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Germany: Memories of a Nation Podcast Profile

Germany: Memories of a Nation Podcast

English, History, 1 season, 30 episodes, 6 hours, 57 minutes
Presented by British Museum director Neil MacGregor, this 30-part series explores 600 years of Germany's complex and often challenging history, using objects, art, landmarks and literature.
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Neil MacGregor began his journey through 600 years of German history at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, and ends it at the Reichstag, seat of the German Parliament. These two extraordinary buildings, only a few hundred yards apart, carry in their very stones the political history of the country. Neil talks to architect Norman Foster, who in 1992 won the commission to restore the Reichstag, when Germany's Parliament returned to Berlin in the wake of re-unification. Producer Paul Kobrak.
11/7/201413 minutes, 53 seconds
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Barlach's Angel

Neil MacGregor focuses on Ernst Barlach's sculpture Hovering Angel, a unique war memorial, commissioned in 1926 to hang in the cathedral in Güstrow. Producer Paul Kobrak.
11/6/201414 minutes
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The New German Jews

After concentration camps like Buchenwald and extermination camps like Auschwitz, it seemed that the story of Jews in Germany must come to a full stop at the end of the war. Why would any Jew in 1945, or in 1965 for that matter, see any part of their future in Germany? But remarkably Germany today has the fastest-growing Jewish population in Western Europe. Neil MacGregor visits a synagogue in Offenbach, near Frankfurt, which was inaugurated in 1956 and has been greatly enlarged in the years since then. Producer Paul Kobrak.
11/5/201414 minutes, 6 seconds
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Out of the Rubble

Neil MacGregor talks to a Trümmerfrau, a woman who cleared rubble from the streets of Berlin in 1945, and focuses on a sculpture by Max Lachnit, a portrait of a Trümmerfrau made from hundreds of pieces of rubble. Neil also examines the role the launch of the Deutsch Mark played in the re-building of Germany. Producer Paul Kobrak.
11/4/201413 minutes, 56 seconds
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The Germans Expelled

Neil MacGregor focuses on a small hand-cart to tell the story of the forced movement of more than 12 million Germans, who fled or were forced out of Central and Eastern Europe after 1945. For many, the only way of transporting their possessions was a hand-cart, as they walked to parts of Germany they had never seen before. And Neil also reflects on the 1949 Berlin staging of Brecht's play Mother Courage, examining a model of the production's set. Fiona Shaw, who has played the title role, discusses how the image of Mother Courage pulling her cart, amidst the devastation of war, became one of the most memorable stage pictures of the 20th century. Producer Paul Kobrak.
11/3/201413 minutes, 54 seconds
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At the Buchenwald Gate

Neil MacGregor visits Buchenwald, one of the earliest and largest concentration camps. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/31/201414 minutes, 6 seconds
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Purging the Degenerate

Neil MacGregor examines how the Nazis attacked art they viewed as 'entartet' - degenerate. He charts how Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, led a process designed to purify all German culture, including books, music, paintings and pottery. The programme focuses on a vase created by Grete Marks, with an evident debt to Chinese ceramics, and a loose brush-splashed glaze suggestive of modernist painting. Goebbels condemned this vase in his newspaper Der Angriff - The Attack. Grete Marks, who was Jewish and had trained at the Bauhaus, left Germany for England. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/30/201414 minutes
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Money in Crisis

Neil MacGregor examines the emergency money - Notgeld - created during World War One and its aftermath. Small denomination coins began to disappear because their metal was worth more than their face value. People hoarded them or melted them down. Paper notes replaced coins, but as cities produced their own money, there was also currency made from porcelain, linen, silk, leather, wood, coal, cotton and playing cards. He also focuses on the crisis of hyperinflation in the early 1920s. At its peak, prices doubled every three and a half days, and in 1923 a 500 million mark note might buy a loaf of bread. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/29/201413 minutes, 59 seconds
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Kathe Kollwitz: Suffering Witness

Neil MacGregor focuses on the art of Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945), who expresses the loss and suffering of war, especially after the death of her younger son Peter at the front in 1914. Neil MacGregor argues that she is one of the greatest German artists. Like no other artist of the time, Kollwitz gave voice to the overwhelming sense of personal loss felt by ordinary Germans - the loss of a whole generation, the loss of political stability and of individual dignity. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/28/201414 minutes, 1 second
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Bismarck the Blacksmith

Neil MacGregor charts the career of Otto von Bismarck (1815-98), known as the Iron Chancellor: he argued that the great questions of the day should be decided by 'iron and blood'. Bismarck was disliked and feared by foreigners, and reviled by liberals at home for his authoritarianism, but among many sections of the German population, he was a hero. At his death, monuments were erected across the whole country by public subscription, but Bismarck could also be brought into your own home. Small statues of Bismarck came in many guises, but few are more striking than the little bronze and plaster figure belonging to the German Historical Museum in Berlin, showing Bismarck the Blacksmith. Bald-headed, sleeves rolled up, wearing a leather apron and wielding his hammer, the middle-aged Bismarck is at his forge, the trusty village blacksmith. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/27/201414 minutes, 6 seconds
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Bauhaus: Cradle of the Modern

