do not mention the war

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

A Cup of Tea

In History on November 11, 2018 at 11:11

Upon arriving in his exile home, Kaiser Wilhelm II. asked for nothing in particular.

If it is possible I should like above all a cup of hot English tea.

<em>Note: The quote by Kaiser Wilhelm II. is taken from Peter Vansittart’s book Voices From the Great War</em>

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Bertolt Brecht: Conscription Continues

In History on May 21, 2018 at 08:00

In the little series ‘Voices from the Great War’ comes a quote from the German author Bertolt Brecht.

I was called up in the war and sent to a hospital. I dressed wounds, applied iodine, gave enemas, did blood transfusions. If the doctor ordered ‘Brecht, amputate a leg!’ I would reply, ‘Certainly, Your Excellency!’ and cut off the leg. If I was told, ‘Perform a trepanning’! I opened the man’s skull and messed about with his brains. I saw how they patched fellows up, so as to cart them back to the Front as quickly as they could.

He himself did not serve in a hospital but instead after volunteering served in a plant nursery and also did some administrative work. It allowed him to get his A-Levels, thus him joining the army was not driven by patriotic feelings. His writings during the war can be separated in two periods. The first were reports from the front and poems which were positive about the war but after 1916 this changed and he distanced himself from the war effort. Brecht remained productive throughout from 1914 to 1918 and it is sure that he was an established artist once the war was over in November 1918.

The quote above therefore originates from one of his reports and displays the work of the military doctors towards the end of the conflict. It shows that the will was not diminishing in the least as the title of this little quote demonstrates. In fact, the Kaiser stated only a few months before that those of the German enemies who do not want peace will be destroyed ‘with an iron fist and a flaming sword’. If there was ever more need for assurance of the German morale, the Kaiser delivered it. It demonstrates that there was still believe that Germany may win the war. Indeed, Ludendorff was only stopped in his progress on the Marne in mid-July 1918, only four months before the end of the war.

featured image: Self Portrait via WikiCommons CC BY-SA 3.0

The German Potato

In History on March 7, 2018 at 10:00

During World War I the German press and propaganda machine has attempted every trick in the book to raise morale. This leaflet from 1917 addressed German farmers to produce more potatoes as it was hoped that the German potato could make the difference in the war effort.

The German Potato must defeat England

This is the message the leaflet tries to bring across. In order to increase output of spuds the German government offered financial incentives such as 35 Marks for roughly 2500sqm extra area dedicated to potatoes.

To the left and right the leaflet shows the overall area available to provide the vegetable. In 1914 there were 3.38 million hectares available which has shrunk to 2.41 million hectares in 1917. This is a significant decrease and underlines the urgency which with the German government pleaded with the farmers in order to get more crops out of less soil. The effort was in vain as it turned out. Despite the peace agreement with Russia at the Eastern front the war efforts were futile and finally led to the ceasefire which was signed in 1918 and which led to catastrophic developments in the cause of the 20th. century.

The attempt to turn the odds around with potatoes speaks of the desperation of the German government to mobilise anything in order to win the war. What this possibly has achieved however was prolonged fighting and thus more fatalities on both sides of the Western front.

The Great War (in Britain) or the First World War (in Germany) was not decided by the amount of potatoes grown but was decided by the fact that the German has become untenable which led to the ceasefire from November 11, 1918.

Munich Remembered

In History on February 6, 2018 at 15:04

This week saw the 60. anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster which claimed the lives of eight Manchester United players, three non-playing staff, eight journalists and four passengers and members of the crew. The following is a documentation how those perished in Munich have been remembered.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yearning for the Strong Man

In History on September 11, 2017 at 07:00

The German poet, writer and novelist Gerhart Hauptmann was not associated closely with the NSDAP or national socialism, despite himself applying for membership in the party in 1932.

Hauptmann born in 1862 in Silesia did not come to writing easily. He tried working agriculture which exhausted him physically. In 1882 he went to take lessons in sculpting at Breslau University but was forced to leave after a year due to inappropriate behaviour. Stints in Rome and Dresden failed equally. Slowly he began work as a writer and it was this profession that has given him fulfilment and provided him with an income. From 1890 Hauptmann worked as a writer and was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in recognition of his achievements in drama.

When the First World War broke out, he signed the Manifest of the 93, which denied the claims by foreign sources that German soldiers committed criminal acts during the occupation of Belgium. The manifest also denied that Germany was the culprit for the outbreak of war.

However, he later became critical of the war and in 1918 he was one of the many public figures speaking out in favour of a German Republic.

This is even more surprising as a year before, in September 1917 he said that

‘Subconsciously we are yearning for a man, a strong man.’

