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JPI PeaceTalk
Subject JPI PeaceTalk with Thomas F. Schneider, Director of Erich Maria Remarque Peace Center
Author JPI  (admin)
  Thomas F. Schneider.JPG  (103KByte)
2019-07-11 오후 2:22:28

Q1. Would you tell us a little bit about Erich Maria Remarque Peace Center?

The Remarque Peace Center was founded in 1998 and it is run by the city and university in Osnabrück, and as the name says it is dedicated to the famous German pacifist author. We have an exhibition on his life and works. We also have six exhibitions that deal with the media in general, not only with literature. We also have an archive related to Remarque and if anyone is dealing with him, they can contact us. We are also permitted to his work on a local level and also local level and on a global level.

Q2. It is impressive that a peace center has been built in commemoration of an anti-war writer Remarque. Like in many other countries, ‘Im Westen nichts Neues’ and ‘Zeit zu leben und Zeit zu sterben’ built a fanbase in Korea as well. What shocks a lot of fans in ‘Im Westen nichts Neues’ is that Paul, who is the leading character of the story, seems to be killed in vain shortly before the end of the war. We are living in a time where people like to see peace depicted kept by heroes bringing a happy end. In this sense, the peace message is delivered in a different way in the novel when Paul ekes out a miserable life only to get himself killed. What message do you think Remarque intended to deliver from Paul’s death?

In all of his novels, Remarque was interested in describing the fate of individuals. He was convinced that the readers should not only read the novel but also think about it, in the sense that he was to put the individual fate of the reader in the character’s life. “How would I have reacted in this situation?” This was the case in All Quiet on the Western Front. On the one side, the death of Paul was a symbol of the senselessness of killing in general, but on the other, throughout the novel, the author was always posing the question, “What would you do in this situation?” This is the reason this novel is so attractive. Everybody could find him- or herself in the novel. I think this works very well throughout the novels. This is why Remarque is still so well regarded. All Quiet on the Western Front is over 90 years old, but readers can still think about themselves in the situations.

Q3. ‘Im Westen nichts Neues’ and ‘Zeit zu leben und Zeit zu sterben’ are depicting the first and second World War respectively. Shadow of war is yet lingering here and there, though the world is not likely to witness another massive war in this post-Cold War era. The realm of peace-making efforts is shifting from traditional conflicts between nations to terrorism, conflict between religion, gender issue, racial discrimination and cyber-attack. In this regard, Johan Galtung emphasized the importance of ‘positive peace’. Where does Remarque’s anti-war message and peace stand in the current international relations?

Because Remarque addressed the individual and the fate of the individual, and wants his readers to think of the situation. It doesn’t depend on the character but because Remarque is always describing human relationships—which are not directly related to historic events, but they are related to general questions. What is my responsibility in the conflict? How am I responsible, myself, for the conflict, for the outcome, for the consequences? What can I as an individual do to diminish the consequences?

Q4. Germany had waged wars against European countries in WW1 and WW2. Most countries, even defeated ones, tend to write a history from their own perspective. How do German people remember World Wars in general?

This is a really complicated question because really from the German perspective it has to do with two lost world wars. Both wars were started from Germany, and both wars Germany lost. Even today, Germany is committed to the consequences and the heritage of these wars, especially WWII with the Holocaust and the crimes against civilians throughout Europe and beyond. We hope that commemoration culture in Germany is dependent on WWII. This has consequences for contemporary German politics, too. That’s why German soldiers are not directly engaged in warfare in Afghanistan, Iraq, or wherever. They’re only there in a supporting or humanitarian role.

Q5. Most Northeast Asia countries underwent Western governance between late 19th and early 20th centuries. Moreover, some still have unresolved issues such as war reparations, apologies and reconciliation, and bias in historical descriptions. In Germany, we know that the war has caused discomfort for some time to other European countries. How did Germany solve these problems?

Again, it’s a very complicated question. It’s risky to answer it in two minutes. But, the German people, and the individuals who were contemporaries in WWII, and even my generation, which was born in the 1960s, are deeply committed and engaged in the responsibilities of the consequences of WWII. So we were educated in the belief and the thoughts that we have to make new friendships with other countries in Europe and that we have to establish new relationships and we have to prove to the world that the Germans are a peaceful people throughout the 1950s, 60s, and 70s and up to today. Now people are dying out, so we have a biographical problem. There are no longer any living survivors of the concentration camps. We have a problem to demonstrate to younger generations how to deal with the consequences of the war. The generations like me and before were convinced that the EU was a model of peace-finding and peace-keeping, but as you can see by the elections last week and for the EU parliament, you have these right-wing parties as the major parties in France and Italy. It’s the role of Germany I think to establish a new basis for the EU.

Q6. Peace centers are broadening their role from mere exhibiting to including diverse activities such as public performance, holding symposiums and education for the youth. Is Remarque Peace Center planning to diversify its activity?

Yes, we are. We have this exhibition and commemoration part of our work, but we are working on different levels for a lot of programs for schools and universities. For pupils, students, and scholars. We are taking Remarque and his work as the starting point to discuss problems. For example, the role of the media in welfare. The basis in this subject is the deliver media competence to scholars and school people and students. For example, we are taken a world-famous film, All Quiet on the Western Front, made in 1930, and teaching students how to read a movie, and trying to give some insights on propaganda; and so taking the past—the movie—and comparing it with contemporary problems.

Q7. It is of great difficulty for a museum to supply funds for operation. To my knowledge, Remarque Peace Center is run in joint operation by Osnabruck and the University of Osnabruck. How are the Peace Center, the University and Osnabruck city playing roles in funding?

The funding is done by the City of Osnabruck and the University of Osnabruck. Because we are doing traveling exhibitions, we are always looking for corporate partners to finance these projects. But because the City of Osnabruck is set to be a peace city, and there are several pillars of being a peace city, and one of these pillars is Remarque—I’m something like an ambassador for the City of Osnabruck.

Q8. What do you think a museum or a peace center can and should do to serve people, and mankind at large? How do you picture the future of Remarque Peace Center?

We are very committed with schools and universities. This work will also be the future of the Remarque Peace Center. Especially when you have the current situation in Europe. We are in a period of increasing nationalism and increasing “fake news,” and the Remarque Peace Center and other international peace institutions need to speak out against it. This nationalism, this worldwide xenophobia, this worldwide attempt at not trying to understand the other. These museums have to develop joint programs, for example, to do against this swift international thinking.