In general, the text of the original letter is to be conveyed as accurately and precisely as possible in the HTML format of WordPress. If there are technical options for representing any given peculiarity of the handwriting, it will be introduced directly into the text. If not, an image of that section of the letter may be used to illustrate that peculiarity. In this way, the anonymity of the family can be balanced with the best practices of “diplomatic transcription” for scholarly editions.
1. Work Process
Starting in 2012, the Project Leaders (Prof. Andrew Stuart Bergerson and Dr. Thomas Mundschick) at the time initiated the digitalization of the original letters. All of the individual letter pages were scanned into a .pdf format. The work continues of combining them into one pdf per letter and designating them with Signatures.
Since 2012, the letters have been transcribed and tagged with key words by a changing intergenerational Team of academics and lay citizens in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. This work is accomplished in pairs for mutual support such that, for instance, older people who are familiar with the older scripts collaborate with younger people who are more familiar with technology; or native German speakers work with people for whom German is a second language.
Team members complete the work either in person or virtually. All drafts of the letters – the pdfs and the transcriptions – are stored virtually and accessible to all members of the international research team at all times. In 2012, we used the Learning Management System Blackboard. Starting in 2015, we shifted to Zotero.
Starting in 2019, the initial transcription is being completed by Transkribus instead of human beings (with 98.2% accuracy). Although the crosschecking and tagging is still done by human beings, that work now takes place on TranskribusWeb.
At least 75 years after the day when they were originally mailed, the letters are posted here on the WordPress blog and broadcast on Radio Tonkuhle as monthly programs and individual letters.
In 2016, we wrote a play that dramatizes the letters from the period of Hilde and Roland’s courtship. In 2017, we created a German version of it as well. They are both available here and more information about the workshop in which the American version premiered in May 2016 is available here.
We are currently posting English translations of the letters associated with this play and creating a curriculum for students of German culture, history, and language that makes use of these intermedial resources.
We permanently archive all of the materials relating to this project on UMKC Box (password protected).
2. An On-Going Project
In contrast to traditional projects designed to publish academic editions of historical letters, the goals of T&S are not achieved only when the letters are finally published in their final form. Rather, the work process is a goal in itself insofar as it continues to be implemented as an international cooperation between academics and members of the public. Indeed, T&S facilitates a long-term collaboration between members of different generations and nationalities including students of German culture, history, and language around the world. At the same time, the public-humanities format of this project results inevitably in giving the letters that we are publishing here certain peculiar characteristics that are less typical of scholarly editions.
2.1. An Uneven Format
To be sure, we try to represent the letters in as consistent a form as possible. Yet a number of inconsistencies have crept into the published versions due to the fact that some of the participants in this project are not native speakers of German or professional academics trained in the art and science of transcription for edited editions. More to the point, our team members adjusted our guidelines for transcribing and blogging, for instance, in response to changes in the letters in later years, as new people joined our team, and as new technologies became available. Only when the project is completed and all of the letters have been published will we go back and revise the older letters in order to create a unitary format. Understood as an ongoing project, the project leaders welcome suggestions for improvements in general or comments on individual letters where mistakes have been made.
2.2. Publication Pace and Gaps
Between 2013 and 2015 the letters were posted to the blog precisely 75 years after they were mailed: T&S, Vols. I–III (2013–15) for 1938–40. With Roland’s conscription into the military in Fall 1940 (2015), however, the volume and length of the letters increased to such a degree that, already by September 1940/2015, the pace of publication could not be maintained. Almost all of the letters up until the end of 1941 have since been published – 1941 appeared retroactively as Volume IV (2016) – with only a few exceptions (see 2.3. Exceptions). By contrast, the blog for 1942 is very incomplete.
In 2019 we are also publishing selected letters from the period 1938 to 1940 in English translation.
The collection included around 50 letters that were partial, undated, disconnected from, or did not belong to the other pages in the original letters. These items will be placed in their correct order once the rest of the letters have been published. Only then will we be able to consider the collection complete.