His wish was to come through in 1933 when Hitler seized power and led Germany into a another disastrous war within 25 years. He was not a member of the party and the Nazis did go out of their way to dissuade him from emigrating. In that they succeeded but their ideology has not found its way into his writing.

It is nonetheless astonishing to see such a quote attributed to Hauptmann.

Hundred years later it seems that people are still yearning for a strong man ignoring history and its grim lessons.

Note: The quote by Gerhart Hauptmann is taken from Peter Vansittart’s book Voices From the Great War.

The featured image for this is a portrait (German: Der Dichter Gerhart Hauptmann) of Gerhart Hauptmann from 1912 by the German artist and painter Max Liebermann; via WikiCommons

Isn’t it Ironic?

In History on March 30, 2017 at 16:30

In the 1990s Alanis Morrissette had one of her biggest successes with her song ironic in which she asks if it isn’t ironic to win the lottery and die the next day.

Alanis Morissette – Ironic Music Video from Tricia Rodriguez on Vimeo.

Isn’t ironic that 60 years after the Treaty of Rome paved the way for the European Union, that this very union is now experiencing Brexit? As Britain submitted the so-called letter of divorce, one cannot but think that this will leave Britain worse off than it is now. It comes at a difficult time for the European Union where several crises have led many people to question this union and turn towards nationalists and isolationists. Britain went a step further and decided to leave the EU. It will alter the country irrecognisably.

Policing Acid House Parties in 1989: What the new Thatcher Government papers reveal

In History on January 6, 2017 at 09:00

The latest round of papers from the Prime Minister’s Office have been released, relating to the final years of Margaret Thatcher’s government in 1989-90. While files on several topics have been ope…

Source: Policing Acid House Parties in 1989: What the new Thatcher Government papers reveal

Ernst Nolte 1923 – 2016

In History on August 19, 2016 at 09:00

The historian Ernst Nolte who passed away this week aged 93 was one of Germany’s most prominent historians. Aged 40 he published research comparing Italian Fascism, Russian Stalinism and German National Socialism. He not only instigated research into Germany’s recent troubled past but also opened the path for comparative history. This was ground breaking in the 1960s and fitting for the decade that saw Germany leaving the post war period and commencing a debate about the period between 1933 and 1945.

Ernst Nolte came to fame again in the 1980s when he postulated that the German Holocaust was nothing but a reaction to the Russian Gulag system. While there were similarities: the Gulag and the concentration camps were camps in which conditions certainly were not human. Yet the Holocaust is an entirely different matter. People died under the harsh conditions but more importantly people were murdered following a murderous plan executed in industrial fashion. It needed a sophisticated plan to organise genocide on such a scale.
By arguing that the German Holocaust was only a reaction to the Russian Gulag system, Nolte started a debate in Germany that has become known as the Historikerstreit, the historians controversy.

While the 1960s were a decade in which Germany faced its own history, the 70s were a decade of unrest and the 80s a decade of restoration. The argument about the Holocaust came a year after Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker made it clear that the end of the war was a liberation for Germany and Germans. When Nolte published his synthesis in 1986 he immediately saw himself in the centre of a debate about Germany’s history. Once again it was a vital debate. Despite his point of view, we have to be thankful for Nolte that he initiated the historians controversy. That will be his legacy.

Voices from the Great War: Isaac Rosenberg

In History on August 6, 2016 at 05:00

The darkness crumbles away –
It is the same old druid Time as ever.
Only a live thing leaps my hand –
A queer sardonic rat –
As I pull the parapet’s poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies.
(And God knows what antipathies).
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German –
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through the still heavens?
What quaver – what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in men’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.

Isaac Rosenberg was a British poet who unlike most of his contemporaries did not consider war as a patriotic sacrifice. In a personal letter he made his opinion clear about war:

I never joined the army for patriotic reasons. Nothing can justify war. I suppose we must all fight to get the trouble over.

When the Germans launched their final attack in late March 1918 on the Western Front, Rosenberg was killed in battle on April 1 near Arras and is burried at Bailleul Road East Cemetery, Plot V, Saint-Laurent-Blangy, Pas de Calais, France.

The poem was found in Peter Vansittart’s collection Voices from the Great War; additional info via Wikipedia.

Voices from the Great War: The Refugees

In History on July 15, 2016 at 07:00

Mute figures with bowed head
They travel along the road:
Old women, incredibly old
and a hand-cart of chattels.

They do not weep:
their eyes are too raw for tears.

Past them have hastened
processions of retreating Tibetans
baggage-wagons and swift horsemen.
Now they struggle along.
with the rearguard of a broken army.

We shall hold the enemy towards nightfall
and they will move
surely into the dark behind us,
only the creaking cart
disturbing their sorrowful serenity.

Herbert Read (1893 – 1968) was an English art historian, poet and literary critic. During the Great War he served with the Green Howards in France.

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