Nina Schillings from the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung(bpb), one of the organizers of the “War or Peace?” festival, explains the significance of the setting: “[In the agency] we discuss a lot and go deep into topics. Lot of this reflection happens in the head. But reflection also works well when the heart and the emotions are connected. I think this is what culture does. It doesn’t only touch your intellectual spirits, but it also touches your emotions and does something with you.”
Nina found the extract of the play “Roma Armee”, which was presented during the opening, presented a fantastic debut for the Festival as it promoted all participants to share their experiences and their ideas on the subject with each other. She continued “in the play, it was quite obvious that there is no single perspective; and that was actually the point – we can study history and get an impression, that there is truth inhistory, that it is onefold, and indeed there are historical facts and there are many perspectives on historical event; however, there are also many personal stories behind the grand mainstream narrative.”
“History is always socially constructed. Behind all the stories that we read in history books are hidden tons of personal stories. When you start reflecting upon them it becomes clear that there cannot be one single, true perspective of history. There are unfolding wars and conflicts all over the world about the notion of the truehistory. I think it is important to understand that all these wars are obsolete, because there is not one true story.”
Crosstalk and Crossroads of History
Nina worked on an almost alchemist-like selection process, in which she tried to mix and match projects and participants from different regions and different professional backgrounds in order to arrive at a multidimensional perspective on the war. And all along, her hope for the Festival was to irritate all these people. She explained that “crossroads are a place where you must stop. You have to slow down, look to the right, look to the left and see who’s there in order to avoid crashes. It’s about stopping and listening to each other and then maybe to question the things you always took for granted.”
The Spirit of the Festival Lives On
Just before the closing ceremony Nina concluded “it’s a bit sad that we worked on the festival for about 18 months while the actual festival only lasted for four days. Nonetheless, I strongly believe that this festival will live on.”
Point and case. Ruben Galle travelled to Berlin for this year’s festival’s preceding edition as he had already participated in the 2014 edition. As a homework for the workshop, Ruben was supposed to find out about his family history during the great war. His father then showed him Ruben’s great-grandfather’s diary from the time of the war. For the festival in 2018,
Ruben brought excerpts of his great-grandfather’s notes to Berlin. When he saw how everyone was so eager to listen, he realized he stumbled upon something special. This year, Ruben came to Berlin’s festival to give a talk on Strolling through Istanbul 1918 – The Memoirs of a German privatewhere he presented a book which was born from his great-grandfather diaries.
“These moments are really special to me, because it makes me realize that what we do here is not just four days, it lasts on. For me, if it only lasted by the way of people making friends – and everyone who travelled knows that this is of value, good for your personal experiences and your worldview – it would be already a great thing.” Nina adds to Ruben’s extraordinary story.