"Lost in Deutschland" vorher

Dieses Blog begann auf Deutsch - im Archiv befinden sich eine ganze Reihe von Texten über das Engländersein in Deutschland - von 2008 bis 2011 sortiert. 2008-2009 wurden zudem Video-Berichterstattungen auf Deutsch zum Thema hier veröffentlicht.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

May Taster Extract: Henry Crabb Robinson

Even by today's standards of Erasmus exchanges and secondments abroad, Henry Crabb Robinson lived a rather excitingly international life, spending five years studying in Germany at the beginning of the nineteenth century. He left behind his letters and diaries of the time, possibly the most complete documentation of the country from that time in English, lovingly collated by Edith J. Morley in 1929 and published as Crabb Robinson in Germany 1800-1805.

Crabb Robinson travelled far and wide in Germany, using Frankfurt as a base before heading to Weimar and Saxony, and meeting much of the German literary and cultural establishment as he went. In this extract, we accompany him into Germany by way of Hamburg. Just as many British people today recognise in their adopted country elements of 1970s and 1980s Britain, Crabb-Robinson sees Germany as Britain in arrested development.

Frankfort sur Mein
11th May 1800
The remark I before made on the houses of Altona applies to Hambro’ and the Adjacent Country. They perpetually suggest the Idea that you are looking at England as it was a Century ago – The original model of a farm house (& farm houses were the primitive houses) as I have seen it in the wild parts of Hanover, is that of one immense room, with Chimney or division, the various parts are divided as a farmer lays his different seeds or fruits – At one corner the fire; here beds, there the piggery; here some furniture and a good carriage way all thro’ – Now the progress of refinement is this; after a time the sides are separated (like the King’s Bench & Common Please in Wester Hall) glazed & adorned for the Women & children – but still the centre is unpaved – I have seen several respectable houses of this kind in the country near Hambro’ – Refinement increases but still the old Hall remains as in ancient English mansions. Perhaps we have gone beyond the exact mark of propriety & though our proud love of retirement by converting our Halls into narrow passages & large parlours; have injured our houses as summer retreats & promoted the natural shyness of our tempers – In the Houses near Hambro’ the genteelest families dine or drink coffee in their Halls & with the Doors open to observation & curiosity – In the Town too, most of the Houses have the narrow or gable end in front, which necessarily precludes the elegant uniformity of a Bath Street but at the same time allows of an infinite variety of ornament which gives an idea of distinctness to the mind & is I think an advantage – As the Stories rise, the curtain, if it may be so called, is narrowed till it terminates in a Pyramid – There is, it must be confessed, a great waste of room in the lofty halls & shops which you see in the front of the Hambro’ houses. But perhaps it is more pleasing to witness resources & means of future improvements, as necessities may arise, than as in London to behold every inch occupied and Management & Economy put to their last shifts – The Dress of the Lower Classes confirms the suggestion that Germany is now what England was – Many a poor woman bears about her a tight black velvet bonnet like that in which Mary Q. of Scotts is painted – The Lutheran clergy appear to wear the cast-off ruffs of Queen Elizabeth, & the heads of the maid servants & country women are adorned with stiff perpendicular lappets, giving fierceness & rotundity to their square faces and on the crown of their heads they bear a profusion of gold and silver, that is yellow and white lace – So much for the outside of the Men and Women of the lower ranks – The higher orders dress differently. All the Gentlemen imitate the English, all the Ladies, the French.

Friday, 5 April 2013

April Taster Extract: Michael Howard, Otherwise Occupied

This month's extract comes from Michael Howard, who published Otherwise Occupied, his memoirs of being part of the British occupying force in post-war Germany, in 2010. In his fascinating and faultlessly honest account, he includes unredacted letters he wrote at the time and then comments on them from today's perspective.

At the tender age of 21, Howard was a leading part of T-Force, the unit set up to dismantle German industrial capacity which could be of use to Britain and remove it to the UK. T-Force also "removed" the odd German researcher back to the UK to pick their brains: to the victor go the spoils.

Much to his credit, however, Howard was free of all triumphalism, showing great humanity and fairness in his dealings with the defeated Germans - and befriending a family in whose house he was billeted. His letters and retrospective account also offer a fascinating glimpse into the, perhaps unexpectedly, glamorous world of British officers' clubs in north-western Germany...

