Jake would rather spend his time playing videogames indoors until his mum decides to give him a present.Add a Comment
Jake would rather spend his time playing videogames indoors until his mum decides to give him a present.Add a Comment
Discover the art of Benedikt Luft, Cartoon Brew's Artist of the Day!Add a Comment
I read MAX AND MARLA a few weeks ago after a friend reviewed it, and I immediately reached out to Alexandra for an interview. I think you’ll see why! It is also always a pleasure to have a fellow European on the … Continue readingAdd a Comment
What do America’s most famous novelist and the world’s largest purveyor of paperback romances have in common? More than you would think. Jack London (1876-1916), author of The Call of the Wild, White Fang, and other classics, was published in the UK and overseas by Mills & Boon, beginning in 1912.Add a Comment
This is history writing at it’s finest. Taking a small microcosm to tell the story of a country over the last 100 years. On a trip to Berlin in 2013 author Thomas Harding visited the summer lake house his great-grandfather built. Upon discovering the house in disrepair and scheduled for demolition Harding began researching the […]Add a Comment
Today is Veteran’s Day, the perfect day to remember not only the brave men and women who fought for this country’s safety and freedom, but also a war that stunned many—the first World War. November 11th, 2015 marks the 96th anniversary of Armistice Day, the date Germany and the Allies signed an agreement to stop …Add a Comment
[When visiting the German-language sites below, I suggest using Google Chrome, or another web browser which allows for easy translation of German. And if you read only one thing from this post, it should be this.]
Germany… it’s a bit of a conundrum in Continental comics.
Smack dab in the middle of Europe, it gets a lot of comics imported from other countries, mostly from neighboring Belgium and France. It has a bit of a comics tradition, especially with “Sarkasmus”. Satirical and social commentary, usually featuring tricksters, has been a literary tradition of Germany since at least Til Eulenspiegel, and even the official comics museum in Hannover, Deutsches Museum für Karikatur und Zeichenkunst Wilhelm Busch, features as much emphasis on caricature and editorial cartoons as it does on comics.
Yet, with numerous outlets for comics for both children and adults (Micky Maus Magazin sold over a million copies weekly at its peak, and there are numerous comics aimed at adults), there haven’t been many notable comics produced until recently. However, with the rise of the Internet and the worldwide popularity of manga, coupled with American publishers acquiring titles which are then licensed worldwide, there is a vibrant comics scene in Germany, and many titles worthy of export.An interesting ripple… A lot of Germans speak and read English, as the two languages are closely related linguistically, and many students learn it early in school. It is not uncommon to walk into a German comics shop and see a wall full of the latest Wednesday comics imported from the U.S. (actually Diamond UK). Fans, regardless of nationality, hate to wait for the translation, and will read the comics in the original American. Does this impact the circulation of the licensed translations? Probably not… as with America, there seems to be two markets: comics shops aimed at collectors, newsstands aimed at the general reader. Generally, with the superhero soap opera comics, the German publisher will collect multiple issues into an omnibus-style magazine, either as a thick digest, or a slimmer square-bound magazine. (Click the Panini link below for examples.)
So, here’s a brief introduction, with a few suggestions for further exploration if you’re curious.
The Goethe Institute has a great introductory website for German comics! (It also includes links to various sites and publishers.)
[Anyone have a list of German comics translated into English?]
Rupolphe Töpffer, from Geneva, Switzerland, is one of the forefathers of comics, creative during the first half of the Nineteenth Century. Writing originally in French, his influence spread to Germany and the United States. (The University Press of Mississippi has published two massive volumes on his work.)
Wilhelm Busch is the godfather of German comics. An illustrator and writer, he is best known for “Max und Moritz”, a cautionary tale of two scamps. (You can read an old English translation here.) His satirical poetry caused many an uproar, and he was censored for satirizing the hypocrisy of the Catholic church.
Dr. Erika Fuchs is the second-most influential person in German comics. From 1951 until retiring in 1988, she was the chief editor and translator of Disney comics in Germany. Her high standards and references to classical German texts gained her renown among Disney fans. Her use of verbs as onomatopoeia and soundless events (such as “shiver” or “gulp”) has influenced Internet chat dialogue in Germany, where the use of such terms (such as *runs away*) is known as Erikativ. (A detailed explanation for grammaticists, linguists, and Donaldists can be found here, with animated comparisons between the original English comics and German translations. Please note that Disney comics no longer use machine lettering.)
