Tuesday, February 3, 2015


In my quest for research about Berlin in the early 1940s, I came across Allison Owings' Frauen [Women].  It's a series of interviews with women who lived through the "Hitler times" in Germany, and it's fascinating.  Owings doesn't judge her subjects, she lets the reader judge for herself.  Some of the subjects are remarkably unguarded in their stories.   One interviewee is Freya von Moltke, whose husband was executed for his resistance work; but most of these women are not aristocrats nor famous.  They hold a wide range of political opinions; some of them had the greatest admiration for Hitler and his policies.  The interviews are full of surprising insights into the daily lives of women during difficult times.  I can't recommend it highly enough. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Llamas on the Attack!

One night before rehearsal, my friend Cotton Wright made the mistake of telling me that her sister had witnessed attack llamas, that is llamas who act like guard dogs at various properties in the southwest.  This image of half of a pushmepullyou behaving like Jimmy Carter's attack rabbit has stayed with me. 
In the November 10th issue of the New Yorker, Alec Wilkinson wrote a feature called "Modern Farmer, and the Back to the Land Movement," in which he interviewed the former (as of yesterday) editor of Modern Farmer magazine (who knew there was such a thing?), An Marie Gardner, and a farmer, David Munson, Jr.  Munson had a few things to say about his llamas, which he keeps to guard his goats:  "Llamas don't like dogs, they don't like coyotes, they don't really like people-  they put up with them because they bring them food.  Some are more protective than others.  Mine were raised [on his farm north of Dallas] as pet llamas, I think, and they just didn't go after the bad guys.  They would walk ff and leave the goats.  The predators often kill for fun.  You have all these goats that are torn up ... It's a combat situation... I replaced the llamas with guard dogs."

Thursday, October 30, 2014

ReadWomen2014, Part Four

Julie Salamon
Dorothy L. Sayers

Above, Dorothy L. Sayers

Catherine Schine
Tracy Scott
Meryl Secrest
Anna Sewell
Ntozake Shange
Rachel Sheinkin
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Betty Smith
Johanna Spyri
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
C. Denby Swanson

Donna Tartt
Maria Tatar
Elizabeth Taylor (the British novelist, not the movie star)
Sydney Taylor
Josephine Tey
P.L. Travers
Joanna Trollope
Sojourner Truth

Ann Ulanov

Paula Vogel

Wendy Wasserstein
Rebecca West
Edith Wharton
Phillis Wheatley
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Mary Wollstonecraft
Virginia Woolf
Joan Wyndham

Marguerite Yourcenar

Stephanie Zadravec

ReadWomen2014, Part Three

Frances Parkinson Keyes
Lisa Kron

Dorothy Lane
Susanne Langer
Mary Lavin
Madeleine L’Engle
Doris Lessing
Rosina Lippi 
Lisa Loomer

Olivia Manning
Katherine Mansfield
Hilary Mantel
Carson McCullers
Daphne Merkin
Jessica Mitford
Nancy Mitford
Lorrie Moore
Alice Munro

Irene Nemirovsky
E. Nesbit
Lynn Nottage

 Above, Lynn Nottage

Edna O’Brien
Flannery O’Connor

Dorothy Parker
Anne Patchett
Margot Peters
Anna Hamilton Phelan
Marge Piercy
Beatrix Potter
Dawn Powell

Ruth Rendell
Marilynne Robinson
Elaine Romero
Christina Rossetti

ReadWomen2014, Part Two

Cheryl L. Davis
Joan Didion
Mary Mapes Dodge
Daphne DuMaurier
Katherine Dunn
Marguerite Duras

 Above, Joan Didion

Eleanor Estes

Tina Fey
Louise Fitzhugh
Anne Frank

Elizabeth George
Susan Glaspell
Gail Godwin
Nadine Gordimer

Nancy Hale
Elizabeth Hardwick
Shirley Hazzard
Ursula Hegi
Lillian Hellman (with reservations)
Beth Henley
Amy Herzog
Patricia Highsmith
Hildegard of Bingen
Zora Neale Hurston
Siri Hustvedt

Naomi Iizuka

Shirley Jackson
P.D. James
Elfrieda Jellinek
Elizabeth Jenkins
Julian of Norwich


In the October 12th Sunday New York Times Book Review, there was an essay by Alexander Chee about reading women writers.  He mentioned a British writer, Joanna Walsh, who made bookmarks featuring her 250 favorites.  I meant to make a list of my favorites, and have just gotten around to it. 

