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Novel based on Jew ‘catcher’ Stella Kübler stirs controversy

It tells the fictionalized true story of a woman who gave up her fellow Jews to the Nazis. Critics have condemned the novel Stella by Takis Würger, published this week in Germany, as "Holocaust kitsch." "We have a new literature debate," wrote Hannah Lühmann of the Die Welt newspaper when reflecting on the bombshell publication of Stella, a novel by journalist, author and war correspondent Takis Würger. Published by the prestigious Hanser Verlag on January 11, Stella fictionalizes the true story of Jewess Stella Kübler (née Goldschlag), who as a so-called "catcher" betrayed other Jews gone underground to the Gestapo. 'Nazi story for dummies?' Würger's second novel was inspired by the award-winning journalist's fascination for the subject. But while it's too early to judge the success of this study of a character who is already a book subject — for example, Peter Wyden's Stella: One Woman's True Tale of Evil, Betrayal, and Survival in Hitler's Germany — the vehement response to the novel by German critics has been striking. The Süddeutsche Zeitung reviewer wrote on January 11 that Stella is "an outrage, an insult and a real offense." Moreover, the work was described as "the symbol of an industry that seems to have lost any ethical or aesthetic scale if it wants to sell such a book as a valuable contribution to the memory of the Shoah." The critic further accused the author of having written the novel "without any awareness of the problem of literature, literacy and history." A reviewer for Die Zeit was equally scathing. "An abomination in children's book style: Takis Würger writes in Stella about a Jewish woman who becomes an accomplice in the Nazi era. It's a novel full of narrative clichés." Public radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk described it as "Holocaust kitsch" and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung asked: "Why this Nazi story for dummies?" Publishers weigh in Florian Kessler, cultural journalist and editor at Hanser Verlag, deflected the criticism on social media. In a detailed Facebook post, he responded, among other things, to the allegation by the Süddeutsche Zeitung that the novel would instrumentalize the Holocaust. "One can only answer: this discussion … rightly pervades the literature since '45," he wrote of a debate that has raged around so-called Holocaust literature in the postwar period. Kessler noted that Bernhard Schlink's novel The Reader, which became a hit Hollywood film, was also accused in the 1990s of mixing clichés and Holocaust instrumentalization. Shortly thereafter, he read the book at school in class.\ "We also talked about such allegations against it, and through the book's ambivalences and problems, we had very important and formative discussions about the Nazi period in my entire school years," he wrote. Read more: Holocaust satirist Elgar Hilsenrath dies at 92 Let the public decide Hannah Lühman of Die Welt was also surprised by the ferocity of the critical slating. But while she defended the novel as a whole, she added that many questions of course remain regarding, for example, "the choice of historical material; this extreme story of a Jewish woman who has betrayed hundreds of Jews to the Gestapo; what fantasies it may satisfy among non-Jewish Germans reading it." But she refused, according to Lühmann in his Facebook post, "to join in this scandal." It remains to be seen how the reading public will respond to Stella. Interest has been high in Germany, with the book launch and author reading in Hamburg on Monday sold out weeks in advance. And the novel has already garnered international attention: So far, nine foreign licenses have been sold, with the book set to be published in English, French, Spanish and Chinese, among others.

It tells the fictionalized true story of a woman who gave up her fellow Jews to the Nazis. Critics have condemned the novel Stella by Takis Würger, published this week in Germany, as “Holocaust kitsch.” “We have a new literature debate,” wrote Hannah Lühmann of the Die Welt newspaper when reflecting on the bombshell publication of Stella, a novel by ... Read More »

German arms exports – what you need to know

German weaponmakers have complained that tensions with Turkey are hurting business, but what's the truth? DW takes a look at deals for arms that German manufacturers have made with countries around the world. The head of Germany's largest weapons manufacturer believes that tension between Berlin and Ankara is making it virtually impossible for his company to conduct business with Turkey. German arms producers are required to gain authorization from the Economy Ministry to sell their products and services abroad. "If relations with Turkey don't improve, it will be difficult to get any permissions from Germany," Rheinmetall CEO Armin Papperger told the news agency dpa in an interview published on Sunday, complaining that a number of bilateral military hardware projects are on ice. Weapons are a major, if very controversial, German industry. A decline in sales to Turkey might put a dent in the larger numbers, but it appears that German arms manufacturers have plenty of potential clients. How large is Germany's arms trade with Turkey? In response to an official inquiry, in September the Economy Ministry reported that it had approved about €25 million ($30 million) in arms sales to Turkey in the first eight months of 2017. That was down from €69 million in the same period of last year. According to the ministry, the approved exports primarily consisted of bombs, torpedoes and missiles. By way of comparison, in just the first four months of 2017, Sweden had received €30.6 million worth and Switzerland €22.7 million.The top two customers, Algeria and Lithuania, bought €830 million and €469 million worth, respectively. Where does Germany stand among the world's arms exporters? You'll often hear Germany referred to as the world's third-leading weapons seller, but official statistics are usually neither completely reliable nor completely up-to-date. What seems certain is that Germany is in the top five, well behind the United States and Russia, with sales volumes more comparable to those of China and France. The government granted permission for arms sales valued at €6.85 billion in 2016. Last year, Germany accounted for around 5.6 percent of the world's weapons exports, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Germany has a broad customer base, exporting arms to dozens of different countries, including the US, the UK, Greece, Brazil, South Korea and India. According to the government, 46.4 percent of permissions for German arms sales were for fellow NATO countries, including Turkey. Are German exports on the rise or decline? That depends on how you look at the situation. Weapons demand dramatically increased in 2015, largely from countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa, so currently German export levels remain comparatively high. The trade publication Jane's Defence estimates that the Middle East and North Africa could account for 40 percent of German arms exports by 2018, which is comparable with those two regions' share in the global market. If you look at a narrower time frame, German weapons exports are declining. The €6.85 billion estimated in 2016 represented a significant decrease over the record €7.86 billion in 2015. And the official export approval figures for the first four months of this year (€2.42 billion) are also significantly down on those from the same period in 2016 (€3.3 billion). Fewer permissions for arms sales have been issued as the government has focused increased attention on potential buyers. In 2013, Germany pledged to reduce the amount of arms it exported after widespread criticism. What other German arms sales have stirred up controversy? Germany has provided weapons to a number of countries with dubious human-rights records, including both Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which engaged in a tense standoff over the summer. German arms sales to Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, both countries accused of commonly using torture, have also been criticized. Though it was ultimately approved, a submarine deal with Israel worth an estimated €1.5 billion came under fire earlier this year following allegations of corruption in Israel. In the past, critics have noted that German submarines sent to Israel could be modified to carry nuclear missiles.

German weaponmakers have complained that tensions with Turkey are hurting business, but what’s the truth? DW takes a look at deals for arms that German manufacturers have made with countries around the world. The head of Germany’s largest weapons manufacturer believes that tension between Berlin and Ankara is making it virtually impossible for his company to conduct business with Turkey. ... Read More »

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