WHAT I DO

 

I am an academic, journalist and a researcher. I have a special interest in the history of the Second World War and the British foreign policy in Europe. I have been lecturing on political history of nationalism at the University of Reading, University of Bologna and the New Bulgarian University with focus on Europe after the end of the cold war.

I was a BBC World Service radio producer during the 1990s. Later on, I worked in Westminster for a small think-tank and developed the Embassy Events programme organizing ten public events with London embassies on the future of Europe. During this time I met many UK and foreign politicians, diplomats, academics and journalists engaged in foreign policy debates. I made friends from around the world while giving talks at political and intellectual forums. I have a special connection to my home-town Sofia, Bulgaria where I work on political and academic issues. My PhD tutor, Professor George Schopflin (MEP, Hungary) has inspired me to seek the connections between European history, politics and culture.

In 2012 I started researching Evelyn Waugh's participation in the Second World War at the British Library Collections and Archives. His prose and documentary writing made me reconsider the political and cultural context of the war. I became interested in the British and German Catholic resistance to nazism. Waugh's literary imagination and wide interests as well his extraordinary friends and enemies make me think about the consequences of the two major European ideologies, fascism and communism, which devided Europe during the 20th century. 

Here I publish some of my writing about Waugh and the Second World War. 

 

The Bright Young Things: Behind the Party Mask


Who were the Bright Young Things?

Evelyn Waugh pronounced the best definition: ‘There was between the wars a society, cosmopolitan, sympathetic to the arts, well-mannered, above all ornamental even in rather bizarre ways, which for want of a better description [was] called “High Bohemia.” ’[1] The Bright Young Things included writers, artists, society women and rich club members memorably satirised by Waugh in Vile Bodies (1930).

Behind the party mask of the exuberant and decadent glamour, however, the Bright Young Things were marked by anxiety, melancholy and desperation in the face of a the changing 20th century world. Having married and separated within one year, Waugh converted to Catholicism whereas his friend, the writer Henry Green (nom de plume of Henry Vincent Yorke), turned to factory work and drink to escape depression.

Although the Bright Young Things had a reputation for disregard of literary convention, they wrote carefully mastered English prose to entertain the reader. Nancy Mitford, the eldest of the six Mitford sisters, lacked formal education but had diverse literary interests stretching from classics to her contemporary George Orwell. Waugh liked to demonstrate disregard for the Oxford academics, but at the same time he had the highest standard of English grammar and prose.

The Bright Young Things had a double-sided relationship with modernism. Waugh loathed everything modern, yet his satirical novels were avant-garde parodies full of cinematographic characters as glittering as Hollywood celebrities. He fragmented his early comic novels Decline and Fall (1929) and Vile Bodies (1930) with interrupted scenes, voices and telephone conversations. Anthony Powell, a staunch conservative, used time and memory in innovative ways in the fashion of Proust, whom he admired. The comic simplicity of Mitford’s bestseller The Pursuit of Love (1945), portraying aristocratic life in England, became a 20th century ‘country house novel’ classic.   

 

War  

The Second World War changed the lives of the Bright Young Things. Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain, Stalin’s Soviet Union and Churchill’s Britain provoked their political opinions and tested their morals. Nowhere was this felt more dramatically then in the Mitford family, divided by the two main 20th century ideologies of fascism and communism. When in 1935 Italy invaded Abyssinia and Hitler’s anti-Jewish laws were passed in Germany, Nancy Mitford published Wigs on the Green (1935) – a satire attacking her sisters Diana and Unity for their involvement with British fascism, publicly exposing the rift between them and refusing to make changes as long as she lived. During the Blitz, Nancy Mitford worked in a hospital in London; there she met and fell in love with Gaston Palewki, a political aide to the French resistance leader Charles De Gaul.[2] She remained loyal to the Bright Young Things in her fashionable dress and fiction – funny and intellectually unburdened, mainly apolitical but with socialist leanings. The title of Love in a Cold Climate (1951) was a quote from George Orwell’s socially critical novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying (1936). 

During the war, Henry Green suffered from obsessive fear of death and wrote his autobiography Pack My Bag (1940) with the presentiment that his time may be running short. His experience while serving in the Fire Service influenced his novel Caught (1943), reflecting on loss. He wrote to Waugh: ‘Am very depressed, lonely, & overworked.’

