News from Berlin

Goethe Institut - “1914|18”

October 06th, 2014

News from Berlin - This year marks the enormously significant centenary of the start of the First World War. Across Germany, Europe and the entire globe, organisations and individuals alike are commemorating and reflecting on one of the key events of the 20th Century.

Although the War was overwhelmingly tragic, reflection on it through cultural activity may help reveal to us how effective cultural diplomacy may reduce the likelihood of the recurrence of such terrible global conflict.

It is precisely in this spirit that the Goethe Institut is coordinating the ‘1914|18’ initiative throughout 2014 - a series of events, projects and cultural, artistic and academic material designed to capture cultural perspectives relating to the era. The Goethe Institut, Germany’s major cultural institution, are involved with a wide range of programs related to cultural diplomacy, both in Germany - Berlin, Munich - and across the world.

In particular for the ‘1914|18’ project, according to the website, is “not just about looking back, it is about offering new insights, also for our collective lives in Europe today.” The project is a medium through which participants can reflect on the significance of the war, not just for Germany culturally but also intercultural relations in Europe.

“1914|18” encompasses both physical events and projects, hosted by particular Goethe Institut offices across the world, and online content, including interviews, short essays and perspectives from the arts.

For instance, the Goethe Institut in Lille coordinated a war poetry/slam poetry workshop for young French people, hosted by French, British and German poets and French and German literature experts. The participants were guided through war poetry from the period and encouraged to explore both the artistic and cultural meaning behind it. In addition, the participants were encouraged to express their own creativity on the subject, and used poetry to explore the cultural relevance of the First World War. Through this process, French, German and British cultural perspectives on the war were exchanged and displayed. See a video of the project here: War poetry / Slam Poetry.

Within the online resource aspect of ‘1914|18’, one can explore extracts on the topic from world renowned authors and poets - William Butler Yeats, Sigmund Freud, Virginia Woolf, and others - discover films, artwork and music, all related to understanding the cultural significance of war. Furthermore, it features academic discussions on the subject, including side-by-side interviews with German and British historians Dr. Annika Mombauer and Professor Sir Hew Strachan. In the interviews they discuss the historical factors of the war, its lasting significance, and whether that significance is in some way different particular to Germans or the British.

This potent and diverse combination of online resources, events and projects is a valuable resource for promoting the benefit of understanding the past in order to lay foundations of peace for the future through intercultural understanding.

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