The History Show

    Sunday, 6pm

    The Irish and World War One

    This August will mark the centenary of the start of World War One. We will be commemorating this anniversary on The History Show with special programmes and short items telling the stories of Irish people who were involved in the war. We will also be examining what was happening here during these turbulent years.

    Do you have relatives who were involved in the First World War? We would like to hear their stories. Email: history@rte.ie

    The History Show Sunday 26 January 2014

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    The History Show

    Bringing the past to life! Discover how our world was shaped as Myles Dungan and guests explore events ranging from medieval times to the recent past
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    History Haunts Dachau

    We began the programme with an eyewitness account from Audrey Magee of an encounter at Dachau Concentration Camp which illustrates how Germany's Nazi atrocities still haunt descendants and bystanders alike.  Audrey's essay appears below.

    A Dachau Encounter

    by Audrey Magee

    On a hot summer’s day in 1987, the American Jewish man and I stood outside the gates of Dachau, the Nazi concentration camp on the outskirts of Munich. The gates were shut. It was Monday and the camp was closed to visitors.

    The American man was upset. His relatives had died there, behind those gates, behind those walls, and he had promised his family that he would visit the camp during his tour of Europe, to pay tribute to their lives, abruptly and brutally ended. But the camp was closed and he was due to return to the United States the following day, his promise unfulfilled.

    To soothe him, I suggested that we walk around the perimeter of the camp. We set off, eyes on the thick, grey concrete and electrical fence that had encased his family members. I don’t remember much conversation until we came across an older woman tending to her garden that abutted the camp wall. She stopped her work to talk, glad of the company. She had no English, he had no German, so I interpreted between the two, the conversation flowing its usual course until she mentioned that she had lived in that place all her life. The garden and the house that stood in its midst had been her only home.

    The American struggled to absorb this detail. And asked me to check again. Yes, she had slept in that house while the camp was in operation. She had eaten breakfast, then lunch, then dinner while his relatives starved. While thousands were gassed and murdered. There were 32,000 documented deaths at Dachau. Thousands more unrecorded deaths. All on the other side of the wall from her home. The American man was struggling.

    She shrugged her shoulders. I knew nothing, she said. He shook his head. It was not possible that she knew nothing. She had to have known. There were trucks going in and out, trains, bodies burning, people screaming. She must have known something. I knew nothing, she said. And what could I have done?

    He listed the things she could have done. She shrugged her shoulders again. He became more upset. And began to shout. You should have done something, he said. You should have stopped it. What could I have done? she said, over and over, I didn’t know anything.

    And so it went on, a young American Jewish man shouting at an older German woman, both of them holding fast to their positions, aware that to let go, to cede even a centimetre, was a betrayal – for him a betrayal of his family, for her a betrayal of her claim to innocence. As long as she knew nothing, she was impervious, shuttered against and safe from the opinions of the outside world. The lines were drawn, with no chance of reconciliation. It was a difficult, fraught, exhausting encounter, and impossible to forget.

    He returned to the United States the following day, and I went back to Dachau, to pay tribute to his relatives. The woman was not in her garden that day.

     Audrey Magee's novel, The Undertaking published by Atlantic will be available nationwide on 6 February.

    Desperate to escape the Eastern front, Peter Faber, an ordinary German soldier, marries Katharina Spinell, a woman he has never met; it is a marriage of convenience that promises 'honeymoon' leave for him and a pension for her should he die on the front. With ten days' leave secured, Peter visits his new wife in Berlin; both are surprised by the attraction that develops between them. When Peter returns to the horror of the front, it is only the dream of Katharina that sustains him as he approaches Stalingrad. Back in Berlin, Katharina, goaded on by her desperate and delusional parents, ruthlessly works her way into the Nazi party hierarchy, wedding herself, her young husband and their unborn child to the regime. But when the tide of war turns and Berlin falls, Peter and Katharina, ordinary people stained with their small share of an extraordinary guilt, find their simple dream of family increasingly hard to hold on to...
     
