This must be what it was like when German Jews were refugees

This must be what it was like when German Jews were refugees

This must be what it was like in the 1930s when Jews fleeing Nazi Germany created a major refugee crisis to which the response of Britain, the USA and other potential safe haven countries was a collective shoulder shrug of indifference – or outright hostility. This summer we have witnessed an unfolding crisis on a scale unprecedented since the Second World War, as desperate people risk their lives fleeing the civil war in Syria and the murderous advance of ISIS. With some noble exceptions, the prevailing response, especially here in the UK, has been once again to demonise fellow human beings. Continue reading “This must be what it was like when German Jews were refugees”

The enigma of Frederick the Great

The enigma of Frederick the Great

Berlin again. A little over a week after our return from Berlin, another coincidence: this time it’s a discussion about the life and significance of Frederick the Great on In Our Time this morning. Continue reading “The enigma of Frederick the Great”

Living with history: a Berlin city centre walk

Living with history: a Berlin city centre walk

Germans live with history, Berliners especially so.  The city is dense with memorials and museums, each of which documents or remembers an aspect of the country’s fractured past. In the previous post I wrote about three examples of the memorialization of the Holocaust in Berlin. In one short walk in the centre of the city the visitor will encounter several more. Continue reading “Living with history: a Berlin city centre walk”

Two novels by Jenny Erpenbeck

Two novels by Jenny Erpenbeck

This summer I’ve read two short, critically-acclaimed novels by Jenny Erpenbeck: Visitation, and The End of Days, winner of the Independent foreign fiction prize. I have to say that both books left me a little cold. Continue reading “Two novels by Jenny Erpenbeck”

Peeling the Onion: Gunter Grass has the last word

Peeling the Onion: Gunter Grass has the last word

When the death of Gunter Grass was announced recently, among the obituaries and appreciations I read were words of praise for his infamous memoir, Peeling the Onion, first published in Germany in 2006.  I remember reading a few reviews when the English translation came out a year later, and being put off. Probably, I read Michael Hoffman’s ill-tempered review in the Guardian which dismissed it as ‘a long and miserably bad book’ Continue reading “Peeling the Onion: Gunter Grass has the last word”

Heimat 3: a disappointing ending

Heimat 3: a disappointing ending

After completing our odyssey through the first two series of Edgar Reitz’s epic Heimat, we approached Heimat 3 with great anticipation. However, although it has its moments, this stage of the saga which takes the story of its characters as far as the millennium, did not attain the majestic heights of the earlier seasons. Indeed, towards the end disappointment shaded into embarrassment. Continue reading “Heimat 3: a disappointing ending”

Die Zweite Heimat: a longing for escape

Die Zweite Heimat: a longing for escape

We really thought we had a purpose
We were so anxious to achieve
We had hope
The world held promise
For a slave to liberty
Freely I slaved away for something better
And I was bought and sold
And all I ever wanted
Was to come in from the cold

– ‘Come In From The Cold’, Joni Mitchell

The subtitle of Die Zweite Heimat, Edgar Reitz’s sequel to Heimat (discussed here last month), is ‘Chronicle of a Generation’.  The generation in question is my generation – the lucky ones born in the 1940s who came of age in the 1960s.  Except that Reitz’s  brilliant semi-autobiographical account of a group of gifted musicians, film-makers and intellectuals who arrive in Munich as students in the early 1960s is one that becomes increasingly dark. Continue reading “Die Zweite Heimat: a longing for escape”