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Germany Memories of a Nation

Review Germany Memories of a Nation

A major new series from the makers of A History of the World in 100 Objects exploring the fascinating and complex history of Germany from the origins of the Holy Roman Empire right up to the present day Written and presented by Neil MacGregor it is produced by BBC Radio 4 in partnership with the British M Years ago when yet another hour of Hitler programming chugged on to the TV screen I'd wonder if perhaps we could have a documentary on Biedermeier era furniture just to suggest that there could be something else German that might interest the wider world than just the Third Reich MacGregor's radio series is in a similar style as his earlier History of the World in a Hundred Objects making objects the starting point of a wider enuiry may be part of a tentative thawing in the British conception of Germany one of several signs that the pendulum is swinging back towards the mid nineteenth century view of Germany as the home of positive inspiration even if it is not given over to Biedermeier design but generally to a series of topics from German cultural historyThe radio series view spoiler hide spoiler Coreys Pony Is Missing (Pony Tails, new series from the makers of A History of the World in 100 Objects exploring the fascinating and complex history of Germany from the origins of the Holy Roman Empire right up to the present day Written and presented by Neil MacGregor it is produced by BBC Radio 4 in partnership with the British M Years ago when yet another hour of Hitler programming chugged on to the TV screen I'd wonder if perhaps we could have a documentary on Biedermeier era furniture just to suggest that there could be something else German that might interest the wider world than just the Third Reich MacGregor's radio series is in a similar style as his earlier History of the World in a Hundred Objects making objects the starting point of a wider enuiry may be part of a tentative thawing in the British conception of Germany one of several signs that the pendulum is swinging back towards the mid Dear George And Other Stories nineteenth century view of Germany as the home of positive inspiration even if it is Social Creature not given over to Biedermeier design but generally to a series of topics from German cultural historyThe radio series view spoiler hide spoiler

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UseumWhilst Germany s past is too often seen through the prism of the two World Wars this series investigates a wider six hundred year old history of the nation through its objects It examines the key moments that have defined Germany s past its great world changing achievements and its devastating traged Introduction Monuments and memories Germany Memories of a Nation Illustrations and Photographic CreditsBibliographyAcknowledgementsIndex

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Ies and it explores the profound influence that Germany s history culture and inventiveness have had across EuropeThe objects featured in the radio series range from large sculptures to small individual artifacts and items that are prosaic iconic and symbolic Each has a story to tell and a memory to invok A fascinating view on German history from a British point of view McGregor's focus on items as touchstones for his narrative is priceless even though the facts were mostly known to me he managed to shed an entirely new light on events suggesting connections that I would have never seen A brilliant read Some of the first chapters did read a little too positive at first at least to me But then again I am German raised in Germany and trained to see our history in rather negative terms Now that I have read the whole book and set it aside for a few days I think McGregor did right to remind us me of the good things that happened here How else could he possibly create a balanced image overall when he had to include the crimes of the Nazi RegimeSo even if I do not agree with all his points and sometimes rather far fetched connections it was a truly thought provoking enriching and on top of all that a surprisingly pleasant read


10 thoughts on “Germany Memories of a Nation

  1. says:

