The resulting work has now culminated with Schauinsland: The Misfortune of the English, which premiered at the Freiburg Theater this year. Carter's screenplay, a polyphony of boys' voices, was mixed with instrumental and vocal parts - Elgar meets Talking Heads - composed by the theater collective Kommando Himmelfahrt. The boys with gnarled knees, their "thin chests that dilate with a good character, snot snaps their noses", meander with optimism through the woods like cardboard cutouts in a dreamlike diorama thatlooks like a pop-up book by the Brothers Grimm. They sing vintage hits, such as Isn 't it a Lovely Day, and their school anthem, while praising their young teacher Kenneth Keast.
" Keattie ", as local historian Bernd Hainmuller discovered during 20 years of extensive research into the Black Forest tragedy, had ignored repeated warnings from residents of the foothills of Schauinsland Mountain that the group should cancel their hike due to worsening winter weather conditions. Locals were shocked at how ill-equipped they were, in shorts and shoes, each carrying a few buttered buns; Keast had a 1: 100,000 scale map, not detailed enough to show vital terrain, and limited knowledge of using a compass.
About 12 hours after they are installedoutside, four of the boys - Francis Bourdillon, Peter Ellercamp, Stanley Lyons and Jack Eaton, all aged 11 to 15, had collapsed and died of exhaustion and heart failure; a fifth, Roy Witham, 14, died in hospital the next morning.
In his review of the play, the theater critic for the local newspaper de Friborg delivered the blunt assessment that "the authoritarian nationalist thinking of the British professor" - who refused to let his students turn around or ask for help out of national pride and machismo - "was not so far from that of National Socialism ".
Hainmuller first approached me in 2015, asking for help to fill some of the gaps Of the history. Months of archival research and correspondence culminated in the article, which sparked a new wave of correspondence between Hainmuller and the families of the victimes and survivors, eager to share their stories and eager to learn more, from as far away as Australia. He even inspired a graphic novel.
While having a drink after the premiere of Schauinsland, Hainmuller referred to the disaster in no uncertain terms: "[This n was] nothing less than a ludicrous mixture of unfathomable recklessness, insufficient material, lack of local knowledge, misguided educational methods and ambition. His investigative book, Tod am Schauinsland (Death in Schauinsland), also came out this year and formed the basis of the production.
Hainmuller ' s The painstaking reconstruction of the story, which reads like a thriller and calls for an English translation, involves everything from newspaper reviews, home postcards, period newspaper cover and correspondence between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Belgian consulatelocal tannic, Robert Petits os. More recently, Hainmuller uncovered the tacit agreement between the British and German governments to bar Keast, the teacher, from taking further trips abroad, even though his own local education authority more or less exempted him.
Carter drew on sources after contacting Hainmuller during a trip to Freiburg in the summer of 2017, where she traced the footsteps of schoolchildren and met locals who had risked their lives to save the survivors and recover the bodies, and without whom, no doubt, many more of the group of 27 would have died.
The theatrical production is punctuated by the chimes of the bells, echoing those that rang from the church in the village of Hofsgrund and guided the surviving boys to the security.
But it's the Hitler Youth, not the villagers,who were credited with the rescue attempt after the Nazis - in power by then for three years - recognized the potential propaganda disaster at a time when the German Reich was trying to present itself to the world as a benevolent state. It suited the Britain of the day - with its policy of appeasing the Nazis in the hope of avoiding war - to accompany the propaganda. And this is the version that has stuck around for decades.
A handful of villagers were among the audience on Saturday, including Hanspeter Rees and Fridolin Gutmann, whose grand- parents and great-grandparents had participated in the rescue operation. They participate in the annual spring cleaning of the grandiose monument, the so-called Engländerdenkmal (Memorial to the English) erected by the Nazis shortly after the tragedy.
"We are proud to see this on stage, especially after decades in which the role ofes Hofgrunders was effectively erased from history, "Rees said. " But we always say on behalf of our loved ones [that] they were only doing what they thought needed to be done . "In Hofsgrund, events continue to represent the folly of ignoring the weather warnings of the locals who know best.
Hainmuller is moved by the deion of the tragedy, and says maybe it's time to drop the story. But he admits he never will. There are still documents relating to the case in the archives of the British Foreign Office who have not yet been consulted. And he remains puzzled by some questions, such as why so few survivors have spoken about their ordeal. Were they silenced or plagued by guilt?
The play is told from the point of view of London schoolchildren, their minds sayCarter, "steeped in the ideology of Empire and World War I, instilled with a strong unconditional sense of national identity and allegiance." There is a poignant and dignified poetry in their voices, not least because three years after the tragedy, most of them would be old enough to be called up to fight against the Germans.
During my conversation with Hainmuller, he had looked from the theater courtyard towards a fountain marking the spot where Freiburg 's main synagogue stood before its destruction at Kristallnacht in 1938. " You do not can't undo what's being done, "he said. “But a careful reassessment of the past makes a lot of sense. It can also help set the tone for the future. "