Lt. M. HowardR.B., 1 Bucks, B.A.O.R.
5th April 1946

Darling Mama,
This is as much to practise my typing as to tell you anything, but there are a few odd items of news that I can deal with. Firstly, parcels to acknowledge—a packet of cigarettes from you and from Daddy, and also that box of Auntie Miriam’s wodges, in very good condition. I shall be writing to thank her in the near future.
Could you send me some black darning wool as holes are gradually consuming more and more of my socks. Otherwise there is nothing I can think of that I want.
Yesterday I went over to do a job of work in Düsseldorf. The whole business was carried out in German and it really stood up to the strain quite well. On the way back I dropped in and saw Lee Walker, who was really very nice. She is tallish, and fair, and rather good-looking in a strong sort of way. She has got the same sort of mouth as Phyllis and was quite easily recognisable. I have asked her to come to our dance which she accepted with every show of pleasure. I think she is PA to practically the king-pin of North German Coal, which is a very good job. They work in what used to be Krupp’s private house – a lovely spot. There is a squash court there and I have been offered the use of it, for which I am very grateful. She asked me to spend the weekend there, which seemed a friendly act, and although I was not able to accept, as I am to take over my new department by Monday, I might reciprocate by asking her over to Möhne one weekend in the near future.

My route yesterday took me right through the Ruhr and it is an amazing sight. Literally there is hardly a street for 50 miles in which at least 25 per cent of the houses are (not) bombed, and you can drive for miles through large towns without seeing signs of human habitation. Acres of factories, rusting away, and covered in weeds. My opinion for what it’s worth is that Germany won’t be able to wage war by herself for some 4O years.
No more news, I think.
My typing hasn’t been too bad
With all my love,

Saturday, 30 March 2013

March Taster Extract: Addison in Germany

The word "taster" is by no means out of place for Joseph Addison, who seems to have spent much of his time on a royal grant in Europe sampling a wide varieties of clarets, Bordeaux, ports, madeiras, and such like.

Following time in Switzerland and the Dresden, Addison spent March 1703 in Hamburg before returning thence to Britain. Perhaps his ardour in drinking to "her Majestie's" health had more than a little to do with the fact that, with the death of William III in 1702, he had lost his (sizeable) stipend from the crown; did he hope that Queen Anne might prove willing to fund his gout-inducing lifestyle...?

Hamburg, March 1703

My Lord,
I canno longer deny my-self the honour of troubling your Lordship with a Letter tho Hamburg has yet furnish me with very few materials for it. The great Business of the place is commerce and Drinking: as their chief commoditie, at least which I am best acquainted with, is Rhenish wine. The they have in such prodigious Quantities that there is yet no sensible dimunition of it tho Mr Perrot and my-self have bin among ‘em above a Weeek. The principal curisotie of the town and what is more visited than any other I have met with in my Travails is a great cellar filld with this kind of Liquor. It holds more Hogsheads than others can bottles and I believe is capable of receiving into it a whole Vintage of the Rhine. By this cellar stands the little English Chappel which your Lordship may well suppose is not all-together soe much frequented by our Countrymen as the other. I must however do ‘em Justice as they are all of ‘em Loyal Sons of th Chruch of England to assure your Lordship that her Majestie can have no Subjects in any part of her Dominions that pray more heartily for her Health or drink to it oftener. We are this Evening to take a Bottle with Mr Wyche and Strafford. To draw us in they tell us it shall be my Lord Winchelsea’s Health. Idare not let you know, My Lord, how often we have already made this an Excuse for a meeting least at the same time that I would show our Zeal for your lordship I should give you a very small opinion of our Sobrietie: But as all here are extremely disappointed in not having the honour of your company at Hambourg they think this the only way they have left of showing their high Esteem for your Lordship. I hoped my stay at Hambourg would have given me occasion to have written a much Longer Letter but as I can find no better a subject to entertain your Lordship with I am sensible I have already made it too long. I am my Lord with all possible respect
Your Lordship’s &c.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

February Taster Extract: The Wordsworths in Germany

In the summer of 1798, the Dorothy and William Wordsworth hatched a plan to spend some time in Germany. With the language enjoying increasing artistic prestige at the time due to the popularity of German authors such as Goethe and Schiller, learning German seemed a smart move for young artists - especially since translations of German literature were selling rather well. Also, with the cost of living in Germany reputedly lower than in boombing early-colonial Britain, the country made an inviting prospect.