Here’s a “Comics Messe” list of conventions in German-speaking Europe.
The biggest comics show in Germany is held in northern Bavaria: the International Comics Salon Erlangen. A biennial comics art festival, it is the German equivalent of Angoulême, although not yet as crowded. (2014 attendance: 25,000) They award the Max und Moritz Preis via a jury, with one audience-voted prize. The titles are international in scope, honoring both local cartoonists as well as translated works. (Read my recap of the 2012 show.)
The other big show? The Frankurt Book Fair. A massive publishing trade show, they allow the public in on the weekend. Since comics have always been popular, publishers and organizers know to schedule events to entice fans. They even host the German Cosplay championship! Of course, there’s also an award: the annual Deutsche Cartoonpreis.
Since 2006, the Frankfurt Book Fair and Carlsen Verlag have awarded the “German Cartoon Prize for new talent”. Since 2012 the “German Cartoon Prize” in categories A and B have been awarded.
“A” stands for cartoonists who have not yet published a book. “B” is for cartoonists who have already published at least one book.
You can buy the anthology book here. Here are the winners from last year:
In addition to the greater part of Wilhelm Busch’s complete artistic oeuvre, the German Museum for Caricature and Graphic Art in the George Garden in Hannover is home to a collection of more than 35.000 works by internationally celebrated representatives of the art of pictorial satire.
Among those represented are such great names from the past as Hogarth, Daumier, Grandville and Goya, as well as popular “modern classics” of the world of humour such as Ungerer, Sempé and Loriot. And of course, Wilhelm Busch simply can’t be left out.
(Yeah, Amazon also has a German branch…)
34 titles! (Wow! That French “Beauty and the Beast” comic looks amazing!)
Carlsen Verlag, strong in German manga, but also strong in licensed and original work
Ehapa, owned by powerhouse Egmont. As with other Egmont houses throughout Europe, they publish, almost exclusively, licensed titles aimed at kids. That means Disney, Asterix, Lucky Luke, as well as other imports. (Jaw dropping fact: Micky Maus Magazin has a weekly circulation of 125,000, and a weekly readership of 623,000! 10.7% of kids ages 6-13! Of course, adults read it too! To put that into perspective… there are some 54 million kids age 5-17 in the U.S.! Imagine five million kids reading a comic book each week….)
Panini Comics Deutschland Once owned by Marvel in the 1990s, Panini is best known in the U.S. for their sticker albums. In Germany, they license just about every American comics title available.
Reprodukt is a publisher of literary graphic novels. If you flip through their catalogs, you’ll see the usual suspects. A very good list!
Avant Verlag is a general publisher, but has a very strong catalog of original German graphic novels, as well as imports.
Tokyopop [No! Really!] Apparently, Kodansha and Viz haven’t figured out the German market yet, so Tokyopop has the German licenses for Deathnote, Bleach, Hetalia… as well as publishing local talent.
“Fritz Haarmann, one of the most brutal serial killer in Europe, worked as an informant for the Hanover police. Night after night he roamed the waiting rooms of the station looking for young, unaccompanied men. With the help of his police identification card he could gain the trust of his victims. He led them to his apartment, raped them and with a sexual frenzy, bit them in the throat.” (One of the inspiration for “M”, and the subject of Fassbinder’s “The Tenderness of Wolves”.)
Readily available in the United States. English translation of Busch’s work.
Comics in German have now made it into the mainstream of society. For this reason, more and more publishers are now showing an interest in the new forms of storytelling that are unique to this illustrated genre. Our selection demonstrates this with a wealth of new names, who represent a broad spectrum of both subject matter and graphical techniques. It was the term “graphic novel” that first broke the ice. Booksellers and readers alike expect that the comics listed under this heading will offer meaningful content as well as a wide diversity of styles. For instance, it is now just as common to see journalism in comic form as it is to find experimental design work in terms of page architecture or picture structure.
At the same time, an intriguing development can be seen with the rapid growth in the number of literary adaptations. This means comics are tapping into entirely new strata of readership.
They are now gaining some cachet among the sort of booklovers who would, until now, have been sceptical of the quality of their subject matter.
