Manuals used for phycological warfare

Throughout World War II phycological warfare was used on all fronts. An important method was the spreading of demoralizing and misdirecting information via leaflets and booklets. The German, as well as the Russian army, mainly applied distribution of leaflets from airplanes over the enemy's frontline. The US army only marginally applied distribution of leaflets at the front but rather concentrated in spreading the information at the home front to stimulate people to stay alert and contribute to the war machine. The British army, however, used the very sophisticated way through disguised booklets and manuals. With these booklets and manuals, they aimed at convincing the enemy that through malingering, pretending to be ill or causing an injury to yourself, one can survive the war in a comfortable hospital rather than fighting and dying at the front. The camouflage of these malingering handbooks allowed the German soldier to carry the enemy propaganda without the danger of being caught and possibly charged as a traitor. It was reasoned that the camouflage would increase the chances of soldiers actually reading and applying the guidelines compared to the openly spreading of leaflets. Indeed, several official German communications mention these camouflaged booklets and their effect. The German army was actually so impressed with the potentialities of the handbook that they translated it into English and distributed it into the British and American lines.

The malingering handbook was called Krankheit rettet , von Dr. med. Wilhelm Wohltat "Sickness Saves you by William Benefactor, M.D.". Throughout the war, this handbook was camouflaged in many ways: as French-German phrase book, guide to the city of Oslo, Norwegian medical booklet on the prevention of Venereal Disease, and army manuals. Concise tips were even printed on cigarette paper and distributed. Concerning the army manuals, the following are known to exist:

  • Sportvorschrift für die Kriegsmarine (derived issue of the H.Dv. 475)

  • H.Dv. 371 - Evangelisches Feldgesangbuch

  • H.Dv. 372 - Katholisches Feldgesangbuch

  • Merkblatt 53b-59 - Truppenhygiene im Winter

These booklets had their normal cover and initial few pages, before the Krankheit rettet information began. The booklet Sportvorschrift für die Kriegsmarine was one of the first manuals to be disguised in this way and British naval Commander Ian Flemming was involved in its creation.

The malingering manual Merkblatt 53b-59 - Truppenhygiene im Winter is my collection for a long time. However, I did not fully understand the contents of this booklet until the attentive reader Harald Kasis pointed out that this is actually a version of the Krankheit Rettet handbook. A PDF version of my copy is available by clicking on the booklet.

The cover is normal, as well as the book's content up to page 4. Then, starting from page 5, the Krankheit rettet text starts. The last few pages of the booklet are again according to the normal manual.

The table of content is represented below, together with a translation. Besides descriptions on how to fake diseases such as Tuberculosis and partial paralysis, there was a separate chapter on faking skin diseases for chemical workers. Additional, practical suggestions were given how to behave when visiting a doctor, forging of stamps and recipes and what plants can be useful for malingering.


Table of contents


Chapter I - General tips

  1. Strong cases of backache

  2. Partial paralysis

  3. Chest pains

  4. Indigestion problems

  5. "absent minded"

  6. Tuberculosis

  7. Contageous throatinfection

  8. Intense diarrhea

Chapter II - skin diseases (specially for chemical workers)

  1. Dermatitis from oily substances

  2. TNT poisoning

  3. Forehead rash

  4. Body rash

  5. Shingles

  6. Jaundice

  7. Leg ulcer


Practical tips

How to cause a rash

Useful plants

Purchase of medicine

Miscellaneous substances to erase pen ink

Forging of stamps

The primary emphasis of the handbook is to get the enemy to malinger. However, even if he does not, the enemy doctor, knowing about the leaflets and their message is liable to consider an individual that is actually injured to be a malingerer. The resulting lack of medical attention or even forcing a sick soldier back to the front line will cause a collapse in morale that could be just as valuable as if the soldier followed the suggestions of the leaflet.

The handbook not only contained information on faking diseases, but also informed on the best way to approach a doctor. Two fundamental rules are explained in the handbook. Firstly, the malingerer must give the physician the impression that he/she is a patriotic citizen, dedicated to his/her duty, who has the misfortune to be ill. Secondly the person must never tell the doctor that he/she is ill, that he/she is suffering from some specific disease, or volunteer symptoms. It is much more convincing if the symptoms, or even a single symptom, is diagnosed by the doctor based on his own questions.