Waugh was disillusioned with the war after having sailed for service in Egypt in1941, and served as an intelligence officer in the battle of Crete in 1942. He wrote two novels about the war: Put Out More Flags (1942), a comical satire, and the trilogy known collectively as The Sword of Honour (1965) – full of fine detail in its description of military order, Catholic beliefs, the battle of Crete and the campaign in Yugoslavia.

The main character, Guy Crouchback of the fictitious Royal Corps of Halberdiers, observes through a surreal haze the sacrificial attack carried out by Brigadier Ben Ritchie-Hook, alone and under fire. The theme of sacrifice and betrayal is cinematic. Waugh juxtaposes a fast-paced close-up shot and a long-range shot to describe heroism and death. He also contrasts the Brigadier’s going ahead with the others’ retreating. Such lines from the closing chapter of Unconditional Surrender are the locus classicus of Waugh’s writing: 

Two figures emerged from the scrub near the block-house walls and were advancing across the open ground. Guy remembered the precept of his musketry instructor: ‘At 200 yards all parts of the body are distinctly seen. At 300 the outline of the face is blurred. At 400 no face. At 600 the head is a dot and the body tapers.’ He raised his binoculars and recognized the incongruous pair; the first was Ritchie-Hook. He was signalling fiercely, summoning to the advance the men behind him, who were already sinking away; he went forward at a slow and clumsy trot towards the place where the rocket-bombs had disturbed the stones. He did not know that he was followed, by one man, Sneiffel, who like a terrier, like the pet dwarf privileged to tumble about the heels of a prince of the Renaissance, was gambolling round him with his camera, crouching and skipping, so small and agile as to elude the snipers on the walls. He spun completely round, then fell forwards to his knees, rose again and limped slowly on. He was touching the walls, feeling for a handhold, when a volley from above caught him and flung him down dead.[3]

 

Anthony Powell embarked on writing a sequence of twelve novels, A Dance to the Music of Time (1951-75). The narrator, Nicholas Jenkins, grows up in the shadow of the First World War and is dislocated by the Second World War while moving among literary, artistic and political partygoers. Powell’s memorable character Kenneth Widmerpool ruthlessly pursues power against the background of a panoramic view of the war. Waugh praised Powell for using coincidence as a literary device to depict the reality of life full of unpredictable chances and encounters.

 

Journalism and Life Writing

 

Recording life was central to the Bright Young Things. Waugh, who sharply observed and mocked the obsessive partygoers in Vile Bodies, also wrote diaries, three biographies, seven travel books based on his experiences in Europe, Mexico, Africa, British Guiana and Brazil, plus reviews, press articles and a great number of letters. 

Powell was a literary editor of Punch (1953-59), regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and within six years published four volumes of memoirs collectively titled To Keep the Ball Rolling (1976-82).

 

Humour and Prose Style

 

The Bright Young Things relished and cultivated humour. The comedy of life was their natural environment. Everyone was a character, eccentric, maniac, mad, witty and absurd. Waugh’s comic satire of journalism, Scoop (1938), creates a funny world of corrupt philistinism and mocks the ‘originals’ of many characters, ladies and lords who live in the ‘lush places’ of the English countryside and rely on newspapers called The Beast and The Brute for news from far away unreal countries like Ishmaelia. As a comic writer Green never enjoyed the popularity of Waugh, although he shared Waugh’s taste for ‘sick humour’ and joke tragedy and his later novel Nothing (1950) parodies his own sensitive character.[4]

But behind the lustre of uproarious London life during the 1920s – where celebrities, Oxford dons, homosexuals and foreign royalty gathered as described in Powell’s book A Buyers Market (1952) – the war years darkened the fun. The people of London’s Mayfair and Fleet Street were moving to the army barracks. The final lines in Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love can be read also as the end of the Bright Young Things: ‘A light went out, a great deal of joy that never could be replaced.’

 

 


[1] Footlights and Chandeliers. Review of The Wandering Years, by Cecil Beaton. Spectator, 21 July 1961 in The Essays, Articles and Reviews of Evelyn Waugh. Edited by Donat Gallagher, 1983, p.568.

[2] Selina Hastings, Nancy Mitford: A Biogrpahy, 2002.

[3] Evelyn Waugh, The Sword of Honour Trilogy: Men at Arms (1952), Officers and Gentlemen (1955), Unconditional Surrender (1961), Chapman & Hall.

[4] Jeremy Treglow, Romancing: The Life and Work of Henry Green, 2000. 

