Pho­to: A Vinyl Record

This is the cor­re­spon­ding Eng­lish ver­si­on of the 2020 MIDA Archi­val Refle­xi­con ent­ry “Süd­asia­ti­sche Sprach- und Musik­auf­nah­men im Laut­ar­chiv der Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin”. The text was ori­gi­nal­ly published in „When the war began we heard of seve­ral kings“ South Asi­an Pri­soners in Worl War I Ger­ma­ny, edi­ted by Fran­zis­ka Roy, Hei­ke Liebau, and Ravi Ahu­ja. New Delhi: Social Sci­ence Press, 2011, pp. 187–206.

Table of Con­tents
Wil­helm Doe­gen and the Histo­ry of the Laut­ar­chiv | The Phon­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on  | Tech­ni­cal and Orga­ni­sa­tio­nal Rea­li­sa­ti­on of the Gra­mo­pho­ne Recor­dings in the POW Camps  | South Asi­an Recor­dings in the Laut­ar­chiv  | Con­clu­si­on  | End­no­tes | Biblio­gra­phy

This chap­ter gives an over­view of the sound recor­dings of South Asi­an sol­diers and civi­li­ans from the First World War stored in the Laut­ar­chiv of the Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin. Pri­soners of war beca­me ‘objects’ of lin­gu­i­stic rese­arch when, in 1915, a com­mis­si­on of rese­ar­chers recei­ved the offi­ci­al sanc­tion to record the num­e­rous lan­guages and dialects that were spo­ken by the cos­mo­po­li­tan assort­ment of ‘ene­my’ sol­diers and civi­li­ans in Germany’s pri­son camps. The recor­dings of voices, lan­guages, dialects and music of inter­ned sol­diers and civi­li­ans for rese­arch pur­po­ses account for a signi­fi­cant part of the coll­ec­tion, but the­re were also other are­as of focus.

In terms of scope and his­to­ri­cal signi­fi­can­ce the­re is no com­pa­ra­ble coll­ec­tion in any Ger­man uni­ver­si­ty. This coll­ec­tion is the ear­liest and most com­pre­hen­si­ve sys­te­ma­tic sound archi­ve crea­ted for docu­men­ta­ry and sci­en­ti­fic pur­po­ses by recor­ding onto shel­lac disc. It was estab­lished for sci­en­tists by sci­en­tists for the pur­po­ses of tea­ching and rese­arch. On the one hand, rese­arch into pho­ne­tics, dialects, com­pa­ra­ti­ve lin­gu­i­stics, and eth­no­lo­gy were to be fur­the­red; on the other, the recor­dings were to play a signi­fi­cant role in for­eign lan­guage tea­ching. The archi­ve, which was pre­ser­ved after the Second World War though wit­hout being mana­ged or exten­ded, has been deve­lo­ped and digi­ta­li­sed sin­ce 1999. A data­ba­se of the recor­dings made by the archi­ve on shel­lac disc bet­ween 1915–44 has been com­ple­ted and is available online.[i]

The­se sound recor­dings can only be pro­per­ly app­re­cia­ted in their respec­ti­ve sci­en­ti­fic and his­to­ri­cal con­text, which, howe­ver, has not been inves­ti­ga­ted and recon­s­truc­ted in suf­fi­ci­ent depth as yet. The fol­lo­wing does not pre­su­me to offer a com­ple­te pic­tu­re, for this reason.

Wilhelm Doegen and the History of the Lautarchiv

The histo­ry of the Laut­ar­chiv is clo­se­ly lin­ked to its foun­der Wil­helm Doe­gen (17.3.1877–3.11.1967). Doe­gen was born in Ber­lin in the same year that Edi­son inven­ted the pho­no­graph. On finis­hing high school, he under­went an app­ren­ti­ce­ship in a bank and then stu­di­ed eco­no­mics and busi­ness law. Doe­gen also went unof­fi­ci­al­ly to Eng­lish lec­tures given by Alo­is Brandl (1855–1940) at the Fried­rich-Wil­helm­s­­Uni­ver­si­tät (today Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin). It was Brandl who encou­ra­ged Doe­gen to stu­dy Modern Lan­guages. In 1899–1900 Doe­gen spent one term at Oxford whe­re he stu­di­ed with Hen­ry Sweet (1845–1912). Sweet is regard­ed as one of the pio­neers of modern pho­ne­tics, and he play­ed a decisi­ve role in the deve­lo­p­ment of pho­ne­tic tran­scrip­ti­on with its num­e­rous spe­cial characters.

Doe­gen later descri­bed the mee­ting with Sweet and the latter’s sys­tem of pho­ne­tic tran­scrip­ti­on as a deter­mi­ning influence on his own work. In 1904, Doe­gen qua­li­fied as a tea­cher of Eng­lish, French and Ger­man. His dis­ser­ta­ti­on was on the use of pho­ne­tics in the tea­ching of Eng­lish to beg­in­ners (Die Ver­wen­dung der Pho­ne­tik im Eng­li­schen Anfangs­un­ter­richt). With gre­at enthu­si­asm he pur­sued the use of pho­ne­tic tran­scrip­ti­on in tea­ching mate­ri­als to be used in con­junc­tion with texts spo­ken onto records.

As a tea­cher at the Borsig High School from 1909, Doe­gen com­pi­led tea­ching mate­ri­als run­ning to seve­ral volu­mes in co­ ope­ra­ti­on with the Ode­on Recor­ding Com­pa­ny in Ber­lin. The shel­lac disc was to be used as a new medi­um of tea­ching. The­se mate­ri­als were cal­led “Doegen’s tea­ching book­lets for the inde­pen­dent lear­ning of for­eign lan­guages with the help of pho­ne­tic tran­scrip­ti­on and the speech machi­ne” (Doe­gens Unter­richts­hef­te für die selb­stän­di­ge Erler­nung frem­der Spra­chen mit Hil­fe der Laut­schrift und der Sprech­ma­schi­ne). In addi­ti­on to this he published mate­ri­al using nati­ve spea­k­ers to read from clas­si­cal Eng­lish and French literature.

Doe­gen con­tin­ued to work clo­se­ly with the Minis­try of Sci­ence, Art, and Natio­nal Edu­ca­ti­on and was sent by this depart­ment to the World Expo­si­ti­on in Brussels in 1910. The­re he recei­ved the sil­ver medal for intro­du­cing the record to tea­ching and rese­arch. A mere two years later, some 1,000 schools and uni­ver­si­ties could be seen using Doegen’s shel­lac discs for lan­guage tea­ching. Encou­ra­ged by the suc­cess of his sound recor­dings, Doe­gen deve­lo­ped ide­as for a voice muse­um (Stim­men­mu­se­um). In Febru­ary 1914, he sub­mit­ted an appli­ca­ti­on to the Prus­si­an Minis­try of Sci­ence, Art, and Natio­nal Edu­ca­ti­on to estab­lish a Roy­al Prus­si­an Pho­ne­tic Insti­tu­te (König­lich Preu­ßi­sches Pho­ne­ti­sches Institut).

In 1920, Doe­gen beca­me the direc­tor of the Sound Depart­ment of the Prus­si­an Sta­te Libra­ry (Laut­ab­tei­lung an der Preu­ßi­schen Staats­bi­blio­thek). Irre­gu­la­ri­ties in book-kee­ping led to Doe­gen step­ping down in July 1930. In Octo­ber 1931 he was, howe­ver, able to begin work again but the admi­nis­tra­ti­on of the Laut­ab­tei­lung beca­me the respon­si­bi­li­ty of the uni­ver­si­ty. In the end the Nazi law of 1933 on the estab­lish­ment of a loy­al and ‘Aryan’ ‘Berufs­be­am­ten­tum’ (The Law for the Res­to­ra­ti­on of the Pro­fes­sio­nal Civil Ser­vice) led to Doegen’s dismissal.

The Phongraphic Commission

Accor­ding to Doegen’s “Sug­ges­ti­ons for the estab­lish­ment of a Roy­al Prus­si­an Pho­ne­tic Insti­tu­te” from 1914, the fol­lo­wing were to be collected:

  1. Lan­guages from around the world.
  2. All Ger­man dialects.
  3. Music and songs from around the world.
  4. Voices of famous people.
  5. Other are­as of inte­rest.[ii]

The appli­ca­ti­on led to the appoint­ment of the Roy­al Prus­si­an Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on on 27 Octo­ber 1915. Carl Stumpf, psy­cho­lo­gist, acou­sti­ci­an, and foun­der of the Pho­no­gramm-Archiv was appoin­ted as chair­man of the Com­mis­si­on.[iii] During the ear­ly pha­se of acou­stic rese­arch Carl Stumpf was regard­ed as an indis­pu­ta­ble aut­ho­ri­ty in the field and it is the­r­e­fo­re not sur­pri­sing that the minis­try ent­rus­ted him with the lea­der­ship of the new initiative.

