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GoetheInstitute

08/04/2005

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.

Die tageszeitung, 08.04.2005

Today's taz features several columns on the expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe after World War II. In the first, journalists Jan Feddersen and Stefan Reinecke talk with Helga Hirsch, author of several books on the subject, and Norbert Frei, professor of modern history at the Ruhr University in Bochum, author of "Careers in the Half-Light: Hitler's Elite after 1945". For Frei, it is not realistic to talk of a widespread tabooisation of the issue. "I have the feeling that the 68ers generation turn their changing political sentiments into an indicator of the disposition of the entire nation. That is a fantasy. Just because they didn't talk about the expulsions, and castigate themselves for that today, it doesn't mean the expulsions weren't being discussed in society at large. In the 50s, Germans saw themselves as the primary victims of Hitler's policies – refugees, expulsions and the bomb war were important aspects of their understanding of themselves." Hirsch does not agree. For her, Germans were not able to face up to the experience of the war, and denied all the experiences of their parents' generation from the start. "In reaction to the repression of the Nazi era in the 50s, we wanted to see in our parents nothing but accomplices, opportunists and tacit supporters of the Nazis. In fact, we had just as dichotomised a view as our parents did. But instead of denying our guilt, we were 'proud of our sins'. We could not bear the ambivalence that someone can be both victim and perpetrator. For many, this is only possible today now that their parents have died. Only now can they take the emotional risk and start asking questions."

Polish author Stefan Chwin writes in an essay that not only Germans were driven from their land during the war; Poles were as well. "I was born in an old house in Gdansk. Its German inhabitants fled from the Red Army to Hamburg or Rostock in January 1945. But my parents were also expelled from their homes. In September 1944, the Germans drove my mother from Warsaw, where she had participated as a nurse in the failed uprising... At the same time, my father was driven out of Vilnius by the Russians, where as a Pole with higher education he had had to hide from the NKVD, the Soviet secret service." Chwin only learned of these expulsions in 1989. "In Poland we weren't allowed to talk about these things, just like we couldn't talk about the expulsion of the Germans from Gdansk."


Süddeutsche Zeitung, 08.04.2005

Birgit Schönau explains the historical background of the pilgrimage to Rome. Today's storming of the holy city is not as extraordinary as it's being presented: "'Once in a blue moon', we say today to describe events that happen seldom but with a certain regularity. 'Ogni morte di papa', say the Romans when a pope dies, in other words, not often enough. That has something to do with the fact that in the last 2000 years, the death of a Pope has not seldom meant the liberation from a tyrant, and since the Middle Ages, at least presents and alms. Every newly elected Pope was obliged to present each clergyman and cloister with donations or estates, and he had to distribute bread and meat among the poor. 'Sta come un papa', they say in Rome referring to someone who lives like God in France: 'They've got it as good as the Pope.' Occasionally it was good custom to plunder the palace of the freshly deceased Pontifex Maximus. After all, burial robes have no pockets - not even the Pope's."

Tobias Timm sensed "a lot of shame in the house" at Vanessa Beecroft's most recent performance VB55 in Berlin's New National Gallery. A hundred naked women stand on display in the glass box building designed by Mies van der Rohe. "The naked women are ashamed, the artist in a light grey trench coat is ashamed and the viewer, forced into the role of voyeur, is ashamed." Beecroft, 35 years old, born in Italy and now resident in New York, has made a name for herself as, to quote the Herald Tribune, "the artworld's current excuse for softcore peeping". But up until now, her works featured women who were "young, slim, naked, partly shaved - and beautiful". Her selection for Berlin was evidently based on different criteria. Assembled in blocks according to their hair colour (black, red, blonde), the women did not constitute a beauty pageant. Timm writes, "The 65 year old felt right at home. Some of the women are skinny, some well-fed, some have large breasts, others crooked noses. 'Is that one in the front row, right, pregnant?' a journalist asked her colleague. The heterogeneity of the assembled bodies cancels out the fascination and horror that characterise Beecroft's other work. One thing VB55 can certainly not be called: a post-feminist critique of the obsession with beauty." Beecroft will be presenting more naked women in Toronto and Paris in the near future.

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