 


 

Evelyn Waugh and the Second World War: Foreign Affairs, Religion and Nation

 

I analyse Evelyn Waugh’s understanding of national identity in the context of his Report “Church and State in Liberated Croatia” submitted to the Foreign Office in 1945. What principles did Waugh apply in writing it? Why and how did the Report fail to make the intended impact? And what do we think about it after the end of the cold war? My interest in this topic has developed from reading Waugh’s Archive at the British Library.

I use ‘religion’ and ‘nationalism’ as two key terms in the conventional distinction between tradition and modernity to outline the framework of that Waugh saw as developing from liberating to destructive. Here I find theoretical support in Anthony Smith’s contribution to current debates on nationalism and in the historical account of Noel Malcolm.

I use the Report at the National Archives and base my findings on an extensive research of the literary, political and historical context of the time including unpublished figures from Christopher Syke’s archive. Those who argued that Waugh’s criticism of the British foreign policy was unfounded have been challenged by new research and the wars in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. Perhaps it is a lesson of twentieth-century history that long term political success favoured policies of inclusive national identities. By this criteria, Waugh’s beliefs were successfully defended.

Evelyn Waugh’s Prose Style and Classical Studies at Lancing College (1917-1921)

The excitement of activities prompted by the 50th anniversary of the passing of Evelyn Waugh in 2016 has focused on his adulthood, after the completion of his school years at Lancing College (1917-21).[1] But this period may merit reflection on its own because Waugh believed that classical studies at Lancing prepared him to become an English prose writer. Classical texts cultivated correct and clear writing for which he established himself in the history of 20th Century English literature. During those years of youth Waugh learned the intensity of precise words and perfect syntax, and throughout his life as a writer, he developed a clear, succinct and uncluttered prose style. 

In his autobiography A Little Learning: The First Volume of an Autobiography (1964), Waugh revisited his education at Lancing to conclude that it offered a key to his writing:

 

My knowledge of English literature derived chiefly from my home. Most of my hours in the form room for ten years had been spent on Latin and Greek, History and Mathematics. Today I remember no Greek. I have never read Latin for pleasure and should now be hard put to it to compose a simple epitaph. But I do not regret my superficial classical studies. I believe that the conventional defence of them is valid; that only by them can a boy fully understand that a sentence is a logical construction and that words have basic inalienable meanings, departure from which is either conscious metaphor or inexcusable vulgarity. . . . The old-fashioned test of an English sentence – will it translate? – still stands after we have lost the trick of translation.

Those who passed through the Sixth at Lancing might spell atrociously, for our written work was seldom read and then only to criticise style or meaning; spelling was regarded as too elementary for attention. Those of us who ‘specialised’ in History had a vague conspectus of the succession of events in the Mediterranean from the time of Pericles, a rather more detailed knowledge of English History from the time of Henry VII, and of European History from the war of the Austrian Succession to the battle of Sedan. We could translate literary French unseen, but spoke it with outrageous accents and without knowledge of idiom. In verse the classical matters had been well drummed into us – ‘drummed’ is the right word. The syllables and rhythms resounding into our ears were to deafen us to modern verse which followed different patterns. We were completely ignorant of Geography and all the natural sciences. In Mathematics we had advanced scarcely at all since we left our preparatory schools. Our general information was of the kind that makes The Times cross-word puzzle soluble.

My education, it seems to me, was the preparation for one trade only; that of an English prose writer. It is a matter of surprise that so few of us availed ourselves of it.

Waugh reserves a separate chapter, ‘Two Mentors’, in which he pays special tribute to his teacher J. F. Roxburgh, the first Headmaster of Stowe School and a distinguished classical scholar. Waugh describes him as a stoic, and ‘a moralist with astern disapproval of frivolity’ active in all the school’s societies – the Shakespeare Reading Society, Modern Play Reading, the Debating Society and a reviewer of books with a sense of humour. Waugh studied Latin and French (after dropping Greek) and aspired to Roxburgh’s high standard of ‘precision of grammar and contempt for cliché’. From him, he also learned to be a ‘leader-writer – not a reporter’, and adopted taste for the lively description of events in fiction. When Waugh was leaving Lancing in 1921 for Oxford, Roxburgh wrote him a letter, praising his talent: ’If you use what the gods have given, you will do as much as any single person I can think of to shape the course of my own generation.’

