Tag Archives: Germany

  • The Secret History of Pride

    Pride Month

    To celebrate Pride Month, we have developed a blog series with weekly posts, designed to allow UTP authors the opportunity to share with us what Pride means to them, and to discuss a whole manner of Pride-related topics.

    Our final contribution to our Pride Month series comes from Sex and the Weimar Republic author Laurie Marhoefer. Marhoefer shares what Pride means to her, explores the history of gay rights activism, and notes how Pride has changed over the past century.


    Pride, which in my neighborhood in Seattle rivals Christmas for importance (we already have our flags and signs out and the marches are two weeks away), came out of a historical event, the Stonewall Riots in New York City in 1969. Stonewall wasn’t the beginning of gay rights, however. Gay rights has a much longer history. A lot of it isn’t nearly as sexy as Pride (at its best) can be.

    The fight for legal equality for “homosexuals,” as they came to be called towards the end of the nineteenth century, seems to have begun in a Swiss alpine village in the 1830s, if it did not begin with the French Revolution.

    Well before the Second World War, many people around the world (and a majority of Germans, I’ll bet) knew that there were same-sex loving individuals who claimed to be members of a “sexual minority” (rather than debauched sinners, as the Christian worldview had it) and argued for the repeal of laws against same-sex sex. Very few people agreed with the homosexual emancipationist view of things. But some did, particularly the homosexuals themselves.

    The thing was, this movement for gay rights may not have made you want to wave the rainbow flag around. It was kind of conservative. My UTP book, Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis, explores that movement, led by Magnus Hirschfeld and others. Those activists fought Germany’s law against sodomy. But they did so by vilifying sex workers, creating an implicitly white gay subject, and buying into eugenics. By the 1920s there was a robust independent trans rights movement, too, and it was also invested in making trans people “respectable.”

    Before the late 1960s, for most gay activists the goal wasn’t to be out and proud. It was to get the police to stop arresting people for having consensual sex in private. People wanted to quietly live out their otherwise conventional lives. A giant parade of homosexuals and gender-benders would have horrified them.

    Pride is different. It is from the 1970s, not the 1830s or the 1920s. Some of Pride’s roots are in radical, antiracist, anti-imperialist left-of-center gay and trans activism. Though it hasn’t always lived up to those beginnings – for more on that, see what I wrote here – it sometimes does. The pro-sex fabulousness of Pride, and the in-your-face claim on public space that Pride makes, that’s from the 1970s, baby.

    That’s what Pride means to me. Gay rights isn’t always left-of-center. It never exists outside of another, broader political vision, and those visions can be pretty darn right-of-center. But Pride can be a better moment in queer and trans politics, a leftist, antiracist moment, one that echos a time when queer and trans people set out to transform the world into a more just one, not just to quietly fit in to an unjust world.


    Laurie Marhoefer is an associate professor in the Department of History at the University of Washington.

  • Retracing the Steps of Mackenzie King in Nazi-Era Berlin

    Mackenzie King reviewing participants in the women’s and men’s tennis events at the German All-German Sports Competitions, 27 July 1937. Front row, left to right: Robert Ley, head of the German Labour Front, Prime Minister King, King’s personal secretary Edward Pickering, and Hans von Tschammer und Osten, Reich Sports Leader.

    In 1937, Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King travelled to Nazi Germany in an attempt to prevent a war that, to many observers, seemed inevitable. The men King communed with, including Adolf Hitler, had assured him of the Nazi regime’s peaceful intentions, and King not only found their pledges sincere, but even hoped for personal friendships with many of the regime officials. 

    Four Days in Hitler's Germany addresses how King truly believed that any threat to peace would come only from those individuals who intended to thwart the Nazi agenda, which as King saw it, was concerned primarily with justifiable German territorial and diplomatic readjustments. In this post, author Robert Teigrob shares how walking the city streets of Berlin led him to write his new book.


    For the last decade I have taught a summer course in Berlin. For a historian, the city is an endless trove of commemorative spaces, architectural motifs, and museum collections that attest to some of humanity’s darkest, as well as noblest, impulses. It is a built environment perpetually under revision and renewal, a testament to both the destruction and political dismemberment wrought by Hitler’s war, and to a deeply-engaged and increasingly diverse population’s struggle to properly represent and confront the past. This struggle has many outcomes: the demolition of what Germans call “historically burdened buildings,” the preservation of others as historic sites, the repurposing of still others toward more life-affirmative ends, and seemingly on every block, a memorial to the events and people that make up Berlin’s tumultuous history.

