Dietrich Gabin

In French cinema Jean Gabin is a much adored person. Equally, Marlene Dietrich had, probably an even more far reaching international career. Both were accomplished and successful actors long before the 2nd world war broke out. In the U.S both fell in love and had a long lasting romance together. Their war time activities and “engagement” in fighting Nazi-Germany were extraordinary. It meant that both took active roles to use their charisma to mobilize people and soldiers to fight for freedom.
Shortly after the war then, both made a last attempt to work together in a movie production, but it could not unite the couple again. The “Deutsche Kinemathek” displays currently a page from the Diary of the “Diva” to underscore to what extent “Dietrich” was depressed about the break-up of their longer lasting love affair. Some say Gabin was the only person who quit her, all (most?) other relationships were terminated by the Diva. The junctions of biographies are hard to predict. The circumstances of the 2nd world war and internalized civic obligations to fight for freedom and democracy were wholeheartedly shared by both, but eventually they grew apart nevertheless. Tough experiences even for the much adored persons on the forefront of the stages worldwide. There seem to be many instances of repetition of the same story not only in movies, but also in real life.
Image: Deutsche Kinemathek Museum 2024-5

Strafbar

Wir alle wissen, dass in Deutschland die Verwendung von Symbolen der Nationalsozialisten zum Beispiel in Fotos strafrechtlich verfolgt werden kann. Das trifft auch auf vermeintlich nur private Verwendung zu. Dazu hat das Bundesverfassungsgericht eine hilfreiche Erläuterung und Auflistung erstellt (Link dazu hier).

Das Oberverwaltungsgericht von Rheinland-Pfalz hat bereits klargestellt, dass eine Unterstützung der Reichsbürger für Beamte zum Verlust des Ruhegehalts führt. (Pressemitteilung OVG RF) Die Demokratie hat sich Mittel für ihre aktive Verteidigung geschaffen. Diese rechtsstaatlichen Mittel müssen wir noch entschiedener einsetzen.

Hilfreich kann das Weiterlesen auf der Konrad Adenauer Stiftung dazu sein. Dort wird in allgemeinverständlicher Art beschrieben, dass die zur Schau Stellung von Teilen der Uniform und Symbolen seit Gründung der Bundesrepublik verboten ist.

Meist steht hinter der Verwendung dieser Symbole keine Dummheit, sondern eine bewusste Aggression oder gar Boshaftigkeit gegenüber anderen Menschen. Menschenverachtung der Nationalsozialisten lässt sich nicht entschuldigen, damals nicht und heute nicht. Image: Edgar Degas d’après Rembrandt 2023 BnF.

Edgar Degas d’après Rembrandt 2023 BnF.

Teaching Ethics

Ethics is frequently taught by referring to reference cases, moral dilemmas and readings on the evolution of the discipline as some ethical issues arise due to technological innovations. Some fundamental ethical principles pertain to professional standards or so-called codes of conduct. This is also part of the sociology of professions which includes the societal and political role professions and professionals. The medical profession has been subject to ample research already. And yet it is important to notice that there is a renewed effort to include into the teaching of ethics “The hard truths about medicine and the Holocaust”. (AMA J Ethics. 2021;23(1): E59-63. doi: 10.1001/amajethics.2021.59). Eugenics were practices well before WWII. “Legal coercive sterilization, which progressed to the notorious “euthanasia” (medically sanctioned murder) program” (p.59) were the beginning. Medical doctors were not reluctant to implement the Nazi medical doctrines. “Most joined eagerly, earlier, and in much greater numbers than other professionals” (Chelouche, 2021; Kater MH, 1989). Physicians made the horrors of Nazi ethics efficient in its implementation. Nazi physicians had a strict ethical code which priorities obedience to the state rather than to the individual.
Research and experiments conducted by medical doctors during Nazi rule is analysed by Weindling (2015). In summary he states “Nazi experiments were accepted forms of science at the time, conducted not only in concentration camps but also in hospitals and clinics across Germany”.  This concise overview of recent research by Tessa Chelouche in this field is not only important to teaching ethics in the medical and care professions, but it is of high relevance to much broader audiences and many more professions like judges. Only the awareness and guarding against a renewed failure to respect human values and human rights of the individual allow us to advance humanity. Decentralisation of power, checks and balances, professions following widely accepted principles rather than authoritarian rules can avoid another failure. Teaching about this is a “conditio sine qua non” and not a nice to have part of the curriculum in schools as well as professional colleges.