In total, the com­mis­si­on com­pri­sed thir­ty aca­de­mics working in the fields of phi­lo­lo­gy, anthro­po­lo­gy and musi­co­lo­gy and included such pres­ti­gious scho­lars as Otto Demp­wolff (Medi­ci­ne, Afri­can Indo­ne­si­an and South Seas’ lan­guages), Felix von Luschan (Anthro­po­lo­gy), Fried­rich Carl Andre­as (Ira­ni­an lan­guages), Alo­is Brandl (Eng­lish dialects), Adolf Dirr (Cau­ca­si­an lan­guages), Hel­muth von Gla­sen­app (Pun­ja­bi, Hin­di), August Hei­sen­berg (Greek), Geor­ge Schü­ne­mann (Musi­co­lo­gy), Hein­rich Lüders (Ben­ga­li, Pasch­to, Gurung).

One of the pur­po­ses of the com­mis­si­on was to make audio recor­dings in Ger­man pri­soner of war camps. Bet­ween 29 Decem­ber 1915 and 19 Decem­ber 1918, the Roy­al Prus­si­an Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on recor­ded 2672 audio-media (gra­mo­pho­ne-discs and wax­ cylin­ders) of appro­xi­m­ate­ly 250 lan­guages, dialects, and tra­di­tio­nal music among the pri­soners of war of the Ger­man Empire. The mem­bers of the com­mis­si­on sel­ec­ted 31 of the exis­ting 175 pri­son camps for the coll­ec­tion of their samples.[iv] Some of the­se camps were visi­ted on more than one occa­si­on and thus, all in all, the com­mis­si­on under­took 49 field trips to pri­son camps. With the excep­ti­on of Aus­tria, this form of gathe­ring eth­no­gra­phi­cal mate­ri­al was uni­que during World War I. In Ger­ma­ny, the acti­vi­ties of the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on were kept secret during the cour­se of the war.

Doe­gen hims­elf was respon­si­ble for the purely tech­ni­cal pro­duc­tion of the gra­mo­pho­ne recor­dings only. Tog­e­ther with the sub­ject experts and a tech­ni­ci­an he made 1650 recor­dings, of which two thirds were lan­guage recor­dings and a third music recor­dings. The last disc (PK 1650) was recor­ded short­ly befo­re Christ­mas 1918. 

The musi­co­lo­gist Georg Schü­ne­mann made musi­cal recor­dings exclu­si­ve­ly with the pho­no­graph. He work­ed most­ly on his own and did not make use of the stan­dar­di­sed data acqui­si­ti­on of the com­mis­si­on, which is descri­bed in the fol­lo­wing pas­sa­ge. His coll­ec­tion con­sists of 1022 wax cylin­ders which are today kept in the Pho­no­gramm-Archiv.[v]

The image is a photograph showing Wilhelm Doegen and Alois Brandl in a room with eight other men. Doegel, standing, holds one of the men by the scruff of the neck and points his head into the speaking tube of the recording device. Brandl is standing next to him, another man - probably the recording technician - behind the equipment, a third next to Brandl - from his uniform probably a camp supervisor. The remaining men are sitting at the edge, presumably they are camp inmates.
Fig.1: Gra­mo­pho­ne recor­dings being made by Wil­helm Doe­gen and the Eng­lish phi­lo­lo­gist Alo­is Brandl in the Wahn Camp in Octo­ber 1916.Humboldt-Universität zu Ber­lin, Depart­ment of Musi­co­lo­gy and Media stu­dies, Laut­ar­chiv (with the kind per­mis­si­on of Har­ro Broedler).

In the con­fu­si­on of the Novem­ber Revo­lu­ti­on of 1918, Doe­gen obtai­ned per­so­nal con­trol of the gra­mo­pho­ne recor­dings through the Minis­try of Edu­ca­ti­on and estab­lished this coll­ec­tion as the basis of the Sound Depart­ment of the Prus­si­an Sta­te Libra­ry (Laut­ab­tei­lung an der Preu­ßi­schen Staats­bi­blio­thek), foun­ded on 1 April 1920.[vi]

In this black-and-white photograph, Schünemann and Stumpf can be seen sitting at a table. They are operating the recording equipment. On the left side of the picture are three Tartar musicians, one of them playing a kind of violin or viola in front of the recording funnel.
Fig. 2: Carl Stumpf (right) and Georg Schü­ne­mann (cent­re) record a Tata­ri­an musi­ci­an with a pho­no­graph. (The recor­ding is archi­ved in the Ber­lin Pho­no­gramm-Archiv under the signa­tu­re ‘Phon. Komm. 34’, Camp Frank­furt a. d. O., 1916.) Pho­to­gra­phy: W. Doe­gen, 1925 pho­to­graph oppo­si­te page 144.

The Chair­man of the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on, Carl Stumpf, was not infor­med of this deve­lo­p­ment and reac­ted angri­ly,[vii] becau­se as far as he was con­cer­ned the coll­ec­tion was to be retai­ned by the Minis­try of Edu­ca­ti­on as a whole.

Ins­tead, with the estab­lish­ment of the Laut­ab­tei­lung (Sound Depart­ment) the coll­ec­tion of the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on was divi­ded accor­ding to the recor­ding medi­um (shel­lac in the Laut­ab­tei­lung, wax cylin­ders in the Pho­no­gramm-Archiv) and the­se have been kept at two dif­fe­rent loca­ti­ons ever since.

In addi­ti­on to the gra­mo­pho­ne recor­dings of the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on, the Laut­ab­tei­lung also kept recor­dings of famous indi­vi­du­als, a voice coll­ec­tion, which was begun by Doe­gen in 1917. The­se recor­dings were made with finan­cial sup­port given by the che­mis­try pro­fes­sor Dr Lud­wig Darm­staed­ter. Accor­ding to the con­tract of dona­ti­on, the pur­po­se of this coll­ec­tion was: “Stim­men von sol­chen Per­sön­lich­kei­ten auf­zu­be­wah­ren, an deren Erhal­tung für die Nach­welt ein his­to­ri­sches Inter­es­se vor­liegt” (To retain the voices of important per­so­na­li­ties that are of his­to­ri­cal inte­rest of future gene­ra­ti­ons).[viii] “Per­so­na­li­ties”, here, rela­tes in par­ti­cu­lar to poli­ti­ci­ans, sci­en­tists and artists.

The­se recor­dings were inten­ded to sup­ple­ment the Lud­wig Darm­staed­ter coll­ec­tion of auto­graphs for the histo­ry of sci­ence, which Darm­staed­ter had dona­ted to the Roy­al Libra­ry (König­li­che Biblio­thek) ten years ear­lier.[ix] As hono­ra­ry cura­tor of this coll­ec­tion Doe­gen had to accept the decis­i­ons made by a cura­tor­ship on new recor­dings. The records of this coll­ec­tion of voices car­ry the signa­tu­re “Aut” (Auto­phon). The first offi­ci­al recor­ding with the signa­tu­re “Aut 1” was the speech of the Ger­man Kai­ser Wil­helm II with the title “Auf­ruf an mein Volk” (Appeal to my Peo­p­le) recor­ded on 10 Janu­ary 1918 in the Schloß Bel­le­vue. This speech was ori­gi­nal­ly held in August 1914. A typi­cal sign of the “Aut” signa­to­ry series is that every recor­ding is made up of pas­sa­ges taken from famous spee­ches or lec­tures alre­a­dy given. The time lap­se bet­ween a speech being held and it being recor­ded ran­ged from only a few days to four years. A fur­ther cha­rac­te­ristic of this “Aut” signa­to­ry is that the spea­k­er signed the wax matrix after the suc­cessful recording.

Spe­cial sta­tus was given to the record “Aut 0” used only within the coll­ec­tion. This par­ti­cu­lar recor­ding which con­ta­ins the voices of both Doe­gen and Darm­staed­ter appears in none of the docu­ments in the archi­ve and was only dis­co­ver­ed among the 7500 records during a review of the con­tents of the coll­ec­tion. In this recor­ding Doe­gen and Darm­staed­ter set out their reasons for buil­ding the coll­ec­tion and also dis­cuss the finan­cial sup­port given. The “Aut” signa­to­ry was dis­con­tin­ued in 1924 becau­se Darm­staed­ter with­drew his finan­cial support.