There is one screenwriter, Anna Hamilton Phelan (no, we’re not related).  Novelists, nonfiction writers, children’s writers, playwrights, mystery writers, writers who write about religion, a couple of poets, all mixed together.  This list is totally biased-  it is not writers who are important (like Aphra Behn or Anna Cora Mowatt), or popular (like Harper Lee), or classic (like Emily Bronte).  They’re here because I like and admire their work.  It’s 123 names. I’m sure I could create a longer list, but I’ve got other stuff to do.  I’m also sure that there are writers I’ve forgotten and will remember after I post this.  

 Above, Anna Akmatova

Joan Accocella
Anna Akmatova
Louisa May Alcott
Isabelle Allende
Maya Angelou
Karen Armstrong
Jane Austen

Enid Bagnold
Kristen Bakis
Pat Barker
Vicki Baum
Elizabeth Bishop
Elizabeth Bowen
Anne Bronte
Charlotte Bronte
Anita Brookner
Frances Hodgson Burnett
A.S. Byatt

Sheila Callaghan
Angela Carter
Caryl Churchill
Beverly Cleary

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Part Four: The Last Hour

The last section of my translation.   Towards the end, Greta Kuckhoff is mentioned.  She went on to become prominent in East Germany politics, and Anne Nelson (who wrote, "The Boys," about a 9-11 firehouse) wrote a book largely about her called "The Red Orchestra." 

While Harnack was therefore the symbolic head of the Red Orchestra, I liked to feel Harro Schultze-Boysen was the passionate side.  A collaborator, Arnold Bauer, characterized Schulze-Boysen in his record as follows:  “Harro was all good energy and his impressive celebratory talent, but he shone in his ability to predict the actual development of things.  For him, it was gradually that fact began to be indicated.”

            One short summary biography given by Karl Schirdewan in his beautifully phrased account:  “1933 was the year Schulze-Boysen (born in Kiel in 1909) was maltreated by the Fascists.  The events of 1933, the National Socialists that took power, had pushed in the year before, before they had a firm political base.  The people wrestled with Nazi ideology.  His own political experience was so far-reaching he never stopped and bowed to the Hitler regime, but found his own positive, societal course.  He became a revolutionary Socialist and a convinced friend of the USSR. 

p. 70  The traditions of the Schulze-Boysen family gave him a good cover for his anti-fascist activities, and so he became an official in the employ of the Reich Air Force Ministry.  By the time of his arrest, he had reached the rank of Ober Lieutenant, and had spent all his time as an official in Air Ministry in the Resistance.  This situation made possible his deep and extensive knowledge of the important internal relations of the Hitler regime.  One such position allowed him to have crucial knowledge of  international relations and the spirit of foreign German populations-  cultural and societal lives- continued to expand.

            Schulze-Boysen saw himself in a fortunate position, his own position became key in the development of the Resistance, information that broadened the field of vision with his conspiratorial anti-fascist friends used this knowledge.  Since 1935 they collected 40-50 mostly young men for a foundation of anti-fascist spirit and a new cadre of the Resistance was developed.

            When the war broke out, the organization was not only firmly anchored in Berlin, where its members held important positions in the Air Ministry, Economics Ministry, Propaganda Ministry, in regional offices, in the radio administration, but a broad-based group in Hamburg and actively throughout the Army in German-occupied territories.  Besides, he gave many connections to personalities throughout Germany and its territories. 

            The friends and collaborators of Schulze-Boysen shielded him as the one talented man in their circle who had great open-mindedness and

p. 71  one fascinating talent, the ability to lead, to argue and discuss evidence.  He became the subject of serious ill-treatment; tortured with thumbscrews and by cramps, his body aged greatly being exposed to large amounts of ultra violet light.  Schultze-Boysen's final remarks before the Reich Military Court began with a bold protest against the crimes of the Gestapo, they took him and his friends, depriving him of his last words.  A few seconds before his execution, he spoke these words:  "I die as a Communist!"

