Monday 8 April 2024

Resisting Hitler


I’m exploring this quite a bit now as I prepare to write my final Schellberg Cycle novel.

There is a sort of hierarchy in the resistance:

Grumbling behind closed doors

Giving lip service only to the “rules” – Hans Edler’s ‘Heil Edler’ is an example of this.  

Turning a blind eye to others not obeying the rules

Dragging feet on new initiatives  – as  Hans Edler  did with the fabrication of the V2.  

Some Christian resistance – we have examples of this in the Cycle.

Overtly disobeying

Protest marches

Taking huge risks secretly: e.g. hiding Jews  

Satire – this will figure hugely in my final book.

Some left-wing organisation existed – The Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party  

Some youth organisations – such as the White Rose.

Resistance even within the armed forces.

Resistance outside of Germany  

Attempts on his life  

Monday 25 March 2024

Be Grateful for Your Freedom


We may grumble about our current politicians and I’m certainly getting fed up of this routine where one party raises themselves up only by pushing other people down. We all know that there is a limited amount anyone can do because of the circumstances they face so that sort of behaviour becomes tedious.

Compared with some many we really have it quite good.

We can move freely in our world and even though we might think freedom of speech has taken a bit of a knock we’re tending to debate what it actually means rather than curb it. We are rarely yet punished for what we think. Yes there have been a few warnings recently but compared with many we do have it easy.

Let’s get back to what it must have bene like for the people in this cycle.   

Clara Lehrs didn’t believe that it was actually happening. Humans could never be so cruel, could they? Oh yes they could and it didn’t stop. Look how the Jews in that regime gradually had their freedom taken away.

Thy were distrusted.

Then they were despised.

They couldn’t work

They couldn’t shop

They couldn’t be educated

Then they were imprisoned.

Then came the final solution and they were all killed.    

Freedom is fragile and could disappear at any moment. So let’s take head of those warnings and cherish our freedom.  We may not have it forever.     

Thursday 14 March 2024

Types of Leadership

I’m actually writing two sets of novels at the moment. The one that is talked about here and one for older young adults that is set far in the future.

And they’re crossing over at the moment.

Science fiction anyway often deals with the problems that we face currently and objectifies our own world.

There are several patterns of leadership in our current world:

Democratically elected presidents

Dictatorship (including benign dictators)


Alongside the head of state there is often a prime minister.

Many people today just don’t know how to vote in a democracy.  Not one party seems to offer a completely acceptable solution. Politics often descends into personal brawls with one  party scoring points against the other nd sometime it almost becomes personal. A benign dictator might be the most we could hope for.

What of monarchy in the UK? There have been times recently when I’ve thought that Elizabeth II or Charles III might make a better fist of looking after us than all our democratically elected leaders have in the past few years.

In my futuristic novel the head of state of one people dies.  She is called the President and the title is hereditary. She has just one child, a young girl, seven years old.  There is a protocol for when this happens. The dying president appoints the protagonist as the one who should represent the new young president. Fortunately Petri has enhanced diplomatic skills and is able to bring harmony between the people she now represents and her own people.

If only real life would follow fiction.          

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Stalin, Animal Farm, George Orwell and the Holocaust


George Orwell’s Animal Farm is only 30,000 words long and yet it packs a lot in. Earlier this month we went to see a production of it at which there were several school groups. My impression was that they were all possibly too young to understand it and I worried that they might not concentrate. I was wrong: even though they were noisy at first they were enthralled from the moment the play started.

Orwell wrote the book between 1943 and 1944 but it wasn’t published until 1945 despite its relevance to society then and indeed to any society.  The problem was that it looked as if it was talking about Stalin and Stalin had just become an ally.

There is a reverence to the Holocaust but could Orwell have known and indeed isn’t it really a universal reference? Boxer becomes weak and less useful and is carted off in a van marked “slaughterhouse.”

“It isn’t what it seems,” says Napoleon (and what a name that is). Is that the equivalent of a Nazi lie or indeed any lie in politics when the truth needs to be covered up?

Food becomes short on the farm and there is a hint that it was perhaps better when Jones (the farmer) was still in charge.  Mollie wants to go back to wearing ribbons (animals are not allowed to wear clothes). Would they in fact be better off with a benign dictator than the democracy they try to create?

Leadership goes to the heads of those who have put themselves in charge; they start fraternizing with humans, they change the rules – alcohol is now allowed as long as it is in moderation and animals may sleep in beds as long as they don’t have sheets.  They start walking around on two legs where before they had said four legs were superior to two legs.

They become capitalist; they have to produce goods that they can sell so that they can buy in labour and materials in order to rebuild a mill.

And the biggest change is that all are no longer equal because some are more equal than others.

Democracy dies as the leaders become dilators and no longer hold open meetings.

There is a feeling of inevitability about this. It all started out with good intentions. The animals were to rule themselves and this was going to be better than what Farmer Jones had offered. Yet they have to make compromises on their goals.  And the mill’s lack of success isn’t just down to lack of materials and labour – bad weather also plays a part and we should remember it is only being rebuilt because a neighbouring farmer has sabotaged it.  

So often political leaders in the end can only do what circumstances allow them to do. Out of fear for their status they begin to impose harsher rules on people. Is there that much difference between a far left totalitarian society and a far right dictatorship?