When Doe­gen beca­me direc­tor of the Laut­ab­tei­lung in 1920 he remain­ed accoun­ta­ble to the Sound Com­mis­si­on (Laut­ko­mis­si­on) which, just like the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on, deci­ded on what recor­dings were to be made, and it was made up, in part, of the same group of peo­p­le. As direc­tor of the coll­ec­tion Doe­gen was respon­si­ble for the tech­ni­cal rea­li­sa­ti­on, con­ser­va­ti­on, and eva­lua­ti­on of the coll­ec­tion, as well as making it available to the public.

The recor­dings of the Laut­ab­tei­lung were given the signa­tu­re LA. The ran­ge of the­mes cover­ed in the coll­ec­tion was great­ly exten­ded. Apart from “Lan­guages and Music from around the World” (Spra­che und Musik sämt­li­cher Völ­ker) the docu­men­ta­ti­on of Ger­man dialects beca­me a mat­ter of inte­rest. Recor­dings of the 40 Wen­ker Sen­ten­ces (40 Wen­ker­sche Sät­ze) for the Ger­man lan­guage atlas were made with the help of Fer­di­nand Wre­de from Mar­burg. Along with the various recor­ding expe­di­ti­ons under­ta­ken within Ger­ma­ny the­re were also expe­di­ti­ons to Switz­er­land, to Ire­land and to Lat­via. The area of recor­ding, “Famous Peo­p­le”, of the “Aut” signa­tu­re was car­ri­ed on in the LA signa­tu­re after Darm­staed­ter ended his invol­vement but this time it was deve­lo­ped under the title “Peo­p­le of Public Inte­rest”. The voices of peo­p­le included in the coll­ec­tion ran­ged from tho­se invol­ved in tech­ni­cal inno­va­tions to pio­neers of aviation.

In 1925 ani­mal noi­ses were recor­ded in co-ope­ra­ti­on with the Kro­ne cir­cus. As well as the recor­dings of wild ani­mals such as ele­phants, sea lions and tigers, the North Ame­ri­can Indi­ans who were made to put on a show by the Kro­ne cir­cus in the same year were brought in front of the recor­ding trumpet. By recor­ding the chiefs of the Iowa and Che­yenne sound docu­ments of the Sioux and Algon­quin lan­guages were added to the collection.

When the Afri­ca­nist and pho­ne­ti­ci­an Died­rich Wes­ter­mann took over the run­ning of the Laut­ab­tei­lung after Doegen’s dis­mis­sal in 1933, it beca­me a tea­ching and rese­arch insti­tu­ti­on for pho­ne­tics and was inte­gra­ted into the uni­ver­si­ty[x] as the Insti­tu­te for Sound Rese­arch (Insti­tut für Laut­for­schung). In 1935, it was divi­ded into depart­ments for lin­gu­i­stics, music, and a pho­ne­tic labo­ra­to­ry. An aca­de­mic spe­cia­list was respon­si­ble for each depart­ment.[xi] The archi­ve remain­ed in this form until 1944.

During the Second World War sound recor­dings were made of pri­soners of war both in Ger­ma­ny and in camps in France bet­ween 1939 and 1941. In France the­re was par­ti­cu­lar empha­sis on recor­dings of Afri­can lan­guages. This work is not com­pa­ra­ble with that of Carl Stumpf during the First World War eit­her in terms of the ext­ent or its content.

After 1945 the Insti­tu­te for Sound Rese­arch was sub­ject to much res­truc­tu­ring until it lost its inde­pen­dence in the Second Hig­her Edu­ca­ti­on Reform of 1969, and was inte­gra­ted into the sec­tion Reha­bi­li­ta­ti­on Pedago­gy and Com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on Stu­dies (Reha­bi­li­ta­ti­ons­päd­ago­gik und Kom­mu­ni­ka­ti­ons­wis­sen­schaft) as the Depart­ment for Pho­ne­tics and Sci­ence of Lan­guage (Abtei­lung Phonetik/ Sprech­wis­sen­schaft). Here, the Laut­ar­chiv held a mar­gi­nal posi­ti­on at best while the coll­ec­tion of mate­ri­al had come to a standstill con­sider­a­b­ly ear­lier. In 1981 it was to be dis­po­sed of altog­e­ther. But the eth­no­mu­si­co­lo­gist Jür­gen Els­ner reco­g­nis­ed the gre­at value of the (for the most part negle­c­ted) coll­ec­tion and took steps to ensu­re that the coll­ec­tion was secu­red in locking rooms in the Depart­ment of Musi­co­lo­gy (Musik­wis­sen­schaft­li­ches Semi­nar). A first com­pre­hen­si­ve report on the coll­ec­tion was published in 1996 by Die­ter Meh­nert who loo­ked after the coll­ec­tion in the 1990s.[xii] Today this coll­ec­tion is known as the Laut­ar­chiv and is still loca­ted at the Depart­ment of Musi­co­lo­gy and Media Stu­dies at the Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät in Berlin.

Technical and Organisational Realisation of the Gramophone Recordings in the POW Camps

The gra­mo­pho­ne recor­dings under the super­vi­si­on of Wil­helm Doe­gen were rea­li­sed in the fol­lo­wing man­ner: First the mem­bers of the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on took account of the lan­guages spo­ken by the pri­soners in each camp sin­ce the lists they obtai­ned from the camp com­man­ders before­hand were not always accu­ra­te. The Com­mis­si­on and/or the lan­guage expert then deci­ded who was to be recor­ded. Befo­re each recor­ding a so-cal­led per­so­nal ques­ti­on­n­aire (Per­so­nal­bo­gen) had to be completed.

A personal questionnaire filled out by hand is shown.
Fig. 3: The per­so­nal ques­ti­on­n­aire (Per­so­nal­bo­gen) of pri­soner Sib Singh from the Pun­jab, Laut­ar­chiv der Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin [LA-HUB, PK 610].

Apart from docu­men­ting the recor­ding, the ques­ti­on­n­aire gave detail­ed infor­ma­ti­on about the pro­ven­an­ce of the spea­k­er as well as his lin­gu­i­stic heri­ta­ge and con­tai­ned ques­ti­ons regar­ding the social back­ground of the spea­k­er. Fur­ther­mo­re, no recor­ding could be made befo­re the text was writ­ten down in the hand­wri­ting style or type­face nor­mal­ly used for the speaker’s lan­guage. Sin­ce spea­k­ers and sin­gers did not always stick to the agreed text, new tran­scrip­ti­ons had at times to be made once the shel­lac discs had been pro­du­ced. Tran­scrip­ti­ons of music were only made after pres­sing the records.

The the­mes of the recor­dings are:

  1. Word groups of rela­tively unknown lan­guages and con­tai­ning words which are easi­ly con­fu­sed were recor­ded for use in dictionaries.
  2. Fairy tales, sto­ries and anecdotes.
  3. Pri­soners of war, in par­ti­cu­lar from Gre­at Bri­tain and France, but also from other Euro­pean count­ries, read the Para­ble of the Pro­di­gal Son (Luke XV, 11 ff.) in their own dialects. In this way dialects of all Eng­lish coun­ties were docu­men­ted and could be com­pared with each other.
  4. The majo­ri­ty of the music recor­dings are vocal, only a few recor­dings are purely instru­men­tal. About two thirds of the recor­dings are spo­ken and about one third is music.

The acti­vi­ties of the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on did not only extend to acou­stic recor­dings. Apart from sim­ply tran­scrib­ing the recor­ded texts, so-cal­led pala­to­grams were made by the den­tist Alfred Doe­gen, a brot­her of Wil­helm Doe­gen, in order to detail the exact ton­gue posi­ti­on, made more com­pli­ca­ted by varia­ti­on in accent. X­ray pho­to­graphs of the larynx were made to enable sci­en­ti­fic rese­arch into spe­ci­fic speech sounds.

The eth­no­lo­gist and cura­tor of the Ber­lin Eth­no­lo­gi­cal Muse­um, Felix von Luschan, under­took anthro­po­lo­gi­cal stu­dies and made mea­su­re­ments of the pri­soners.[xiii] A pho­to­grapher took pic­tures of near­ly every spea­k­er and sin­ger. About 50 of the­se pho­tos sur­vi­ved in the archi­ve. Not all of them can be assi­gned defi­ni­tively to a recor­ding. The pho­tos show a per­son from the front and in pro­fi­le in kee­ping with the con­tem­po­ra­ry eth­no­lo­gi­cal practice.

The­re is a con­sidera­ble num­ber of Afri­can and Asi­an lan­guage and music recor­dings as well as samples of speech taken from East and West Euro­pean lan­guages. The­se are among the ear­liest sound recor­dings of this type. Becau­se of their ortho­gra­phic and pho­ne­tic tran­scrip­ti­ons, accom­pa­nied by Ger­man trans­la­ti­ons, the­se recor­dings were, by con­tem­po­ra­neous stan­dards, excel­lent­ly docu­men­ted and are the­r­e­fo­re inva­luable for cur­rent rese­arch pro­jects. So, for exam­p­le, accom­pany­ing one disc which runs for three and a half minu­tes the­re are 35 pages of writ­ten documentation.