From fairy tales to novellas and novels, every literary genre now seems to provide a suitable challenge for the comics illustrator. Publishers such as Suhrkamp and Edition Büchergilde have even launched their own special comics series for adaptations of famous works.
German-language comics have therefore broken into a field that was hitherto covered only by foreign language publications. And new opportunities are emerging for illustrators, who for years have complained about the dearth of good stories. The enthusiastic reactions of readers and critics alike to the new works make it clear that the comic has now arrived in the German book market[Heilig Bimbam! Emil and the Detectives!?!]
Look! Seawigs have reached Germany! Here are some young rambling isles who we met last week at the European School in Bad Villbel, near Frankfurt.
Dressler, our German publisher, had asked us to go and visit some international schools to spread the word about Oliver and the Seawigs, or Schwupp und Weg as it’s known in those parts.
Our main host was Stephanie von Selchow who is the librarian at the European School in Frankfurt.
She’d arranged for us to do two sessions there, for her own students, and a visiting class from Textorschule, Sachsenhausen. A lot of the kids had already read Oliver and the Seawigs, so after we’d talked a bit about it we went on to Cakes in Space, which has just been published in Germany as Kekse im Kosmos. Most of the audience spoke good English, and it seemed to go down well... of course, some of the show needs no translation; the bit where I hit Philip over the head with a mandolin case goes down well in any language.
That afternoon we had a quick wander around Frankfurt, and tried to draw some of the odd but attractive nobbly linden trees which line the riverside.
They're quite tricky trees to draw, and I'd love to have another try at them. One of the school kids had a picture of this kind of tree in his Oliver and the Seawigs artwork and he got the funny shape of it just right.
Then it was off to the Literaturhaus restaurant, where we had dinner with Stephanie and some of her colleagues from ESF and other schools.
As you can see, it was very grand, and the food and company were first-rate.
The next morning we were picked up by Manuela Rossi, who whirled us down the Autobahn to Bad Villbel, where we talked Seawigs and Cakes to some of the students of the European School Rhine Main.
Utte, the librarian there, showed us some of the great artwork the children had produced, including this fantastic tower of houses. It looks a bit like a Traction City out of Philip’s Mortal Engines books.
Most amusing question of the day: Where did you get those GIGANTIC SHOES?
Then it was back on the Autobahn to yet another international school, Accadis in Bad Homburg.
We’d met Samantha Malmberg and Caitlin Wetsch from the school at the previous night’s dinner, so it was good to see them in their natural surroundings, and meet their students, who were VERY EXCITED TO SEE US.
Some of the classes had done whole whole projects on Oliver the Seawigs, complete with some great drawings.
And after that we had a little bit more time to mooch around Frankfurt...
...in the guise of Mitteleuropean crime-fighting duo Peek & Cloppenburg.
Strange things were going on in Frankfurt city centre. Nobody seemed to be bothered by the fact that the shopping mall was being devoured by a wormhole…
But we discovered a natty German-style TARDIS and were able to save the day.
And we both found excellent covers for our pop albums, should we ever find time to write and record them. Here’s Philip, waiting for the Trans-Europe Express…
Heaven knows what mine is going to sound like.
But whatever it is, it will be lovely: some things are Better Than Perfection.
Thanks to Stephanie, Utte, Sam and all the staff and volunteers who helped to make our visit to Frankfurt so enjoyable. We were very sad to leave!
Every other year, Munich hosts the Munich Comic Festival (Comicfestival München), which, like other continental comics festivals, offers a diverse international guest list while still celebrating the local talent!
For those who kann nicht Deustsch sprechen, here’s the official greeting:
The Munich Comic Festival is the second largest comic event of its kind in Germany and is alternating every other year with the Comic Salon in Erlangen. In 2015 it takes place from June 4 to June 7 with some of the exhibitions starting earlier and continuing after the festival. From Mai 7 to June 9 the exhibition “The Beatles in Comics” will be shown in the Valentin-Karlstadt-Musäum. Other exhibitions to be shown deal with Will Eisner at the Jewish Museum, Paco Roca and Jordi Lafebre will present their artwork in person at the Instituto Cervantes, Tom Bunk, who will be get our Peng! Award for his life’s work , will show his artwork in the Amerikahaus. And finally, the quaint Beer and Octoberfest Museum in the oldest private house of Munich will be in on the Festival.
