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Peter Jackson's 'They Shall Not Grow Old'

This documentary has almost no narration or academic talking heads but instead is full of recorded excerpts from interviews done with British veterans in the '70s, looking back on their own experiences in the trenches.

One of the interesting clips mentions that an English unit is warned by their Saxon opponents in the facing trench that their squad is being pulled out to be replaced by a Prussian group, and I think the speaker indicates that the Saxon soldiers didn't like their Prussian colleagues any more than the Brits did.

Does this resonate with any of you?
Maybe I should be posting this in the Germany forums?

It sounds to me like an interesting analogue to the thing we often hear about 'France' being an amalgam of more than a dozen languages and peoples that only started to gain a sense of nationhood under Napoleon's compulsion and was still pretty dis-unified by the outbreak of the Great War. It would make sense that this was no less true in what we now think of as 'Germany', I suppose.

Posted by
4665 posts

Avirosemail, the same is true of Italy. We think Italy goes back for centuries, but actually it's considerably younger that the US.

Posted by
21260 posts

I think the constantly changing borders of Europe especially in the late 1700 and 1800s has created some strange bed fellows. And, unfortunately, to this day we all engage in tribal discrimination. Not going away soon.

Posted by
16165 posts

Since Germany only really became unified about 45 years before that time, it would be similar if a bunch of South Carolinians had warned the Germans that a bunch of Pennsylvanians (Yankees!) were about to occupy the trenches. Those Yankees burned their home town to the ground 50 years earlier.

Saxony was allied with Austria against the Prussians at the battle of Koenigraetz in 1866, 3 years after Gettysburg. Both battles resulted in about 7800 dead.

Posted by
1178 posts

France is doing a pretty good job of creating political genocide of Alsace, all in the name of Nationalism.

First they made French compulsory. Now they’ve absorbed Alsace into Grand Est so that the Alsatians have no voting power. All without the consent of the locals.

In another generation Alsace as a culture will be dead. And no one notices because no one is getting killed.
Tribalism very much still exists.

Posted by
4665 posts

Cindy H, that's interesting. I need to read up on Alsace. I know it's been a political football for generations, but not much more.

Posted by
1178 posts

Imagine if South Dakota was annexed into California. Do you truly believe that South Dakota’s needs and wants would even be considered, let alone supported? The California vote is so large it would stomp out South Dakota every time

Annexing Alsace into the much larger very French department totally dilutes the votes to the point that Alsace has no voice. They no longer can self determine their future.

Diluting something to the point that it no longer is discernible is essentially killing it. Elsässerditsch Is close to a dead language. The culture of Alsace is dying because France is working to absorb it.

And please note that Alsace was absorbed even though they protested against it. The very act of absorption shows that France doesn’t care about the wants and desires of Alsace.


Posted by
1665 posts

Peter Jackson took pains to include the correct regional British accents in the movie but I don't know whether he did similarly with the Axis combatants -- there isn't much of their voices included anyway.

My point with the post was closer to what Frank indicated above about frequently changing borders in Europe. We too quickly lose sight of how the uniform ~great powers~ image of European struggles is not typical of the long history of multi-cultural and multi-lingual alliances and agglomerations and mini-empires on the continent. Things were always a lot more mixed than black-and-white.

On the other edge of 'Germany' from Alsace you had Konigsberg/Kaliningrad all the way to Breslau/Wroclaw as a region where multiple languages and multiple ethnicities mixed together more or less unsuccessfully for centuries before the current sorting between Poland, Germany and Ukraine.
I'm only just now noticing the lack of discussions of places in Silesia on the RS travel forums.
One thing inspiring my interest is that I recently learned that a relative in their 90s who I always thought was from a German-speaking area in Romania was actually from a German-speaking area in Silesia, around Kotowice. Getting along in 3+ languages was normal at the turn of the 20th century --
and maybe it's not so unusual in places outside of the central atlantic US today, too!

Posted by
27 posts

My husband I saw this movie a few weeks ago. It was an excellent documentation of what really happened, to real people. I highly recommend this documentary.

Posted by
5011 posts

Looks quite worthwhile. Seems to be in very limited theatrical release right now. Will be watching for it. Thanks for the rec.