South Asian Recordings in the Lautarchiv

Sound recor­dings from the fol­lo­wing pre­sent-day sta­tes can be found in the archi­ve: Afgha­ni­stan, Ban­gla­desh, India, Nepal and Paki­stan. Wit­hout excep­ti­on all recor­dings were made using pri­soners of war from the First World War as spea­k­ers and sin­gers from the for­mer ter­ri­to­ries of Bri­tish India and Nepal. Most of the­se pri­soners were held in the ‘Half­moon Camp’ in Wüns­dorf near Berlin.

With ele­ven trips, Wüns­dorf was the most fre­quent­ly visi­ted camp, also known as ‘Half­moon Camp’ (Halb­mond­la­ger) due to the lar­ge num­ber of Mus­lim pri­soners inter­ned here.[xiv] Situa­ted mere­ly 40 kilo­me­t­res south of Ber­lin, Wüns­dorf was espe­ci­al­ly inte­res­t­ing for the rese­ar­chers due to its rich diver­si­ty of cul­tures, many of which were asso­cia­ted with the colo­ni­al powers of Eng­land and France. About 65 idi­oms were clas­si­fied by the mem­bers of the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on. South Asi­an Lan­guages spo­ken and recor­ded by the inter­ned sol­diers were:[xv] Hindi/Hindustani/Urdu, Pun­ja­bi, Bengali/Sylheti, Garhwa­li, Old-Hin­di, Baluchi, Pash­to, Kha­si, Lim­bu, Nepa­li, Maga­ri, Gurung, Rai.Other lan­guages included Eng­lish (Nepal, Gre­at Bri­tain), Viet­na­me­se (Viet­nam), Bau­le (Ivo­ry Coast), Daho­meen, Bari­ba (Ben­in), Bobo, (Bur­ki­na Faso), Mosi, Samo­go (Buki­na Faso, Mali),Wolof, Pula­ar (Sene­gal), Ful (Mali, Sudan, Sene­gal, Gui­nea), Kas­on­ke (Mali), Zar­ma (Mali, Nige­ria), Kwa (Togo), Kru (Libe­ria), Malin­ka, Toma (Gui­nea), Soso (Sier­ra Leo­ne, Gui­nea), Ban­tu, Swa­hi­li, Mwa­li, Nga­zid­ja, Ndzwa­ni (Como­ros), Soma­li (Soma­lia), Bam­ba­ra (Sudan, Mali, Sene­gal), Man­dara, Kanuri (Sudan), Haus­sa (Sudan, Mali), Yoru­ba (Nige­ria), Any­in (Gha­na), Ara­bic, (Alge­ria, Tuni­sia, Moroc­co, Rus­si­an Fede­ra­ti­on), Ber­ber (Alge­ria, Moroc­co), Kabyle (Alge­ri­en), Bet­si­leo, Betsi­mi­sa­ra­ka, Beza­no­za­no, Meri­na, Sakala­ve, Syanaka,Taisaka, Tanosy (Mada­gas­car), Mal­te­se (Mal­ta), Tatar, Avar, Bash­kir, Udmurt (Rus­si­an Fede­ra­ti­on), Kirg­hiz (Kyr­gyz­stan), New Cale­do­ni­an (New Caledonia).

Adja­cent to the Half­moon Camp in Wüns­dorf was the Wein­berg Camp in Zos­sen. Here, Mus­lim sol­diers from Rus­sia (Tatars) were inter­ned. In the initi­al pha­se of the recor­ding work only seven discs were made of Tatar songs. Other­wi­se, all the recor­dings of Rus­si­an Mus­lims held in the Wein­berg camp were made in the Half­moon Camp. Both camps were set up to encou­ra­ge the inma­tes to defect to the Ger­man side using careful­ly tar­ge­ted pro­pa­gan­da.[xvi] We can assu­me that the­re was con­stant exch­an­ge of pri­soners bet­ween the two camps for the recor­ding. For ins­tance, the Moham­me­dan Call to Pray­er (Gebets­ruf der Moham­me­da­ner) recor­ded in Ara­bic in the Wüns­dorf camp was that of a Tatar from Tobol­sk who was held pri­soner in the Wein­berg camp.[xvii] In the Half­moon Camp the­re was also a mos­que with a mina­ret from which the muez­zin could have cal­led peo­p­le to prayer.

About half of the mem­bers of the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on visi­ted the Half­moon Camp to make sound recor­dings. They fil­led 482 discs with 765 indi­vi­du­al recor­dings, which accounts for appro­xi­m­ate­ly 30 per cent of all recor­dings in the archi­ve made under the auspi­ces of Doe­gen. Also rele­vant to the South Asi­an recor­dings is the work direc­ted by com­mis­si­on mem­bers Hein­rich Lüders, Fried­rich Carl Andre­as, Hel­muth von Gla­sen­app, Alo­is Brandl and Josef Horo­vitz. This part of the coll­ec­tion com­pri­ses 282 titles on 193 shel­lac discs. The­se recor­dings will be exami­ned in more detail in the fol­lo­wing para­graph. For the most part ortho­gra­phic tran­scrip­ti­ons are available in Deva­na­ga­ri for all titles.

Most recor­dings were made by the Indi­an and Ori­en­tal scho­lar Hein­rich Lüders (1869–1943)[xviii] with 150 indi­vi­du­al recor­dings on 98 discs. Most of the­se (70 titles) are in Nepa­le­se. lt is note­wor­t­hy that along with many Nepa­le­se sto­ries, Lüders also recor­ded songs. In the other lan­guages, which he recorded—Gurung (23),[xix] Kha­si (17), Ben­ga­li (13)—it is most­ly sto­ries which are docu­men­ted, but the­re also neu­tral exem­plars such as the alpha­bet and lan­guage samples. In the Gurung samples Lüders did not keep to the sequence of tran­scrib­ing the texts and recor­ding them for he wro­te in a note atta­ched to the trans­la­ti­on of discs PK 636 and 637:

The­se examp­les have been recor­ded in a Hin­di dialect, but it is not clear in which. Given the inac­cu­ra­te ortho­gra­phy and the pho­ne­tic tran­scrip­ti­on which puts down in wri­ting what is heard, it was no more pos­si­ble for two edu­ca­ted Indi­ans, whom I con­sul­ted, than it was for me to arri­ve at a com­ple­te trans­la­ti­on.[xx]

With the excep­ti­on of mili­ta­ry com­mands (recor­ded by Brandl), the only recor­ding of a South Asi­an POW in Eng­lish camp can be found among the lan­guage recor­dings made by Lüders.[xxi] Disc num­ber PK 271 is a voice recor­ding of Ganga Ram, a Pri­soner of War from Nepal. What is unu­su­al about this disc is that he does not speak in his mother ton­gue, Kha­si, but rela­tes the sto­ry of the Pro­di­gal Son which has not­hing to do with his own reli­gious back­ground as a Hindu.

Hel­muth von Gla­sen­app (1891–1963),[xxii] a scho­lar of reli­gi­on and Indi­an stu­dies who work­ed for the pro­pa­gan­da wing of the over­se­as agen­cy Infor­ma­ti­on Bureau for the Ori­ent (Nach­rich­ten­stel­le für den Ori­ent), made 56 discs with 86 titles. He focus­sed on the lan­guages Pun­ja­bi (34), Hin­di (49), Old Hin­di (2) and Garhwa­li (1) and his work is domi­na­ted by songs more than sto­ries or poems. The Ori­en­ta­list Josef Horo­vitz (1874–1931)[xxiii] was respon­si­ble for 22 discs com­pri­sing 26 recor­dings. His recor­dings of Hin­du­sta­ni (21) and Belut­schi (5) con­sist main­ly of stories—especially fairy tales and anec­do­tes. Nine of 16 recor­dings made by the Ori­en­ta­list and Iran scho­lar Fried­rich Carl Andre­as (1846–1930)[xxiv] are recor­dings of Pash­to songs on shel­lac discs. Comic songs make up a signi­fi­cant part of his list of recor­dings. Alo­is Brandl,[xxv] phi­lo­lo­gist and Pro­fes­sor for Eng­lish at Ber­lin Uni­ver­si­ty made only four recor­dings of Indi­an pri­soners of war on four discs. His other 260 titles made for the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on are of acou­stic signals with a bug­le and Eng­lish mili­ta­ry com­mands. At this point it is also neces­sa­ry to men­ti­on the recor­dings of Georg Schü­ne­mann. On his list of recor­dings from the pri­soner of war camps the fol­lo­wing can be found: 16 Ghurk­ha, four Sikh, seven Tha­lor and one Hin­du­sta­ni.[xxvi]