Main location of the Festival from June 4 to 7 is the Alte Kongresshalle (Old Congress Hall) neighboring on the Oktoberfest site. Here, among other things, one can find the book fair of all the comic publishers under one roof. Also there will be drawing workshops and prominent comic artist will be available for autographs. There will also be various presentations and lectures as well as exhibits, e.g. the exhibit of artwork from our guest country Great Britain. There will also be a cosplay contest. Many prominent artists like Don Rosa, Dave McKean, Posy Simmonds, Jock, François Walthéry, Bryan Talbot, Vicki Scott, Goran Sudžuka, Rufus Dayglo or Denis Kitchen will once again be guests of the Festival.
In 2013 the Munich Comic Festival had some 12,000 visitors, not counting the many people who visited exhibits that were shown at various locations for free.
Let’s condense that: the second largest comics festival in Germany, in Munich next to the Oktoberfest grounds. (BAR-CON!) The German equivalent of Angoulême. Lots of British cartoonists. Rosa, McKean, Kitchen.
So, what’s going on? Well… Click on the blue headlines below for more information!
Kids under 10 are free, teens 11-18 €15 for four days, adults €20 for four days! Thursday through Sunday.
Yes, actual installations! Beatles! The Spirit! Uncle Scrooge! Tom Bunk at the Amerika Haus!
(Or you can download the guidebook!) (It’s got a welcome message from the Lord Mayor of Munich! Which makes sense, since funding comes from local cultural agencies.)
Okay… this one gets highlighted!
PREMIERE DER MUSIK-COMIC-SHOW STING ILLUSTRATED
Yup, that’s the German. And it pretty much describes what it is… Here’s the Google translation:
Together with the Palatinate cartoonist Dennis Hauck the Munich songwriter Alex Sebastian took the complete works of Sting before: The two sat among others lyrics hits like “King of Pain” or “Message in a Bottle” in amusing comic stories about, but also made before more obscure Album titles not just what can happen when it is cloudy, but do not want to rain? Why not move the better combating rivals from one day to the other? Why takes the Queen even a taxi to the train station? How do you make a woman’s right?
The result is a unique live show with comic projections that applies not only to die-hard fans Sting, but for every music and comic lovers a must. After several previews the official premiere will now take place as part of the Comic Festival.
(Which might also mean sketching!) Wow! Don Rosa will be autographing for 14 hours over 4 days, including one 4-hour block! Get there early!
Categories: Best German-Language Comic, Best European Comic, Best North American Comic, Best Comics Reporting, Best Books about Comics, Best Reprint, Best Film Adapation, Best Webcomic, Best Asian Manga, Best German Manga!
(FREE! But offsite. Saturday only.)
The MVG (the Munich transit agency) is sponsoring a comics competition. Just go to the show, and draw a comic under the theme “Simply Mobile”. The winner gets €200 and publication in MVGinfo, a magazine of 150,000 circulation.
This is kinda cool… each attendee gets a ticket, and uses that to vote for their favorite cosplayer! The ballots will then be used in a raffle! Oh, and if you come in costume on Saturday, your admission is half off!
The fairytale mashup will be distributed by Shout! Factory .Add a Comment
The Comicfestival München (Munich Comics Festival) was held last weekend, and numerous comics and graphic novels were honored with the Peng! Award, and the ICOM Independent Comics Award.
The nominees and winners ():
GHETTO BROTHER: EINE GESCHICHTE AUS DER BRONX von Julian Voloj & Claudia Ahlering (avant)
GUNG HO von Benjamin von Eckartsberg & Thomas von Kumman (Cross Cult)
IRMINA von Barbara Yelin (Reprodukt)
DER TRAUM VON OLYMPIA von Reinhard Kleist (Carlsen)
DAS UPGRADE von Ulf S. Graupner und Sascha Wüstefeld (Cross Cult)
DER COMIC – GESCHICHTE, STILE, KÜNSTLER von Klaus Schikowski (Reclam)
DAS COMIC!-JAHRBUCH 2015 (ICOM)
DEUTSCHE COMICFORSCHUNG von Eckard Sackmann (auch Hg.)
