From the Feuilletons


From the Feuilletons

The Case of Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht

In Die Zeit of 17 December, musicologist and historian Boris von Haken revealed that the late Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht (1919 - 1999), a revered German musicologist, had been a member of the Field Gendarmerie Unit 683 and as such, involved in the murder of 14,000 Jews in Crimea. 

In the Süddeutsche Zeitung on 19 December, theatre historian Jens Malter Fischer warns against an over hasty condemnation of the late musicologist: "One of the peculiar things about von Haken's article is that it leaves us entirely in the dark about Eggebrecht's actual involvement in the murders. Obviously von Haken doesn't have the least bit of evidence to prove Eggebrecht's guilt, apart from his having belonged to this unit, otherwise he would have mentioned it." At the end of his article, Fischer admits to feeling anxious about von Haken's upcoming book "Holocaust and Musicology".

A catastrophe for German musicology, writes Kai Luehrs-Kaiser in Die Welt on 21 December. "It fuels the suspicion that Eggebrecht's career would never have closed unchallenged had not the entire field repressed its past. Both German Literature Studies and Philosophy have been engaged in working through their Nazi past for a long time now, and quite systematically. (This brought to light, for example, that Walter Jens had been a member of the NSDAP). To put it provatively: in Germanmusicology, anti-Semitism stops with Richard Wagner."

On December 23, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung devotes an entire page to the revelations about Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht. Having read Boris von Haken's article, musicologist Friedrich Geiger writes that it is "probable but not certain" that Eggebrecht was involved in the murder of 14.000 Jews in Crimea. In the world of music criticism, he writes, "many people continued to think and talk as they had done in the Third Reich. These people often wielded considerable influence, as in the case of Walter Abendroth, who became head of the feuilleton for Die Zeit at the end of the war and in 1959, wrote the very popular 'Short History of Music'. Its close resemblance to Nazi discourse went largely unnoticed because many others were writing in similar, if milder terms. Anyone who now bins Eggebrecht's books in the belief that his was a unique case, is ignoring a problem which goes to heart of German musicology."

Other stories

Der Tagesspiegel

Thomas Lackmann remembers the uprising in Sobibor in 1943, in which 12 SS men were killed. "Claude Lanzmann's film 'Sobibor, October 14, 1943, 4PM' (2001) documents the uprising.  'No, I had never killed anyone before, I'd never even harmed a fly,'  says Yehuda Lerner in one interview in the film. 'We realised that none of us would leave Sobibor alive. We knew we had no time to lose in this place.' Carpenters organised axes, meetings were arranged with SS men in the workshops and just before four, the electricity was turned off. The Germans were punctual as always. Lerner waited with an axe under his coat. 'I thought of it as an honour that I had been chosen to kill a German,' he says. 'We had no choice, we were going to die anyway, but we wanted to die as human beings. I can tell you that when I split his skull in two, it was if I'd been practising for this moment all my life.'"

Die Zeit 22.12.2009

Christoph Schlingensief and friends are back from Burkina Faso where they have been given a five hectare piece of land by the government, to build Africa's first opera house in Remdoogo. Schlingensief, who is undergoing treatment for lung cancer, announced cheerfully: "Christmas this year is a genuinely happy time for me, particularly because my drugs are really kicking in now and have killed off the metastases in the remaining right half of my lungs." 

Set designer
Thomas Goerge describes the location of the opera house: "It's the edge of the Savannah. Donkeys, goats, zebus cross the road. A dog gets run over. A cyclist lifts the remains of the short-haired grey mongrel onto the back of his bike. I'm thinking: How efficient, not like back in Germany where disintegrating cats are left stuck to the tarmac for everyone to observe. Then I hear loud laughter: 'Dog soup, dog soup today.'"

Der Freitag 23.12.2009

In an interview with the editors of Freitag editors, writer and filmmaker Alexander Kluge offers little hope of any realistic alternative to capitalism: "No one I trust has been able to give me a recipe for an alternative, non-clan controlled, non-violent order, which makes people as keen, and gets the goods to Sinkiang."  But Kluge does have some inspiring words to say about the origins of the Internet: "We should inform people properly about the beginnings of net technology. Swiss precision engineering and Einstein's physics came together at CERN to formulate questions about Quanta, the minutiae which reflect the vastness of the universe. The exchange of information at CERN is so complex that the Internet had to be invented for it to happen. What started out as in-house communication between physicists, then took a detour to the Pentagon, and was eventually appropriated by the whole of mankind! What a wonderful story!"

Die Tageszeitung

Jutta Lietsch comments on the 11-year sentence for China's leading dissident Liu Xiaobo. "The sentence should be a wake-up call to anyone who is naive enough to believe the assurances of China's leaders that the party wants to change China, slowly but surely, into a constitutional state. The old line that China is too big and complicated to cope with more citizens rights, is a sham. State repression is not on the decrease as functionaries like to pretend."

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 28.12.2009

Mark Siemons finds it revealing that Bejing has dealt with the demands  - and indeed the prison sentence of Liu Xiaobo – with its old quietness and secrecy. "The way the state reacted to Liu's demands for a division of powers - the mainstay of Charter 08 which he helped to write - points to embarrassing wound in Chinese development, which is normally kept hidden away. It is now breaking open again under the strain of  contradictory forces: the Communist Party's programme of modernisation, and its unchanging Leninist structure." - let's talk european