Almost a month ago I had been so impressed by the opening story of a book devoted to stories of Anglo-German friendships and loves that I used it in a post I called “remembering”. With all the work I’ve been doing on the little guide to Romania, it’s only now that I’ve finished what tuned out to be a fascinating book with the intriguing title - Noble Endeavours – the Life of Two Countries, England and Germany, in Many Stories by Miranda Seymour whose blog also gives background on some of their characters as well as explaining what brought her to write the book.
I’ve reached the stage of my life when stories about individuals have become more important to me than narratives about historical events. Perhaps the book’s author focuses a tad much for contemporary tastes on the higher social echelons, but the stories she tells of Germans in England and Angles in Germany are nonetheless important – particularly with the appearance of German emigres after the abortive 1848 revolutions. But the most shocking stories appear at the end of the book when it reaches the 1930s and recounts how various Germans and Angles reacted to Hitler. For once the former are the goodies and the latter the baddies – with the various warnings being actively sidelined by the Foreign Office – including those of British spies with excellent connections
And I was delighted to see Tisa Schulenburg appear in the story. Somewhere in Germany, in 1990, I happened to wander in from the street to an exhibition of wonderful sketches of coalminers. They turned out to be Durham miners in the 1930s and executed by "Tisa" Schulenburg - a very graceful lady in her 80s who was kind enough to chat with me and (a few weeks later) send me reproductions of her work and a couple of her books. I knew nothing about her and discovered her full story only later - as I recounted in a blogpost
"Tisa" Schulenburg's life was by any standard remarkable. Having grown up among the Prussian nobility and witnessed the trauma of Germany's defeat in the Great War, she frequented the salons of Weimar Berlin, shocked her family by marrying a Jewish divorce in the 1930s, fled Nazi Germany for England, worked as an artist with the Durham coal miners, and spent her later years in a convent in the Ruhr.Her experience of the darker moments of the 20th century was reflected in her sculpture and drawing, in which the subject of human suffering and hardship was a constant theme - whether in the form of Nazi terror or the back-breaking grind of manual labour at the coal face.
When she heard that I was a politician from Strathclyde Region - with its mining traditions in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire - she presented me with a signed portfolio of her 1930s drawings of the NE English miners and their families (some embedded in text) for onward donation to the Scottish miners.She died more than a decade later at the age of 97 – having lived the most amazing life……
I have copies of them - from which these are selections
The two books she sent are the small "Meine Dunklen Brueder" - which recounts her stay in the North-East villages and contains many of the sketches; and the more substantial "Ich Hab's Gewagt - Bildhauerin und Ordensfrau - ein unkonventionelles Leben" - her autobiography which she has signed in large, clear script, with an address sticker for the St Ursula Convent in Dorsten where she was then living.
I prize the books - and will now work my way through her autobiography.....I notice that the second book had run into 8 editions by the time she sent it to me – with the last imprint being in 1990.