Until then, and so long as we have at least a date associated with the partial letter, we will publish them “as is”. These cases are explained in the text with an editorial comment in square brackets [ ] and can be searched according to the following terms: Seitenverwirrung/confused page order or Unvollständig/incomplete. If the page order has been rearranged according to our logic, this editorial change has been noted.
The Signatures of the letter (i.e. [380504–2‑1]) identifies the letter in terms of the year (38), month (05), and day (04) on which the author of the letter (-2 for Hilde, ‑1 for Roland) mailed the letter as well as whether it was the first (-1), second(-2), etc. letter mailed on that day. (You can learn more about our system for citing T&S materials here.)
Letters that were mailed separately receive different signatures. Sometimes the authors wrote several letters before they mailed them. In cases where more than one letter were sent in the same envelope, they were all given the same signature. The signature should always correspond to the date in which Hilde or Roland mailed the letter. Sometimes they wrote a letter on one day but only sent it on the next. The signature thus correspond to the day in which the letter was sent even if this required eliciting that information indirectly from the letter itself.
For a time, they numbered some of the letters that they received. Sometimes they also noted the date on which they received the letter from their partner. This date is not to be confused with the signature which should always correspond to the date in which the author mailed the letter.
English translations of the original German letters, should they be available, include a language designation “/en” in the signature and URL.
letterThe letters on the WordPress blog are marked with tags. These are not the same as a scholarly index, which is not necessary since WordPress has a full text search function which is far more effective in finding letters. The tags are therefore used to direct the reader to implicit content or denotations of the letters that would otherwise not be found in a full text search of the letter text. Content that can be found in many or most of the letters are not systematically tagged.
All of the letters on the blog are categorized by the month and year of their mailing so WordPress can organize them chronologically in the Letter Archive on the right column of the main pages. For instance, letter 380504–2‑1 published on 4. May 2013 is categorized as May 1938. Other categories include:
Bekanntmachung = Project announcements
Benutzer-Beitrag = Short essays written by users about the letters
Seitenverwirrung = Letters whose page order is confused
Unvollständig = letters that break off in the middle whose missing pages have not yet been identified
All of the letters are marked with the red T&S avatar at the start and the end of the letters to set off the text. The avatar before the text is sometimes replaced with an image that speaks to the content of the letter. User-written essays and project announcements are marked with a green avatar.
The blog follows Hilde and Roland’s way of writing as much as possible rather than modern rules of orthography. For instance, the ß is used rather than replacing it with ss or the beta symbol.
Hilde and Roland use dashes in various lengths. We use an n‑dash – when there is a pause in thought or the end of a sentence. We use an hyphen — only to connect two words.
Note that our blog does not maintain the line divisions of the original letters, as WordPress adjusts the width of the text to the window, screen, and language of the reader. So we delete the single “-” or double “=” hyphen that Hilde or Roland wrote at the end of a line to demarcate a divided word. (The double line was more typical in that era.) See the example “ge=funden” above .
Mistakes from the authors are translated into the analogous characters such as when text is
crossed out and illustrated in cases of where confusion may arise.
Hilde and Roland use various kinds of quotation marks: „…“. We use the same as the original when WordPress does not automatically standardize them.
Words that Hilde or Roland added after the fact are placed in superscript or subscript in keeping with the original.
If there is some kind of insertion mark, we use a ^.
Exclamation marks (!) along with all other punctuation are always precisely counted and included.
Text that is written in a color other than the rest of the letter are reproduced in a similar color as the original. Underlines and lines on the side of the text are treated in the same way: regardless whether the mark was written under the text or on the side of the text (see below), in both cases the text appears as underlined in the blog. Underlines should not be confused with hotlinks.
If the line was written in color, the underline will appear in a similar color. Note: WordPress automatically changes the text of the underlined characters to the same color even though the characters were written in the normal ink or pencil as the rest of the letter. This function of WordPress cannot be changed.
If a section of text is encircled or boxed, this is designated with a [*] in the text and [* umkreist] at the end of the letter.