Friday 9 February 2024

Pogroms, asylum seekers, happiness seekers


A member of my creative writing group wrote a very moving piece based very loosely on her family. She wrote of a time when two million Jews fled or rather were forced to emigrate from Russia 1880 -1920. Clara’s Story starts as a time like that in Germany has ended and any persecution of Jews has been made illegal. We know that that particular peace did not last long. My creative writing group member really took us into the time and place and made us understand what that way of life felt like. This is another example of creative writing being a tool for uncovering what we don’t know.  We take what we do know, our humanity, and say how that humanity will react if this or that happens.

Her other piece was a newspaper article about the people who arrive in boats. These are people wo are so scared of the regime they have left, where their lives may be under threat , that they are willing to pay the high prices to exploitive gangs and put their lives at risk  in another way by crossing the sea dangerously. Asylum seekers are not illegal immigrants. However we don’t know who the people are in the boats until we process them.

Jennifer Burkinshaw’s Happiness Seeker features Mareno who has come illegally to the UK simply because there is no work in his homeland. Simply? Wait. There being no work is huge. How are people supposed to support themselves if they can’t find work?

As the people in my creative writer’s story began to leave their already quite poor homes I was actually reminded of John Steinbek’s The Grapes of Wrath. They too were “happiness seekers” but what else could they do if their farms were no longer viable and there was no work available locally?

Many factors can lead to people becoming displaced. Having a home, feeling safe at home, and being able to sustain a home are important. We all do what we can to maintain that. We are or should be grateful for it and it may be worth taking a few moments to reflect on what it might feel like if that were suddenly taken away from us.

We should also remember those displaced people are often or often become very resourceful and creative and thereby also become an asset to the community they eventually join.            

Friday 26 January 2024

The Nazi Attitude to Art


We need to remember first of all that Hitler was a failed artist. He didn’t manage to get into art school after applying twice and he spent a lot of his time before he became the great dictator painting pictures on post cards. He liked Romanticism and detested modern art.  For him painting had to be realistic and heroic.

A main concern for the Nazis was getting rid of Jewish influence in art.  For this reason they admired classical art, Greek and Roman, as this had no Jewish input. They also despised art produced by homosexuals and communist artists.

Much modern art and what we may now label “modernism” was condemned as being “degenerate”.  Expressionism was particularly despised. Also classed as “degenerate” was what we refer to as Cubism, Dada, Fauvism and Surrealism. Works by Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse were destroyed.  

In Munich in 1937 there was an exhibition of “Entartete Kunst” which showed much of the “degenerate” art deliberately displayed in chaotic manner to discredit it. This includes work from Klee and Kandinsky. The Nazis had confiscated 650 modern paintings, graphic works and sculptures from 32 museums.

Meanwhile, around the corner at the respected Haus der Deutschen Kunst there was a more sober exhibition of Nazi approved artists.

In the 1940s, the Nazis compiled a list of favoured artists. These were considered to be ‘divinely gifted’.  42,000 artist were given government approval and had to register with the Reich Chamber of Visual Arts. They were not allowed to be “politically” unreliable and could be expelled if they were deemed to be so, A tribunal was created in 1936.

One favoured sculptor was Arno Breker who produced between 1933 and 1945works that resembled Greek sculptures. He continued to work on this style into the 1950s.  

The Reichskulturkammer was established in 1933. This was to promote the Aryan race through art. This marked the end for the Bauhaus art school and movement, situated in Weimar, Dessau and Bernau. The Bauhaus created what might be called German modernism and which became by Nazi definition degenerate. The Bauhaus also fostered the idea of a community of artists working together. It was in its time the most progressive school of art known.  

Art was used to create propaganda posters:

The work produced by the Nazis was classical and a little dull.         

Much of the Nazi produced art still exists and there has been a call for a work by Adolf Ziegler to be taken down.  Ziegler  persecuted Jews and “degenerate” artists. The work ‘The Four Elements’ is displayed in Munich’s Pintothek museum    

The Nazis also stole great works of art from Jewish owners. Some valuable works of art were hidden and served as a  type of investment. This led to some talented artists producing forgeries in order to keep the original out of Nazi hands. Many British artistic treasures were hidden inside mountains in Wales in case of a German invasion.

Tuesday 9 January 2024

Max Hermann Maier:In uns verwoben, tief and wunderbar –Erinnerungen an Deutschland

This was written and published in 1975 and by then Max Hermann Maier was in his eighties.

The story is perhaps familiar: a man who considers himself to be German volunteers to fight for Germany in the Great War, does his part, is even offered promotion and then a few years later is persecuted. During the war he is even asked to be baptised to secure his promotion.  A Jew was not allowed to become an officer. He chooses to remain Jewish.

The title means “Memories of Germany” and he does speak in a neutral tone about much of what happened until he and his wife emigrated to Brazil.  His university career is particularly interesting; he enjoyed the famous German academic freedom, spending one semester here and another there.

Unfortunately the text is quite heavy going. There are many paragraphs that go over several pages. The stories lack any real emotion. He doesn’t tell us much about the horrors of the First World War and we don’t really feel his fear as the Gestapo close in.

There are some revealing moments, however.  We learn about some of the wonderful walking holidays he enjoyed with his wife and friends.

We also learn that they had many German friends who looked out for them and many of their other Jewish friends.

I was also fascinated to read that his wife studied with Käthe Lehrs and that he knew one of her cousins Ernst Löwenthal.

Sadly this book is now out of print. There are a few copies around, however.

See on Amazon