Creating Lives: For this term paper, each of you will be responsible for maintaining a journal authored from the perspective of a fictional character.
Parameters: Each character will be born in Germany in 1900CE and will live through both world wars, the cold war, as well as the rise and fall of the Berlin wall. Outside of these chronological parameters, each of you will have the freedom to create an identity for your avatar. Your avatar is a 22 Year old Male Naval Officer/Soldier, who’s an Atheist that is interested in Modernist Poetry – Theater – and History, a Nationalist from Berlin.
* In creating an identity for your avatar, I would encourage you to first read a bit about the history of the cities listed under the birthplace column. Some have been selected because they were sites of concentration and extermination camps (Dachau, Oranienburg), while others were destroyed by allied bombing during WW2 (Dresden, Leipzig).
Hamburg has been selected because the members of Reserve Police Battalion 101 (the group discussed in Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men) came from this city. Munich has been selected because it was the site of Hitler’s “Beer Hall Putsch” in 1923 and was a Nazi stronghold. Berlin was selected because it was a major world city in the 1920s (a leader in architecture, art, film, literature, science etc), it figured prominently in Hitler’s planning (as “Germania,” the capital of a new world), and it was a major fault line in the cold war.
Assignment Description: At various points of the term, you will submit a brief journal entry from your character’s perspective. Your task will be to untangle pivotal events from your character’s unique perspective in at least 200 words. In doing so, you will be required to understand a little bit about your context. For instance:
– Is it likely that your family would have supported the war effort in 1914?
– Is it likely that you or your family members would have supported the Nazi party? – Is it likely that you would have witnessed or participated in the Holocaust?
– Was your hometown destroyed during the Second World War?
– Was your hometown in West Germany or the GDR after 1949?
Assignment Evaluation: In evaluating this assignment, I will consider the following:
(1) Creativity (65%): this is a creative writing assignment, and so I will be looking to see how successful you have been in creating a realistic avatar with which a reader can sympathize. Your character should engage with the world. They should have conversations and interactions with Spartacists, Nazis, and Stasi officers. They should have family and friends who profit and suffer due to the shifting political tides. At the same time, your journals should reveal a three-dimensional personality i.e. a character who has ideas about the latest musical fads, trends in poetry, and scientific technology; a character whose views and relationships evolve over time.
(2) Historical accuracy (35%): While this is a creative writing assignment, it should also reveal an awareness of the context within which the character is writing. Demonstrating some knowledge of what is happening in Germany and the world is important. You do not have to delve so deeply with the news of the day, but journal entries not appear ahistorical.
Journal Entries and Prompts:
Please complete a journal entry on both of the following dates. Alongside each date are a list of important dates that may help you contextualize your entry.
– 1814-1815: The Congress of Vienna. A months-long meeting of European ambassadors that established a framework for European international politics after the Napoleonic wars. The congress system ensured that no major war took place from 1815 to 1914.
– 1914-06-28: the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
– 1914-07-28: the First World War begins
– 1914-1918: World War 1. Produces around 40 million military and civilian casualties.
Paris Peace Conference begins. It involved diplomats from 32 countries and
– 1918-11-11: Armistice that ended WW1
– 1919-01-05/12: Spartacist uprising
– 1919-01-18/21: Paris Peace Conference begins. It involved diplomats from 32 countries and
nationalities. It established a new peace framework.
– 1919-02 – 1920-04: the Spanish flue pandemic. It infects 500 million people and kills 50 million
– 1919-06-28: Germany signs the Treaty of Versailles.
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