GOING WEST – DER BLICK DES COMICS RICHTUNG WESTEN von Alexander Braun
75 JAHRE MARVEL. VON DEN ANFÄNGEN BIS INS 3. JAHRTAUSEND von Roy Thomas (Taschen)
BAYMAX – RIESIGES ROBOWABOHU
BILLY BAT von Naoki Urasawa und Takashi Nagasaki (Carlsen)
78 TAGE AUF DER STRASSE DES HASSES von David Füleki (Tokyopop)
In addition, Tom Bunk received a Lifetime Achievement Award, and Eckart Schott of Salleck Publications was honored for special services for the Munich comics scene.
On the same day, ICOM (Interessenverband Comic e.V., The Comic, Cartoon, Illustration and Cartoons Interest Group) announced their awards spotlighting independent comics. The link to the award winners is here, along with an index of past German comics award winners. (ICOM dates back to 1994.)
„Als ich mal auf hoher See verschollen war“ von Maximilian Hillerzeder (Edition Kwimbi)
„Insel Karkinos“ von Tim Gaedke
„The Right Here Right Now Thing“ von Paulina Stulin (Jaja Verlag)
„Die kleine blaue Melancholie“ von Yi „Yinfinity“ Luo
„Ach so ist das?!“ von Martina Schradi (Zwerchfell Verlag)
Comic Solidarity (Eva Junker, Lukas Wilde, Sebastian Kempke)
„Mister Origami“ von Bastian Baier und Robert Mühlich (Zwerchfell Verlag)
„Mondo 2“ Herausgeber: Tim Gaedke
„Oh 3“ (Zwerchfell Verlag)
„Penner“ von Christopher Burgholz (Jaja Verlag)
Hillerkiller von Maximilian Hillerzeder
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The First World War threw the imperial order into crisis. New states emerged, while German and Ottoman territories fell to the allies who wanted to keep their acquisitions. In the following three videos Susan Pedersen, author of The Guardians, discusses the emegence of the League of Nations and its role in imperial politics.Add a Comment
The OUP Philosophy team have selected Hannah Arendt (4 October 1906- 4 December 1975) as their September Philosopher of the Month. Born into a Jewish German family, Arendt was widely known for her contributions to the field of political theory, writing on the nature of totalitarian states, as well as the resulting byproducts of violence and revolution.Add a Comment
This September, the OUP Philosophy team have chosen Hannah Arendt as their Philosopher of the Month. Hannah Arendt was a German political theorist and philosopher best known for coining the term “the banality of evil.” She was also the author of various influential political philosophy books.Add a Comment
It was Sunday, August 13, 1961, a day I would remember for the rest of my life. When a prison had been built around us as we slept.
"We will never be able to leave," Mama said. "The sooner you both accept that, the happier you will be."This is a deeply affecting novel that does not gloss over the reality of living under the constant watchful eyes of the police, the Grentztruppen or border police, and the brutal secret police, the Stasi. In 1960s, East Germany, even a casual comment to a neighbor can be life-threatening.
I nodded back at her. But I new I could never again be happy here. And I refused to accept my life inside a prison."
Prisoner of Night and Fog. I wasn't too crazy about that book, but I am pleased to say that I liked the sequel much more.
The Other Side of the Wall by Simon Schwartz
The Soviet Union had recently invaded Afghanistan. My dad worked on his speech, night after night.
"God, how can you describe a war as just? They want me to use fancy words to justify this invasion."
"Just write something you can square with your own conscience -- at least in part."
"I don't know if I can do that."
|Helmuth, age 16|
When Willie says, "I only sing", she is not as politically naive or powerless as she may appear. Just as her love survives because she withdraws it from all possible objects and objectifications, so her song, through its very circularity, becomes impervious to the powers and structures in which it is implicated. Love and song are both, by the end of the film, empty signs. This is their strength, their saving grace, their redemptive innocence, allowing Fassbinder to acknowledge the degree to which his own film is inscribed within a system (of production, distribution and reception) already in place, waiting to be filled by an individual, who lends the enterprise the appearance of intentionality, design and desire for self-expression.One of the things I love about Lili Marleen is that its mode is utter and obvious kitsch, undeniable kitsch. It highlights the kitschiness not only of the Nazi aesthetic (which plenty of people have done, not least, though unintentionally, the Nazis themselves), but to some extent also of many movies about the Nazis. (I kept thinking of the awful TV mini-series Holocaust while watching it this time, and Elsaesser makes that connection as well.) We love to use the Nazis and the Holocaust for sentimental purposes, and representations of the Nazis and Holocaust often unintentionally veer off into poshlost. To intentionally do so is dangerous, even as critique, because it is too easy to fall into parody and render fascism as something absurd and ridiculous, but not insidious. The genius of Lili Marleen is that the insidiousness remains. It's what nags at us afterward, what lingers beneath the occasional laughter at the excess. There is a discomfort to this film, and it's not just the discomfort of undeniable parody — it is the discomfort of realizing how easily we can be drawn in to the structures being parodied: the suspense, the action, the breathless and improbable love story, the twists and turns, the pageantry, the displays of wealth and power. Our desires are easily teased, our expectations set like booby traps, and again and again those desires and expectations are frustrated and mercilessly mocked.