Neil MacGregor focuses on the Bauhaus school of art and design, founded in Weimar in 1919. Our cities and houses today, our furniture and typography, are unthinkable without the functional elegance pioneered by the Bauhaus. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/24/201414 minutes, 2 seconds
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From Clock to Car: Masters of Metal

Neil MacGregor focuses on the long tradition of German metalwork, from finely-engineered clocks to the Volkswagen Beetle. German gold and silversmiths were established as the best in the world, but it was for the making of scientific instruments that Germany's workers of the other metals were especially renowned. They worked across a whole range of disciplines at the highest level, combining academic, scientific and practical skills with mathematics and creative artistry. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/23/201413 minutes, 46 seconds
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Porcelain: The White Gold of Saxony

Neil MacGregor focuses on how 18th century German chemists discovered the secrets of Chinese porcelain, known then as 'white gold' - translucent, fine-glazed, and much-coveted. Porcelain became a lucrative source of income, and was used for prestigious diplomatic gifts. The Meissen porcelain factory remained one of the most prestigious parts of German manufacturing right up until 1945. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/22/201413 minutes, 51 seconds
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Dürer: An Artist for All Germans

Neil MacGregor focuses on the work of Dürer (1471-1528), arguing that he is the defining artist of Germany, his image - and his self-image - known to all Germans. He was a new kind of artist, clearly fascinated by himself, and the first great artist in Europe to paint so many self-portraits. He embodies the Renaissance idea of the artist as a hero and a star, the artist of a new world and a new technology. Dürer was also the first artist to sell his work widely throughout Europe. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/21/201413 minutes, 49 seconds
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Gutenberg: In the Beginning Was the Printer

Neil MacGregor examines the life and legacy of Johannes Gutenberg, who invented moveable type and pioneered the printing press. For many, it is the moment at which the modern world began, as the book as we know it was born. It is without doubt the point at which access to knowledge stopped being the privilege of the few. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/20/201413 minutes, 59 seconds
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1848: The People's Flag and Karl Marx

Neil MacGregor reflects on the events of 1848, when black, red and gold became the colours of the flag for a united Germany, and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published The Communist Manifesto. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/17/201413 minutes, 56 seconds
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Iron Nation

Neil MacGregor charts the role of iron in 19th century Prussia, an everyday metal whose uses included patriotic jewellery and the Iron Cross, a military decoration to honour all ranks. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/16/201413 minutes, 47 seconds
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Holbein and the Hansa

Neil MacGregor charts the rise and fall of the Hansa, or Hanseatic League, a great trading alliance of 90 cities, including Lübeck, Hamburg, Danzig, Riga and London. He also focuses on the role of the artist Hans Holbein the Younger, who painted portraits of Hansa merchants. 'If I had to choose one image to sum up the Hansa in its heyday,' says Neil MacGregor, 'It would be Holbein's 1532 portrait of Georg Gisze, a Danzig merchant trading in London.' The painting shows an expensively-dressed 33 year old man, his wealth and status indicated by a vase made of the finest, the thinnest Venetian glass, a small circular brass clock, certainly made in Southern Germany, and a Turkey carpet imported from the Levant. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/15/201413 minutes, 46 seconds
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Riemenschneider: Sculpting the Spirit

Neil MacGregor focuses on the religious sculptures of Riemenschneider (c1460- 1531), whose reputation as an artist has steadily risen. He is seen as a supreme sculptor, working in a peculiarly German medium, limewood, but articulating the sensibilities of a continent. And Neil MacGregor reveals why, as the war came to an end in 1945, the Nobel Prize-winning writer Thomas Mann identified Riemenschneider as a moral and political hero. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/14/201414 minutes, 1 second
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The Battle for Charlemagne

Neil MacGregor visits Aachen cathedral to examine the legacy of Charlemagne (c. 747-c. 814) - was he a great French ruler, or was he Charles the Great, a German? And what is the significance of a very fine replica of the Imperial Crown? Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/13/201413 minutes, 49 seconds
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One People, Many Sausages

Neil MacGregor focuses on two great emblems of Germany's national diet: beer and sausages. He visits Munich to find out how regional specialities represent centuries of regional history and diversity. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/10/201413 minutes, 52 seconds
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The Walhalla: Hall of Heroes

Neil MacGregor visits the Walhalla, one of the most idiosyncratic expressions of national identity in 19th century Europe - a temple to German-ness, modelled on the Parthenon, built high above the Danube in Bavaria. It honours almost 200 people, from early rulers and kings to composers, poets and scientists. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/9/201413 minutes, 56 seconds
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One Nation Under Goethe