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    How Germany is facing its role in World War II

    As early as 1946, the German philosopher Karl Jaspers said that the Germans would have to live with the guilt for the atrocities committed but that, at some stage, it would be more important that they developed a sense of responsibility for what had been done.  

    German natives, Georg Grote of University College Dublin and Peter Arnds of Trinity College discussed how German society and individuals have come to terms with the atrocities of the Nazi regime. 

    Georg and Peter spoke about their different backgrounds and addressed areas such as:

    Whether there was much discussion of the atrocities of World War II when Georg and Peter were growing up.

    Society's silence in the late 1940s and 1950s.

    The experience of the German Jews who survived the war. 

    Different views of the war and issues of collective guilt East and West of the Berlin wall?

    The turning point in terms of strting a discussion in Germany about the atrocities of the Nazi regime.

    The historians’ debate in the 1980s?

    When it emerged amongst ordinary Germans that perhaps it was not only people on the front line who were responsible for the atrocities committed.

    How the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany posed its own problems with 'working through the past.'

    How literature and art came to terms with the Germany's past.

    Survivors of the generation who were involved in the war are now very elderly – and time is running out to hear their stories.   Have most of those stories been heard?

    Is there a central archive where personal memories of the war are being stored for future generations?

    Is there a view in Germany that the Holocaust was a unique event?

    The legacy of this period of history in Germany. 

    Georg Grote is co-publisher of a book on the issue (with Anne Fuchs and Mory Cosgrove) of German Memory Contests. The Quest for Identity in German Film, Literature and Discourse since 1990. Camden House, N.Y. 2006.

    Peter Arnds has worked extensively in the area of how literature has come to terms with the German past, how the Holocaust can be represented/depicted in the arts, from taboo breaking Holocaust laughter to Primo Levi's testimony, Guenter Grass and W. G. Sebald, but also in French literature.

    Nobel Laureate Guenter Grass and his attempt to depict the war years, especially also Nazi euthanasia, in his famous novel 'The Tin Drum' (1959).   http://www.camden-house.com/store/viewItem.asp?idProduct=11556

    Peter Arnd’s Jewish-American uncle's memoir about his escape from Breslau when the Nazis occupied Poland.  http://polarbearandco.com/books/my_tainted_blood/blurbs.htm

     Relevant articles by Peter Arnds

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/3252212

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/407730

     

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    Nazi Art Looters

    Boulevard Montmartre, Matinee de Printemps painted by

    Camille Pissarro 1897.

    The above painting is among the artworks looted by the Nazis during the Third Reich regime.   It was originally owned by Max Milerberg, a German Jewish Industrialist who had one of the most impressive art collections in pre-war Germany.  He died in Auschwitz during the Holocaust.  It will be auctioned by Sotheby's on 5 February with an estimated price of €12 million.

    Between the 1930s and the early forties, Hitler masterminded the biggest theft of fine art in history when countless works belonging to museums and private Jewish collections were looted by the Nazis.

    Historian, Lisa Marie Griffith who has been tracing the story of the stolen art joined Myles on the programme.

    Examples of some paintings looted by Nazis

    Extract from Sotheby's Catalogue note on Le Boulevard Montmartre, matinée de printemps

    Le Boulevard Montmartre, matinée de printemps comes from the collection of Max Silberberg (1878-1942), an industrialist based in Breslau and the owner of one of the finest pre-war collections of 19th and 20th Century art in Germany. Alongside magnificent examples of classic French Impressionism by Manet, Monet, Renoir and Sisley.

    Silberberg also collected masterpieces of Realism and Post-Impressionism including several works by Delacroix and Courbet together with paintings by Cézanne and van Gogh.