The con­tent of even the stran­gest of the­se recor­dings is noted in neu­tral terms by the com­mis­si­on. One of the four Pun­ja­bi sto­ries recor­ded by Gla­sen­app is direct­ly rela­ted to a wish on the part of the pri­soners rela­ting to the camp and the reli­gious atti­tu­de of the Sikhs. Tue disc num­be­red PK 676 was made by Sun­dar Singh on 5 Janu­ary 1917 under the gene­ral title “Sto­ry” (Erzäh­lung). In order to cri­ti­cise the atti­tu­de of the camp aut­ho­ri­ties to the reli­gious sen­si­ti­vi­ties of the Sikhs, he prai­ses the living con­di­ti­ons in the camp in an exag­ge­ra­ted way:

Om, by the grace of the true guru (or: the Granth). The guru has loo­ked upon us with gre­at bene­vo­lence for he has reve­a­led hims­elf in this stran­ge land and in this cap­ti­vi­ty and in this very pri­son. We are so hap­py that we feel bles­sed. To us, the­re can be no bliss grea­ter than this, it is grea­ter even than the bliss of peace. Due to this the reli­gious assem­bla­ge has suc­cee­ded. We regard the Granth Sahib as the liken­ess of the tenth Guru and high­ly vene­ra­te it. If any­bo­dy should not vene­ra­te it or should not be wil­ling to vene­ra­te it then each and every Singh would be pre­pared to sacri­fice his life at this place or he would not suf­fer to have it [the Granth] dis­ho­no­u­red. So far our Guru Saheb [i.e. the Granth] has not recei­ved a blan­ket. If we had been in India and our Guru Sahib had gone wit­hout a blan­ket, we would not have taken any food. We have tried a lot but our Guru Sahib has not recei­ved a blan­ket yet. If we were not to take any food in this place we would peri­sh very quick­ly becau­se we have no strength left in our bodies for you know that the­se (peo­p­le) do not recei­ve food like they do in India. The­r­e­fo­re, we can­not give up taking food. That the Eng­lish have sent us our Guru Granth Sahib—of what avail is that? Think about this yours­elf and swift­ly fur­nish us with a reply.

When we see the deni­zens of Ger­ma­ny we feel very hap­py, but we belie­ve that the Ger­mans do not think of us as we do of them. If the Ger­mans thought of us like this, they would honour the house [i.e. the temp­le] of our guru [i.e. the Granth].

PS: Refers to the desi­re of the pri­soners to obtain a blan­ket for their holy book, the ‘Granth’.[xxvii]

Cri­ti­cism on the situa­ti­on in the camp was not always pas­sed so open­ly. The dif­fi­cult life of the pri­soner also finds expres­si­on in the form of fables, fairy tales or anec­do­tes. The fol­lo­wing exam­p­le, also recor­ded by Gla­sen­app can be inter­pre­ted in this way:

A peasant was fri­ends with a tiger. The fri­end­ship bet­ween them was very gre­at. One day the tiger came to the house of the peasant. The wife of the peasant said: ‘You have made fri­ends with jack­als, wol­ves and tigers, don’t you have any shame? Sin­ce the tiger has been coming to our house, the­re is a stench in the house.’ When the tiger heard this, he was enra­ged and left the house. The peasant left with him. The tiger said to the peasant: ‘You are only my fri­end if you strike at my head with an axe.’ On hea­ring this, the peasant com­pli­ed with his wish and struck with the axe, then the tiger aban­do­ned him. When, after one year, the tiger met the peasant again, the tiger said: ‘Now look at the wound of the axe with which you have struck at my head.’ When the peasant loo­ked for the wound, no wound was the­re. The tiger said: ‘The wound cau­sed by the axe has vanis­hed, but what your wife has said that is a wound I will car­ry for the rest of my life. Now the fri­end­ship bet­ween us is at an end.’ Take a good look, my fri­end, this address even an ani­mal has not for­got­ten, how could a man for­get the like?[xxviii]

Regard­less of whe­ther the recor­ding is of a tra­di­tio­nal sto­ry or one which has its ori­gin in the camp, the real issue is that the con­text always remains that of a pri­soner of war camp. If we accept this as a basis for our inter­pre­ta­ti­on, Ish­mer Singh, her­ein the role of the tiger, can be seen to give expres­si­on to wounds he recei­ved in the war and as a pri­soner which are not visi­ble on the surface.

The pala­to­gram and X‑ray images men­tio­ned ear­lier were not the only pie­ces of rese­arch in the area of phy­si­cal anthro­po­lo­gy. The pri­soners of the Half­moon Camp were often the sub­jects of anthro­po­lo­gi­cal exami­na­ti­ons. On the invi­ta­ti­on of Felix von Luschan (Roy­al Eth­no­lo­gi­cal Muse­um in Ber­lin and Pro­fes­sor of Anthro­po­lo­gy at Ber­lin Uni­ver­si­ty) the Aus­tri­an Rudolf Pöch and his assistant Josef Wenin­ger car­ri­ed out exami­na­ti­ons of West Afri­can pri­soners which were only published in 1927 in Vien­na.[xxix] Pöch also car­ri­ed out much wider rese­arch on Aus­tri­an and Hun­ga­ri­an pri­soners of war which should be con­side­red in con­junc­tion with the data from the Half­moon Camp. Egon von Eick­stedt, a pupil of Luschan, made head mea­su­re­ments of Sikhs and tried to estab­lish a topo­lo­gy, but his expe­ri­ment fai­led.[xxx]

lt is note­wor­t­hy that the docu­men­ta­ti­on pro­vi­ded by the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on in no way attempt­ed to con­vey any­thing of the indi­vi­dua­li­ty of each per­son. The per­so­nal record cards tell us not­hing about the fami­ly back­ground of the pri­soner, nor the cir­cum­s­tances in which he came to be invol­ved in the war. The per­so­na­li­ty of each pri­soner was only used to place them in a socio cul­tu­ral matrix. The pur­po­se of the per­so­nal details was to allow the pri­soner to be grou­ped accor­ding to eth­ni­ci­ty and lan­guage. Any infor­ma­ti­on bey­ond this was of no inte­rest to the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on. It was not seen as an omis­si­on that the recor­dings were made wit­hout a cul­tu­ral con­text. This weak­ne­ss in the stra­tegy used for coll­ec­ting data can be lin­ked to the poli­ti­cal situa­ti­on at that time. By way of their docu­men­ting of lan­guages and styl­es of music, the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on sought to meet the demands made on them by a colo­ni­al power. In this way the glo­bal cul­tu­ral inte­rests of Ger­ma­ny and their claims as a colo­ni­al power could be rein­forced. Doe­gen was not only pur­suing a per­so­nal inte­rest in crea­ting a sound recor­ding archi­ve; he was also kee­ping an eye on other more com­mer­cial pur­po­ses. For exam­p­le, the recor­dings were to be used for trai­ning colo­ni­al offi­ci­als in the lan­guages of the colo­nies envi­sio­ned as of stra­te­gic importance after a suc­cessful con­clu­si­on of the First World War from the point of view of the Ger­man Empire.

As a gene­ral rule, the note­books accom­pany­ing the shel­lac discs of the sound recor­ding archi­ve in which the pho­ne­tic and ortho­gra­phic tran­scrip­ti­on of the con­tents of each disc held in prin­ted form give no details about the per­so­nal life of the pri­soner becau­se of the natu­re of the per­so­nal infor­ma­ti­on given. The­se books do not give the rea­der any sen­se that the recor­dings were made in pri­soner of war camps.[xxxi] Nor is the­re a note­book accom­pany­ing the South Asi­an recor­dings for only a small num­ber of the­se discs must have been sold. The rese­ar­chers did not use the South Asi­an mate­ri­al for their publications.

The­se examp­les should demons­tra­te the type of absence of infor­ma­ti­on in the archi­ve. On the other hand, the­re is no other his­to­ri­cal sound archi­ve of that sta­tus. And even if the infor­ma­ti­on is not com­ple­te at least the Laut­ar­chiv pro­vi­des a base that allows us to con­ti­nue sear­ching for des­cen­dants and fur­ther infor­ma­ti­on. The­r­e­fo­re rese­arch in this archi­ve can help in shif­ting the focus away from see­ing the war through the lens of inter­ac­tions among sta­tes and towards indi­vi­du­al trajectories.