Waugh contributed to the Lancing College Magazine with a review of Roxburgh’s ‘The Poetic Procession’ and two editorials. In 1919 he helped found the Dilettanti Society, and during his last two terms, he wrote the Prize Poem and won the English Literature Prize. Waugh loved to spend time in the Lancing library and earned ‘library privileges’ by helping to shelve books. It was at breakfast at Lancing where he opened the letter of formal announcement that he had won the £100 Hertford Scholarship. On the same day of 15 December, he wrote in his diary: ‘as I supposed, that I got it on my English style’.[2]

Waugh often portrayed the world of the English public school and although his gaze was not always admiring, it was invariably funny. Seven years after he left Lancing, Waugh published his first novel, Decline and Fall (1928), which Arnold Bennett hailed as ‘brilliantly malicious satire’. The main character, Paul Pennyfeather, is sent down from Oxford and appointed to the position of a schoolmaster at Llanaba Castle. Waugh uses repetitive dialogue with clear syntax structure and uncomplicated grammar to create a very funny classroom episode, which dramatizes the action and effects a comic overreaction. 

Here is an example of Waugh’s racy style which quickly introduces the reader to a scene of disorder which in the course of the novel will take over Pennyfeather’s life:

Dumb with terror, he went into his own classroom.

Ten boys sat before him, their hands folded, their eyes bright with expectation.

‘Good morning, sir,’ said the one nearest him.

‘Good morning,’ said Paul.

‘Good morning, sir’, said the next.

‘Good morning,’ said Paul.

‘Good morning sir,’ said the next.

‘Oh, shut up,’ said Paul.

At this the boy took out a handkerchief and began to cry quietly.

‘Oh, sir’ came a chorus of reproach, ‘you’ve hurt his feelings. He’s very sensitive; it’s his Welsh blood, you know: it makes people very emotional.’[3] 

Waugh’s school years at Lancing were marked by the Great War and the Russian revolution in 1917. But it was the Second World War which took central place in his life and writing. Two of his novels are directly concerned with the war: his sixth novel, Put Out More Flags (1942), is set during its first year, whereas the great trilogy known collectively as Sword of Honour (1965) is largely based on his own wartime experiences. It is commonly held as his crowing achievement - unsparingly bitter, witty and stylish. There is fine detail in its description of military order, Catholic beliefs, the battle of Crete and the campaign in Yugoslavia.

The main character, Guy Crouchback of the fictitious Royal Corps of Halberdiers, observes through a surreal haze the sacrificial attack carried out by Brigadier Ben Ritchie-Hook alone under fire. The theme of sacrifice and betrayal is cinematic. Waugh juxtaposes a fast-paced close-up shot and a long-range shot to describe heroism and death. He also contrasts the Brigadier’s going ahead with the others’ retreating. Such lines from the closing chapter of Unconditional Surrender are the locus classicus of Waugh’s writing:    

Two figures emerged from the scrub near the block-house walls and were advancing across the open ground. Guy remembered the precept of his musketry instructor: ‘At 200 yards all parts of the body are distinctly seen. At 300 the outline of the face is blurred. At 400 no face. At 600 the head is a dot and the body tapers.’ He raised his binoculars and recognized the incongruous pair; the first was Ritchie-Hook. He was signalling fiercely, summoning to the advance the men behind him, who were already sinking away; he went forward at a slow and clumsy trot towards the place where the rocket-bombs had disturbed the stones. He did not know that he was followed, by one man, Sneiffel, who like a terrier, like the pet dwarf privileged to tumble about the heels of a prince of the Renaissance, was gambolling round him with his camera, crouching and skipping, so small and agile as to elude the snipers on the walls. He spun completely round, then fell forwards to his knees, rose again and limped slowly on. He was touching the walls, feeling for a handhold, when a volley from above caught him down dead.[4]

It may be simplistic to read in this parallels to classical battles. But the prose style, first learned in his school years, shines through.

 

 

 


[1] The Complete Works of Evelyn Waugh (28 October 1903 – 10 April 1966) are to be published by Oxford University Press, Editor-in-Chief Alexander Waugh, together with University of Leicester and the British Library  http://www2.le.ac.uk/research/current-research/evelyn-waugh/.

[2] In the General Paper for the Oxford entrance exam, Waugh wrote about the Pre-Raphaelites and Arthur Symons’s ‘Life of Beardsley’.

 

[3] Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall, Chapman & Hall Ltd., 1928.

 

[4] Evelyn Waugh, The Sword of Honour Trilogy: Men at Arms (1952), Officers and Gentlemen (1955), Unconditional Surrender (1961), Chapman & Hall.