    According to my impression, we did not, like the others, discuss the death sentence.  It is true he was outwardly calm, but inwardly became passionately angry about the fate of him and his.  One such position became definitely not rational and logical, but a thing of passionate temperament.  And Schulze-Boysen had a strong temperament. 

    Also, his good-bye letter, written before his execution on 22 December 1942, is characteristic of him:
"Beloved Parents!
"It is now so long, In a few hours I get out of this.  I am perfectly peaceful as well as increasingly calm.  Such important things happen in the whole world today, a life that goes out is not very much.  What was, is; what I did, I do not want to write about it anymore.  All of what I did, I did with my head, my heart and out of my conviction, and in this setting I must ask for my parents' best acceptance.  Therefore, please, I beg you!

"This death is fitting for me.  Somehow I have always known.  It is my own death, how once he called to me and replied!

The heart only became heavy when I think of you (Libertas is near me and shares my fate in the same hour).  I not only hope, I believe, the time you are sorry will give way to relief.  I am only a precursor to that which is still unclear, to strive and to become.  Believe with me that in the time of justice, all of it will ripen!

I think about Father’s final look, until the last.  I think about the Christmas tears of my loving mother.  It has been so bad these last months, yet you were so close to me.  I have, I am the lost son, because I walk to my found home to you, after so much struggle, so much that seems unknown and odd to you. 

I think on the good Hartmut and my look, this gets better!  My remembered walk to Freiburg and back, where also Helga and I, saw for both the first and last time.  Yes, I think on so many- back to a rich, beautiful life, of so much that I owed
you that was never paid.

            When I wait here, you are invisible:  I laugh to see the face of death, I have long since overcome it.  In Europe it is so usual that it is mentally sown with blood.  It may be that we were just a couple of fools, but just before the final whistle it was probably right to have person, historical illusions.

            Yes, and I give you all my hand, and sit after a (single) tear here as a seal and pledge of my love.


p. 73  His wife Libertas, a granddaughter of Prince Philipp Eulenberg, was executed at the same hour.  It is hard to do justice to her.  She was without peer, strong-willed and of great consistency.  Critical and highly impressionable, she had fallen in with in the prison yard an alleged spy, Gertrude Breyer.  She had secret messages between Libertas and her mother that she conveyed.  Breyer took the secret messages and letters to the Gestapo some of which held political information.  Libertas Schulze-Boysen learned of these acts shortly before her death.  She said to me, it’s significant, to have trusted a spy.  She could only explain it as some sort of prison psychosis.  Breyer was the first person in prison who embraced her and had friendly conversation with her. 

            This is not to forget to forget the treatment that her mother, the tender pianist Thora Eulenberg underwent at the hands of the Gestapo and Hermann Göring.  She was broken to pieces.  On 23 December 1942, one stormy, cold winter day, she went with a Christmas package for her daughter through all of the criminal agencies of Berlin, to Alexanderplatz, to Prince-Albrecht-Strasse [Gestapo headquarters], to Kaiserdamm to Lehrterstrasse.  It was the story of going from one location to another, although all knew that her daughter was dead.  Countess Eulenberg turned finally to Göring, whom she sometimes played piano for.  Göring also held out on her.  Finally, near New Year’s, after a Christmas spent in dreadful uncertainty, Göring, through his Adjutant, told Countess Eulenberg that her daughter had been hung on 22 December.

            The personality of Hans Coppi is no longer clearly remembered.  He became overshadowed through

p. 74  the case of his wife Hilde Coppi.  Mrs. Coppi had a baby in November 1942 while she was in prison.

In January 1943, she was condemned to death.  The child was eight months old when they took her away in July.  In August 1943 she was a victim of hanging.

The shorthand typist in attendance in the office, Ilse Stöbe, is still in good memory.  She was a beautiful. clever girl, an accomplished  political thinker and worker.