In 1925 Alo­is Brandl wri­tes about the qua­li­ty of the recor­dings of Bri­tish dialects made by him in the pri­soner of war camps:

Revie­w­ing the mate­ri­al I coll­ec­ted in 15 camps, from a sum­ma­ry stu­dy of some 1000 spea­k­ers of dialects and from a clo­se sound­ing out of 75, under­neath all the varie­ga­ti­on the­re is a uni­fy­ing cha­rac­te­ristic: it is not taken from books or news­pa­pers but from real life.[…] Here resounds a choir of par­ti­ci­pan­ts in the war, who­se voices other­wi­se would have faded away; a hundred years from now they shall still speak as that por­ti­on of England’s soul which, in cri­ti­cal times, had to act and endu­re but did not have a say in public. Good lads, how unflag­gin­gly have you repea­ted your cou­ple of lines until they were incor­po­ra­ted into the muse­um of lin­gu­i­stics! […] One day the bet­ter Eng­land[…] will awa­ken once more and honour this cul­tu­ral work amidst the inces­sant cla­mour of wea­pons in world histo­ry; until then let it stand in the shadow as mere ‘dialec­to­lo­gy’, as bizar­re phi­lo­lo­gism, as Ger­man reve­rie.[xxxii]

Of all the scho­lars named abo­ve who made recor­dings of sol­diers from sou­thern Asia in the Half­moon Camp, Alo­is Brandl, along with Hein­rich Lüders,[xxxiii] is the only per­son to make refe­rence to the rese­arch and recor­dings in the pri­soner of war camps in his artic­le in Doegen’s book “Among­st For­eign Peo­p­les” (Unter frem­den Völ­kern) published in 1925. The three essays writ­ten by Hel­muth von Gla­sen­app, which are published in this book, refer neither to the cir­cum­s­tances of the recor­dings nor to his own recor­dings.[xxxiv] Josef Horo­vitz refers to his work in the camps only in the last para­graph of his artic­le entit­led “On Indi­an Mus­lims”.[xxxv] The essay by Fried­rich Carl Andre­as makes no men­ti­on of his visits to the pri­son camps.[xxxvi]


An unu­su­al source is available to tho­se who wish to inves­ti­ga­te the situa­ti­on of South Asi­ans who were detai­ned in Ger­man intern­ment camps during the First World War. An acou­stic docu­ment, the shel­lac disc, offers infor­ma­ti­on of a very par­ti­cu­lar type. Despi­te the crack­ling the­se recor­dings give a sen­se of imme­dia­cy crea­ted not least by the recor­ding tech­ni­ques used from the begin­ning of sound recor­ding. In this way sound docu­ments of many peo­p­les have been pre­ser­ved and are today stored in the Laut­ar­chiv of the Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin. The sound docu­ments are part of a world heri­ta­ge and offer lin­gu­ists, his­to­ri­ans as well as scho­lars of cul­tu­ral and lite­ra­ry stu­dies from all parts of the glo­be an inva­luable cor­pus of rese­arch material.

It is now more than 90 years sin­ce the begin­ning of the First World War. This distance should allow for this coll­ec­ted mate­ri­al, which is not only a mul­ti­l­in­gu­al repo­si­to­ry of recor­ded lan­guage samples but an important part of world cul­tu­ral heri­ta­ge, to be eva­lua­ted and ana­ly­sed more com­pre­hen­si­ve­ly and from various aca­de­mic angles. This rese­arch should be car­ri­ed out by aca­de­mics from the respec­ti­ve lin­gu­i­stic regi­ons for they are best pla­ced to unra­vel the various pho­ne­tic, seman­tic, and prag­ma­tic levels of the acou­stic mate­ri­al and set them in their appro­pria­te cul­tu­ral and his­to­ric context.

In recent years the docu­ments of the sound recor­ding archi­ve have been the basis of exhi­bi­ti­ons and docu­men­ta­ry films. In terms of the South Asi­an recor­dings Phil­ip Scheffner’s film and exhi­bi­ti­on pro­ject “The Half­moon Files” is worth men­tio­ning. The basis of his rese­arch is the voice recor­dings of Bri­tish-Indi­an sol­diers kept in the archi­ve.[xxxvii]

The re-recor­ding of the main part of the shel­lac disc coll­ec­tion from the years 1915–44 was con­cluded with the crea­ti­on of the data base in 2005. The digi­tal files of the 3825 discs are now available in WAV for­mat and as MP3 files. As the­re was often more than one recor­ding on each side of a disc, a total of 6806 files were crea­ted. Becau­se of the level to which indi­vi­du­al recor­dings have been deve­lo­ped the sound recor­ding archi­ve has set inter­na­tio­nal stan­dards for simi­lar sound collections.


[i], Rev. 2011-02-14. At the moment the web­page can be acces­sed in Ger­man only. Sin­ce the data­ba­se com­pri­ses a varie­ty of other coll­ec­tions rese­ar­chers are advi­sed, in order to exclu­si­ve­ly search the sound archi­ve, to choo­se under the opti­on “The­sau­rus” “Spra­chen” (lan­guages) or “Sprach­fa­mi­li­en” (fami­lies of lan­guages). Due to copy­right issues the online ver­si­on of the data­ba­se does not include the opti­on of lis­tening to the actu­al sound files. Titles and various infor­ma­ti­on about each recor­ding is available however.

[ii] Doegen,Wilhelm (Hg.), Unter frem­den Völ­kern. Eine neue Völ­ker­kun­de, Ber­lin: Otto Stoll­berg, 1925, S. 9. The modern coll­ec­tion cor­re­sponds to Doegen’s clas­si­fi­ca­ti­on, yet the start­ing dates of the dif­fe­rent bran­ches vary: from 1915 Lan­guages, Music and Songs of the Peo­p­les of the World (Spra­chen, Musik und Gesang der Völ­ker der Erde), from 1917 Vocal Potraits of lmportant Public Figu­res (Stimm­por­traits bekann­ter Per­sön­lich­kei­ten) and from 1922 Ger­man dialects (deut­sche Mund­ar­ten) as well as “Mis­cel­la­neous” inclu­ding ani­mal voices.

[iii] Carl Stumpf foun­ded the Pho­no­gramm-Archiv at the Fried­rich Wil­helm Uni­ver­si­ty in 1905 with audio recor­dings that he had been pro­du­cing sin­ce 1900 on Edi­son wax cylin­ders. The Pho­no­gramm-Archiv now is part of the Eth­no­lo­gi­cal Muse­um in Ber­lin. Simon, Arthur (ed.) Das Ber­li­ner Pho­no­gramm-Archiv 1900–2000—Sammlungen der tra­di­tio­nel­len Musik der Welt, Ber­lin: Ver­lag für Wis­sen­schaft und Bil­dung, 2000, S. 25–46.

[iv] All the figu­res quo­ted are based on the docu­men­ta­ti­on of 1650 shel­lac recor­dings of the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on, today held by the Laut­ar­chiv of the Humboldt­ Uni­ver­si­ty of Berlin.

[v] Simon, Ibid., S. 237. The shel­lac discs of the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on car­ry the signa­tu­re “PK”, whe­re­as that the Edi­son wax cylin­ders have the signa­tu­re “Phon. Komm.” The shel­lac disc, which in com­pa­ri­son to wax cylin­ders (or pho­no­graph cylin­ders) is mark­ed by a bet­ter play­back qua­li­ty, repro­du­ci­bi­li­ty, and dura­bi­li­ty, was to be used as a new medi­um of tea­ching. The con­tent of the wax cylin­ders is not part of this article.

[vi] This was based on Doegen’s “memo­ran­dum on the estab­lish­ment of a sound depart­ment in the Prus­si­an sta­te libra­ry” (Denk­schrift über die Errich­tung einer Laut­ab­tei­lung in der Preu­ßi­schen Staatsbibliothek).

[vii] Gehei­mes Staatsarchiv—Preußischer Kul­tur­be­sitz [GStAPK), num­ber 250,Vol. I, docu­ments 78 and 79. Fol­lo­wing a mee­ting of the Pho­no­gra­phic Com­mis­si­on on 3.2.1919, Carl Stumpf wro­te to the Minis­try for Edu­ca­ti­on on 12.04.1920 as fol­lows: “Sie [die Kom­mis­si­on] kann daher ein star­kes Befrem­den dar­über nicht ver­heh­len, dass im Staats­haus­halts­plan von 1920 zu die­sem Zwe­cke die Errich­tung einer Laut­samm­lung als beson­de­rer Abtei­lung der Staats­bi­blio­thek vor­ge­se­hen ist, ohne dass die Mei­nung der Pho­no­gra­pi­schen Kom­mis­si­on irgend­wie gehört wor­den wäre.”

(“We [the Com­mis­si­on] can­not with­hold our reser­va­tions about the natio­nal bud­get plan of 1920 envi­sa­ging the estab­lish­ment of a sound coll­ec­tion as a spe­cial depart­ment of the sta­te libra­ry, wit­hout in any way hea­ring the opi­ni­on of the Pho­no­gra­phic Commission.”)

