Ethnic Germans have formed a minority in Romania for centuries. In 1930, when Hanna would have been there, the German population was estimated at 760,000. They were collectively represented by the German People’s Party from 1935-1938, but this was dissolved under orders from Berlin.
At the end of WW2, tens of thousands of ethnic Germans were required to leave Romania on Soviet orders, to provide forced labour as war reparations; several thousand people died. Today, ethnic Germans in Romania are represented by the respected Democratic Forum of Germans in Romania.
Here is some more information about Germany's present day relations with Romania.
This documentary explores some of the issues facing older ethnic Germans in Romania today.
Siemens is a major German conglomerate of fifteen engineering corporations, originally founded in 1847. It is the largest engineering business in Europe and its three headquarter offices are all in Germany. In the 1930s, Siemens helped fund the rising Nazi party, and later placed a number of factories in the vicinity of concentration camps, to utilise the forced labour of inmates. From Auschwitz alone, they obtained 100,000 unpaid workers; their logo is still visible above the gas chambers at Buchenwald.
interesting fact to bear in mind. Siemens have arranged to pay compensation to individuals forced to work under conditions of slave labour; they did, however, attract considerable scandal over this situation in 2002.
The role of recognisable corporations in assisting the rise of Fascism is a somewhat neglected but wholly fascinating element of history...
This refers to the novel The Red and the Black by Stendhal (the pen name of Marie-Henri Beyle), a French novelist (1783-1842). Despite living during the Romantic period, he was one of the earliest and most important practitioners of Realism. He is particularly admired for the psychological awareness of the characters he created. The Red and The Black (1830) is a two volume novel depicting the attempts of a provincial man, Julien Sorel, to rise above his simple upbringing and achieve a higher social standing. He is held back by his naïveté and idealistic fantasies, which in turn allows Stendhal to depict 19th Century French society in a satirical and critical light.
The novel can be read online here.
Felix Krull is the titular character of the German novel Confessions of Felix Krull by Thomas Mann. First appearing in a short story written in 1911 but not published until 1936, Mann later expanded the character and his story but did not succeed in completing it before his death in 1955.
Krull is a conman, and tells his story by describing how he taught himself to deceive and steal from early childhood. He eventually causes the bankruptcy of his family and his father’s suicide.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) was a German writer. He is regarded as one of the most important figures in German literature, with his work reflecting the philosophies of the Enlightenment and Romantic Movement. His greatest works are the play Faust, and the novels The Sorrows of Young Werther and Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, the latter being one of the first examples of the literary genre known as Bildungsroman. A polymath, Goethe’s influence on the emerging philosophical ideas of his time was profound.
Charlotte von Stein, an older married woman whom he met in 1774. She was a lady-in-waiting at the Weimar Court, and the mother of seven children. It was never clear how physically intimate their relationship became, but Goethe’s sudden departure to Italy after ten years left her devastated. They were later reconciled, but did not achieve the closeness of earlier times.
Here is a collection of quotes taken from Goethe's books and letters.
Below are some clips from 'Metropolis'.
The Third Reich is the name of the Nazi administration and governance of Germany from 1933 to 1945. It was a totalitarian dictatorship – members of the armed forces swore an oath of allegiance to Hitler himself – and a single party fascist republic; no political opposition was allowed and attempts to create one were violently suppressed. Two key features of the Nazi regime were the desire for a ‘pure’ Aryan race, and the perceived need for more lebensraum or ‘living space’. This resulted in the persecution and murder of groups such as Jews, Slavs and Roma, as well as homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses and the mentally and physically disabled. Hitler's expansionist beliefs led to the occupation of countries such as Poland (which caused Britain to declare war on
Germany) and France. He also annexed countries he saw as having considerable ethnic German populations, such as Austria and the then-called Sudetenland, covering part of Czechoslovakia. In can be argued that the Third Reich ended when Hitler committed suicide in his Berlin bunker on the 30th April 1945, as German forces unconditionally surrendered a few days later.
Homer is the name attributed to the Ancient Greek author of the poems ‘The Odyssey’ and ‘The Iliad’. In reality, however, there is no reliable evidence that such a man existed, and both poems can be seen to have been conceived over several centuries according to the oral traditions of the time. Even ancient sources conflicted about the supposed dates of Homer’s life, but in practice scholars usually attribute both poems to the very late 9th Century BC, or the 8th Century BC. In canonical terms, the Iliad is considered to be the earliest work of Western literature. The meaning of the word ‘Homer’ has also been subject to great debate, a popular interpretation being that it meant ‘blind’ in an ancient Greek dialect. This led to many depictions in Western art of Homer being without sight.
