The Monday demonstrations, which emanated from the Leipzig Nikolaikirche, ushered in the end of the GDR and led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. In particular, the demonstration of 9 October 1989 is regarded as the turning point of the peaceful revolution. Leipzig is celebrating the 30th anniversary of this momentous day with numerous events. The same day startsin German cinemas. The animated film by directors Ralf Kukula and Matthias Bruhn deals with the events surrounding the fall of the Berlin Wall in a child-friendly way. He tells in quietly mounted pictures and historically accurate illustrations of the city of Leipzig from this eventful phase of German history.
The focus of the film is the friendship of the two fourth graders Fritzi and Sophie, who are separated when Sophie flees in the summer holidays with her mother via Hungary to the West. Fritzi wants to see Sophie again and gradually gets into the growing protests and demonstrations, which eventually lead to the fall of the wall. The film is based on the children's book "Fritzi was doing: A Wendewundergeschichte" by the author Hanna Schott, with illustrations by Gerda Raidt. DW talked to Hanna Schott about her book.
DW: Ms. Schott, how did Fritzi ever happen?
Hanna Schott: Monika Osberghaus, who later founded the publishing house "Klett Kinderbuch" in Leipzig, called me spontaneously in January 2009, when she realized that it was about the fall of the Berlin Wall for younger children – ie children from the 3rd, 4th to 5th century Class – nothing gives. And since she also knew that I had been in the GDR a lot and had kinship there, I came to her mind.
How did you approach the book?
Monika Osberghaus asked in an article in the Leipziger Volkszeitung, who was a primary student in 1989 and then came in the 4th grade. That was something special, because then you became Thälmann pioneer (The pioneer organization "Ernst Thälmann", named after the former chairman of the Communist Party of Germany, was the political mass organization for children in the GDR, note d. Red.). There were 60 people on it, but there was no material for a story. Then I thought that the people who were there at the time might just not live in Leipzig or read the paper anymore. I talked to Pastor Christian Führer, initiator of the Monday prayers and demos. And he has given me contacts with people who initially went to the demos with their children. Then I have various discussions and have cloned Fritzi out of it. The one who is the most Fritzi lives in Braunschweig today. In contrast to the film, I only took things into the book that people told me.
What impressed you most about the East before the fall of the Wall?
I have always wondered why others are not interested in the fact that there is a country where it is so easy to make contact, because one speaks the same language, while one has to work in France and England, and that it is so different is, I found that very fascinating.
And it was still pretty post-1968 during my studies. I remember, you always had to get rid of your money at the end, and then you always bought records and books, because you could not eat well. And in the pub in Marburg was discussed after whether robbed the GDR citizens of their cultural goods or not. Of course, we would never have thought that would become a country. But I kept the contacts far beyond my studies.
How did the collaboration with illustrator Gerda Raidt work?
Fritzi was the first book with her. She was born in East Berlin and lives in Leipzig. It was also very important in terms of content, because we were under great time pressure, everything had to be very fast. Each chapter that I finished, I sent Gerda Raidt and asked: "Is that so"? She said, for example, that the blackboards in the GDR played a big role. I also had the teacher too positive for her taste. She is really caricatured in the movie, so much stricter and crazier than me in the book.
What happened after the book came out?
I have done many, many readings with the book. For example, there was an action from the Leipziger Volkszeitung (LVZ), "Zeitung in der Schule", where I spent ten days cruising through Saxony by a LVZ employee.
For the people I interviewed at the beginning of 2009, I always apologized for coming from the West because I thought, who am I, that I interviewe. And they actually thought it was great because they said, "No one's interested in that anymore." It must also be said that ten years ago it was a bit different from today. And they said they thought it was great that I wanted to know all that. In the schools I have already experienced very open-minded people. But also people who said, "Someone comes and reads something from our past."
What did you experience during your readings with the children?
Ten years ago, the children in the East knew a little more than the children in the West. That has leveled out in the meantime. Nobody knows anything anymore. The level of ignorance is now the same. And I tell myself, it's okay, maybe it's a positive sign. The children can not imagine that there were two countries.
Last week in Bad Oeynhausen I read to fifth-graders who had no idea that there were two countries. And a third class in Aachen was once quite sure that formerly North and South Germany were separated from each other. And somewhere near Frankfurt must have been the limit. And then I asked the kids, "Does anyone know what that country's name was?" And then someone said, "Yes, that was the NDR." (Editor's note: short for Norddeutscher Rundfunk)
How much influence did you have on what comes in the movie and what does not?
Legally, it is the case that the original sitter must be shown the script, I had a veto right. A film is always far away from the original, I can not imagine that my little book, which has almost 100 pages with illustrations, 90 minutes of cinema are made. They must also invent something powerful.
I would have vetoed only if it had really been against the spirit and meaning of the book's story. That's not how it is. It is enough for me, when the children ask after home, "How was that, tell me." When it comes to conversation.
Are you satisfied with the movie?
Yes, it was of course important to me that it is also stipulated that the film is called "Fritzi". Otherwise I have nothing more of it. I can only hope that this will prolong the life of the book. There are now also many more readings than usual, because many want to do both, so watch the movie and get to know the author. Much attention has been paid to the book, which surprises and pleases me.
What do you like most about the filming?
Above all, I think it's great to see how much effort they have made to show Leipzig how it was. That is quite terrific, I think. Although I have seen the movie only once so far. The upcoming premiere should also be the premiere for me.
Was this book also a concern for you to understand?
My audience are relatively small children. They have now completed three to four years of schooling. They will have to learn all the misery of German history in the coming years. And I think the reunification is simply the most beautiful story from German history. I think it's good that the filmmakers have taken the subtitle, "A Wendewundergeschichte". There have already happened some things that have been incredible. If that had been fictional, one would say that is very far-fetched. It does not always go from A to B, but there are also craziness, positive craze in the story. I still enjoy traveling with the book. Because it's great to be able to tell the children an unconstructed happy ending.
"Fritzi was there: A Wendewundergeschichte" by the author Hanna Schott, with illustrations by Gerda Raidt, Klett children's book 2009, 96 pages.
The movie "Fritzi – a Wendewundergeschichte" by Ralf Kukula and Matthias Bruhn will be released on 09.10. in the cinemas.
The interview was conducted by Philipp Jedicke.