Particularly difficult sections of text that cannot be appropriately represented as they appear in the original are illustrated with images on WordPress. The criteria whether to include an illustration from the letter itself is whether the paleographic qualities of the letter can be transparently represented in HTML. For instance, the technology does not allow for a clear representation of situations where wavy lines are used under or on the side of the text, when a number is encircled, when the letter pages have been numbered.
In the transcription, no tabs or indents have been used even when it comes to the date, salutation, or author’s signature. Similarly, page breaks are not marked – with the exception of when a new letter begins that was mailed in the same envelope as the earlier letter, in which case a single blank like has been added. The authors added page numbers to some of the letters.
Even if the authors placed more space between two paragraphs, the two paragraphs are distinguished only by a single paragraph break. Similarly, the authors sometimes added more space between two sentences. Such breaks is often a substitute for a new paragraph in order to save paper. Based on our best judgement, we treat such breaks as new paragraphs. Sometimes WordPress automatically adds a new paragraph break, for instance when an illustration has been added to the text, even if there is not a paragraph break in the original letter. There is no way to avoid this situation with this software platform. Marginalia are inserted into the blog like ordinary text, though an editorial note is added to explain the situation as well as an illustration (like the one on the left).
When the authors added a notation mark* with a note elsewhere on the page, the mark is added in superscript and the note is inserted where it appeared on the page.
8. Editorial Interpolations
Editorial interpolations that add to the text in any way are always designated by square brackets [ ].
Abbreviations for person or locations are made for the sake of anonymity without marking them with square brackets [ ]: that is, O. rather than [O.] Only one period is added if an abbreviation falls at the end of a sentence (as in the last sentence).
It can happen that two different persons or locations are given the same abbreviation in the same or different letters. Readers should not misinterpret the same abbreviation as a reference to the same proper noun! This rendering is not inappropriate but in fact helpful in veiling the identities of people and places.
To protect the identities of the letter writers and their family members “as much as possible”, it was necessary to replace their name with pseudonyms: [Roland Nordhoff] und [Hilde Laube]. When their last names appear elsewhere in the letters, for instance, in association with relatives, the pseudonym for the last name is used, however the first name is written as is. When it comes to unrelated individuals, the first name is written as is and the last name is abbreviated with the first character.
The names of larger locations (like Dresden or Chemnitz) and places that are far from the residence of the main protagonists are not anonymized. Locations that refer to where Hilde and Roland lived are abbreviated with the first character like K. or, if the second part of the word is very common, like W.berg. This is true of designations of topographic locations that might indicate their place of residence, street names, or other references that are specific to particular locations.
8.1.3. Roland Deployment Locations
The places where Roland was deployed or stationed are not abbreviated. When the original letter substituted an abbreviation, a [sic] is added; unless the location can be inferred from the context, in which case it is clarified for the blog reader, like: S.[aloniki], including the original period before the [ ] .
8.1.4. Public Transportation
The specific departure and arrival times of busses and trains that could connect the reader to Hilde’s or Roland’s places of residence are replaced with […].
8.1.5. Time References
When the word “o’clock” is missing after the hour of time reference, it is added as in: around 3 [o’clock].
8.2.1 Holes in the Letters
The most common reason for missing characters is due to the holes that Hilde placed in the letter paper in order to store them in ring binders, which sometimes deleted parts of a word. In this case, the characters before and after are included and the missing letters, inferred from the rest of the word, are included inside [ ].
Only deviations from the contemporary rules of German orthography and spelling (based on the Reform of 1902) require editorial notation in order to clarify to the blog reader that it is not a case of a mistake in the transcription.
In general, such deviations are marked with a [sic], though in most cases, [sic] does not designate a mistake on the part of the authors. In most cases, we use a [sic] simply to mean “yes/as is”: that is, to communicate to the reader that the text was actually written as it has been transcribed, just in case there might be any confusion. If any one given sentence requires multiple clarifications of either nature, they are marked only with one [sic] at the end for purposes of readability.
Sometimes the grammatical subject of the sentence is missing in the original text but can be inferred from the conjugation of the German verb. To forestall the misinterpretation that we are dealing in that case with a mistake in the transcription, we use two different methods depending on the grammatical situation:
- An isolated verb in an introductory clause like “Weißt[,] ich habe gestern an Dich gedacht/Know that I thought about you yesterday”: No subject is added in the German version because the meaning of this dialect or idiolect is transparent to the German reader. By contrast, the subject is generally added as [You] in the English translations because the meaning is not as clear to an English reader.
- An isolated verb in complete sentence like “[Du] Weißt doch noch der Nachbar…” In both the German original and the English translation, the implied subject is added as in: “[You] know the neighbor …”
8.2.3. Unusual Words and Word Forms
Over the course of this project, the issue of outdated words or words that derive from dialect or the idiolect of the authors have been handled in various ways. They include the following:
- Especially in the early period as Hilde and Roland were getting to know one another, unusual words were matched with the comparable word in High German like: “bissel [bisschen]”.
- Sometimes the unusual word is clarified with a link directly to the standard German Dictionary by Duden, the traditional German dictionary by the Brothers Grimm and the associated dictionaries of regional dialects, or with Wiktionary
- Sometimes the unusual word was left as is and marked with a “[sic]”, particularly in cases where it is an idiolect of the authors. If this word or phrase appears repeatedly in the letters, however, eventually they are no longer even marked with a “[sic]”.
Some typical examples include:
- “sooo” (as seen in the excerpt on the right)
- “garnicht” and other cases where two words are written together
As much as possible, we endeavored to retain the linguistic particularities of the authors in the transcription. In order to avoid mistakes during the transcription process and in order to make the text as legible as possible, we did make small adjustments to the punctuation. For instance:
- hab ich => hab[‘] ich
- mirs => mir[‘]s
In dialect, the vowel “e” was sometimes dropped from within certain words in keeping with their dialect. Here it is reintroduced with [ e] as in:
- unsre => uns[e]re
In the later period, the T&S Research Team preferred to used solutions 2 and 3.
The blog format offers a range of possibilities for expanding on the meaning of the text and placing it in its historical context.
- Sometimes a member of our Research Team is familiar with the meaning of a word or phrase that was written in dialect or idiolect. Their explanations have either been inserted into the text as [wohl: …/probably: .…] or added as a commentary to the published letter.
- Members of the Research Team also add Hotlinks and Images (like Guiseppe Verdi on the right) to the letters in order to explain or contextualize them in terms of language, orthography, form, handwriting, content, context, and so on. We strive to use links from websites that are stabile, secure, and reliable.
- When a work of art, architecture, literature, music, etc. are mentioned in the letters or just a quotation from such a work, the Research Team endeavors to add a complete reference to the names of the work and its creator in [ ].
- Even if the content is not directly discussed in the letters themselves, the Research Team also insert illustrations, films, music, and other materials into the letters that provide a broader context for the letters. The scope of what is possible to add here as a broader framework for the letters is limited by what is available on the web with appropriate copyright permissions, and the editorial decision is left to the individual blogger.
- Users may add additional or alternative context to the letter through comments directly after the letter or by submitting longer User Contributions. Send your contribution to Prof. Dr. Andrew Stuart Bergerson (bergersona [at] umkc.edu) including your name, the title of the piece, a summary (max 300 words), and the file itself (preferably in .html with formatting or as a .doc or .docx). You must adhere to the T&S reference system and our terms and conditions.
Image: Giovanni Boldini, Portrait von Giuseppe Verdi, 1886, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna, Roma, Italien, Foto: Eduardo Ruíz-Healy, 10 October 2014, Lizenzfrei über Wikimedia Commons, 07.2017
Image: Wernigerode im 19. Jahrhundert, Theodore Hennicke, Wernigerode, aus der Sammlung Duncker, Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin, 1857–83, herunterladen 06.2013.