December 21, 2011

World War One: teaching using Trench Art and artifacts

For the classroom teacher, World War One presents numerous opportunities to spark added student interest by using objects from that time period. From 1914-1918, millions of rounds of artillery were fired by opposing sides. Expended brass shell casings were plentiful after the conflict. During and after The War, Germany itself was under a lot of economic stress because of the Allied naval blockade of German ports. Disease and hunger and extreme suffering were commonplace in Germany during and after WW I.

http://www.oldmagazinearticles.com/Post-WW1_German_Poverty
 "Over three years of war and the British blockade of the Channel and North Sea ports--illegal under international law--had left the German economy in ruins, with every raw material and even the most basic food stuffs in desperately short supply . . . German farmers had produced 90 percent of the country's food needs before the war, but they did so only with the help of 2 million tons of imported nitrogen and phosphate fertilizers, 6 million tons of fodder and 1 million foreign seasonal workers. When the war and Allied blockade stopped these, food production fell by a quarter. ....As a result, mortality rates were rising sharply. Malnutrition, rickets and tuberculosis, which increaed by two thirds compared to pre-war levels, were rampant--death rates among children and women doubled in Germany during the war years . . . " From "Unknown Soldiers: The Story of the Missing of the First World War" by Neil Hanson: page 150
  These trying conditions doubtlessly galvanized German and other European entrepreneurs to seek an opportunity to earn some money off of the visiting troops. Artists fashioned the brass shell casings into what is commonly called "trench art" or "object art." These beautiful shell casings were then sold to American troops and others who wanted a souvenir from "The War to End All Wars." Where can a new teacher find one or two of these? I'd start off on http://www.ebay.com/ or look for a reputable dealer/collector of militaria in your area.

At the Battle of Verdun, there were over 14 million shells fired: 200 for each casualty
While learning about WW I, students examine artillery shells fashioned into works of art and a German helmet from The Great War.

After explaining to students about the realities of trench warfare, I show students a German entrenching shovel. The weight and feeling of the shovel reveals that it is not a recently made product, but it is an item that could be used to dig a trench, or hurt someone, if necessary. Students can read excerpts from Remarque's memoir "All Quiet..." and Ernst Junger's "Storm of Steel" to confirm the use of shovels in hand-to-hand combat. Students see this very thing when I show a video clip from the original film version of "All Quiet on the Western Front" A link to the battle scene is here for you:  From 3:14 to 4:00 shows vicious use of the shovel. 
Local collectors of military memorabilia giving a hands-on presentation about World War One and TRENCH ART.

2 comments:

  1. if religious would not so damaging; be careful, religious-demoniac-Enola Gays-little boy-fat man-sick homo-vices-religious go saying in "their" global media that "World War III has already begun"...because Humankind escapes from religious, and religion no more, Humankind go to a best Future; demoniac-religious would give a pity

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  2. if religious would not so damaging; be careful, religious-demoniac-Enola Gays-little boy-fat man-sick homo-vices-religious go saying in "their" global media that "World War III has already begun"...because Humankind escapes from religious, and religion no more, Humankind go to a best Future; demoniac-religious would give a pity

    ReplyDelete