Lately, in the context of Remembrance Day here in the Netherlands, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the different ways in which World War II is being remembered today. For us, being occupied by Nazi Germany during the war has become a foundation myth of our identity, and most Dutch novels, films, and even musicals (Soldier of Orange, based on the book of the same name) about the war centre around the two main protagonists in that myth: the evil collaborators and the virtuous members of the resistance. You can even pretend to be a member of the underground press in an escape room in Nijmegen, racing against the clock to escape discovery by the Nazis.
Some time ago, my friends and I went on a city trip to Wrocław, Poland’s fourth largest city. It was my first time visiting Poland, and I couldn’t have hoped for a better introduction than I got by wandering around in this breathtaking city for 48 hours. For both culture vultures and those looking for good food, drinks and parties on the cheap, Wrocław is more than worth a visit. See also my earlier post about Wrocław in self-portraits.
A while ago I had to write a one-page short story for my Modern English Lit class. It had to be “life writing”, so based on a real-life experience, preferably my own. In class we had to form groups and peer review each other’s stories, and select the best one. All nominated stories would be eligible for publication in a magazine called Anglophile. I’m proud to say that despite a lack of enthusiasm from my peers in class, my professor selected my story, along with five others, to be read by Anglophile! I’ve had no word on publication yet, but I wanted to share it here, as I’m a bit proud of it. I wrote one page on an experience I had while travelling in Cambodia three years ago.
The world mourns David Bowie, and rightly so. He’s had an amazing career and he made the world a little brighter by being in it. He was a source of inspiration for countless musicians and other artists, not to mention an icon for the LGBTQ community. I visited the David Bowie Is exhibition in Groningen last week (which I highly recommend!) and I was delighted to see how he combined making art, theatre, fashion, film, and music; he himself was a masterpiece.
However, a celebrity’s death inevitably also unearths their more problematic characteristics, which people are quick to dismiss in the face of their virtues. In David Bowie’s case, something that came up a lot (which I was hitherto unaware of) was his love for fascism and his admiration of Adolf Hitler, whom he compared to a rock star. His persona the Thin White Duke was modelled on an Aryan Übermensch. It is a delicate subject; there are those who attribute the remarks to “cocaine psychosis and extreme misjudgement”, saying that the media exaggerated and “wilfully misunderstood” them (source). Others are not so quick to forgive Bowie and accuse him of having been a Nazi sympathiser and a white supremacist. What I want to do in this post is merely explain why he was seen as such; in no way do I defend his ideologies just because I like his music, nor will I condemn outright the things he said during a period where he claims to have been “politically naive” and likely under the influence of certain substances.