It cannot, of course, be concluded that the Absent One of all of Fassbinder’s films is The Jew, or that the sense of danger created by an unseen presence is racialized or nationalized, as it is in Harlan’s film [Jud Süss]. The malevolent other of Fassbinder’s films is more properly patriarchy and the police state, acting in the service of a repressive bourgeois order. In the case of Lili Marleen, however, we must conclude that Fassbinder did fail to effectively counteract the Harlanesque paranoid delusion of total Jewish power, if only because The Jew in this film is described as capitalist patriarchy’s main representative.That point is astute, though for me it highlight the (sometimes dangerous) complexity of Lili Marleen: by employing certain features of Nazi storytelling, by putting clichés (aesthetic, narrative, political) at the center of his technique, and by seeking to wed this to the sort of anti-capitalist, anti-normative-family ideas common to his work from the beginning, Fassbinder ends up in a bind, one that forces him to trust that the various opposing forces render all the clichés hollow enough that performing and representing them does not give them new validity or justification — that the paranoia and delusion remain legible as paranoia and delusion. I think they do, but I feel less certain of that than the certainty I feel against the old accusations of glamourizing Nazism.
the three films of the BRD trilogy — shot out of sequence — are held together by the possibility that they form sequels. If we add the film that was made between Maria Braun and Lola, namely Lili Marleen which clearly has key themes in common with the trilogy, then Lili Marleen's status in the series might be that of a "prequel" chronologically: 1938-1946 Lili Marleen, 1945-1954 Maria Braun, 1956 Veronika Voss, 1957 Lola. Four women, four love stories, four ambiguous gestures of complicity and resistance.It could be a tagline for so many of Fassbinder's films, not the least Lili Marleen: Ambiguous gestures of complicity and resistance. For a world entering the era of Thatcher, Kohl, and (especially) Reagan, Lili Marleen was a most appropriate foil.
By December 1914 the Great War had been raging for nearly five months. If anyone had really believed that it would be ‘all over by Christmas’ then it was clear that they had been cruelly mistaken. Soldiers in the trenches had gained a grudging respect for their opposite numbers. After all, they had managed to fight each other to a standstill.
On Christmas Eve there was a severe frost. From the perspective of the freezing-cold trenches the idea of the season of peace and goodwill seemed surrealistic. Yet parcels and Christmas gifts began to arrive in the trenches and there was a strange atmosphere in the air. Private William Quinton was watching:
We could see what looked like very small coloured lights. What was this? Was it some prearranged signal and the forerunner of an attack? We were very suspicious, when something even stranger happened. The Germans were actually singing! Not very loud, but there was no mistaking it. Suddenly, across the snow-clad No Man’s Land, a strong clear voice rang out, singing the opening lines of “Annie Laurie“. It was sung in perfect English and we were spellbound. To us it seemed that the war had suddenly stopped! Stopped to listen to this song from one of the enemy.
“We tied an empty sandbag up with its string and kicked it about on top – just to keep warm of course. We did not intermingle.”
On Christmas Day itself, in some sectors of the line, there was no doubting the underlying friendly intent. Yet the men that took the initiative in initiating a truce were brave – or foolish – as was witnessed by Sergeant Frederick Brown:
Sergeant Collins stood waist high above the trench waving a box of Woodbines above his head. German soldiers beckoned him over, and Collins got out and walked halfway towards them, in turn beckoning someone to come and take the gift. However, they called out, “Prisoner!” A shot rang out, and he staggered back, shot through the chest. I can still hear his cries, “Oh my God, they have shot me!”
