Tuesday, March 18, 2008

History Fortnight

If I weren't a halfway rational person, I would suspect an extraterrestrial conspiracy behind the unusual interest in German historical topics over the past two weeks. This is not to say that Germans are not interested in history -- it's only the Brits who think they need to give us private tuition in WWII by way of a cheap excuse to indulge their own fetish for black leather and heel clicking -- but this has been a particularly fertile period for hobby historians.

At the same time as we are kindly informed by the British press that our view of the French occupation is going to be radically altered thanks to 'Allo 'Allo, last week also saw the release of Dennis Gansel's German film version of Morton Rhue's novel -- based on the notorious behaviourist experiment at an American high school -- The Wave. For an article, in German, see here. Here is the trailer:

The film did not make British headlines (at least none that I came across), which is astounding, given its investigation into Nazi psychology, but then it might be that it is not sexy enough (and the main actor has teeth that would do any NHS-dentist proud).

A sexier brand of heroism is provided by Nikolai Müllerschön's Red Baron biopic which, as Mr Paterson at the Independent points out with unusual perceptiveness, might please the Brits more than the Germans -- most of whom might not even know who von Richthofen was. The trailer is here:

To keep with the topic of flying heroes, it appears that the riddle around Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's death has finally been solved. The wreckage of his plane was discovered in 2004 off the coast of Marseille, and now Horst Rippert, an 88-year old former fighter pilot, admits that it was probably he who shot down Exupéry during a reconnaissance mission. Apparently, Exupéry was his favourite author and personal hero, and Rippert -- who later on became a sports journalist for German TV -- asserts that he would have never shot the plane down had he known who was flying it.

The interesting punchline for Germans of Generation Golf and older: Rippert is the brother of Ivan Rebroff, a talented faux-Russian singer who in the 1970s landed hits with Russian folk classics such as "Kalinka." You want to see?

Rebroff died a few weeks ago. R.I.P. and dasvedanya.

And in the "non-history department" there is a Gazprom-sponsored exhibition about German-Russian relations during the Holy Alliance. Apparently, the organisers take the word "holy" a tad too seriously, forgetting about the injustice committed in the name of this thoroughly calculating bit of Realpolitik.

There's a ray of hope, however: Joachim C. Fest's autobiography is no. 10 in the German paperback charts. Fest, the most prominent German historian of Nazi Germany, came from an upright Catholic family who staunchly resisted being absorbed by Nazi Gleichschaltung.

Maybe we don't need to learn our history through 'Allo 'Allo after all.

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