Monday, January 27, 2020

Thinking of Rheinsberg on Holocaust Rememberance Day

Kurt Tucholsky's first novel Rheinsberg takes place in a small town of the same name north of Berlin with tinder houses, cobblestone streets, and an old castle. The author, who calls himself Wolfgang, spends a weekend in August 1911 at a lakeside hotel with his girlfriend Claire. Not much is happening in this lighthearted story, but the two young lovers, strolling the town, have a lot of fun.

Claire's real name was Else Weil. She was a medical student from Berlin who would soon become one of Germany's first female doctors. She would also marry Tucholsky but keep working, very unusual at this time. But the marriage with Tucholsky, the unruly spirit and literary genius who had his eyes already set on this second wife Mary Gerold would not last.

In 1933, when the Nazis came to power, Tucholsky, who was Jewish, fled to Sweden. Two years later, stranded without money and without a long-term residency permit and guilt-ridded about his bad choices about the women in his life, he killed himself.

The same year, Else Weil lost permission to practice medicine. She worked as a nanny for her cousin, who took her in. In 1938, after Kristallnacht, she fled to the Netherlands and then to Paris. Here, she met Friedrich Epstein, also a refugee from Nazi Germany. After the Wehrmacht conquered  Paris, they escaped to the — yet unoccupied — south of France. They were rounded up by Vichy authorities, locked up in the concentration camps of Gurs and Les Milles.

In 1942, Else was brought to Drancy, on the outskirts of Paris. She was deported to Auschwitz in September of the same year. Her recorded date of death is December 31, 1942. She was fifty-three years old. Epstein died in Auschwitz one year later.

This is the day we remember the liberation of Auschwitz. But let's also remember a young woman, full of life and compassion, who was made immortal by a weekend-long summer vacation in a small town, with a castle, and a lake, and a lover long gone.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Hinkemann, A Tragedy by Ernst Toller, and a Reading

Berlinica is proud to publish Hinkemann, a drama written by the late German playwright Ernst Toller. The book, set in post-WWI Germany is the first in a series on German dramas translated into English.

This Saturday, there will be a dramatic reading at the art gallery Lichtandfire, in Downtown Manhattan. The translator, Mr. Peter Wortsman, will be present.

Date: Saturday, January 25, 2020 at 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM EST
Place: 175 Rivington St, New York, New York 10002

Here is more about the book:

Like Eugene Hinkemann, the main character of his play, Ernst Toller had enlisted in the Kaiser’s army in World War I. And like Hinkemann, he witnessed the horrors of war and got seriously wounded. In 1919, Toller embraced revolutionary change and joined the leadership of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic. He was tried for treason and sentenced to five years. In prison, he completed several of his best plays, including Hinkemann. He established his reputation as one of the foremost German dramatists in the tradition of Jakob Lenz, Georg Büchner, and the young Bertolt Brecht. High profile persona non grata in 1933 when the Nazis came to power, Toller fled to London. Convinced that the world as he knew it had succumbed to the forces of darkness, he took his own life in 1939 in New York.

About Ernst Toller:
Ernst Toller was a playwright, born in the Province of Posen in 1893, then part of Prussia, today under Polish dominion. Upon hearing of the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Ernst Toller, who had been studying law in Grenoble, rushed home to enlist in the Kaiser’s army. But after witnessing the horrors of war firsthand, getting seriously wounded, and suffering a complete physical and psychological collapse, he was disabused of his youthful nationalist political leanings and embraced revolutionary change. In 1919 he joined the leadership of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic in Munich, serving six days as its president, before being captured, tried for treason, and sentenced to five years in prison.

Toller applied the imposed “leisure” of his incarceration in the German prison Niederschönenfeld, 1921-1922, to the completion of several of his best known plays, including Hinkemann, establishing his reputation as one of the foremost young German dramatists at a time when Bertolt Brecht was still a virtual unknown. It was, however, only following his release from prison in 1925 that he got to see his plays performed. Conceived in the German theatrical tradition of Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz’s Die Soldaten (The Soldiers) and Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, Toller’s devastating tragedy Hinkemann is a painfully poetic plaidoyer for the overlooked vision and voice of the victim.