I can give true testimony about Walter Husemann.  He was for me the prototypical political fighter, committed to the business of the revolution.  He was a tool-maker.  With good physical and mental health, he was not irrepressible, defiant for the long time he was in custody.  He was passionate, but at the same time carefully concealed, always able to take advantage of every connection to the outside.  So he had succeeded, regularly he saw through the window and was tipped off by his father, over the prison wall.  The father was an old trade unionist in the neighborhood who lived in northern Berlin.  Husemann showed an unusual attitude, even if death was difficult.  I had her man, who knew so much was suddenly violently arrested.  Similarly, he went with clenched fists to his death.  His letter to his father was the document of a revolutionary. 
“My beloved Father!
Stay strong!  I die as I have lived, a fighter in class warfare!
It is easy for Communists to take as long as they like, so long as they do not bleed.  Whether one really was, proof is first when the hour of proof has come.  I am at it, Father.  I begrudge nothing, I see my weaknesses.  To leave life, this is the last task asked of me.  Your son has become as worthy as a thief!  Overcome your own grief!  That has yet to be fulfilled.  You have your twice and three times to satisfy, and then your hour is come!
Poor Father, but such good fortune, Father, your idea that the best sacrifice must be given.  The war will not go on much longer- and then our hour is come!
Think of all those who are still going to great lengths, today I must- and learn from the Nazis:  any weakness will be paid in acres of blood.  Therefore am I not bitter.  Stay hard!
I haven’t any regrets in my life, at, not having done enough.  My death will probably also reconcile those who did not understand me.  Oh, Father, Father, you love it well!  When I must not fear, you must not collapse under my death!  Hard, stay hard, hard.”

p. 82  The tragic fate of the family Terweil made a particular impression on me.  The family wanted to rescue the daughter, who was in danger not only through her connection to the Red Orchestra but also through the Jewish origin of her companion.  They attempted, with all manner of witnesses and documentation, as it was then customary, to get the child identified as mixed-race [mischling] to the second degree. With great effort and great cost, that finally succeeded.  The daughter Maria it did not help at all- a few months after she was executed, her mother and brother were killed by a bomb blast. 

            Maria Terweil died on 5 August 1943.  It has been recognized as a day of  remembrance.  On this day were other women and girls of the Red Orchestra executed:  Hilde Coppi I mentioned, the beautiful young dancer Oda Schottmüller, the delicate 19 year old student Liane Berkowitz, the ceramicist Catho Bontjes van Beek and the 22 year old fresh, lively student Eva-Maria Buch.

            From this group of women, I had also spoken at length with Maria Terweil.  She was the friend of the pensive and thoughtful Paul Guddorf, who proceeded her inclusion.  in death.  He was executed on 13 May 1943.  I could tell her now how much Guddorf had thought of her in his final days.  The little portrait of him, which he gave me before his death, has been preserved by me.  Only in 1945 could I see his parents….

            One of the most authoritative men of the Red Orchestra, writer Dr. Adam Kuckhoff, was born in 1887.  In his biography, his wife Greta wrote:  ‘Adam Kuckhoff, commemorated in a book published by Aufbau Publishers, Berlin, explained his intellectual development.  It was the way that a man ‘from a middle class background conceived of factory housing of a new order- the development of the romance of individualism, to the poet becoming socially conscious and struggling for political inclusion.’  

            ‘He saw the field of the arts, he wrote:  “Not in the depths of the soul, but in the clarity of the evidence of all humanity.’  He was so certainly convinced of the necessity of solving this task, that even in the death cell at Plötzensee with sure hands he worked out the system of dialectic aesthetics. 

            I had often visited Kuckhoff in his Plötzensee cell.  His stocky, sturdy shape, with his plain head full of energy was unforgettable to me.  We spoke and debated over many literary and political problems.  He said in his Eulenspiegel, one in each of his set pieces was strongly influenced by stopping time.  Many others spoke of aspects of his personality, his relations with his wife and his son.   Kuckhoff counted on his death and that of his wife, and thought with much concern about the future of his five year old son, Ule.