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Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Parade of the "Old Army" - personal memories in tin

In the 1920s and 1930s, Johannes Paul Justus Freiling, a veteran of World War I and a teacher, spent his leisure time producing and decorating tin figures representing soldiers of pre 1914 German regiments. Although war toys were frowned upon for many years after World War I in Germany as well as in France and Britain, tin figures were discovered by adults as collector's items. One reason for this was that many people fondly recalled the allegedly ideal world before the "Great War". In Germany, this was compounded by disappointment about lost national significance and military strength.
Freiling showed his figures in the colorful splendor of "peaceful uniforms" from before 1914. His enthusiasm as well as that of many collectors originated in the appeal of the "coloured uniform". Enthusiasm was also felt for an era in which cavalry attacks were trained during military exercises in the presence of the emperor and in which the parade drill was just as important as marksmanship training. The "old army"of the empire, dashing and proud, seemed to have nothing to do whith trench warfare and defeat. 
Wittingly or unwittingly, the collectors of tin figures at that time again after 1945 used colourful figurines and carefully prepared panorams to flee from the horror of war. In the word of the author Franz Joachim Behnisch (1920 - 1983), a veteran of World War II, a pacifist, and a collector: "Dioramas are livened up by the dead" (Dresden Bundeswehr Military History Museum).

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