Given his notoriety, his Jewish ancestry, political position, and avant-garde artistic stance made him an immediate high profile persona non grata in 1933 when the Nazis came to power. Toller fled to London, went on a lecture tour to the U.S. in 1936, and tried to make a go of it in Los Angeles, where he took an unsuccessful stab at screenwriting. Moving to New York City, he joined a group of like-minded literary émigrés, including Klaus and Erika Mann, the son and daughter of Thomas Mann, both writers in their own right. Though two of his plays were staged in English, they were not well received. Dispirited, despondent upon learning that his brother and sister had been sent to a concentration camp, and convinced that the world as he knew it had succumbed to the forces of darkness, Toller was found dead by hanging, a presumed suicide, in Manhattan in his room at the Hotel Mayflower on May 22, 1939.

About Peter Wortsman:

Peter Wortsman is the author of two stage plays, Burning Words, premiered in 2006 by the Hampshire Shakespeare Company at the Northampton Center for the Arts, MA., and in 2014 in German translation by the ensemble of the Kulturhaus Osterfeld, in Pforz­heim, Germany; and The Tattooed Man Tells All, premiered by the Silverthorne Theater in Greenfield, MA, in 2018. He is the author of three books of short fiction, A Modern Way To Die (1991), Footprints in Wet Cement (2017), and Stimme und Atem/Out of the Breath, Out of Mind, a bilingual German-English

collection, forthcoming in 2019;  a travel memoir, Ghost Dance in Berlin, A Rhapsody in Gray (2013); a novel, Cold Earth Wanderers (2014); and a work of nonfiction, The Caring Heirs of Dr. Samuel Bard, forthcoming in 2019. His critically acclaimed translations from German into English include Posthumous Papers of a Living Author, by Robert Musil, now in its third edition (1988, 2005, 2009); and Tales of the German Imagination, From the Brothers Grimm to Ingeborg Bachmann (2013), an anthology which he also edited and annotated; and Konundrum. Selected Prose of Franz Kafka (2016). Recipient of a 2014 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY), he was a fellow of the Fulbright Foundation (1973), the Thomas J. Watson Foundation (1974), and a Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin (2010).

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Welcome to 2020 and Happy Beethoven Year!

The year 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of German reunification, which we will celebrate and reflect upon in October. This year also marks the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth year. Although we don’t know the actual date of his birth, we know that the German composer was born in Bonn and baptized on December 17, 1770. And due to his worldwide influence and contributions, the German government declared Beethoven a “matter of national importance” in 2016 and established funding for the 2020 anniversary celebrations.

Throughout the year, Germany will host a number of events in honor of Beethoven, with some of the biggest ones taking place in Bonn – the city of his birth. As the epicenter of the anniversary celebrations, Bonn will host more than 300 events in honor of the composer. Throughout Germany, there will be around 1,000 concerts, opera performances, festivals and exhibitions surrounding Beethoven.

But the celebrations don’t end in Germany; Beethoven’s influence can be seen worldwide, and many other countries – including the US – are honoring him throughout the year.

Beethoven is most famous for his nine symphonies, which have been called the cornerstones of Western civilization. His two most famous ones are the Fifth Symphony and the Ninth Symphony. Although his early years were spent in Germany, he eventually studied in Vienna under Mozart and Haydn and called the city his home. The city of Vienna is preparing to mark the 200th anniversary of his death in the year 2027.

To celebrate the life and works of one of the world’s most famous composers, we will be sharing music, history, and information about this legendary figure throughout the year! 

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany

Picture: The Beethoven House in Vienna


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year, and an Invitation to Kurt Tucholsky's Birthday in Berlin

Happy New Year, everybody! This is 2020, and so the Golden Twenties begin ... anew! (or so I hope). The era of music, dance, cabaret, movies, sex, and booze.

Speaking of the Twenties; Kurt Tucholsky, the most famous German Jewish journalist and satirist to write about them would be turning 130 years in January 2020, were he still alive. To celebrate the occasion, Berlinica teamed up with the Projektraum Kurt-Kurt, an art installation space in the house where Tucholsky was actually born, in Berlin-Moabit, at Lübecker Strasse 13.

On the occasion of the birthday, on January 10 — or, actually, one day after the birthday — Professor Ian King, the Chairman of the Tucholsky Foundation will give a talk about Tucholsky — in English — read from his books, and also take questions (as will I). There will be wine and cake, and the opportunity to get Tucholsky's books, in English, but also in German.

Come all and tell all your English-speaking friends in Berlin!

Kurt Tucholsky's Birthday Party
January 10, 2020, 7pm
Lübecker Str. 13
10559 Berlin-Tiergarten
U-Birkenstrasse or Turmstrasse

And here is the invitation in German!

Your Publisher, Eva C: Schweitzer


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