    Every moment spent reading this was worthwhile The thematic approach of MacGregor is highly entertaining and his lucid and witty prose is a delight to read Instead of attempting comprehensiveness Macgregor stitches a colorful patchwork uilt out of 30 intriguing and incisive miniature essays illustrating masterfully Germany’s complex and fraught cultural history The book is a remarkable encomium to modern Germany and the sensible way it gets on with his troubling past contextualizing and cross connecting brilliantly typically German matters like sausages with highlights of German culture by idiosyncratically chosen sometimes apparently trivial objects artefacts monuments and key figures like Luther and Goethe MacGregor convincingly demonstrates his point that there is to Germany than the wars and the obscene Nazi horror without sweeping its encumbered past under the carpetI admit my inadeuate knowledge on Germany is a hotchpotch of shattered fragments and outlines for the greater part limited to the 19th and 20th century most of the time I was asleep at school until our history lessons reached the 19th century The book didn’t help much to clear that perennial chaos MacGregor is a great storyteller but like Germany’s history itself his book does not supply a coherent framework Given the complexity of German history however It would not be fair or reasonable to expect that reading a single book would sufficeObviously one could discuss MacGregor’s choices eg that he is treating the apexes of the German cultural heritage music literature apart from Goethe and philosophy as a Cinderella Whatever what is the point of deploring the apparent omissions and grumping on the topics an author did not include in a book? Our illusive longing for the ultimate comprehensive book that makes all other redundant? By the way let’s take another promising book on the subject Frits Boterman’s doorstopper Cultuur als macht Cultuurgeschiedenis van Duitsland 1800 heden which is unlike Macgregor’s elaborately annotated with Germanophone sources too it largely skips music likewise according to my partner who has just read itMost captivating and poignant are MacGregor’s observations on the profound and disconcerting self reflectiveness of German art and literature regarding the suffering brought by the world wars and the Third Reich The meditative work of Käthe Kollwitz mourning her fallen son the paintings of Anselm Kiefer inspired by Paul Celan’s Death Fugue the Hovering Angel by Ernst Barlach are all immensely powerful works of art inspired by and echoing the darkest pages in Germany’s history perhaps even better than words can MacGregor’s reflections on the impact of Luther on the German language the third official language of my country are insightful too For 500 years all great German writers –Goethe Nietzsche Brecht Mann have honed their language on and against Luther’s Luther didn’t just catch the way ordinary German people spoke he also shaped the way they would speak In the hands of story tellers over the following centuries and in the pages of Goethe Luther’s German became one of the great literary languages of the worldAlso the tale about the communist Bauhaus artist Franz Ehrlich and the subversive touch he smuggled into the well known Jedem das Seine “To each what they are due” motto he had to design for the gate into the hell of Buchenwald where he was imprisoned is memorable and recalls the eternal uestions on the problematic juxtaposition of Germany’s traditional high cultural and humanistic standards symbolized by Goethe’s and Schiller’s Weimar and Nazi barbarism This Janus faced Germany Germany as “Jekyll Hyde” Sebastian Haffner which continues to fascinate is not really discussed thoroughly in this book but of course there is plenty of other literature that does I bear in mind the intricate connection Jorge Semprún the Spanish former communist and minister of culture revealed between Goethe and the Buchenwald horror in his autobiographical account on his internment in Buchenwald uel beau dimanche intermingling fictionalized conversations with a Goethe observing the death camp with the ones noted down by EckermannAs MacGregor implicitly traces back the origins of the derailment of German nationalism to the French and of course Napoleon I was wondering if this is a typical British reflex Napoleon that villain Probably Christopher Clark’s Iron Kingdom The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600–1947 would be a great next read Ruminating on my personal lengthy journey of coming closer to Germany I cannot discern if this book with its palpable admiration for German culture and optimistic positive attitude towards the present country could affect one’s opinion and attitude on Germany fundamentally or could merely reach its goal when it can reinforce some constructive seeds on the idea of Germany already present in the reader I can imagine there still is a sense of sensitivity on all things German to some Europeans particularly those living in the countries that were occupied still feeling somewhat uncomfortable and ambivalent with Germany and its past nowadays due to war memories For me neither it was a coup de foudre with Germany Frankly it took a long time to surmount my petty and immature preconceptions on German culture At the end of primary school I had this period of fanatically reading on the wars and the Holocaust In my rebellious teens apart from a fascination for the Berlin underground scene bands like Einstürzende Neubauten and the book and film about Christiane F Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo largely inspired by friends who swore I could act as her lookalike the idea of Germany was not very appealing – it stood for terror in the past and insipidness in the present The heavy food The schmalzy songs on the German television The syrupy Christmas songs by Roy Black my mother played Generally I happen to fall in love with a country by reading its literature The first “serious” German author I attempted to read at 17 was Gunter Grass which killed my appetite for German literature for a long time This was a false start Getting older I even associated German culture with highly hermetic thinking and artistic expression recalling getting an exhausting headache coming home from work by listening courteously to my spouse who was in the mood for talking about Heidegger or playing –aargh a Mahler Symphony while cooking at home mixed with all the household noises Mahler’s symphonies sound to me like a stampede by a herd of elephants alright I was and probably still am an ignorant philistine at least in some respects; however one of my philosophy professors spoke about Mahler’s music as ‘convoluted moaning’ A second and rewarding entrance to the country went through art visiting Documenta in Kassel the Sculpture Project in Münster which is held every 10 years and Berlin’s museums However this artistic trip being highly internationally orientated I could barely allege I have tasted some of the essence of Germany then Anyway encountering this fascinating visage of modern Germany broadened my awareness I was very happy to get in touch with German expressionist painting At last I came to read and greatly appreciate Mann and postwar German literature like Sebald Wolf and Böll Recently I embarked on Döblin Kästner and Fallada and was enthralled I became a Bach and Beethoven aficionada and attended some Wagner opera’s even named our daughter Senta after the heroine in The Flying Dutchman So very slowly Germany’s allure grew essentially through literature and music Matters can changePraiseworthy food for thought stimulating further reading and helpful to understand current events in Germany like Dresden buying back a Kirchner painting seized by the Nazis as ‘degenerated art’ on the news only a few days agoJanuary 28 2016