Weinpropaganda

Staatspropaganda kann viele Wege gehen. Die von Christof Krieger ausführlich beschriebene Propaganda mittels Wein, für das nationalsozialistische Regime Werbung zu betreiben, ist ein gelungenes Beispiel für eine bisher wenig beleuchtete Propaganda. Im Sinne einer populären Strategie, Wein für die Massen zu produzieren, konnte die günstigem Wetter geschuldete Überproduktion bei Abnahmegarantie zu Festpreisen in den ersten Jahren der Nazidiktatur dem Volk, das als Luxus geltende Weinsaufen, nahegebracht werden. Ansonsten wäre eben Industriealkohol entstanden. Wir kennen die Thematik aus der EU-Agrarpolitik. Die von den Nazis organisierten Weinpatenschaften bestehen vielfach als „Städtepartnerschaften“ fort. So war beispielsweise das reiche Düsseldorf mit dem kleinen Winzerdorf Graach bei Bernkastel-Kues verbunden. In Berlin finden sich eine ganze Reihe von Plätzen und Straßen, die nach kleinen Weinorten benannt sind inklusive der alljährlichen stattfindenden Weinfeste.
Die Veröffentlichung der Dissertation im Rhein-Mosel-Verlag ist vorerst vergriffen, aber sicherlich bald wieder erhältlich. Das Interesse an diesen Verbindungen ist groß, da damit viele Familiengeschichten eventuell neu aufgearbeitet werden müssen. Plötzliche große Nachfrage schaffte Begünstigte und neue Abhängigkeiten. Wie sich später herausstellen sollte, führte das politische Eingreifen in den Markt zu erheblichen Verstrickungen. Also einfach nur Saufen ist auch nicht mehr wie früher, war es eigentlich nie. Bier saufen für die lokale Landwirtschaft ist ja auch nicht wirklich nachhaltig.

Verbannte Worte

Die Ausstellung Verbannte Worte im historischen Zentrum von Frankfurt trifft auf viele Besuchende der Messe aus der ganzen Welt, die oft nur ein bisschen Rathaus, Marktplatz oder Paulskirche sehen wollen. Aber unbefangen kann keiner an der Geschichte dort vorbeigehen. Neben den Millionen an gedruckten Worten muss es eben einen würdigen Ort geben, der den

verbannten Worten gewidmet ist. Viele Kunstschaffende und Schreibenden konnten bestenfalls im Exil überleben. Das ist heute in großen Teilen der Welt weiterhin so. Der PEN International listet erschreckende Zahlen dazu. Das erneute Post-COVID Wachstum der Frankfurter Buchmesse erfreut alle, die sich unermüdlich für das freie Wort einsetzen. Jedoch auch klare Worte finden denen gegenüber, die das freie Wort menschenverachtend missbrauchen. Dazu leistet die kleine Ausstellung ein sehr wichtigen Beitrag, der über die Buchmesse kraftvoll in die Welt getragen wird.

Frankfurt am Main 2023-10-22👍🏼

20th Century

The 20th century has told us many lessons. History does not repeat itself, but it appears that new variants of old themes keep coming back. Slowly passing the century like a movie in decades instead of episodes, we witness socio-emotional tides. The first decade, the 00s intensify the beginning of urban planning and social revolutions. The 10s show the arousal and subsequent extinction of masses of people in trenches. The 20s were described as the Carefree Twenties. In the 30s we observed the rising tides of fascist organisations followed shortly afterwards by the disastrous 40s. After the Shoah and the World War the 50s were fabulous viewed from the U.S. and Western Europe. The 60s propagated sex, drugs and rock n’ roll spreading across continents. The wild 70s became almost inescapable through the continued rise of mass media. The 80s were depicted as the colourful 80s as the 2 previous decades had set the scene for psychedelic colours. The 1990s have been coined as the gay 90s by some. Coming out as a gay person became easier and Western societies more sensitive and open to diversity. The back cover of the recent publication by Aurélien Bellanger “Le vingtième siècle” (The 20th century) speaks of the book as “roman polyphonique virtuose”. I look back on the 20th century as “polyphone” in many respects. It would be an illusion to believe we can only keep the nice sounding harmonies without the tensions or dissonances.

