Part of Aye Write! Festival, at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on the 18th March
This was perhaps not the most cheerful event to go to: but with such a bleak topic I dare say you wouldn’t want it to be. Yet both Julia Boyd and Thomas Weber were passionate enough about their subjects and their books, that it was nevertheless an engrossing discussion. What stood out above all was that although the topic was based in history, the themes covered were wholly applicable today.
Julia Boyd and Thomas Weber have written books of a very different nature about the time-period between the first and second World Wars in Germany. Julia Boyd’s approach was to look at the archival and historical records left behind by people who had travelled to Germany in this time period, whilst Thomas Weber concentrated on how Hitler was shaped in these years. Precisely this difference in approach made the conversation exciting, as they often reached similar conclusions as each other, but came there through very different research, which gave a depth and strength to the points both speakers were making.
Yet I think the point that I will most remember is how relevant the subject is today. Most obviously, of course, with the rise of right-wing groups across Europe, and totalitarian and populist leaders gaining power throughout the world. But there were more subtle nuances as well – for example, Julia Boyd recounted how the various sources recounting the horrors of the relentless bombing in Germany left her with nightmares for weeks. Personally, I could not help but think of the situation in Syria?
When asked the question by the audience what their expertise could tell us about warning signs that laymen might not see, I was astounded to hear that there really was not much. The most important thing was that in the rise of fascism in Germany between the wars, the signs had all been there but largely ignored or labelled as ‘not the real Germany’. This, I believe, is perhaps the most important concept to grasp: not to be afraid to take things seriously. To be aware of the signs, acknowledge them, and do something about it.