    Walking the city a few years ago sparked a couple of ideas that became the genesis of my new book, Four Days in Hitler’s Germany: Mackenzie King’s Mission to Avert a Second World War. I recalled a picture from my high school history textbook showing a very jovial Prime Minister Mackenzie King touring a Berlin factory complex in 1937 – the same one I was now passing – escorted by top Nazi officials. I was struck by the contrast between modern Germans’ evident willingness to own up to the mistakes of the past and, on this count, the comparative reticence among Canadians to do the same. For in that same textbook (and as I was to learn, in many other historical accounts), King’s visit was portrayed as a stern warning to the Hitler regime that any Nazi aggression would stimulate a powerful and unified response from the Western powers. I knew this to be something of an oversimplification – King was in fact one of the globe’s foremost advocates of appeasement, and had enthusiastically shepherded a trade agreement with Germany through Parliament just before his visit – but the more I dug into the records, the more stunning the prime minister’s interactions with Nazi officials became. I came to the conclusion that the 1937 visit deserved a sustained, critical analysis.

    Roaming Berlin also led me to wonder how future generations of Canadians will judge our relationships with today’s global community. We see intense debates in the House of Commons and the media over how to balance our economic interests with our stated commitment to human rights and international laws and norms: how to square principles with profit-making in the proposed sale of weapons to authoritarian regimes; whether to “constructively engage” or shun potential trading partners that flout the rule of law (and for that matter, how to respond to some of our own companies’ controversial activities abroad – in the mining sector, for instance). Canada and the world wrestled with similar issues in the 1930s, and the recent ascent of regimes and political movements built on ethnic nationalism, militarism, and regressive attitudes toward the multinational international order painstakingly constructed since 1945 gives the story of King’s visit to Germany a decidedly contemporary aura.


    Robert Teigrob is a professor in the Department of History at Ryerson University and the author of Four Days in Hitler's Germany.

  • Taking Students into the Archive

    To mark the publication of the new edition of The Trial of Tempel Anneke: Records of a Witchcraft Trial in Brunswick, Germany, 1663, author Peter A. Morton talks about the origins of the project, how teaching from the book over the years has influenced the changes to the second edition, and the importance of providing students with the kinds of primary sources that will enable them to be effective historians.

    Morton_TrialOfTempelAnneke2e_comp03.inddWhen I first encountered the records of the trial of Tempel Anneke in the reading room of the Brunswick City Archive, it was a collection of papers (now bound together, but at that time in a folder of free sheets) about 2 inches thick, carrying lines of ink. Here was a surviving piece of history bearing traces of the people involved in it. The physical presence of the scribes and officials still seemed to cling to the letters that they wrote across the pages. As we transcribed the text, Barbara Dähms, the book’s translator, and I noticed changes in the handwriting of Johann Pilgram, the court scribe; at times he seemed confident and certain, and at others his hand was shaky and he crossed out lines. What meaning was carried in this physical remnant of the past? What could it tell us about the events that led to its creation? These questions in turn raised issues of perspective and methodology. How should we read the documents? What should we look for? How should we understand the words written?

    In preparing The Trial of Tempel Anneke: Records of a Witchcraft Trial in Brunswick, Germany, 1663, I wanted to pass on to my students as much of the experience of reading historical records and forming analyses as possible. I didn’t want to tell a tale or provide evidence for a thesis. Rather, Barbara and I aimed to offer the students a seat in the archive reading room to begin working through the sheets for themselves. This thought was the origin of the first edition of the book, and all the way through its preparation our shared goal as editor and translator was to keep the material as close as possible to what we read in the archive. The original collection of sheets was somewhat disordered, and some pages were missing. So in the editing it was necessary to re-order the sheets and fill in gaps with what could be gleaned from other sources. In the handscript, the sentences were sometimes hastily written or grammatically ill-formed (even by seventeenth-century standards). In our translation, we tried to preserve as much of that character in the English as we could. All along, our goal was to remain faithful to the pile of loose sheets presented to us in the archive, to offer the reader something close to the original documents.