Marcus Tullius Cicero (106BC – 43BC) was a Roman politician and philosopher. His political career was successful but inconsistent, and led to his murder on the order of the Second Triumvirate (whose leaders included Mark Anthony). As a philosopher, orator and writer his achievements were, retrospectively, considered immense. His surviving letters, speeches and writings on rhetoric are some of the most detailed and informative primary sources we have from the period; the early Catholic Church deemed him wise and virtuous enough to be declared a ‘righteous pagan’, thus aiding the preservation of his work.
Ernest Hemingway was an American writer. His impressive body of work was often inspired by the many countries he lived in or travelled to, which included France, Spain, Cuba, Italy and Eastern and Central Africa. He served as an ambulance driver on the Italian front during WW1 and reported from battlefields during the Spanish Civil War. He lived in Paris during the early 1920s, where he befriended members of the ‘lost generation’ such as T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck. He was also present during the liberation of Paris in 1944 and the D-Day landings. His macho image, built via his enjoyment of hunting, fishing and drinking, has sometimes overshadowed his gifts as a writer, and belied a profound sensitivity which appears in his work. Hemingway battled with depression throughout his life and committed suicide in 1961, aged 62.
Here is a website dedicated to Hemingway's work.
Below is an excellent fan-made documentary which gives a great overview of 'Papa's' extraordinary life.
Hemingway published The Old Man and the Sea in 1952. It was an instant bestseller, winning the Pulitzer Prize that year, and was a key factor in its author being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. It is a short work, telling the story of an ageing fisherman, Santiago, and his struggle to catch a giant marlin in the Gulf Stream off the shore of Cuba. The text can be read online here, and below is a clip from a lovely documentary about the book.
Ancient Greek was spoken during several periods of Greek history, from c.3rd Century BC to 6th Century AD. It is still considered to be one of the most important languages from a cultural and historical perspective, due to its use during the Age of Pericles, or Athenian Golden Age, of 448 BC to 429 BC. It was during this time that much of the wonderful literature, sculpture, theatre and political discourse the ancient Greeks are so admired for were produced. From the early Renaissance period to the 20th Century it was very much part of the core curriculum in education, and is frequently still learned today by those with an interest in Classical literature and history.
Latin was the language spoken in Ancient Rome and throughout the Roman Empire. Although now classified as a ‘dead language’, it is still the official language of the Holy See in Rome, and is also used in the formation of new words in modern languages, for example in science. Its daughter languages include Italian, French, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese and Romanian. Very beautiful and precise in its Classical form, it is still widely taught, and even a rudimentary knowledge can assist greatly in the learning of the modern European languages listed above. If you fancy learning a bit of Latin, here is a great introduction:
The Odyssey was one of two great epic poems attributed to Homer, the other being The Iliad. The date of the text is much disputed, but it is estimated that Homer lived c. 8th - 9th Century BC. It is one of the most important books in the Western canon – arguably Homer’s work is the earliest included – and chronicles the ten year journey home to Ithaca of the Greek hero Odysseus after the fall of Troy. At the time of its composition, the text was intended to be sung rather than written down, according to the oral tradition of the time; it is therefore appropriate, even poignant, that Michael reads excerpts from the text aloud to Hanna.
Catiline was a Roman politician from the 1st Century BC. He conspired to overthrow the Roman Republic in 63BC, resorting to bribery and an assassination attempt on Cicero, who publicly denounced Cataline in what became known at the Catiline Orations. There were four speeches in total, and Catiline himself was present during the first one, delivered in the Temple of Jupiter Stator. This first speech contained an expression which has since become well known: O tempora, O mores (“Oh, what times, oh, what manners!”)! Cataline’s attempts at a coup d’état subsequently failed; he died in battle a short time later against the Consul Quintus Caecilius Metellus Celer.
‘Emilia Galotti’ is an 18th Century play by the German playwright Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. Set in Italy, it shows the titular character, an innocent and virtuous young woman, having her life ruined by the machinations of the ruling prince of the country who is determined to possess her. Although it contains themes of love and desire, it is primarily a critique on political and aristocratic authority.
Intrigues and Love’ is also an 18th Century play by the German playwright Friedrich Schiller. It follows a similar theme to ‘Emilia Galotti’, in that two young lovers see their lives destroyed due to the political will of the President.