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10/03/2005

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 10.03.2005

Historian Hans Mommsen is deeply impressed by Götz Aly's latest book "Hitlers Volksstaat" which hits the stands in Germany today. Calling Aly "one of the most original researchers of the Nazi era", Mommsen claims that nobody who has read the book will say that National Socialism stemmed from the influence of a fantasising folk-obsessed minority. "Of all the interpretations of the history of the Third Reich, the Götz Aly's work sets a distinctly new accent. The experience of World War One resulted in the conviction that the well-being of the people could be purchased through tax and social concessions, and that the occupied countries, Jews, forced labourers, and war prisoners could be held responsible for the the damage inflicted by the war. The political dynamic that was unleashed by the National Socialists invested the 'dream of the third way' with ever more energy, and prevented the formation of an opposition. The regime linked day-to-day threats with race theory to gain the support of the people at the expense of the rest of Europe."
(Reading sample in German; summary of Götz Aly's ideas in English)

Claudia Tieschky looks at the latest film by Michael Klotz, documentary filmmaker and head of the History section of Spiegel Television. In "Embedded 1945", Klotz compiled film footage shot by American cameramen accompanying the GI's on their march through Germany between February and April 1945. Tieschky calls the result a "chronic of horrors". Klotz, originally interested in embeddedness in the war in Iraq, selected the footage of roughly 40 camera men from over 1000 film rolls he viewed in Washington archives. "Cameramen are not journalists. They are the eye", he says. A shortened version of the 90 minute documentation is slated to be broadcast on American television.


Die Welt, 10.03.2005

In an interview with Eckhard Fuhr, Götz Aly explains his unsettling "Volksstaat" theory: "Looking at the era of National Socialism, one is confronted with the question of how to explain the high degree of internal integration and mobilisation. And when one considers the political relationship between the people and the leaders in Germany in the 20th century, one sees quickly that – with the exception of the summer of 1914 – there was never a higher degree of concord than in the twelve short years of National Socialist rule. It's hard to imagine that today, with all we now know about the National Socialist period. We think that the Germans of the day were completely crazy, caught in the throes of a Führer-cult. But the more time I spend working on it, the less convinced I am. It was the 'soft' factors that worked so well to foster integration and create a following. The National Socialists forged a dictatorship of complaisance, rule by social and political appeasement. Political integration is an ongoing, never ending process. Success is selective and must be constantly renewed. Hitler and his political advisers succeeded with the help of very easy and, by today's standards, familiar means: tax and social benedictions for the benefit of the average German."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 10.03.2005

Silke Hohmann portrays Helga and Hartmut Rausch, the caretaker couple of the Frankfurt Städel Art School. Over the years the couple have amassed a 'splendid' art collection of the work of former students. "While large art collections often have something unfinished about them – it's always possible that another collector beats you to an important new work – the collection Rausch stands by itself. There are no false positions, no important omissions, no unsatisfied desires. That distinguishes it fundamentally from other collections. 'Don't forget, you'll be going soon and something will stay behind!' Helmut Rausch reminds the art students. Of course no one refuses his request for a souvenir. Many of the works reflect personal bonds between students and the couple. When Michael S. Riedel, whose art uses constant duplication and repetition, photographs himself in Rausch's outfit (checked shirt, jeans and glasses) in front of the caretaker's lodging, or Matthias Vatter paints a large self-portrait with a glass, or Michael Callies donates a collage of beer mats covered with marks for consumed Pilsners, one notices both the depth of friendship with the concierge couple and a certain grounding in the art cosmos that Hartmut and Helga Rausch personify.