  2. says:

    Years ago when yet another hour of Hitler programming chugged on to the TV screen I'd wonder if perhaps we could have a documentary on Biedermeier era furniture just to suggest that there could be something else German that might interest the wider world than just the Third Reich MacGregor's radio series is in a similar style as his earlier History of the World in a Hundred Objects making objects the starting point of a wider enuiry may be part of a tentative thawing in the British conception of Germany one of several signs that the pendulum is swinging back towards the mid nineteenth century view of Germany as the home of positive inspiration even if it is not given over to Biedermeier design but generally to a series of topics from German cultural historyThe radio series view spoiler hide spoiler


  3. says:

    A nation's culture molds every citizen's inward soul whether or not they agree with what it expresses Like it or not those various ingredients of culture also fashion a nation's outward historyNeil MacGregor the director of the British Museum since 2002 has loaded his painter's brush from the broad palette of German culture with vivid colors from Charles the Great Charlemagne to Chancellor Angela Merkel blending together an almost cubist portrait of the German soul under the title Germany Memories of a NationSome may argue MacGregor's omissions but he has thrown together enough eccentric pigments from literature theatre art music architecture beer sausages the Gutenberg printing press to Volkswagens and and the graphic art of emergency currency notes splashing them across a broad canvas of time to captivate most any discerning audienceThis is a breezy informative compelling read Just when I thought it was going to take a wrong turn with the chapter on Bismark and devolve into an historical tract cobbled together by a rank outsider Mr MacGregor dragged me back inside the interior soul of Germany with the very next chapter on the artist Käthe Kollwitz Käthe Kollwitz is probably best known for her sculpture of two grieving parents in the military cemetery at Roggevelde Belgian They are separate sculptures of a mother and father kneeling in grief next to but oblivious to one another Each is too consumed with their own personal agony to be aware of anyone or anything elseHer other well known work is a Pietà located in the Neue Wache It is the National Memorial to the Victims of War and Dictatorship In contrast to Michaelangelo's masterpiece Kollwitz's humble mother seems to be protecting the corpse of her dead son from any further assault by drawing it closer towards herself I have stood before Michaelangleo's Pietà appropriately after the conclusion of an Easter Mass It did not speak to me with anything near the brute force of Kollwitz's PietàKäthe Kollwitz was reaching deep inside her own wounded heart with this moving sculpture Her son was too young to enlist during WWI without parental permission Käthe pleaded with her husband until he agreed to give the boy consent to enlist He was killed a few months laterAlthough I may complain about the omission of Weimar giants such as George Grosz and Otto Dix the chapter on Käthe Kollwitz alone is worth the price of admission I especially recommend this book as an intellectual guidebook for any Americans making their first trip to Germany


  4. says:

    Introduction Monuments and memories Germany Memories of a Nation Illustrations and Photographic CreditsBibliographyAcknowledgementsIndex


  5. says:

    Volkswagen Adidas Puma Mercedes Lufthansa logo itself is a German invention Albrecht Durer defining artist of Germany porcelain factory in Dresden metal craftsmanship Nuremberg opera and master singers clock watches Black Forest cuckoo clocks daimler and benz first working motor cars Hall of Mirors at Versailles Kaiser Wilhelm I Chancellor of the German EmpireBismarck sculptorKathe Kollwitz First World War Hitler Nazi regime purging the degenerate racial purity Aryan or Nordic cultural anarchy artistic Bolshevism; Marxist propaganda Jewish Bolshevik distortions as models idiots cretins paralytics Goebbels Buchenwald Hitler's Final Solution 'To Each What They Are Due' Elie Wiesel Nobel Laureate citizens from Weimar to see what had been done in their name at Buchenwald total ethical collapse lead to murder of millions forced migration return of land to Poland western border of Germany disputed 1945 eight million Germans had been killed priority clear the streets all women between 15 and 50 years of age to participate in post war clean up today Germany has the fastest growing Jewish population in Western Europe now numbering several hundred thousand most are immigrantsFrom the Brandenburg Gate to the Reichstag seat of the German Parliament These two extraordinary buildings carry in their very stones the political history of the countryFavorites


  6. says:

    This wonderful book is the end result of an exhibition held in the British Museum under Neil MacGregor's directorshipThe research that went into the exhibition appeared as 12 programs on BBC 4 and finally emerged in book form which I've had to read electronically but will keep searching for a hard copy Kindle is hopeless for this it is richly illustrated in colour and poor little kindle doesn't cope with that But the kindle app on iPad meant I could at least see the images properly and this is essential as the book's origins lay in an exhibition How I wish I could have seen itMacGregor explains that 'the exhibition set out to look at Germany's challenging history from the standpoint of the new Germany created after the fall of the Berlin Walll' It starts out with a discussion of memorials and memories has many fascinating chapters on arts exemplified by eg Goethe Durer crafts and technology printing porcelain metal work industrial processes and intelligently manages the political shifts and emerging nationalism of the nineteenth century to the much familiar horrors of mid twentieth century political brutalities Again to uote MacGregor 'One of the central arguments of this book has been that history in Germany is concerned not only with the past but unlike other European countries looks forward' So it ends with discussion of two artworks which reflect on the past and the future Paul Klee's 'Angelus Novus' and an enigmatic portrait by Gerhard Richter of his daughter BettyThank you Karen for recommending it


  7. says:

    Written by Neil MacGregor once the Director of the British Museum who happens to know a lot about Germany Perhaps the book would be better called Monuments and Museums of Germany uirky composition of Germany’s history examined largely through arts and objects Surprisingly good prose and eclectic topics such as lost capitals We learn that Konigsberg was once a historic German city famous as the birthplace of Emmanuel Kant The city and its surrounding enclave lie some 300 miles from Berlin and than 300 miles from Russia After Konigsberg was virtually destroyed by RAF bombing in WWII and then Germany lost the war the area was taken over by the Soviet Union and renamed as Kaliningrad Kaliningrad largely because of its access to the Baltic Sea is still part of Russia today despite its odd geographical isolation from RussiaSome of my other favorite topics were in no particular order as follows 1 Judengasse the centuries old Jewish street in Frankfurt2 Trummerfrau the rubble women of Dresden and elsewhere who helped rebuild Germany after WWII3 Buchenwald Gate4 Bauhaus Artistry movement5 Walhalla and the Hall of Heroes overlooking the Danube6 Strausburg the floating city on the Rhine7 Prague once part of Germany and a brief history of Kafka45 stars Highly recommended


  8. says:

    A fascinating view on German history from a British point of view McGregor's focus on items as touchstones for his narrative is priceless even though the facts were mostly known to me he managed to shed an entirely new light on events suggesting connections that I would have never seen A brilliant read Some of the first chapters did read a little too positive at first at least to me But then again I am German raised in Germany and trained to see our history in rather negative terms Now that I have read the whole book and set it aside for a few days I think McGregor did right to remind us me of the good things that happened here How else could he possibly create a balanced image overall when he had to include the crimes of the Nazi Regime?So even if I do not agree with all his points and sometimes rather far fetched connections it was a truly thought provoking enriching and on top of all that a surprisingly pleasant read


  9. says:

    Reading a chapter for breakfast each day morning treat Hurrah for Neil McGregor He enlightened me so many times by now with his books made me see familiar things through a different lense First world history next Shakespeare now my home country His thought make me so much aware of the thoughts beliefs associations I grew up with Thought provoking and inspiring as always though I may differ on his thoughts about Faust


  10. says:

    From BBC Radio 4Neil MacGregor Director of the British Museum begins his series examining 600 years of German history through objects with a reflection on Germany's floating frontiersEven if this series will continue I won't be able to follow it in the next weeks


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