The albatross and the oak tree
When World War II broke out in 1939, the combined Albatross / Tauchnitz enterprise was in a difficult position. For Tauchnitz it was the second time in 25 years that its Government had declared war against its authors and many of its customers. The firm had barely survived the First World War, and was to find this one even more difficult.
The business had already struggled for several years with difficulties caused by the rise of the Nazi party in Germany. The principal owner of Albatross was Jewish, as was Kurt Enoch, one of its directors. John Holroyd-Reece, who led the firm, had been determined as half-Jewish by the German authorities. The problems of the firm with the authorities during the period before and during the war have been meticulously researched by Michele Troy at the University of Hartford – now published in ‘Strange Bird. The Albatross Press and the Third Reich.’ (Yale University Press, 2017).
Holroyd-Reece did what he could to continue the business of Albatross after the outbreak of war, but had to flee Paris when it fell to the Nazis, and the firm was effectively left under German control, with the installation of a Nazi trustee in Leipzig, Walter Gey. Rather surprisingly, it continued to sell significant numbers of books in English even into 1943, while Tauchnitz (owned by its printer, Oscar Brandstetter) developed a new series of German language books. But the noose was tightening. Albatross was denied paper rations in 1941, followed by restrictions on sales outside the German Reich and then in 1943 new rules limited sales within the Reich to schools and ministries.
One of the fruits of this seems to have been a collaboration with the French publisher ‘Editions du Chêne’. The first of these books I have come across is ‘The Casuarina Tree’, a series of short stories by Somerset Maugham, previously published as Tauchnitz volume 4842 in 1928 and reissued in ‘Editions du Chêne’ with a date of 1942 on the title page. A note on the half-title verso says the edition ‘is published with the permission of the owners of the continental rights, The Albatross Verlag, Leipzig, and is intended for the students in French schools’.
The reference to Albatross is slightly odd, particularly as the title page then refers to Copyright Bernhard Tauchnitz, Nachfolger Brandstetter and Co., Leipzig. Even if Albatross rather than Tauchnitz did hold the rights, Michelle Troy’s research suggests that shareholders had transferred the rights held by the Albatross Verlag to Albatross Ltd. in London shortly before the war. But this was no time for paying attention to such niceties.
This first book was followed by at least four more in the same series, three of them dated 1943 and one 1944, and two of them referring to Tauchnitz rather than Albatross as holder of the rights. The last book ‘Youth and two other stories’ by Joseph Conrad, although dated 1944 on the title page has another date of 10th September 1945 at the back. This puts publication after the end of the war in Europe and long after the liberation of Paris. Presumably by then the permission given previously by a Nazi controlled company for publication of the book was of limited relevance, but I don’t suppose anybody much minded.