[viii] GStAPK, num­ber 250, Vol. I, docu­ments 3 and 4. Con­tract dated 17.03.1917.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] The Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin has been ren­a­med seve­ral times. To avo­id con­fu­si­on here are the names in chro­no­lo­gi­cal order:

1810–1827 Ber­li­ner Uni­ver­si­tät, 1828–1945 Fried­rich-Wil­helms-Uni­ver­si­tät, 1945–1947 Uni­ver­si­tät Ber­lin, 1948-today Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Berlin.

[xi] D. Wes­ter­mann took over the run­ning of the depart­ment of lin­gu­i­stics, F. Bose that of music and F. Weth­lo the pho­ne­tic laboratory.

[xii] Meh­nert, Die­ter, „His­to­ri­sche Schallaufnahmen—Das Laut­ar­chiv an der Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin“, Stu­di­en­tex­te zur Sprach­kom­mu­ni­ka­ti­on 13 (1996): S. 28–45.

[xiii] Lan­ge, Brit­ta, “South Asi­an Sol­diers and Ger­man Aca­de­mics: Anthro­po­lo­gi­cal, Lin­gu­i­stic and Musi­co­lo­gi­cal Field Stu­dies in Pri­son Camps”. In: Fran­zis­ka Roy, Hei­ke Liebau and Ravi Ahu­ja (eds), ‘When The War Began We Heard of Seve­ral Kings’ South Asi­an Pri­soners in World War I Ger­ma­ny, New Delhi: Social Sci­ence Press, 2011, pp. 149–185.

[xiv] In a mos­que spe­ci­al­ly built for the pri­soners they could con­gre­ga­te for pray­ers. The call of the muez­zin has been pre­ser­ved on the shel­lac discs. Apart from the shel­lac discs seve­ral pho­to­graphs depic­ting the camp life have been pre­ser­ved (Cf. Kah­leyss, Mar­got, Mus­li­me in Brandenburg—Kriegsgefangene im 1. Welt­krieg: Ansich­ten und Absich­ten, Ber­lin: Staat­li­che Muse­en Preu­ßi­scher Kul­tur­be­sitz, 2000), see also Kah­leyss, Mar­got, “Indi­an Pri­soners of War in World War I: Pho­to­graphs as Source Mate­ri­al”. In: Fran­zis­ka Roy, Hei­ke Liebau and Ravi Ahu­ja (eds), Ibid., pp. 187–206. Even a short film docu­men­ta­ti­on from the camp exists (kept in the Bun­des­film­ar­chiv). Mad­hus­ree Dut­ta and Phil­ip Scheff­ner used this mate­ri­al as well as recor­dings from the Laut­ar­chiv in their docu­men­ta­ry “From Here to Here” deal­ing with Indo-Ger­man rela­ti­ons (lndia, 2005, 58 min.). The film sce­ne from the camp can also be found in Scheffner’s latest docu­men­ta­ry: “The Half­moon Files”.

[xv] Insi­de the bra­ckets are the names of pre­sent states.

[xvi] Liebau, Hei­ke, “The Ger­man For­eign Office, Indi­an Emi­grants and Pro­pa­gan­da Efforts Among the ‘Sepoys’”. In: Fran­zis­ka Roy, Hei­ke Liebau and Ravi Ahu­ja (eds), Ibid., pp. 96–129 and Liebau, Hei­ke, 2011, “Hin­d­o­stan: A Camp News­pa­per for South-Asi­an Pri­soners of World War One in Ger­ma­ny”. In: Ibid., pp. 231–249.

[xvii] The disc’s signa­tu­re is LA, PK 626.

[xviii] Hein­rich Lüders was an Ori­en­ta­list and Indo­lo­gist. From 1909 he was the chair of lan­guages and lite­ra­tu­re of Anci­ent lndia at the Fried­rich-Wil­helms-Uni­ver­si­tät as well as being, also from 1909, mem­ber of the Prus­si­an Aca­de­my of Sci­en­ces. 1931–1932 he acted as prin­ci­pal of the Fried­rich-Wil­helms-Uni­ver­si­tät in Ber­lin. For fur­ther details on Lüders, cf. Lan­ge, Ibid.

[xix] The num­bers in the bra­ckets gives the amount of indi­vi­du­al titles in the respec­ti­ve language.

[xx] Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin, Laut­ar­chiv, fol­der No. 9. “Die Stü­cke sind in einem Hin­di-Dia­lekt abge­faßt, doch ließ sich nicht fest­stel­len in wel­chem. Bei der feh­ler­haf­ten Ortho­gra­phie und der nach dem Gehör­ten wie­der­ge­ge­be­nen pho­ne­ti­schen Umschrift war es zwei von mir her­an­ge­zo­ge­nen gebil­de­ten Indern eben­so wenig als mir selbst mög­lich, eine voll­stän­di­ge Über­set­zung herzustellen.”

[xxi] Other lan­guages docu­men­ted by Lüders: Lim­bu (6), Hin­di (5), Pash­tu (4), Hin­du­sta­ni (3), Magar (3), Urdu (2), Rai (1), Gurmuk[h]i (1), Maga­ri (1).

[xxii] Gla­sen­app was Pro­fes­sor of lndo­lo­gy at the Uni­ver­si­ty Königs­berg (East Prus­sia, 1928–44), Pro­fes­sor of Com­pa­ra­ti­ve Reli­gious Stu­dies at the Uni­ver­si­ty Tübin­gen (1946–59). During the First World War Gla­sen­app was a mem­ber of the NfO.

[xxiii] Horo­vitz was from 1902 lec­tu­rer at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ber­lin, bet­ween 1907–14 lec­tu­rer in Ara­bic at the Muham­me­dan Ang­lo-Ori­en­tal Col­lege in Ali­g­argh, lndia. From 1915 to 1931 he held the chair in Semi­tic lan­guages at the Ori­en­tal Semi­nar of the Uni­ver­si­ty Frank­furt am Main.

[xxiv] Andre­as was from 1883 to 1903 Lec­tu­rer of Per­si­an and Tur­ki­sh at the Ori­en­tal Semi­nar of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ber­lin. Sin­ce 1903 he held the chair in West Asi­an Lan­guages at the Uni­ver­si­ty Göttingen.

[xxv] Sub­se­quent to hol­ding chairs at Pra­gue, Göt­tin­gen and Stras­bourg, Brandl, in 1895, beca­me pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish Phi­lo­lo­gy in Berlin.

[xxvi] List “Samm­lung aus den Kriegs­ge­fan­ge­nen-Lagern” (Coll­ec­tions from the pri­son camps) in: Staat­li­che Muse­en zu Berlin—Preussischer Kul­tur­be­sitz, Eth­no­lo­gi­sches Muse­um. No inven­to­ry number.

[xxvii] “Om, durch die Gna­de des wah­ren Guru. Der Guru (oder: der Granth) hat mit gro­ßer Güte auf uns geblickt, denn er hat sich uns im frem­den Lan­de und in die­ser Gefan­gen­schaft und uns die­sem Gefäng­nis gezeigt. Wir sind so glück­lich, daß wir selig sind. Es kann kein grö­ße­res Glück für uns geben, als die­ses; es ist grö­ßer als selbst das Glück des Frie­dens. Die reli­giö­se Ver­samm­lung ist dadurch glück­lich. Wir betrach­ten den Granth Sahib als das Eben­bild des 10. Gurus und ver­eh­ren ihn sehr. Wenn irgend­ei­ner ihn nicht ehrt, oder ihn nicht ehren will, so wird jeder Singh bereit sein ent­we­der an die­sem Ort sein Leben zu geben, oder wird es nicht dul­den ihn [den Granth] ent­ehrt zu las­sen. Bis jetzt hat unser Guru Saheb [d.h. der Granth] kei­ne Decke erhal­ten. Wären wir in Indi­en und hät­te unser Guru Sahib kei­ne Decke, so wür­den wir kei­ne Spei­se zu uns genom­men haben. Wir haben viel ver­sucht, aber unser Guru Sahib hat bis jetzt noch kei­ne Decke erhal­ten. Wenn wir an die­sem Ort kei­ne Spei­se essen wür­den, so wür­den wir sehr schnell ster­ben, weil in unseren 

Kör­pern kei­ne Kraft ist, denn Sie wis­sen, dass die­se (Leu­te) kein Essen wie in Indi­en erhal­ten. Des­halb kön­nen wir das Essen nicht auf­ge­ben. Daß die Eng­län­der uns unse­ren Guru Granth Sahib gesandt haben, was hat das für einen Zweck? Den­ken Sie sel­ber über die­se Sache nach und geben Sie uns schnell Ant­wort. Wenn wir die Bewoh­ner Deutsch­lands sehen, sind wir sehr glück­lich, aber wir glau­ben, dass die Deut­schen von uns nicht so den­ken, wie wir von ihnen. Wenn die Deut­schen so däch­ten, so wür­den sie das Haus [d.h. den Tem­pel] unse­res Gurus [d.h. des Granth] ehren. P.S. Bezieht sich auf den Wunsch der Gefan­ge­nen, für ihr hei­li­ges Buch, den ‚Granth‘ eine Decke zu erhal­ten.” Cf. Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin, LA, fol­der No. 9. All the notes in bra­ckets are in accordance with the original.

