My visitors today

Monday 3 November 2014

Keeping in touch

Sinnwell Tower, Nürnberg, December 2014

BBC Radio 4 has come up tops again!

This time it is not because of keeping me in touch with my home, but by helping me to understand better my adopted home. In Germany: Memories of a Nation I have been listening to Neil MacGregor, British art historian and museum director, describing historical aspects of Germany that make Germany what it is. Things that sometimes go past unnoticed as part of my day to day living but some things that are definitely a part of it.

I have learnt more about the German car industry, the engineering, about Bauhaus, porcelain, Albrecht Dürer (whose house is just out of sight from my front door), about the concentration camp Buchenwald in Weimar, and more.

Today I am listening to Germans Expelled, that began with a description of a Bollerwagon, ( that certainly is part of anyone’s life who works with children, but the programme soon went on to  discuss the forced movement of over 12 million people after 1945, many of who had their lives packed up on a Bollerwagen. One very close member of my German family was one of these people forced to move. Before joining the Merchant Navy when war broke out he had lived in Sudentenland –

He returned home, when peace came, to see his mother but he was urged to leave again immediately. His story goes that after two days with his family he ‘borrowed’ a bike and just started riding into Bavaria, so no Bollerwagen and no life packed up and taken with him, just a blanket roll and a bike. After several days and the loss of the bike which meant long walks, he landed in a rural area just east of Nürnberg where he subsequently met his wife, and where he remained until his death in 2008.

Just a few years after his marriage he was reunited with his mother, who became a regular visitor at the couple’s new home in Nürnberg.

This personal story is one of 12 million similar tales and listening today I was reminded of it. I also heard some more about this history and learnt a few of the bits in between too, something about the political decisions made at the time, and about the desolation of these millions of displaced people, something that perhaps understandably I personally had never been told about.

I hope that I will find time before 25th January 2015 to take a look at the exhibition at the British Museum of the same name –  Germany: Memories of a Nation, 600-year old history in objects –

If you get a chance do listen to the BBC Radio 4 programmes which is broadcast three times a day 00.30, 9.45 and 20.45 –


I have the day off and after listening to the German programme I left the radio on. Now I have another treat, British nurses off to Mauritius in the 1920s, this is also of personal interest as it is where my Great Uncle John worked for the government after his Army services with the Gurkhas in the Second World War.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I think that it is only in recent years that the British (some of them anyway) have become aware of the terrible sufferings of so many German people in the latter years of the Second War, and afterwards. I suspect that it will take many more years yet for this to soak thoroughly into our national consciousness. Given the thorough and largely unsympathetic soaking that British consciousness of Germany has had over the course of my lifetime, such a new wave might cause considerable cognitive dissonance.

So keep up the good work, Susie.

Maybe it is easier for Americans. Germans paid such a big role in helping establish American in the first place and the American culture's owes correspondingly much to the Germans.

I thought of this because of your mention of the Bollerwagon. These were not of course exclusively German – I certainly had something like that in England during the Second War (it was wooden and painted yellow, and contained white, wooden milk bottles) but I should hardly think that such things would be chosen to help epitomise our own culture. In America, though, I suspect that Radio Flyer's Little Red Wagon, especially in its original, iconic form, might raise no eyebrows if proposed as a cultural icon: