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"German Health Pamphlet for North Africa" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following translation of a German health pamphlet for soldiers serving in North Africa was published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 30, July 29, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


The German pamphlet translated below contains information on general health precautions, which are not only of interest and value in themselves, but also because of their close similarity to official U.S. Army medical instruction and principles of sanitation. While the pamphlet has reference to the North African area, much of it is applicable to all areas and is therefore of general interest.

The pamphlet was issued by the office of the German Army Surgeon General and is dated 1942. As is apparent from the context, it is intended for the individual soldier. Instructions accompanying the pamphlet state that it is to be carried in the inside flap of the paybook.*

The translation of the pamphlet follows:

*        *        *

The climate of the country is quite different from that of your homeland. The days in summer are hot and sunny, in winter, warm; the nights, on the other hand, are cool in summer, in winter, very cold. Throughout the entire country, water is very scarce. The German soldier must, first of all, accustom himself to the climatic peculiarities. The population of the country has different customs, ways of living, and practices, than our people. They have a different religion. Do not disregard all this in association with the people of the country. You will get on much easier. There are illnesses there which we do not have in Germany. You must, therefore, know the dangers which threaten you in this particular country.

Observe the following:

(1) Water

The virus of many different kinds of diseases can come from the water of this country. Therefore, never drink unboiled water, also do not rinse out your mouth with it, as long as your superior officers do not designate the water pure! Boil your water! It is best to drink tea or coffee and use the portable filter apparatus. It makes all fresh water potable!** Drink no mineral water and no lemonade as long as it has not been expressly designated as harmless by your superior. Ice in restaurants and ice-cooled drinks, which are offered for sale on the streets, are not prepared under sanitary conditions and, therefore, are harmful to your health; avoid them, even if you are extremely thirsty. Do not wash yourself in dirty water, do not bathe in streams, lakes, ponds, pools. Bathing in the sea is permitted. Do not bathe when in an overheated condition.

(2) Nutrition

You will receive the best food from your unit. Do not eat raw meat. Never drink unboiled milk, especially not goatmilk! Wash all fruit in purified water or peel it before eating. Do not buy quarters or halves of melons when they are offered by street merchants. Buy only whole, uncut melons. Do not pick up any food from the ground, especially meat, fish, and sausage; in the heat, foodstuffs perish quickly and contaminate! Protect your rations from flies. They carry disease.

(3) Dress

Always wear a stomach band.*** You protect yourself against catching cold. Always wear your sun helmet out of doors during the heat of the day. Otherwise, wear your field cap. It serves no purpose and is harmful to the health to run about in warm countries with the upper part of the body naked. It is a mistake to believe that one is cooled off in that manner. When the air-temperature is greater than 38 degrees Centigrade [100 degrees Fahrenheit] the wind has a heating effect on the skin.

(4) Bivouac

Avoid particularly the dwellings of natives. Before you take up quarters in houses or barracks, clean the area thoroughly. Excrement and refuse are the breeding places of flies, and these carry to food-stuffs or direct to people the germs of dangerous illnesses (especially dysentery). Therefore, latrines must be free from flies. The trench-latrine serves the purpose.

(5) Vermin

Besides flies there are body lice, ticks, mosquitoes, snakes, and scorpions in this country. Mosquitoes are carriers of fevers, and malaria. Combat the mosquitoes in the morning and in the evening in your barracks by continuously killing them. If you burn a light in your barracks, keep the windows closed when possible; mosquitoes are attracted by burning lights. Use your mosquito net when you go to bed. Be careful, however, that when you lie under your mosquito net that there are no mosquitoes in the net and that the net is carefully tucked in under the bed and no openings are left for mosquitoes to enter.

If you have body lice, report it immediately: body lice and ticks carry spotted fever and relapsing fever, and both are serious illnesses. The snakes in this country are poisonous. They hide themselves in the sand. Scorpions are often found under loose rocks. Therefore, do not run about with bare feet and naked legs. Inspect your sleeping-bag daily for snakes and scorpions. Shake out your boots before putting them on. They are a favorite hiding-place for scorpions. It is frequently maintained that a drink of liquor is beneficial after you have suffered a snake bite. This is foolishness. Alcohol, under such circumstances, is harmful. If you should be bitten by a snake, apply a tourniquet directly above the wound on the side toward the heart. The pressure applied to the tourniquet should not be great enough to cause the wounded part to swell and turn blue. With a disinfected razor blade, make a cross-like incision at the wound. Each cut should be at most about 1 inch long and not deeper than 1/2 inch. Allow the wound to bleed for 3 minutes; sucking the poison from the open wound is frequently recommended. This should be undertaken only by one who has no open sores or cavities in his mouth. With the blunt side of the disinfected razor blade, rub several potassium permanganate crystals into the wound; bind the wound and remove the tourniquet. Then report to the unit surgeon or medical officer immediately.

(6) Venereal Diseases

Women who solicit freely are usually infected. You should visit those houses only which are approved by the military authorities. Always use a condom. Follow orders, and take a prophylaxis after having exposed yourself.

(7) Concerning Animals

Dogs and cats are frequently carriers of diseases, e.g., rabies, serious worm and blood diseases. Do not handle dogs, cats, or monkeys.

(8) Vaccinations

The vaccinations prescribed by the military authorities protect you from serious diseases. The unvaccinated person not only endangers himself, but the lives of his comrades as well!

(9) Prevention of Malaria

Do not hesitate to take tablets to prevent malaria, when they must be taken! You do not know the danger to which you and your comrades are exposed.

(10) Skin Irritation ("Red Dog")

"Red dog" (roter Hund) is an annoying skin irritation, which is caused by excessive heat and attended by extreme perspiration. Frequent bathing in warm water and lathering with medicinal soap (when available) is the best protection. If you have "red dog," lather yourself with medicinal soap, and allow the lather to remain on your skin for 15 minutes. Blot yourself dry--do not rub. Dry yourself especially carefully in those parts where the conformation of the body causes skin wrinkles and between the toes.

(11) Slight Injuries

If you receive a slight wound on the calf of your leg from a thorn, or from striking against a sharp rock or from insect stings, apply a sterile bandage. If you allow such apparently trivial wounds to go unattended, they can develop into annoying and slowly healing sores.

*The paybook is carried by all German soldiers and is often found on German prisoners; aside from containing the pay record of the individual, the paybook also includes the soldier's unit, although it may not be up-to-date in this respect, and such miscellaneous personal data as gas mask size, blood type, etc.
**If this statement is correct, the filter probably includes an element to chlorinate the filtered water.
***Stomach bands are not believed to serve any useful purpose and are not recommended by the U.S. Army Medical Corps.


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