This was not a unique incident. Yet, despite the obvious risks, men were still tempted. Individuals would get off the trench, then dive back in, gradually becoming bolder as Private George Ashurst recalled:
It was grand, you could stretch your legs and run about on the hard surface. We tied an empty sandbag up with its string and kicked it about on top – just to keep warm of course. We did not intermingle. Part way through we were all playing football. It was so pleasant to get out of that trench from between them two walls of clay and walk and run about – it was heaven.
The idea that football matches were played between the British and Germans in No Man’s Land has taken a grip, but the evidence is intangible.
The truce was not planned or controlled – it just happened. Even senior officers recognised that there was little that could be done in this strange state of affairs. Brigadier General Lord Edward Gleichen accepted the truce as a fait accompli, but was keen to ensure that the Germans did not get too close to the ramshackle British trenches:
They came out of their trenches and walked across unarmed, with boxes of cigars and seasonable remarks. What were our men to do? Shoot? You could not shoot unarmed men. Let them come? You could not let them come into your trenches; so the only thing feasible was done – and our men met them half-way and began talking to them. Meanwhile our officers got excellent close views of the German trenches.
Another practical reason for embracing the truce was the opportunity it presented for burying the dead that littered No Man’s Land. Private Henry Williamson was assigned to a burial party:
The Germans started burying their dead which had frozen hard. Little crosses of ration box wood nailed together and marked in indelible pencil. They were putting in German, ‘For Fatherland and Freedom!’ I said to a German, “Excuse me, but how can you be fighting for freedom? You started the war, and we are fighting for freedom!” He said, “Excuse me English comrade, but we are fighting for freedom for our country!”
It should be noted that the truce was by no means universal, particularly where the British were facing Prussian units.
For the vast majority of the participants, the truce was a matter of convenience and maudlin sentiment. It did not mark some deep flowering of the human spirit, or signify political anti-war emotions taking root amongst the ranks. The truce simply enabled them to celebrate Christmas in a freer, more jovial, and, above all, safer environment, while satisfying their rampant curiosity about their enemies.
The truce could not last: it was a break from reality, not the dawn of a peaceful world. The gradual end mirrored the start, for any misunderstandings could cost lives amongst the unwary. For Captain Charles Stockwell it was handled with a consummate courtesy:
At 8.30am I fired three shots in the air and put up a flag with ‘Merry Christmas!’ on it, and I climbed on the parapet. He put up a sheet with, ‘Thank you’ on it, and the German captain appeared on the parapet. We both bowed and saluted and got down into our respective trenches – he fired two shots in the air and the war was on again!
In other sectors, the artillery behind the lines opened up and the bursting shells soon shattered the truce.
War regained its grip on the whole of the British sector. When it came to it, the troops went back to war willingly enough. Many would indeed have rejoiced at the end of the war, but they were still willing to accept orders, still willing to kill Germans. Nothing had changed.Add a Comment
I love a good pen name, and Janosch has one. His real name is Horst Eckert, and he is one of Germany’s most beloved children’s book authors and illustrators. He was new to me until NorthSouth revived this classic in late 2014. I’m so glad they did.
This is Walter’s story. He was the poorest man in the entire kingdom and he only had one single apple tree. A strong and beautiful tree, a nice home for a solitary cardinal. But no fruit. No blossoms. No bending branches.
Walter wishes for an apple. Just one. And when you wish with all your might, things change.
And his wishes came true, as wishes sometimes do.
(click to enlarge)
The art is loose and fiery. Full of motion and an eery calm.
But I love how this book breathes.
A page of art, a page of text. A page of text, a page of art. The contrast between Walter’s colorful (and worrisome) world and the spare white space of the words sets a comforting rhythm to a familiar story.
And the apple grows. So Walter goes to the market.
(click to enlarge)
The very worst feeling in the whole world is when other people don’t believe in your wishes.
Walter loses interest in his apple and in his wishes and in his life.
Until the dragon comes to town.
(click to enlarge)
Here’s where the breathing hitches and the white space/art space tempo gives way to one glorious spread of Walter’s wish saving the kingdom. It’s startling and ridiculous and wonderful.
