Collections tell stories about their former owners. (John) Douglas Woodruff’s personal collection, acquired from his estate many years ago, uncovers his interest in communist and fascist era propaganda.
Born in 1897, Woodruff was known for his erudition and wit. After his education in modern history at Oxford, Woodruff entered the world of journalism. He held posts with British publications such as The Times and a Catholic weekly, The Tablet. Over the course of thirty years as editor of the latter, Woodruff’s close affiliation with the Catholic Church and his Conservative leanings were documented in his witty prose.
Perhaps the journalist had a preoccupation with fact vs. fiction. These pamphlets, a tiny slice of the collection, certainly offer a glimpse at the whirlwind of texts explaining what people should and should not believe. Hitler Wants the World! is the first collection of Dr. Herman Rauschning’s writings on Hitler. Rauschning is “the man who knows Hitler’s mind” as his 1938 book “Germany’s Revolution of Destruction” supposedly foretold Hitler’s plan. Including essays with titles such as “Nazis’ Plan to Set the World in Flames” and “Russia is Hitler’s Plum” this pamphlet holds Dr. Rausching’s attempts to expose what he saw as the horrors of Nazism and the attempts of Hitler’s regime to maintain a “new social order” (42).
Amter, charter member of the Communist party, published the 1930 pamphlet The Truth about the Communists to answer the question, “Who are the 55,000 Communists?” in the United States. The pamphlet outlines a Communist’s take on issues such as unemployment and civil rights, and devotes a section to Amter’s assertion that “Communists are Builders” (14). The back cover even addresses the problem of hearsay in an attempt to sell the Daily and Sunday Worker: “Has it ever occurred to you that Communism is one of the most talked about subjects of the day? Wherever you turn the word is on someone’s lips…Yet what do you honestly know about Communism? If you are the sort of person that isn’t satisfied with hearsay and opinion, you will find the Daily and Sunday Worker a stimulating newspaper…”
Though it will fit in the palm of your hand, the War Facts Press would surely suggest that Hitler’s British Dupes: Fifty Facts is chock full of information. The tiny pamphlet aims to counter propaganda spread by “Hitler’s dupes” in England. The pamphlet is part of a series published to provide “in handy form,” nonetheless, an “antidote to this poisonous propaganda.”
With piles of pamphlets intended to sway the beliefs of citizens, in 1946 the Chamber of Commerce released Communist Infiltration in the United States: Its Nature and How to Combat It. This “how-to” guide provides insight into “Why People Become Communists,” but offers a “Counterattack” to the intrusion. The first step, according to this pamphlet, is to present true facts about Communism to the American public and calls for American organizations against the rise of Communism to band together in defense.
While cataloguing the Woodruff collection, I was surprised to discover the Catholic journalist’s penchant for propaganda. Yet, this was a style of text from his time. Though these pamphlets reflect a turbulent social and political atmosphere, I can’t help but wonder if Woodruff, known for his wit and humor, gathered these pamphlets to look back on with a slight grin, delighted by the power of words to educate and persuade.
If you’d like to browse photos of additional Woodruff Collection highlights, follow this link to the head of the Burns Library Flickr page: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk5WAqy6. To view catalog records for Woodruff’s books, go to the Holmes advanced search screen (http://bclib.bc.edu/advanced–search) and search for “Woodruff” as a Local Collection name. If you have further questions, please contact the Burns Library Reading Room at 617-552-4861 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Mollie Kervick, Burns Library Student Cataloger & MA Student in English and Irish Literature and Culture