Twentieth century German woodcuts

Heilige Nacht (15th c.), click on image to enlarge

I recently catalogued a book from 1927, Der Niederrhein im Schrifttum alter und neuer Zeit (S950.b.9.1244), an anthology of writing about the Lower Rhine region of Northern Germany, illustrated with the most striking woodcuts. Some of these date from pre-1500 as the example to the right (or above if viewed on mobile phone) illustrates, but the majority are contemporary Expressionist works created by either Artur Buschmann or Anton Wendling, both artists I had not heard of before.  The woodcut as a medium was particularly used by Expressionist artists in Germany.

Buschmann (1895-1971) was a local artist, best known for his paintings. He also worked as a draughtsman throughout his career. He had served in World War One but spent some time recuperating from a gas attack. By the 1920s he was part of the art scene in Düsseldorf. Here is a small selection of his woodcuts from the book (click on each image to see enlarged version): Continue reading

Arte: the European television channel (?)

Arte_Logo_2017.svgIf you asked me what the best channel on French television is, I would probably reply without much hesitation: Arte. But if you asked a German person what the best channel on German television is, it is quite plausible that they would also reply: Arte. “How is this possible?” you, the Briton, may well ask. Well, it all comes down to France’s and Germany’s approach to the European Union – an approach quite different from the rather radical one favoured by the United Kingdom.

At the end of the 1980s, the Eastern Bloc was breaking into a multitude of independent countries, a reunification between East and West Germany seemed more and more likely, and France and Germany were trying to show strong unity in the construction of the European Union to counter Margaret Thatcher’s opposition. It was in this context that, in 1988, German chancellor Helmut Kohl and French president François Mitterrand, both ardent believers in the European project, met at the 52nd Franco-German summit where they decided to create a television channel funded in equal proportion by the two states, and with the ambition of becoming a proper European project. Continue reading

From cabaret to the Nuremberg trials

The shortlist for this year’s Diagram Prize for the oddest book title of the year was announced last week, with the winner to be declared on 28 July. Last year’s winner of the prize was Too naked for the Nazis by Alan Stafford (C212.c.7711), a biography of the music hall dance act Wilson, Keppel and Betty. As a Germanophile, this title caught my eye but I was then pleased to find further German connections as Betty Knox, the original Betty, got to know Erika Mann, the daughter of Thomas Mann.

The explanation of the book’s title is that in the mid-1930s the trio had performed in Berlin and Joseph Goebbels, propaganda minister, had been in the audience. He found the bare legs of Wilson and Keppel (skinny and with bony knees, part of the humour of the act) to be indecent and bad for the morals of the Nazi youth. Continue reading

“Not so much as a loin-cloth”

The World Naked bike ride comes to Cambridge for the third time on Saturday and this prompted me to think about how differing attitudes to nudity across Europe would be reflected in the University Library’s collections. Further research revealed that our holdings are reasonably strong in English, French and German but almost non-existent in other languages. I think this in itself is an indication of the places where naturist movements have been more prevalent or of more interest. Indeed it was Germany and France that led the way in the early 20th century with organised nudist groups.

In Germany, naturism is still referred to as FKK, short for Freikörperkultur, a movement led by Adolf Koch during the 1920s and 1930s. Nacktheit und Kultur: Adolf Koch und die proletarische Freikörperkultur (C207.c.1308) by Andrey Georgieff and Freikörperkultur und Lebenswelt: Studien zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte der Freikörperkultur in Deutschland (416.d.99.13) tell more of this story. For an English language analysis see Naked Germany: health, race and the nation (570:35.c.200.52) by Chad Ross. During the East German regime FKK was particularly popular, perhaps as a way of displaying individuality in a somewhat restrictive State, and differences between the former East and West are still noticeable today. Continue reading

New Weimar on the Pacific

This post is written by David Lowe, who retired from our department in April.  We hope it is the first of many retirement-era contributions.

When in August 2001 the University Library acquired its copy of Roland Jaeger’s New Weimar on the Pacific: the Pazifische Presse and German exile publishing in Los Angeles, 1942-48 (862.c.504), a history of the small private press which published eleven German language titles between 1942 and 1948, we had none of the books in the collection.  That omission has now been partly rectified, and in recent years we have bought four titles, three of them presented by the Friends of the Library from the legacy of Mrs Margaret Green, wife of the former Schröder Professor of German Dennis Green.

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