 

Evelyn Waugh: Do Visit Combe Florey

 

Evelyn Waugh moved to Combe Florey House, near Taunton, Somerset, in 1956. While living there he published five books, including the final volume of his World War Two trilogy Unconditional Surrender (1961). At Combe Florey he also wrote many letters, articles, reviews, essays and a diary. From there he travelled to Rhodesia, British Guana and Europe. Waugh died in Combe Florey House on Easter Sunday in 1966 after attending Mass at the Roman Catholic Church St Richard at Wiveliscombe.[1]

To gain a sense of this history, on a bright October morning in Somerset I took bus No 28 from the Taunton railway station and in 15 minutes found myself in Combe Florey. The rain had just stopped. The narrow road led me into the village. I reached the red brick Elizabethan gatehouse, which leads to Combe Florey House through an imposing arch. 

The lights of the Church of St Peter & St Paul were on and three ladies were preparing for Harvest. They directed me to Evelyn Waugh’s graveyard. I opened the small iron gate which leads to it and stood on the private plot behind the church. Here are buried Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966), his wife Laura Waugh (1916-1973) and his daughter Margaret Fitzherbert (1942-1986). The grass was cut.

You can see the square side of the Combe Florey House from the gravesite. It sits on the top of a hill and the reddish-pink colour of the sandstone is quite special. The house is surrounded by trees and shrubs at the back and looks towards the Quantock hills from the front. There is no access to the Combe Florey House which the Waugh family sold in 2008. It is undergoing renovation with a fountain being built in the front yard. I caught only a glimpse of the entry from the driveway. But it is hard not to be impressed by the Combe Florey House.

In the British Library Maps there is a six page folder containing a full description of the Combe Florey House in 1874 when it was auctioned by the Savile Row estate agency: ‘A commodious residence, standing in a beautifully timbered park, and commands magnificent views over the Quantock Hills, with Gardens, Lawns, Shrubberies, &c., and valuable Arable, Meadow, Orchard and Wood Land, the whole comprising about 90 acres.’

I browsed this very charming village, which has about 22 listed buildings, some with thatched roofs, walked up and down the alleys and sat on the bench in the small public garden before returning to Evelyn Waugh’s grave. During the afternoon it was very quiet under the two oak trees above the graves. Later on I walked across the road in the church cemetery where his son Auberon Waugh is buried (1939-2001).[2]

The linking motif throughout this very lovely one day journey has been Evelyn Waugh’s breath-taking prose, literary life and family relationships. While enjoying the atmospheric village, imagined the author brooding over his characters and narratives, while preparing for evening gatherings of guests and late-night conversation. He is that very rare cross: a great English writer who is very funny and hugely serious at the same time. Everyone who reads him should visit ‘Combe Florey, Nr Taunton’.

A view of Combe Florey House, October, 2013.  

The Gate House, Combe Florey, October 2013. 

 The Iron Gate at Combe Florey, October 2013. 

Evelyn Waugh's Grave, Combe Florey, October 2013. 

 

 

A Modest Memorial to Resistance:  The Bonhoeffer House, Berlin

 

 

 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and founding member of the Confessing Church, established in opposition to the Nazification of the German Protestant church. Bonhoeffer (4 February1906 – 9 April 1945) believed that National Socialism and Hitler’s regime were inhuman, anti-Christian and anti-German.

 

On a bright February morning, the Bonhoeffer House on Mareinburger Allee No. 43 in Berlin opens to four visitors. The house was built in 1935 by the architect and relative of the Bonhoeffer’s family Jorg Schleicher as a retirement home for Dietrich’s parents in a cull-de-sac in the very lovely Charlottenburg district near the wooded Grunewald where the family lived previously. The house was sold after the parents died in 1951; since 1987 it has been a Memorial and Place of Encounter run by volunteers relying entirely on private support.

 

In the typical bürgerliche fashion of the day, the ground floor has a corridor, a kitchen and a dining hall where the family took their meals and received visitors. Bonhoeffer travelled a lot, but whenever he was in Berlin, he stayed in this house. It was nice to imagine how he dined with his parents and his sister Ursula who lived next door, and chatted with granny Julia who lived in the house; how they opened the sliding doors and the windows towards the small, very lovely garden and how they played the piano.

 

But what we also know is that they talked intensely about theology and politics. By 1939 he was fully drawn by his brother-in-law Hans von Dohnanyi, son of the Hungarian composer Ernst Dohnanyi, into the active political resistance. Bonhoeffer joined the Abwehr, the military counter intelligence service in order to work for the conspirators. As German Jews began to be deported to the East, Bonhoeffer helped Dohnanyi carry out a plan known as Operation 7 to save fourteen Jews designated as agents by sending them to Switzerland in 1942.