And after that, Walter was careful what he wished for.Add a Comment
The recent attacks on Charlie Hebdo, the siege in Sydney, and the Canadian parliament attack have heightened fears of the type of home-grown security threats that had been realised earlier in the July 2005 London bombings. Looking to the future, security agencies and governments have warned grimly of battle hardened jihadists returning home from Middle Eastern and North African theatres of war. For better or worse, robust internal security, heightened surveillance, and preventative law enforcement targeting suspect individuals and communities have been presented as unavoidably necessary for democratic states the world over. But in searching for security, these liberal democracies are now confronted with difficult questions about how to provide public safety and state security within the framework of the rule of law. If there are enemies within, how can they be dealt with while still preserving the civil liberties and rights of all citizens? Can the state zero in on a particular segment of the population without actively and illegally discriminating against them? One particularly thorny issue is what to do about those returning from jihadist wars. Can they be stripped of their citizenship and barred from re-entering their old homeland? Is citizenship a privilege to be revoked at will, or does the state have a responsibility to all of its citizens, no matter how unsavoury? Do seemingly exceptional times permit legally exceptional measures?
While the reality of today’s terrorist violence has upped the stakes, these legal dilemmas are not new. Prior to World War I, European states also tussled with the dilemma of what to do with citizens they suspected of disloyal or treasonous intent. One of the central preoccupations of nineteenth century Germany, for example, was what to do with elements of the population viewed as internal enemies of the state, so-called Reichsfeinde. The communities coming under suspicion then might seem surprising today; Catholics, socialists, French, Danes, and Poles. Individuals from these groups who weren’t citizens were simply expelled from the country, but for those who had the rights of a citizen, the situation was far trickier. Germany prided itself on its reputation as a state governed by the rule of law, and the law explicitly forbade capricious measures like expelling citizens. How could a constitutional state find legal ways to put pressure on its internal enemies?
To deal with these domestic threats, German authorities had to be far more inventive, using a host of strictly speaking legal but nonetheless punitive measures to harass suspect populations. Irredentists Danes in the North with German citizenship were targeted for economic ruination; French-speaking Germans were shifted out of their jobs in the militarily sensitive railways of Alsace-Lorraine; Protestant German colonists were sent to dilute the Polish complexion of the east; Jesuits were banned from the Catholic Ruhr; and socialists were pushed out of Berlin, Hamburg, and Leipzig into the countryside. New laws were passed and existing laws were reinterpreted to allow for new repressive uses. The custodians of the German Rechtsstaat sought safety not by side-stepping the law, but by passing and enforcing coercive laws that affected broad segments of the population, in the hope that the actual targets of the laws would be amongst the number affected.
Did these rather blunt internal security measures work? No. In fact, all of this was highly counterproductive. The attitude of Germany’s Danes, Poles, and French towards the German state hardened after being targeted by these legal forms of oppression, while both the socialist and Catholic political milieux went from strength to strength as a result of the experience of being suppressed. Frustrated in particular by his lack of success against the socialists, Bismarck even sought to have their citizenship revoked in the hope of forcing a definitive reckoning with those he saw as dangerous revolutionaries. But this didn’t lead to the destruction of German socialism, but to Bismarck’s own political downfall. The German constitutional state, flexible enough to offer its own forms of legally sanctioned persecution, always baulked at attempts to use unlawful or exceptional measures, despite the air of crisis that surrounded them. Even the measures they did take did little except alienate the broader population.
In their willingness to use violence to pursue their political goals, the jihadists of today are unlike the perceived threats of nineteenth-century Germany. Yet the response of constitutional states bears a remarkable resemblance to these earlier measures. No rolling state of exception or martial law has been declared. Instead, new laws are passed and old ones have been retooled to deal with newly arising threats. Now, as then, the constitutional state, governed by law, has found its own ways to apply pressure to its domestic enemies. Bespoke law, some of it good, some of it horrifying, has stretched but has not severed the commitment to legal and constitutional limits. Warts and all, the liberal constitutional state has shown itself capable of mounting its own stiff defence.
Headline image credit: Security fence by cobalt123. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr
I've been a fan of Erik Larson's riveting brand of narrative history for years, and his latest book, Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, is his finest work yet. Suspenseful and expertly researched, Dead Wake transports the reader to the Atlantic theatre of WWI, where the luxury passenger liner Lusitania and a German [...]Add a Comment