Oettingen Press

Munich

As an online introduction to each city featured on our tours, we provide excerpts of music, literature, art and film.

We started with films about music (Budapest) and art (Vienna) and how they represent efforts at resistance and justice. For Prague and Munich we move to films about direct resistance to Nazi power in those cities.

The White Rose refers to a small group of students at the University of Munich who launched a resistance movement against the Nazi regime. A German film about the circle of students and their grim fate was directed by Michael Verhoeven and released in 1982.

Because this title doesn't seem to be readily available for purchase or streaming, we provide this YouTube link:

As a city Munich figures most prominently within the milieu of modernism as the birthplace of "The Blaue Reiter," the circle of artists including Vassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, August Macke and Gabriele Münter who forged new paths in German Expressionist painting. Their work makes up the bulk of the permanent collection at the Lenbachhaus in Munich. Our tour will certainly include a visit to the museum, which also houses Arnold Schoenberg's self-portrait.

For our first musical feature for Munich we point our followers in the direction of Carl Orff (1895-1982) who is known widely (even if not by name)  for his setting of "O Fortuna" used in numerous films and other media and also performed often as part of the full cantata, Carmina Burana. As a Bavarian born in Munich, Orff was attracted to themes and texts having to do with Bavarian history and this is how older medieval texts - some even in Bavarian dialect - made their way into his cantatas. His other large choral and stage works are less known perhaps because his musical career overlapped with the Nazi regime in Germany. Two short musical theater works ("World Theater" is how Orff titled them) that are based on Grimm's fairy tales and often paired together are Der Mond from 1939 and Die Kluge from 1943. The titles link to historical performances captured on YouTube. The first is a production at the Gärtnerplatztheater in Munich under the direction of Kurt Eichborn. (The credits list the original cast not the recording's.) 

If it's difficult to imagine how these works came into being at the height of World War II in Germany, this informative website, Music and the Holocaust, provides brief biographical sketches for numerous figures and how the Nazi regime impacted their lives and careers. (The link goes to Carl Orff's bio, which even relates back to the mention of the White Rose above though apparently tangentially.)

Another composer whose music will be studied on the tour is Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944), who was a prisoner of the Theresienstadt concentration camp and died at Auschwitz in 1944. Below is the first movement of his Seventh Piano Sonata composed in 1944 at Theresienstadt. It should be mentioned that "Music and the Holocaust" only mentions three piano sonatas by Ullmann though all seven are published by Schott. Obviously, other mistakes may exist on the website. 

An important excursion during our days in Munich will be to the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site and to the Max Mannheimer Study Centre nearby. In addition to our publication A Diary Delayed (which is provided to all participants on the tour), the audio guide that the Memorial Site provides to visitors includes detailed information about specific sites and markers within the camp and an extraordinary amount of additional audio featuring accounts by survivors about various aspects of the camp.

Another Munich author well known in Bavaria but virtually unknown outside of Germany is Oskar Maria Graf. Despite his immigration to New York during World War II, his books never had the success in translation that they did in German. Graf is known for his outspoken protest against Nazi book burnings in the early years of the Third Reich. Even though Nazi leadership looked favorably on Graf's writings and he would have escaped persecution that other writers faced, he implored the authorities to burn his books in a stance of solidarity with his fellow writers. Below are some reproductions of items from a recent exhibit on Oskar Maria Graf in Munich.

A reproduction of Graf's call to burn his books, "Verbrennt Mich!", in the Vienna Workers Newspaper (May 12, 1933)

An excerpt of Graf's report on Dachau as a prison for writers, journalists and other opponents of the Nazi regime.  

Though it is not specifically set in Munich, the award-winning film The White Ribbon (2009) fits our course theme as it points to the decline of aristocracy and the advent of war through a series of crimes and their aftermath set in a small town in northern Germany.