German army office around 1940

Part of the exhibition
Part of the exhibition

Administration not only enables people to run businesses and public life smoothly. A total war such as World War II also requires a great deal of organization and administration. This began in peacetime with the registration and enlistment of recruits. In times of war, the military administration was in charge of supplies of food, ammunition and spare parts for weapons and equipment. Rules were also drawn up and forms prepared to record the dead and dig graves. The individual stations in the life of a member of the armed forces were thus recorded precisely in a variety of documents: every important change was recorded in the military passbook, which describes the fate of individuals as no other administrative document does.

Fear of espionage

Rapid communications were, of necessity, extremely important for military authorities and especially for planning staff. Telephone sets were to be found in almost all military offices. They consisted of a field telephone and a special autodial telephone connected with the regular telephone network plus a special cable to connect the two. Teletypewriters and radio equipment were much rarer. There was the risk that the enemy could intercept and use incoming information. In fear of espionage, minute shredders were even used to destroy teletypewriter tapes, and exhortations to maintain secrecy were to be found on telephones and shorthand pads. At the front, military administration was generally reduced to spoken orders and a number of handwritten, stamped forms.

Military administration

The impact of war became more and more noticeable even in the offices and typing pools at home. The enlistment of staff, longer working hours, missing or poor office material and, finally, blackouts and bomb alarms were part of everyday life. The carbide lamps for emergency lighting and protective crates for transporting typewriters to air-raid shelters reflect this situation. In the final analysis, though, military administration was not only threatened by destruction but was itself in charge of it.