Justifying the scheme to a sceptical aunt, Dorothy Wordsworth explained it thus: "We can live for less money in Germany while we are stationary than we can in England, so that you see our regular income (independent of what we may gain by translation) will be sufficient to support us when we are there." After arriving in Hamburg and realising that this optimistic assessment did not necessarily apply to large towns with thriving mercantile economies, the poetic pair headed south to the more depressed country hinterland. Added to the financial bonus was, of course, the literary pedigree of the Hartz and the Brocken mountain, which was of interest to the addressee of the letter below, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, fellow artistic British refugee in Germany at the time.

Nordhausen, Wednesday evening
27th February, 1799

My dear Coleridge,

The peasants in the plains adjoining to Goslar are extremely well clothed and decent in their appearance. We had often seen in Goslar women inhabitants of the hills, but we did not imagine them to be so rude and barbarous a race as we found them. They carry enormous burthens in square baskets hung over their shoulders, their petticoats reach very little below their knees, and their stockings are dangling about their ankles without garters. Swellings in the throat are very common amongst them which may perhaps be attributed to the straining of the neck in dragging those monstrous loads. They rarely travel without a bottle of German brandy, Schnapps as they call it; many of them go weekly from Clausthall to Brunswick, they perform this journey, a distance of thirty five miles in two days, carrying ass loads, parcels, &c, and letters clandestinely. These people are chiefly inhabitants of Clausthal, a large Hanoverian town cursed with the plague of a vicious population. We arrived there in the dusk of the evening, found an excellent inn, with beautiful bed-linen, good coffee, and a decent supper. The charge was about the same rate as in England, perhaps a little cheaper. This town lies in the centre of the Hartz forest. We left it on sunday, a mild morning, saw little that was remarkable till we came to the decaying posts of an old gibbet. We had scarcely passed it when we were saluted with the song of the lark, a pair of larks a sweet, liquid and heavenly melody heard from the first time, after so long and severe a winter. I ought to have said that before this we had a view of the Brocken, the Mont Blanc of the Hartz forest, and the glory of all this part of Germany. I cannot speak of its height compared with any of our British mountains, but from the point of view from which we saw it, it had nothing impressive in its appearance.

Monday, 14 January 2013

January taster extract: Tony Benn in Germany

In early 1957, Tony Benn took off for a short stay in Germany on the invitation of the Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft (an honourable institution which exists to this day, and to whom I also spoke in 2012). He flew to Berlin and, while shocked by the devastation, also perceived just how quickly Germany had recovered. On his way back, he stopped in Hanover and Bonn, where he met Willy Brandt, still Mayor of Berlin at the time, before flying back from Düsseldorf.

The entries about Germany can be found in Benn's diaries (available here) and are well worth reading. In the upcoming anthology, you'll find a longer extract than the one reproduced here.

Monday 14 January 1957
An hour’s work on my speech after breakfast and some progress but still depressed at the prospect and suspecting more and more that it would be a terrible flop before a bourgeois English-speaking Union type of audience.
Mr Trevor Davies and Mr Dees of the British Educational Commission collected me by car and we drove through the Tiergarten, under the Brandenburg Gate and along the Stalin Allee to the Soviet Cemetery. As Dees said, the Soviet sector is like Salford during a strike; compared with the lights and shops and buildings of the Western sector, the East was unbelievably dreary.
The rubble from the bombing still remained and the people looked tired and cold and ill-fed and ill-dressed.
The Soviet cemetery is a gigantic place, set in woods and marked at one end by a huge mound atop of which is a small circular chamber. The absence of individual headstones in the mass grave is a startling reminder of the victory of the monolithic state over the men and women who serve it.
Not even the symbolic sarcophagi which are lined up to flank the burial area and have bas relief stonework and extracts from Stalin’s speeches can erase the dehumanisation.
At 8 to the Centre for the lecture. I was paralysed with fear and had taken a whole Benzedrine to induce confidence.
There were 300-350 people of all ages and various nationalities present. I was at a rostrum on a platform. I talked slowly and deliberately, and they were very attentive and could apparently understand what I said. I tried a joke or two and they worked so that proved the intelligibility to the audience. In fact it was a great success, and there was a lot of applause, a pause and a second round.