Perspectives

Voices on 1914/18

© Gabriella LörinczOn the sidelines of the inaugural event of the "Remembering Europe" series at the head office of the Goethe-Institut, Vivien Ahrens, a student in Munich, captured voices from experts and the audience.


© Gabriella Lörincz Prof. Dr. Martin Sabrow
Director, Center for Contemporary History, Potsdam Sie benötigen den Flashplayer , um dieses Audio zu hören Transcript
There is a whole theory of memory and remembering, which teaches us above all that we do not remember the actual events but the last time we talked about them. Remembering works like a game of telephone. It changes every time it happens. This is why it has a lot of suggestive power but very little explanatory power.
The question of whether remembering closely approximates, or diverges from, actual past experience is a question we study – and in this context we use the terms of story, narrative, historical framework, value system, which the story feeds into...
These are the questions, or historical phenomena, that we contemporary historians are interested in analyzing, because they show us how our society functioned in the past – or else we read the past as a mirror of the present. By analyzing the past in its own terms, we then also tell a lot about ourselves.

Dr. Julien Thorel Dr. Julien Thorel
Director, Institut Français, Munich Sie benötigen den Flashplayer , um dieses Audio zu hören Transkription
You probably know about the different cultures of remembrance in France and Germany. Let me just pick out two key terms – in Germany, the First World War is seen as Europe's 'seminal catastrophe', in France it is the 'grand guerre', the 'great war' – and the clichés and ideas associated with this. I immediately think of words such as 'gueules cassées', the 'broken faces'. Another key concept when dealing with World War I is 'Stellungskrieg' (trench warfare). I believe we have a very different perception of the war in France and in Germany for different historical reasons. It is our task, as Institut Français in Germany and especially as part of this project here in Munich, to investigate and explore these terms in order to get a better sense of the differences in how we perceive this war and how we deal with it in our national histories.

© Gabriella Lörincz Dr. Gudrun Harrer
Senior Editor, Der Standard, Vienna Sie benötigen den Flashplayer , um dieses Audio zu hören Transcript
Of course, I feel torn between two completely different selves on this matter. First of all, there is my Austrian self. As an Austrian, one thinks, of course, of the collapse of the Habsburg Empire. What surprises me about the current Austrian debate is the presence of the Habsburg voices. I do not want to insinuate anything, but... Nostalgia would not be the right word for how the Austrians deal with it, though I believe there is still a great deal of 'kitsch' involved, and this surprises me in this day and age. Then, there is, of course, my second identity as an expert on the Middle East. Here, I am thinking, of course, of the current situation in Syria and the current debate in the Middle East about the collapse of this order which began exactly one hundred years ago. Many of the issues that we are still struggling with today have their roots then. I am, of course, thinking a lot about these things and also deal with them in my work.

Tina Janker
Festival Coordination, Dept. IV
Film and Television Documentary,
Munich University of Television and Film Sie benötigen den Flashplayer , um dieses Audio zu hören Transcript
It is important to remember every war. While the specific reasons for every war may vary, I think that all wars have at least taken a similar course, with terrible consequences and an awful lot of casualties. This is why it is important to remember every war, and not to see World War II as the final war, but to sense a possible new war in every conflict. If one looks at all these wars, one is also tempted to think that history eventually always repeats itself. But isn't the point also that it should finally stop repeating itself?

Carl Wilhelm Macke
Journalist Sie benötigen den Flashplayer , um dieses Audio zu hören Transcript
What I know about my grandfather is that he was a very quiet man, a mailman, and that he went to war in 1914. In this small town in northern Germany, where he lived – I vaguely remember him telling me how festive it was, how readily they went to war. Other than that, I read up on this a little: that this was no exception, that it seems to have been like this everywhere in Germany. People, especially men, cheerfully went to war and returned a different person. But, otherwise, I do not know very much about him. Except that he was a very sweet person.

© Gabriella Lörincz Hans Rehm
Theologian Sie benötigen den Flashplayer , um dieses Audio zu hören Transcript
I believe we mainly remember the First World War in reference to Europe. As I mentioned before, my perspective, which is mainly that of the Middle East, is that the current conflicts are closely linked to the events of the First World War.

I would not go so far as to speak of parallels, but I would say that the conflicts, or faultlines, that we see in the Middle East today are a continuation of how the major European powers back then – England and France, for example – tried to divide up their spheres of influence, drawing borders without any regard to ethnic groups. This has caused conflicts that we are still struggling with today.


© Gabriella Lörincz Sarah Schaar
Intern, Department of Arts and Culture,
City of Munich Sie benötigen den Flashplayer , um dieses Audio zu hören Transcript
I think it is very important to remember the First World War. I am currently a student, so my school years are not that far behind, and I can say that, from the 8th grade onwards, we have talked again and again about the Second World War, the Holocaust, the Weimar Republic, and so on for several weeks a year. The First World War was never mentioned. I therefore think that it is tremendously important to remember the First World War.
In a way, history is like a river that goes on and on and on and becomes more and more a part of history. If we want to be able to tell whether we can learn from history, one would have to set an endpoint from which to look back and judge. Since this is not possible and since we keep moving on, I don't really think one can answer this question.

Related links

PERSPECTIVES: Back to Overview >>

Calendar of events >>

Projects of Goethe-Institutes worldwide >>