yotg discussion (spoilers)

Hallie O'Donovan hallieod at indigo.ie
Thu Dec 14 03:54:44 EST 2000


Bettina:

>Wermacht... [ramble-alert]
>When we were talking about Harry Potter IV, somebody (sorry, I couldn't
>find the mail) assumed that "Durmstrang" was "intrinsically annoying to
>the Germanic
>reader" (or something like that). Whilst it wasn't, the name Wermacht is
>(at least to me). Well, I don't know whether I really should say
>annoying, but it's certainly distracting. Wehrmacht translates as "armed
>forces" and was the name of the German regular army until 1945 (regular
>meaning not SS or SA). There has been quite a controversy about an
>exhibition called "War of Extermination: Crimes of the Wehrmacht, 1941
>to 1944" about the involvement of the Wehrmacht in the Holocaust
>(For quite some time there were  people who claimed that the Wermacht
>was just "normal army" and not much involved), maybe you heard about
>that, or you know the name from history lessons or movies or are even a
>time witness. Anyhow, this name carries a lot of  feelings, resonances,
>that seemed quite out of place in YotG. And given our discussions about
>the significance of names in DWJ books together with the fact that I
>assume (considering her biography) she knows the term "Wehrmacht" as
>well, it made me wonder what it is supposed to mean. One idea that
>occurred to me was that it might be she wanted something that sounded
>German. The reason I do not like this is that it would, in a winded way,
>make Wermacht another „German cardboard character“: exact, correct,
>stupid, annoying, boring, shouting, feeling-important... Once I had made
>that connection I saw all these „Ugly-German“ character-traits
>personified in Wermacht, and I’m quite sick of those characters. Mind
>you, I don’t say DWJ did have that in mind at all, I do not even think
>so. It’s just how at some point it felt to *me* and it was rather
>distracting.

I've been mulling over this all afternoon (while doing extremely 
boring things, mostly involving chauffeuring and children and their 
dentists!)  It's so nice to have everyone writing again, and to 
_have_ these insights to enjoy.

(Sorry, I've no idea why the next paragraph ended up as a reply, but 
it shouldn't be.)

>Anyway - this is worrying.  Either I didn't know the term Wermacht, 
>or knew it so long ago that I might as well never have known it. 
>But I tried to put the "ugly German" characteristics you described 
>above unto Wermacht and see if they fit.  For me, they didn't. 
>There was no "Germanic" feel to the character at all for me, except 
>the pronunciation of the name.  (And you wouldn't believe how 
>difficult it is for a non-German speaker to say "Wizard Wermacht" 
>readily.  Reading it to Cara, it almost invariably came out "Vizard 
>Vermacht or "Wizard Were-macht".)  But he didn't seem to fit the 
>stereotype.  The main aspect of his character seemed to be his fear, 
>and the way he dealt with it, which was to bully and de-humanize. 
>Oops, as I write that, how like _Nazi_ mentality it sounds - not 
>German people, though, even ugly German-stereotype ones.  I think 
>I'll shut up about this topic now.

It would be an interesting question for you to ask on the site though!

Hallie.
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