20s

In retrospect from the 1930s and in prospect from the 1910s, the 1920s may well be described as “The Carefree Twenties”. Several other summary notions are attributed to the 1920s. “Les années folles” in the French speaking world, “The Jazz years” within the U.S. or the “Wild 20s” in Germany coined the decade after the disillusion of the 1st world war. The economic and cultural revival after the period of atrocities has seen thriving city centres and comparatively little economic hardship until the Wall Street crashed on October 24th in 1929 the so-called “Black Thursday”. The party was suddenly over and a lengthy economic crisis spread globally. It was within this carefree spirit of the 1920s that the counter movements of the 30s started to take roots. The 20s saw the skyscrapers soar and the credit-financed speculation was at its highest. Pierre Boudon (1991, pp. 137) characterises the architecture of the 1930s as “l’inversion des signes”. The Bauhaus of the 1920s was later forced into emigration. The film of F. Lang “Metropolis” (1927) prolonged the constructivist lines of the 1920s to a haunting vision of big cities with its daunting acceleration of economic and cultural experiences. Walter Benjamin later referred to the method of technical reproduction as one of the major foundations for the mass movements and mass culture, which turned the relatively carefree 20s into the disastrous 30s. Indeed, many scholars group the 20s and 30s into one historical period as the rise and decline between the 2 world wars of the 20th century. Certainly in terms of economic development many countries witness as steep rise in prosperity in the 20s followed by deep recession in the 30s. What went up in spectacular terms in the 20s, economic development, democratic participation, came down in the next decade due the rise of Fascist movements. 100 years later in 2020s we still struggle with many of the same issues. Poverty and “Existenzminimum” as topic of the 2nd International congress of modern architecture in 1929 in Frankfurt reflects the ever lasting need to address “social questions” throughout decades, if not whole centuries of mankind.

30s

In retrospect the 1930s would deserve well the label of the disastrous 30s. In terms of human tragedy the 40s were worse, but the foundations for the millions of deaths through the Shoah and the second world war were enacted throughout the 1930s. My reading of the decade is dominated by the rising tide of hate throughout the 30s. The fascist movements in Italy and Germany were growing rapidly. From the entry number 185.729 (later committed war crimes in Ukraine) at the 1st of January 1930 the German NSDAP membership grew to 7.352.197 (Reichsakademie für Leibesübungen) on the 1.1.1940. This is still about 3 million persons less than at around the peak in 1944/45 of for example entry number 10.123.636 (later Foreign Secretary of Germany). The House of European History of the European Parliament in Brussels provides a good depiction of the spread of Fascism and dictatorships in Europe in the 1930s. Whereas Italy had turned Fascist already before 1930. Hungary was also under dictatorship already at the beginning of 1930. The rise of the German Nazi political party NSDAP turned out to be the most disastrous and devastating fascist movement and dictatorship throughout the 30s. The maps with timelines represented in the permanent exhibition in the House of European History reflect the spreading disaster for millions of persons. Many writers and social scientist had the correct apprehension and “apocalyptic imagination” (Pearce, 1971) to seek refuge early. But this turned out to be a not generalisable exit option for most persons concerned. Only few countries managed through early decisive action against the spread of fascism to escape from, better shield themselves, or fight against the rising tide. In the late 60s and the 70s youth at the time started to question the role of their parents in the rise of nationalist movements in Europe. An interesting reference for Canada is the teaching reform that materialised in the “box of the 30s” (Weinland and Roberts, 1972). The 1930s Multi Media Kit for teaching history contained photos (Guernica), radio clips, extracts from novels, but also recipes or recorded interviews. Make history speak and start with a “personal touch” to it. Avoiding the economic failures of the 1930s and the rising tide of fascists throughout the 30s are high on the political agenda 90 years later in the 2020s again.