From the Feuilletons


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 04.03.2005

Historian Ulrich Herbert says Berlin's National Socialist memorials need better organisation. Most of the exhibitions were created through private initiatives whose merits Herbert is quick to credit. But they are ageing poorly and tend to be too regional in context. "The emphasis has largely been (and in part still is) on the victims of National Socialism who were persecuted and murdered in Germany. But this ignores over 95 percent of the dead: the European Jews killed in Poland and the Soviet Union, the Soviet civilians – certainly the largest lesser-known group of victims. And finally, the Soviet war prisoners – more than three million died in German camps behind the front. These crimes, which represent the collapse of civilisation that the National Socialist era stands for, were not committed within the borders of the German Reich, but in Poland and the Soviet Union. It is understandable that the memorials would blend this information out, but not acceptable. It makes the National Socialist memorials into a regional thing, sectioned according to victim groups. A central perspective explaining essential contexts and correlations is missing." Herbert suggests that the Topography of Terror, located on the former site of the Nazi headquarters in Berlin, the planned "Information Centre" under the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the House of the Wannsee Conference where the "Final Solution" was set in motion, should all be brought together under a qualified director."

Elfriede Jelinek won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2004. While some German critics decry her as an eloquent hysteric, others praise her cold yet incisive observations of human lives and loves. Her play "Wolken. Heim. Und dann nach Hause", a new version of a 1988 work, premiered at the Berliner Ensemble on Wednesday directed by Claus Peymann. The play blends short quotes from writers of the German Romantic period, from Hölderlin and Kleist to philosophers Fichte and Hegel. These are mixed together with references to Martin Heidegger and RAF terrorist Ulrike Meinhoff, and relate to political movements such as nazism and, somewhat surprisingly, the greens. Critic Gerhard Stadelmaier is utterly scathing: "Wilful 'I know better' theatre, critical of everything German, true to the musty spirit of Germanic self hatred. But this is nothing other than the flip side of the arrogance of the master race which never tires of pointing the finger at itself. Attention everyone! Look how terrible I am! And how deep! And how dangerous! Please, please, quake to your very bones!"

Frankfurter Rundschau, 04.03.2005

The Kunstmuseum Stuttgart has a new building for its art collection, a sophisticated glass cube designed by architects Rainer Hascher and Sebastian Jehle. Silke Hohmann writes: "When asked how in times like these one could afford a new museum – particularly one this impressive – mayor Wolfgang Schuster gave a look of 'isn't it obvious?' You just have to sell some energy shares and make a few million. Then you pour concrete over all six lanes of the now closed thoroughfare that used to go right through the city and stick a spectacular building on top."

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 04.03.2005

The Muslim author writing under the pseudonym Nedjma talked to Sonja Zekri about her erotic novel "The Almond: The Sexual Awakening of a Muslim Woman" and the relationship between sexuality and freedom in society. "In an open society, sexuality belongs to the private sphere, it is the prerequisite for a healthy relationship with ones self. In the middle ages judges, imams and caliphs had to be married so that their decisions were not affected by frustration. In the contemporary Arab world there are three great taboos: religion, politics and sexuality. These prohibitions create monsters, they lead – for example in religion – to fundamentalism, to obsession, even depravity. Take Saudi Arabia: it is the most prudish country around, and the most corrupt. Saudi men travel to Morocco to rape ten-year-old girls for money. That's the real scandal."

Jürgen Otten did not spot any outstanding talent at the 1st International Franz Liszt Competition for Young Pianists in Weimar. But there was one 14-year-old Chinese, Chun Wang, who gave a furious rendition of Messiaen's "Regard de l'Esprit de joie", in the spirit of a kung fu fighter. "The chords were shattered into a thousand pieces, the walls nearly exploded with the sheer noise and one feared for the piano which was in fact a mild-tempered Yamaha."

Die Welt, 04.03.2005

Eckhard Fuhr also comments on the new debate surrounding the organisation of the Berlin NS memorials: "Even the Federal government seems to be surprised that suddenly a thoroughgoing debate on memorials and historical information has broken out. But it's not so sudden after all. The call to professionalise the memorials is part of the process of the 'historicisation' of the National Socialist past. Memory is turning into history. And this history is very well researched. The main task of the memorials is no longer to keep memory alive, but to relate historical knowledge."

Vytautas Landsbergis, Lithuania's first post-communist president, articulates in an article in Project Syndicate the unease of the Baltic states over the planned commemorations for the 60th anniversary of the victory over Hitler on May 9 in Moscow: "Russia is now celebrating the end of a war, the bloodiest in Europe's history, which it itself, in the form of the Soviet Union, provoked in the first place. Of course Hitler was also to blame, but there's no denying the USSR was jointly responsible. The celebrations will be held on Red Square, emphasising the Soviet victory, but also celebrating the gains contemporary Russia made from the war. (...) This means a once enslaved country is being invited to celebrate is own imprisonment." - let's talk european