“There Are Intellectuals Who Say Anticommunism Is Somehow Uncool.”


Scott and Taylor, coverA book has just been published by the University Press of Kentucky on The Lives of Others, the landmark drama about the East German secret police. This Oscar-winning movie from 2006, mentioned previously on the site, is examined from just about every angle in Totalitarianism on Screen: The Art and Politics of “The Lives of Others” edited by Carl Eric Scott and F. Flagg Taylor IV.

Your editor has an essay in this multi-author volume. Also included is an interview with the president of Germany, Joachim Gauck. He was a lead investigator of the repressive activities of the Stasi in the now-defunct German Democratic Republic.

Here are some sharp words from Gauck, as translated from the German by Paul Hockenos, who conducted the interview:

“There are European intellectuals who say that anticommunism is somehow uncool, and that it doesn’t belong in democratic political culture. But you can only think this if you’re far enough away from the suffering that Soviet communism inflicted. In fact, the West has to learn that there are two kinds of anti-communism. One stems from conservative arrogance, such as that in the United States and West Germany. This variety is useless. The other variety stems from suffering, the deprivations of rights, and powerlessness. And if you’re not able to feel this, then you lack something as a human being. And, sadly, western Germany and western Europe still have to learn this. The seriousness of the threat of communism to our democracy project has to be respected.”


Baal-ieve It or Not

Oskar Homulka

Oskar Homolka

David Bowie

David Bowie

Oskar Homolka and David Bowie—not much in common there, right? Guess again. The Viennese actor (I Remember Mama, War and Peace, Funeral in Berlin) played Baal, the frolicsome sociopath in Bertolt Brecht’s play by that name, and so did the British rock star. Homolka, who died in 1978, was Baal during the Weimar Republic, not only starring in but co-directing with Brecht a production mounted in Berlin in 1926. Bowie took the role of Baal in a British teleplay done in 1982.

Baal was Brecht’s first play, written in 1918 before his work had taken on ideological freight. The critic Eric Bentley notes that even so, Brecht’s favorite subject at that juncture was “the innocence that can accrue to extremely vicious, even extremely criminal, people.”

Below is a photograph of Homolka as Baal, with Gerda Müller (right) playing Sophie, taken during a performance at the German Theatre, Berlin, February 14, 1926.

Oskar Homolka (left) playing Baal, 1926

There are several clips of Bowie’s BBC Baal. He performs some of the songs in the show. Incidentally, the words Bowie sings on that first one will sound familiar to those who know the celebrated 2006 film about the East German Stasi, The Lives of Others. It’s the lyric poetry that the secret policeman reads while he is lying on the couch—Brecht’s “Remembering Marie A.”