 

Moreover, in March 1943, Dohnanyi was directly involved in a failed attempt to murder Hitler by planting a British-made bomb on the plane taking him back from Russia to Germany. In April 1943 the Nazi leadership decided to crack down on ‘traitors’ and both Bonhoeffer and Dohnanyi were arrested. But the scale of their resistance was not uncovered until months after the failed assassination attempt against Hitler of 20 July 1944. Bonhoeffer was imprisoned for two years and hanged on 9 April 1945 in Flossenburgh concentration camp together with other conspirators, a few days before Dohnanyi was also killed – just a month before the end of the Second World War. His last Easter sermon was for the prisoners in Tegel where he was detained.

 

Climbing upstairs to Bonhoeffer’s attic study is easy. It is nicely restored. The furniture and the books on the shelves of his personal library are replicas of the originals kept in the Berlin State Library. Modesty speaks from every corner of his room. There are two pictures on the walls: one is a sketch of the river Thames which he bought in London and the other– a small Orthodox icon he brought as a present to his grandmother from Sofia, Bulgaria, where he attended an Ecumenical conference in 1934. In this sunny and secluded space Bohoeffer read, wrote his Ethics, corresponded and made decisions. It was from this room that he was arrested on 5 April 1943 on the order of the Gestapo.

 

In 1934, for a year and a half Bonhoeffer was a pastor to two parishes in London: the German Evangelical Congregation in Sydenham and the German Reformed Congregation of St. Paul in the East End. During this time he lobbied for the exclusion of the Reich Government Church and the recognition of the Confessing Church. He established contact with George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester, who became an advocate of the Confessing Church. On the Bishop’s recommendation Bonhoeffer was elected in the Ecumenical Council in 1934 at a major conference in Fanø, Denmark.

 

From London Bonhoeffer wrote more than 200 letters to friends, family and clergy, published in 2007 in the original English he wrote. They reflect his pastoral and communal work as well as the direction of his theological and political thinking: ‘Hitler has shown himself very clearly for what he is and the Church ought to realize with whom it has to recon. . . . We have to be converted, not Hitler.’ In November 1935 Bonhoeffer sang in the choir the Brahms German Requiem before travelling back to Berlin where he would join the conspiracy against Hitler.

 

His family was well-established and traditional, Catholic and patriotic in the way a significant section of the German upper class at that time was – caring for their country but in disagreement with the National Socialists. The Bonhoeffers were educated in professions and public service. They were broadly read in theology and had a taste for classical music. After his brother-in-law Dohnanyi involved him in the conspiracy against Hitler Bonhoeffer worked for the conspirators through his international contacts. His brother Klaus and another brother-in-law, Rudiger Schleicher, were also involved in the conspiracy and were also executed days before the end of the war.

 

There is something remarkable about the strength of the Bonhoeffers’ family relations, in the love and understanding they had for each other and in the way they took responsibility for their political views as well as in the stoic acceptance of the deadly consequences they faced. Dietrich was one of eight children; there is a photograph of him with his twin sister, Sabine, taken in London in July 1939, sitting on garden chairs, smiling at each other and bathed in light – a happy day during the wartime summer. At the time of his arrest, Dietrich was engaged to be married to Maria von Wedemeyer (1924-1977) who remained a family friend of the Bonhoeffers throughout her life.

The Bonhoeffer House is a short walk from the Heerstrasse stop and from there about 20 minutes away from the Berlin’s center on the S-Bahn. It was sad to think about Bonhoeffer and the Second World War while leaving the quiet Charlottenburgh district and later on while strolling around the Branderburg Gate. As the sun was setting above the restored Reichstag, young Berliners were jogging in the nearby Tiergarten and tourists were taking pictures with their mobile phones. The Berlin Wall is gone and today one hears Russian, Turkish, English and other languages spoken on the streets adding to the city’s historic variety – imperial, republican, Nazi, liberal, ecclesiastical, academic, working class, musical. Very few Berliners took the risk of actively opposing Hitler’s Third Reich. Just a few streets away stands a modest memorial to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of those who certainly did. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] St Richards at Wiveliscombe was closed in 1966 and reopened in 1967 in a near by location.

[2] “Fathers and Sons” by Alexander Waugh (2004) is a fine guide and companion to trace the four generations of connections in the Evelyn Waugh’s family. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I lectured on issues of national identity in Europe at UCL, University of Reading, Univeristy of Bologna and the New Bulgarian University.