The afterlife of the Verdun lecture

The referenced report on a meeting between Ross and the management of his book publisher Brockhaus gives an impression of how consciously he  worked on his branding. In this his 1916 lecture in Berlin (see The military strategist) is interpreted as a crucial point in his career.

In this case, mention of the First World War refers neither to global or German history nor it is used for comparisons between the present and the past (as it appears in most cases when Ross addresses the phenomenon of the Great War). rather, it refers to a consequential moment in his professional life. Ross states that he never cared about censorship and authorities. Ever since 1915 he sent his reports from the front to “his daily”, the Berlin Vossische Zeitung, without consulting military officials. And, again without any permission, he delivered  a lecture  based on his experiences at, and knowledge about, the battlefields of  Verdun. The lecture was attended by “the entire Berlin elite”. These actions “drew the attention of the military authorities”,  which led to his scout and propaganda work for the “O.H.L.” (Oberste Heeresleitung, Supreme Army Command).1

Ross’s self-portrait implies that military and political functionaries recognized his excellent abilities to work for the cause, accepting his autonomy (which in actual fact was his  ignorance of censorship laws) in the bargain. Ross’s self-congratulatory portrait  can be seen in the context of this very meeting at Brockhaus. It was probably the most exhausting series of conferences for both parties, since Brockhaus strongly disagreed with Ross’s second “cultural-philosophical” book, Der Wille der Welt. Eine Reise zu sich selbst (The will of the world. A journey to one’s self).2 The publisher’ objected to the dilettantism of his arguments, which Ross partly  admitted. At the same time, as the minutes recorded, he still defended his image as a (political) expert—referring to his war experience and his recognition by higher authorities.

Katalin Teller

Sächsisches Staatsarchiv, Staatsarchiv Leipzig, Bestand 21083 F. A. Brockhaus, Leipzig, Nr. 790. Brockhaus minutes. HB. 1.9.[19]32; 6-7.

Topic: The Great War
Case: Speaking engagements


1 On this episode in Ross’s life see Bodo-Michael Baumunk. Colin Ross. Ein deutscher Revolutionär und Reisender 1885-1945. [unpublished ms.] rev. edn. Berlin; 2015 [1999]; 19-23. See Library. See also the subsequent lecture series organized by the Verein junger Kaufleute Berlin (Association of young merchants of Berlin) documented in Brief[e] von Colin Ross an Verein Junger Kaufleute Berlin. Theaterwissenschaftliche Sammlung, Institut für Medienkultur und Theater, Universität zu Köln; Sign. Au 9327.

2 As far as our findings show this was the only book by Ross that was mentioned by the well-known journalist and critic Siegfried Kracauer, who ignored Ross's output in other media. In his omnibus book review, Kracauer (who probably never read the book) mentioned Ross’s work and commented ironically on its subtitle. Kracauer hoped that Ross “would not be anchored in case of success”. See Siegfried Kracauer. Die neue Produktion der deutschen Verleger [Oct 16, 1932]. In: Werke. Vol. 5.4: Essays, Feulletons, Rezensionen 1932-1965. Ed. by Inka Mülder-Bach. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp; 2011; 216-228, 227.

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