    A prominent member of the business community and a generous patron of Jewish causes, by 1935 Silberberg was forced to relinquish his public roles, his company was Aryanised and sold, and his house was occupied by the SS. The collector was forced by the Nazi authorities to consign most of his wonderful collection, including the present work, to a series of auctions at Paul Graupe’s auction house in Berlin in 1935 and 1936. Le Boulevard Montmartre, matinée de printemps was subsequently acquired by John and Frances L. Loeb, passionate supporters of Jewish and cultural charitable organisations. In 1985, the Loebs promised the painting to The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, in honour of its founder Teddy Kollek and on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, and bequeathed it to The Israel Museum in 1997 through the American Friends of The Israel Museum. In 2000 the museum returned the present work to the heir of Max Silberberg, who – as a gesture of appreciation for the museum’s exemplary efforts on her behalf - allowed the work to remain on public display in Jerusalem until her death in 2013.

    http://www.lootedart.com

    Click here for full Sothebys catalogue

    The film, The Monuments Men starring George Clooney which tells the story of the unit who were sent by the Allies to Germany to recover stolen art opens on the 14th of February.  

     Article on the Monuments Men from the Smithsonian Institute

    How Monuments Men Saved Italy's Treasures

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    Personal Testimony of Concentration Camp survivor, Philip Bialowitz

    National Holocaust Memorial Day (26 January) is an opportunity to remember the genocide of over six million Jews during World War II. 

    Philip Bialowitz is one of eight living survivors of the Nazi death camp in Sobibór, Poland, where an estimated 250,000 people perished between 1942 and 1943. There, the sixteen year old Philip joined a small group of Jewish prisoners who overpowered their captors and freed approximately 200 of the camp’s 600 slave labourers. Liam Geraghty met with him, to hear his story. 

    Philip Bialowitz's book 'A Promise at Sobibor: A Jewish Boy's Story of Revolt and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland' is available from Amazon.

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    Nazi war criminal, Andrija Artukovic - files uncovered by Michael Kennedy

    In January 2007, Cathal O’Shannon’s documentary, Hidden History: Ireland's Nazis, was broadcast by RTÉ as a two-part series.  It explored how a number of former Nazis and Nazi collaborators from Occupied Europe went to live in Ireland after the Second World War. 

    Most significant of these was Andrija Artukovic, the former interior minister of the Ustace-run Nazi puppet state in Croatia during World War II.   He landed here in 1947.

    There remains huge speculation as to how Andrija Artukovic made it to Ireland from Switzerland and how he stayed here unnoticed for a year and how he then made it to the US on Irish documents.

    Recently declassified files government files both here and in Switzerland add a whole new dimension to the story.

    Historian, Michael Kennedy of the Royal Irish Academy discussed what he uncovered in these files which give us a fairly complete and totally new story on Andrija Artukovic.

    These files show how the Swiss gave him a false identity and knew who he was. The Franciscan's in Fribourg sent him to the Irish legation in Bern to get papers to travel to Ireland and the Irish authorities, having no idea who Andrija Artukovic actually was, let him in, with his wife and kids and a 'minder'.  The 'minder' being Fr Louis Ivandich.

    Andrija Artukovic was seen as a catholic fleeing communism, not as a war criminal, and so, he was allowed in.  This being in the era of the show trials of Cardinal Stepinac and later Mindzenty.

    After a year in Ireland (1947-48)  Andrija Artukovic turned in his Swiss documentation for Irish aliens documentation and headed off from Shannon to the USA.

    When he eventually applied for US citizenship using his real name, the penny dropped in the USA and also in Dublin.  

    The Department of Foreign Affairs said that on no circumstances was he to be let back to Ireland, adding that we had been hoodwinked.

     

    He was eventually extradited to Yugoslavia and died there awaiting execution. 

     

    About The Show

    Bringing the past to life! Discover how our world was shaped as Myles Dungan and guests explore events ranging from medieval times to the recent past.

    We want to help explain ourselves to ourselves. We will search out fresh angles on familiar topics, seek out the unfamiliar and will not shy away from bizarre or controversial issues. Our ultimate goal is to make The History Show the primary port of call for those with an intense or even a modest interest in the subject. We want to entice the casual and the curious to join us in celebrating the past.

    Our aim is to create informative, reflective, stimulating and above all, entertaining radio.

    So do join us on Sundays from 6.05pm for The History Show with Myles Dungan on RTÉ Radio 1.

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