Christiane Hoffmann, author of the book Alles, was wir nicht erinnern, will talk about all that we do not remember, although it still impacts us, on May 19. The guest of the Herder Centre UG is a journalist and has been working as deputy spokesperson for the government of the Federal Republic of Germany since December 2021.
The meeting will focus on Christiane Hoffman's hike from the village of Rosina to the Czech village of Krizovatka, described in her book Alles, was wir nicht erinnern. The author's father covered the same 505-kilometre route at the age of nine during his escape from the Red Army in the winter of 1945. Making this journey helped the journalist to understand her dad, who was unwilling or unable to speak out about the war.
Christiane Hoffmann will speak about her adventure as well as the still present impact of the Second World War on new generations on May 19, 2023, from 5.30 pm to 7 pm at the Herder Centre UG ( ul. Ogarna 26, Gdańsk). The meeting will be held in German and will be chaired by prof. Marion Brandt from Germanic Philology at the University of Gdańsk.
We also invite you to read a short interview with the author.
Marcel Jakubowski: - Both Germans and Polish were resettled to the West. It's a traumatizing experience, but it was generations ago, do you think the animosity between the new and old residents of Rosenthal/Różyna was passed on to their sons and daughters?
Christiane Hoffman: - I never actually felt any animosity from the Polish people of Różyna; on the contrary, when my family first returned to the village in the 1970s, they were met with great hospitality and generosity. The people of Rosenthal and Różyna shared the fate of the loss of their home, and this probably made it easier to bond, although, of course, the Germans caused all this suffering by starting World War II. Initially, some people in Różyna may still have been afraid of German revisionism, but this has long gone.
In the younger Polish generation, I see a genuine interest in the German past of western Poland.
You mentioned that as you are more interested in your predecessors, your daughter is more concerned with national memory, e.g. understanding Holocaust. Why do you think that is?
I'm not sure, but I guess this chapter of our family history is closed for my children; they see Poland as a modern country where they love to travel. But the horror of the Holocaust will probably occupy the memory of many generations to come.
Your book is, in part, about choosing not to remember. What effect does this kind of behaviour have on the children of those who decided not to dwell in the past?
I don't know whether my father actually chose not to remember; it was a strategy of a nine-year-old child to survive. But the fact that our parents and grandparents preferred not to remember left a lot of mental and emotional load of understanding and memory for my generation.
Your book is a lot of things: a travelogue, a history book with parts of autobiography etc. In your opinion, which part/genre is the most important?
The mixture is not a coincidence. It was important to me not to write just another family memory but to bring the story into the present time and link the fate of my family to that of many families in Poland and Central and Eastern Europe. I wanted to describe what the memory of World War II means today in this part of the world.
How was your book received in Germany? Did it lead to some difficult conversations?
The book was a great success in Germany, more than I could ever have imagined. I received dozens, if not hundreds, of letters and emails, many of them long and emotional; people come to me crying at my lectures. I never thought this topic was so virulent and emotional that there was still such a longing to speak about the past. Many tell me that they feel like I have actually told their story.
Are you open to publishing your book in Poland?
It was my wish and, indeed, dream that my book would be translated into Polish, and I am very happy that it will be published in Poland at Wydawnictwo KARTA this autumn. I really hope to get more deeply into discussions with people from Poland.