Continuing his focus on the things which bind Germans together, Neil MacGregor examines the life and work of Goethe, the greatest of all German poets: "There is a case for arguing that if Americans are one nation under God, the Germans are one nation under Goethe. And there is no doubt that it was Goethe, more than anyone else, who made German a language read - and spoken - by educated Europe." Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/8/201414 minutes, 1 second
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Fairy Tales and Forests: The Grimms and Caspar David Friedrich

Continuing a week of programmes with a focus on the things which bind Germans together, Neil MacGregor reveals how the fairy tales collected by the Grimms and the landscape art of Caspar David Friedrich played a vital role in re-establishing an identity for German-speaking people who had been defeated by Napoleon. While the Grimms were studying the German language and the inner German-ness present in the folk-tales they collected, Friedrich used landscape as the external vision of being German. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/7/201414 minutes, 4 seconds
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Luther and a Language for All Germans

Neil MacGregor continues his series with a week of programmes with a focus on the things which bind Germans together - ranging from the importance of the great German writer Goethe, and the significance of the Grimm brothers' fairy tales, to the long-standing history of German beer and sausages. He begins with the story of how Martin Luther created the modern German language, through his translation of the Bible. Luther is often, in German history, seen as the Great Divider. His attacks on his opponents were pitiless, not least his writings against the Jews. But he is also, unquestionably, a great Uniter - almost single-handedly he created the modern German language which, in the centuries that followed, proved a unifying force during times of destruction and disintegration. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/6/201413 minutes, 57 seconds
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Fragments of Power

Neil MacGregor discovers how coins reveal the range and diversity of the Holy Roman Empire, with around 200 different currencies struck in the different territories of Germany. It's an extraordinarily immediate and physical way of grasping the complexity and the confusion of the Holy Roman Empire, because every coin represents a kind of sovereignty. To be able to strike a coin you needed to be the ruler in your territory - and every coin speaks of a particular state, with its particular laws and a whole set of traditions. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/3/201413 minutes, 45 seconds
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Strasbourg - Floating City

Neil MacGregor visits Strasbourg, now in France, but also a city with a key place in German history, culture and precision engineering, as revealed by a model of the cathedral clock, now in the British Museum. When the writer Goethe stood in front of Strasbourg's Cathedral, he discovered two things: the transporting, transforming force of Gothic architecture and one aspect of what it meant to him to be German. Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/2/201413 minutes, 36 seconds
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Kafka, Kant and Lost Capitals

Continuing the week's theme of Germany's floating frontiers, Neil MacGregor visits two cities now beyond Germany's present borders, but which played important roles in Germany's intellectual and literary history. Kaliningrad, on the Baltic, became part of the Soviet Union in 1945, and is now part of Russia. But for centuries it was Königsberg, a major Prussian city, and birthplace of the philosopher Immanuel Kant - and so central to the intellectual history of Germany. Neil also visits the Czech city of Prague, once home to a large German-speaking community, which included Franz Kafka, one of the most acclaimed writers in the German language. Today neither Russian-speaking Kaliningrad nor Czech-speaking Prague are in any sense German - but what is their place within the memories of Germany? Producer Paul Kobrak.
10/1/201413 minutes, 43 seconds
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Divided Heaven

Neil MacGregor examines the story of the two Germanys, East and West, created in 1949, through objects including a wet suit used in an escape attempt from the East in 1987, which was later used as a training device by the Stasi, the East German secret police. Neil also focuses on another Stasi training device, a model of Friedrichstrasse Station, a border crossing point in the divided Berlin, and reflects on the life and work of the East German writer Christa Wolf. Her novel Der Geteilte Himmel - The Divided Heaven, or The Divided Sky - was published in 1963, two years after the Berlin Wall went up. It made Christa Wolf's reputation, and has been seen as the definitive account of the divergence of the two Germanys, as seen from the East. Yet Wolf's own position within the East German state was not simple, and she later questioned whether her own memories were reliable. Producer Paul Kobrak.
9/30/201413 minutes, 52 seconds
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The View from the Gate

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, begins his series examining 600 years of German history through objects, with a reflection on Germany's floating frontiers. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which led to the reunified modern Germany, Neil visits the Brandenburg Gate. In November 1989 the East Berlin crowds gathered there and cheered and then poured into West Berlin as the Berlin Wall fell and the world changed. It was there in July 2014 that a huge crowd celebrated Germany's victory in the World Cup in Brazil. In 1950 the first major demonstration was held there to protest against Soviet dominance in Eastern Europe: the crowd pulled down the red flag that flew over the Brandenburg Gate and demanded free elections. And in 1806 Napoleon made his triumphal entry into Berlin through the Brandenburg Gate, after humiliating the Prussian army. From this focal point of modern Germany, Neil begins a 30 part series which reveals the profound influence of Germany's history, culture and inventiveness across Europe, as well as the catastrophic events of the 20th century.
9/29/201413 minutes, 49 seconds