    In his page on this site, Steven Bednarski, author of A Poisoned Past: The Life and Times of Margarida de Portu, a Fourteenth-Century Accused Poisoner, introduces the term “pedagogical microhistory.” The Trial of Tempel Anneke aims to give students the materials necessary to construct their own microhistory. What has been striking in teaching from the book is the degree of intellectual maturity with which students approach the material. They appreciate having the complete records, not merely selections, and many of my own students have presented original and thoughtful analyses. One student, for example, studied changes in the religious elements of Tempel Anneke’s confessions, arguing that her faith went through four stages due to the pressures of the trial.* In my experience, students benefit from the opportunity to form their own opinions from the records, based on their particular background and interests. I have heard similar experiences from other professors who have used the book. With the right material, students can become quite accomplished historians.

    The second edition of the book expands on what we first compiled, but does not deviate from the original goals. The events reported in the trial records are a small microcosm of a larger society, in this case rural and urban life in Lower Saxony in the decades following the Thirty Years’ War. To read those records and to ask questions about them requires some familiarity with their historical context. In the first edition, I concentrated on the trial itself, presenting some explanation of the crime with which Tempel Anneke was charged and of the legal and civic context of a criminal trial in seventeenth-century Brunswick. The supplementary records added a few primary sources to this explanation. A second edition of the book gave us an opportunity to add to what we had originally published in two respects. First, the new edition reflects the experience of teaching from it over a number of years. For example, I found it important to convey the variety of approaches that historians have taken to the European witch trials. One might say that the historiographical lessons learned over the century that historians have devoted to the trials have been as valuable as the historical information extracted from the surviving records. In light of this, I prepared a historiographical essay to give students the kind of background knowledge of the field that a historian would have in hand. Second, over the years between the two editions Barbara had not stopped investigating the people involved: Tempel Anneke’s parents, her son, and his descendants; the family of Jürgen Roleffes, whose illness played a role in the trial; the keeper of the Tempel Hof, who replaced Tempel Anneke’s brother. She dug further into the archives and bookshelves to fill out our original sources. What resulted from this digging was a fuller picture of the social setting of the trial and the events that led to it.

    When the second edition was put together, we were in a position, therefore, to offer readers a collection of material that went beyond the legal aspects of the charge of witchcraft and early modern criminal trials. The new edition offers additional resources for this purpose. The historiographical essay tries to avoid leading readers towards one perspective or conclusion rather than another. It aims instead to provide examples from the range of perspectives used by historians, and to show how each new approach sought to improve on previous ones. We have also expanded the introduction and added a number of documents to the Supplementary Records, which offer glimpses into life in the village of Harxbüttel in the seventeenth century, and provide some knowledge of the events before and after the trial.

    We hope this additional material will increase the scope of enquiries that students can bring to the records. As all constructors of microhistory ultimately find, we have grown ever closer to the people in the events of the trial, not just to Tempel Anneke herself (although most certainly her!) but also to the court officials and witnesses, the children of Harxbüttel, and the residents of Knochenhauerstrasse. Hopefully our readers will gain something of that closeness as they try to piece together for themselves the records contained in that pile of sheets in the archive.

    Finally, we wish to add that we are currently at work on a further volume with similar objectives to those of The Trial of Tempel Anneke, to be published by University of Toronto Press in 2018. It will contain the records of three cases centering on the relations between melancholy, possession, and the devil in early modern Germany. The first case is the trial in Brunswick of a young housemaid, Elisabeth Lorentz. Many of the same officials, including the medical official, Laurentius Gieseler, who participated in the trial of Tempel Anneke, are involved in this later case as well. Lorentz told her employer and later the court that she had made a pact with the devil, but the court was concerned that she suffered from melancholy and that the pact was not sincere. The second set of records are from the trial in Helmstedt of a young man, Erich Brödermann, who signed a pact with the devil in his own blood, in exchange for wealth, love, and travel. To the records of these two trials we are adding a detailed account by a Lutheran pastor of the demonic possession of a very pious girl, and his efforts and those of his parishioners to free her of the demon. The introduction and supplementary documents provide necessary background on early modern Lutheran discussions of these topics.