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 10.03.2005

Hassan Daoud, Lebanese author and editor of the daily Al Mustaqbal, was at a meeting of Arab intellectuals in Cairo. He describes their reaction to the demonstrations in Lebanon and their puzzlement that the "citizens" were taking the initiative. "Everyone was talking about Beirut. Some called the events 'fantastic', others said something like this had not happened in the Arab world for decades. Muhammad Badawi, professor of English literature at the University of Cairo, described what he had seen on television the night before, how crowds had assembled at the Place des Martyrs in downtown Beirut in defiance of the armed forces, and how the demonstrators had waved banners and Lebanese flags. Again and again he repeated how important the events were for the entire Arab world, and that a new phase in Arab history had begun. Gamal al-Ghitani, a leading Egyptian novelist and chief editor of the cultural paper Al-Akbar al-adab, acknowledged the courage of the Lebanese and said he was waiting for the day when Egyptians would follow suit and gather at the Midan at-Tahrir in Cairo. In fact, all of the conference participants had the same reaction, celebrating what was happening in Lebanon, and wishing the same for their own countries."

Hanspeter Künzler interviewed techno artist Moby on his taste in music and politics and his new album "Hotel". "A lot of the tracks on the album reflect the music I grew up with. Everywhere you go nowadays in New York you hear Bowie, Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Cure. Walk through Tomkins Square Park in New York, and you're guaranteed to see some kid with a Bunnymen t-shirt. All of a sudden there's no generation gap any more. Here I am, 39, and kids 20 years younger than me are still listening to the same music I did when I was 19." Moby, who runs a vegetarian cafe in New York, helped on John Kerry's recent presidential race. "I love simple music. A song like Roberta Flack's 'The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face' is so direct, and that's often missing in today's music. A lot of musicians are afraid to be emotionally honest. But simplicity in politics is something else. I think Bush won the elections because he tells simple lies. Kerry lost because he talks about complex truths. Most Americans grew up with simple TV shows, and they don't like it if you challenge their childlike perspective. 'Lift Me Up' is about exactly that, how people in America don't trust ideas, just slogans."


Die Tageszeitung, 10.03.2005

Kirstin Helberg tells how religious scholars in Yemen are attempting to persuade jailed Islamisists of the merits of moderate Islam. Judge Hamoud al-Hitar, head of the "Committee for Dialogue", describes the campaign. "The judge sits in the courthouse, a white cap on his head and a smile on his lips. 'We want to treat sick souls like a doctor treats a patient,' he says. Al-Hitar's moderate co-workers must transform the hatred inspired by radical preachers into tolerance and respect. A noble objective. But after years of indoctrination, can extremists be converted by a few discussions? 'Not all', says al-Hitar, 'but many.' The goal is not to change their beliefs, but to offer them a new direction. 'Their strong belief in God and the Prophet Mohammed is a help, because it gives them an enormous respect for theological arguments.' For al-Hitar, Islamists have simply misunderstood certain tenets of Islam, and this has led to their radical ideas." The exercise has a sporting side to it: "The loser of the argument must accept the convictions of the other side. Al-Hitar calls this an 'eye-to-eye dialogue'." Up to now he remains unbeaten.


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 10.03.2005

Berlin historian Ludolf Herbst joins the debate on Berlin's National Socialist memorials (see In Today's Feuilletons, Tuesday 1 March and Friday 4 March), suggesting that they not be united in a central body. Instead, he calls for improved university facilities: "The fact that millions are invested in a Holocaust memorial in Berlin while none of the three Berlin universities has a chair for Holocaust studies could be seen as a scandal. You could also call it a scandal that while existing libraries have no money for new publications in Holocaust research, the basic Holocaust literature in all of Berlin's relevant libraries will be bought once more for the new memorial's information centre."


Berliner Zeitung, 10.03.2005

The murder of Chechen politician Aslan Maskhadov by the Russian secret service has been greeted with general indifference in Germany. Christian Esch talks with Apti Bisultanov, Chechnyan poet and friend of Maskhadov. "He was unique in that right up to his death his hand was held out in a gesture of peace. I'm sure his death will mark a real beginning to the war. Now it will be much, much harder to find a peaceful solution, in Chechnya and the entire north Caucasian region. Maskhadov's death is an enormous loss."


Other newspapers

In the French newspaper Le Monde, philosopher Andre Glucksmann congratulates Messrs Chirac, Bush and Schröder on Maskhadov's death, as Putin is certainly very happy with them. "Le nouveau tsar vous dit merci..."

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