yotg discussion (spoilers)

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


>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

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!

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