[xxviii] Recor­ding of Isher Singh on the 11 Decem­ber 1916. The trans­la­ti­on of PK615 exists in the form of a type­script. Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin, LA fol­der No 9.

[xxix] Lan­ge, Brit­ta, “Aca­de­mic Rese­arch on (Colou­red) Pri­soners of War in Ger­ma­ny, 1915–1918”. In: Domi­niek Den­dooven and Piet Chie­lens (eds), World War 1. Five Con­ti­nents in Fland­ers, Tielt: Lanoo, 2008, pp. 153–159.

[xxx] Eick­stedt, Egon von, „Ras­sen­ele­men­te der Sikhs“, Zeit­schrift für Eth­no­lo­gie 52 (1920–21): S. 317–394.

[xxxi] Laut­bi­blio­thek-Pho­ne­ti­sche Plat­ten und Umschrif­ten (published by Laut­ab­tei­lung der Preus­si­chen Staats­bi­blio­thek), 1926–1930.

[xxxii] Brandl, Alo­is, „Der Anglist bei den Eng­län­dern“. In: Wil­helm Doe­gen (Hg.), Ibid., S. 362–376, see S. 375f.

[xxxiii] Lüders, Hein­rich, „Die Gurk­has“. In: Wil­helm Doe­gen (Hg.), Ibid., S. 126–139.

[xxxiv] Gla­sen­app, Hel­muth von, „Der Hin­du­is­mus“. In: Wil­helm Doe­gen (Hg.), Ibid., S. 116–125; Idem, „Die Rad­seh­pu­ten“. In: Ibid., S. 140–150; Idem, „Die Sikhs“. In: Ibid., S. 151–160.

[xxxv] Horo­vitz, Josef, „Die indi­schen Moham­me­da­ner“. In: Wil­helm Doe­gen (Hg.), Ibid., S. 161–166.

[xxxvi] Andre­as, Fried­rich Karl, „Ira­ni­er“. In: Wil­helm Doe­gen (Hg.), Ibid., S. 376–383.

[xxxvii] The film had its world pre­mie­re at the 57th Ber­li­na­le film fes­ti­val during The Inter­na­tio­nal Forum of New Cine­ma on 16 Febru­ary 2007. Seve­ral inter­na­tio­nal awards fol­lo­wed., acces­sed on 25.05.2023.


Andre­as, Fried­rich Karl, „Ira­ni­er“. In: Wil­helm Doe­gen (Hg.), Unter frem­den Völ­kern. Eine neue Völ­ker­kun­de, Ber­lin: Otto Stoll­berg, 1925, S. 376–383.

Brandl, Alo­is, „Der Anglist bei den Eng­län­dern“. In: Wil­helm Doe­gen (Hg.), Unter frem­den Völ­kern. Eine neue Völ­ker­kun­de, Ber­lin: Otto Stoll­berg, 1925, S. 362–376.

Doe­gen, Wil­helm (Hg.), Unter frem­den Völ­kern. Eine neue Völ­ker­kun­de, Ber­lin: Otto Stoll­berg, 1925.

Eick­stedt, Egon von, „Ras­sen­ele­men­te der Sikhs“, Zeit­schrift für Eth­no­lo­gie 52 (1920–21): S. 317–394.

Gla­sen­app, Hel­muth von, „Der Hin­du­is­mus“. In: Wil­helm Doe­gen (Hg.), Unter frem­den Völ­kern. Eine neue Völ­ker­kun­de, Ber­lin: Otto Stoll­berg, 1925, S. 116–125.

——–, „Die Rad­seh­pu­ten“. In: Wil­helm Doe­gen (Hg.), Unter frem­den Völ­kern. Eine neue Völ­ker­kun­de, Ber­lin: Otto Stoll­berg, 1925, S. 140–150.

——–, „Die Sikhs“. In: Wil­helm Doe­gen (Hg.), Unter frem­den Völ­kern. Eine neue Völ­ker­kun­de, Ber­lin: Otto Stoll­berg, 1925, S. 151–160.

Horo­vitz, Josef, „Die indi­schen Moham­me­da­ner“. In: Wil­helm Doe­gen (Hg.), Unter frem­den Völ­kern. Eine neue Völ­ker­kun­de, Ber­lin: Otto Stoll­berg, 1925, S. 161–166.

Kah­leyss, Mar­got, Mus­li­me in Brandenburg—Kriegsgefangene im 1. Welt­krieg: Ansich­ten und Absich­ten, Ber­lin: Staat­li­che Muse­en Preu­ßi­scher Kul­tur­be­sitz, 2000.

——–, “Indi­an Pri­soners of War in World War I: Pho­to­graphs as Source Mate­ri­al”. In: Fran­zis­ka Roy, Hei­ke Liebau and Ravi Ahu­ja (eds), ‘When The War Began We Heard of Seve­ral Kings’ South Asi­an Pri­soners in World War I Ger­ma­ny, New Delhi: Social Sci­ence Press, 2011, pp. 187–206.

Lan­ge, Brit­ta, “Aca­de­mic Rese­arch on (Colou­red) Pri­soners of War in Ger­ma­ny, 1915–1918”. In: Domi­niek Den­dooven and Piet Chie­lens (eds), World War 1. Five Con­ti­nents in Fland­ers, Tielt: Lanoo, 2008, pp. 153–159.

——–, “South Asi­an Sol­diers and Ger­man Aca­de­mics: Anthro­po­lo­gi­cal, Lin­gu­i­stic and Musi­co­lo­gi­cal Field Stu­dies in Pri­son Camps”. In: Fran­zis­ka Roy, Hei­ke Liebau and Ravi Ahu­ja (eds), ‘When The War Began We Heard of Seve­ral Kings’ South Asi­an Pri­soners in World War I Ger­ma­ny, New Delhi: Social Sci­ence Press, 2011, pp. 149–185.

Liebau, Hei­ke, “The Ger­man For­eign Office, Indi­an Emi­grants and Pro­pa­gan­da Efforts Among the ‘Sepoys’”. In: Fran­zis­ka Roy, Hei­ke Liebau and Ravi Ahu­ja (eds), ‘When The War Began We Heard of Seve­ral Kings’ South Asi­an Pri­soners in World War I Ger­ma­ny, New Delhi: Social Sci­ence Press, 2011, pp. 96–129.

——–, “Hin­d­o­stan: A Camp News­pa­per for South-Asi­an Pri­soners of World War One in Ger­ma­ny”. In: Fran­zis­ka Roy, Hei­ke Liebau and Ravi Ahu­ja (eds), ‘When The War Began We Heard of Seve­ral Kings’ South Asi­an Pri­soners in World War I Ger­ma­ny, New Delhi: Social Sci­ence Press, 2011, pp. 231–249.

Lüders, Hein­rich, „Die Gurk­has“. In: Wil­helm Doe­gen (Hg.), Unter frem­den Völ­kern. Eine neue Völ­ker­kun­de, Ber­lin: Otto Stoll­berg, 1925, S. 126–139.

Meh­nert, Die­ter, „His­to­ri­sche Schallaufnahmen—Das Laut­ar­chiv an der Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Ber­lin“, Stu­di­en­tex­te zur Sprach­kom­mu­ni­ka­ti­on 13 (1996): S. 28–45.

Simon, Arthur (ed.) Das Ber­li­ner Pho­no­gramm-Archiv 1900–2000—Sammlungen der tra­di­tio­nel­len Musik der Welt, Ber­lin: Ver­lag für Wis­sen­schaft und Bil­dung, 2000.

Jürgen‑K. Mah­ren­holz, Laut­ar­chiv der Hum­boldt-Uni­ver­si­tät zu Berlin

MIDA Archi­val Refle­xi­con

Edi­tors: Anan­di­ta Baj­pai, Hei­ke Liebau
Lay­out: Mon­ja Hof­mann, Nico Putz
Host: ZMO, Kirch­weg 33, 14129 Ber­lin
Cont­act: archival.reflexicon [at]

ISSN 2628–5029