Esther Drammer, a teacher at Humboldt Gymnasium (Grammar School) in Solingen, Germany, wrote:
“You kindly gave us permission to put parts of your wonderful novel ‘Fall of Giants’ into a stage version, with which we participated in an international project on the outbreak of WWI called ‘Traces 1914’ together with students from Belgium, France and Poland.
We met in Flanders about a year ago to visit the battlefields, trenches and cemetries as well as some very interesting museums (In Flanders’ Fields at Ypres and Zonnebeeke at Passchendaele). We had an excellent guide, and the students (as well as my colleague Gisela and I) were deeply impressed and touched by the young men’s fates and the horrors of war.
My students had all read your novel in advance, because I think it was a very good way of getting an insight into the terrible effects this useless war had on the various characters from different countries. Some have also read the sequels, and many people in the audience, even our caretaker, were so fascinated by the story that they bought the book!
Your novel and the visit to Flanders were much more intensive than any history book, and both left a deep impact on the students (and myself). In the summer, we presented our play called ‘Traces 1914’ (like the project) to an audience consisting of classmates, teachers, parents, and friends at our school and a local museum.
It was mainly based on scenes from ‘Fall of Giants’, but also included a family from our home town of Solingen, whose storyline was created from numerous letters and diary entries my students also studied. It was a big success and very, very touching.
I had a wonderful ‘Maud’ whose final soliloquy made everyone cry. We didn’t tell the audience whether Walter (or any other soldier) returned or not, because we didn’t want a happy ending. Instead, we we had a scene in which soldiers died or were injured, while the two boys from Solingen met and talked about their experiences, and in a way reconciled (in the first scenes they had quarreled about the war; one young man was very enthusiastic about going to war, while his brother-in-law didn’t want to join the army), and then we showed the women who were left behind and received telegraphs just like in your novel. It was a very emotional ending, showing the senselessness of war. We finished of showing pictures of killed soldiers, injuries, destroyed towns, as well as figures and facts about the war.
It was really a remarkable project.
Again, thank you very, very much for the inspiration you gave us, the permission to use parts of your characters and storylines for our project (of course we told the audience about your book!!), and for your wonderful novels.
Selected images, courtesy of Axel Hutz. Click to enlarge.