It was a historical first: war correspondents of a Propaganda-kompanie (PK or propaganda company) of the Wehrmacht fighting alongside front troops. "Whilst the pioneer of the shock forces cold-bloodedly aims his flamethrower without fear of death in order to break open an enemy bunker, " so Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels (Bio Goebbels) declared in May 1941, "a PK Mann will stand beside him with equal contempt of death and cold-bloodedness to record this dramatic and spectacular event in words or images." One of these PK men, called Kriegsberichter (war reporter) was the German author and journalist Thaddäus Troll, whose real name was Hans Bayer.
Youth and study
"Soap factory Bayer," it said for decades on the front of the building – meanwhile torn down – on Marktstrasse 11 in a suburb of Stuttgart, Bad Cannstatt. The Bayer family lived on the first floor and the working space and the shop where soap was produced and sold, were sited on ground level. Whoever visited the shop in the 20s of the previous century would probably have been served by a youngster called Hans, eldest son of owner Paul Bayer and his wife Elsa. Together with his junior brother Erich, Hans often helped out his father in the family business after school. It was to be expected that Hans, born in 1914, would succeed his father but at a young age he already had other interests. He loved the theatre and often went to shows in the Stuttgart theatre with his mother. Writing however was his biggest passion and he dreamt of a career in journalism.
After having graduated from the Johannes Kepler Gymnasium in Cannstatt, his father managed to get his son a traineeship during the summer of 1932 on the editorial staff of the Cannstatter Zeitung. Subsequently, Hans studied German language, literature, history of art, theatre science and journalism in Tübingen, Munich, Halle and Leipzig from 1932 to 1938. During the holidays, he made contributions to the Ludwigsburger Zeitung including articles on politics and reviews of theatre, movies and concerts.
During his time as a student, the seizure of power in Germany by the Nazi Party (N.S.D.A.P. or National socialist German Workers Party) of Adolf Hitler (Bio Hitler) caused a political earthquake which did not go unnoticed by student Bayer. In 1933, the year Hitler was named Reichskanzler, he joined the Sturmabteilung (SA), the paramilitary movement of the Nazi Party. Probably his membership was meant only not to be put in a disadvantageous position in a society that was soon dominated by the Nazis. He was not very active as a "brownshirt" and he left the SA in June 1937.
Since the start of his studies however, Bayer was an enthusiastic member of the Turnerschaft Palatia, a German-nationalist student corps in Tübingen where students traditionally crossed swords in fencing duels. Student life with the inherent duels, discussions and drinking orgies also appealed very much to Bayer. When in 1935, in a drunken mood, he damaged a wall portrait of Hitler, it spelled a sudden end to his membership of the corps because it was feared the student organization would be disbanded if this incident was ignored. It did not influence the course of his studies in any way though and in June 1938, Bayer passed his doctoral exam with a thesis entitled: "The press and messages of prisoners-of-war during the World War." From now on, he was allowed to call himself Dr. Phil. a title which not only included the subject of philosophy but for example sociology, political science and history as well.