In March 2019, high school students from the Pembroke Hill School participated in a beta test of Unit 1 of our new T&S Curriculum. History teacher Ms. Jeanette L. Jones asked her students to read the introduction and first scene of the historical drama “Love in the Age of Hitler: a Courtship in Letters, 1938–40,” which lay out the characters and their situation. The students also watched the premier performance of the first scene. They then discussed the prompts provided in the first activity:
The article demonstrates how Hilde and Roland use their correspondence to “inscribe themselves” into a Nazi future during their courtship from 1938 to 1940, building a relationship of trust between themselves by linking it to a relationship of trust with God, parents, and the Führer.
See: Andrew Stuart Bergerson, T&S Mitherausgeber, “Das Sich-Einschreiben in die NS-Zukunft: Liebesbriefe als Quelle für eine Alltagsgeschichte der ‘Volksgemeinschaft.’” In Der Ort der “Volksgemeinschaft” in der deutschen Gesellschaftsgeschichte, edited by Detlef Schmiechen-Ackermann, Marlis Buchholz, Bianca Roitsch, Karl H. Schneider, Christiane Schröder, 223–41. Paderborn: Ferdinand Schöning, 2018.
Love in the Age of Hitler: A Courtship in Letters, 1938–1940
An historical drama by K. Scott Baker, Andrew Stuart Bergerson, and Deborah Parker.
The letters of Hilde and Roland lend themselves to adaptation as an historical drama for many reasons. There is drama in their self-presentation as letter writers, in the challenges they face at building their relationship, and in their struggles to come to terms with both the Nazi regime and its increasingly genocidal war for ‘living space’. Adapting these letters to the theater in translation allows us to bring the T&S project to an English-speaking audience for the first time.
In Fall 2016, the international T&S team identified the most “dramatic” letters from the years 1938 to 1940—the period of Hilde and Roland’s courtship. In the Winter of 2016–17, an American team translated a selection of letters (in whole or in part) and drafted a two-act “reader’s theater” style play from them. Beate Pettigrew directed the play with a cast of students from Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, KS. The play premiered on 20 May 2017 at the Diastole Scholar’s Center on UMKC campus. (A second free, public performance of the play will take place June 4 at 2 PM in Grant Recital Hall on UMKC Campus.)
At its premier, the play was performed in the context of a workshop “Writing Yourself into History.” The workshop brought scholars, students, and Kansas City residents to the Diastole Scholar’s Center in order to view the play and respond to it. The participants were invited to watch a series of short, digital lectures that framed the play for non-specialists. After attending each act, the workshop participants were invited to discuss the play in groups with discussion leaders. At the end of the workshop, individual participants were interviewed about their responses to Hilde & Roland’s lives; their letters; and the play; and they were also prompted to relate Hilde & Roland’s history to their or their family’s experiences and to explore the meanings that this past might hold for our present.
The program for the play is available here. A digital record of this play and workshop is available on T&S’s YouTube channel (playlist: Writing Yourself into History) including the introductory lectures and a filmed version of the premier performance. Recordings of the individual and group discussions in response are available from the project directors.
The Humanities Consortium of UMKC sponsored this program with cooperation of the UMKC departments of German, History, and Theatre; the UMKC School of Graduate Studies; the High School/College DualCredit Partnership; Johnson County Community College; the Lee’s Summit School District; the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education; the Shepherd’s Center KC Central; and the Missouri Humanities Council with the support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
I wanted to write you yesterday, but my girlfriend’s visit kept me from it. I was a little annoyed by it, especially since my parents were visiting grandmother yesterday — I would have been pleasantly alone and undisturbed. Sometimes I am envious of your solitude. I had to think of you a lot yesterday, in the morning — in the afternoon. We also went for a walk, but not out in the countryside. Luise was more interested in the new fall fashions in the city. A wonderful film was playing, and we watched it. ‘Magda’ starring Zarah Leander, an actress with a very unique voice; if you have the opportunity, you must see this film. They opened the new arena at the Jahn House, I didn’t go.