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    * Published as Miranda Van Heyst, “Tempel Anneke’s Confessions: Four Phases of Faith.” Mount Royal Undergraduate Humanities Review 3 (2015) 112-119.

    Peter A. Morton is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Humanities at Mount Royal University.

  • World Cup 2014: Politics, Identity, and the Global Game

    lessons from latin americaIn their forthcoming book, Lessons from Latin America: Innovations in Politics, Culture, and Development, authors Felipe Arocena and Kirk Bowman dedicate the entire final chapter to the beautiful game. Here, Kirk Bowman provides a post-tournament summary of the politics and identity issues at play in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. 

    The 2014 World Cup in Brazil was one of the most dramatic in recent memory. The championship match pitted two soccer powers, one from Latin America and one from Europe. It is fitting that Argentina faced off against Germany, as the World Cup exhibited at least three fascinating battle lines involving Europe and Latin America.

    Watching this year’s World Cup from Spain, I found the most interesting spectacle of the entire tournament to be the singing of the national anthems before the Chile and Spain group stage match. The Spanish national anthem is music without words as the peripheral regions of Catalonia, the Basques, the Galicians, and the Andalucians cannot agree on words that would satisfy the centralists in Madrid. The Spanish players look on uncomfortably at the anthem, not knowing if they should hum or sing “la-la-la-la” to the music. In contrast, the Chileans have a dramatic section of the national anthem with words but without music. The fans and the players become one as they belt out the words. In a sense, the fans become players and the players become fans in a sacred communion that is part of the continual construction of national identity. (The World Cup Chilean anthem can be seen and heard here.) Latin American countries are immigrant societies, and they are still in a process of forming national identity. Soccer is a major component in the creation of national identity in the Southern Cone. Latin Americans play soccer to build a sense of national identity, while Europeans play soccer to exhibit identity that was created long ago. This is why Brazil’s unexpected 7-1 humiliating loss at home to Germany was so painful. Brazil’s very identity rests on a national belief that the fusion of the Afro-Brazilian, the European-Brazilian, and the Indigenous created a new Brazilian people that are the best on the planet in soccer and winners of five world cups. It will be interesting to see if Brazil’s soccer shame will have any collateral effect on the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, who is running for re-election this fall.

    The Luis Suárez biting incident and the draconian punishment from FIFA highlights the perspective that Latin Americans are barbaric children who need to be civilized and tamed by the advanced industrial countries. While most observers agree that his nibble was uncalled for and that a red card and short suspension is warranted, the level of outrage and the call for blood from the English media and FIFA are exaggerated and can only be understood as part of the history of how the North sees the Global South. When Diego Maradona scored the Hand of God goal against the English in the 1982 World Cup in Mexico City, he was branded a cheat, a rascal, and a villain. In contrast, when Manuel Neuer, the German goalkeeper, admitted to intentionally “fooling” the referee to disallow a perfectly good English goal in the 2010 World Cup, he was referred to as clever, lucky, and quick thinking. While European players have broken noses with intentional elbows, broken legs and ankles with intentional kicks, and pulled their opponents down by their hair, it is only Suárez, whose nip could never cause injury, who is banned from playing soccer, practicing soccer, and even going into a stadium for four months. As one FIFA official stated, FIFA must discipline and teach the children.

    Finally, the Brazil World Cup demonstrated the harmony of interests between the global elites and the elites of Brazil, while the people of Brazil paid the price. The level of corruption, busted stadium budgets, and failed infrastructure projects in this World Cup is scandalous. The people of Brazil will pay many billions of dollars for this orgy of sports and commercialism. This World Cup will leave a number of white elephant stadiums throughout the country, with local communities paying for maintenance and upkeep of largely unused stadiums for many years. FIFA earned some $5 billion from this World Cup, and will share none of that with Brazil, who pays all the costs. Besides FIFA, the other winners are Brazilian construction companies and their politician partners who will rake in exorbitant profits from the stadium and infrastructure projects.

    Even with the corruption of FIFA and some poor execution by Brazil, soccer is still the global game and the greatest show on earth. Some forty billion cumulative television viewers have witnessed the agony and the ecstasy of the sport. If the fans are observant, they can also partake in the spectacle of politics and identity.

    -Kirk Bowman, Georgia Institute of Technology

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