„Der Gaskrieg in Literatur und Kunst im Europa der Zwischenkriegszeit“
The effects of gas attacks during the First World War moved very much into the centre of the soldiers‘ experience of a new kind of war – of the feeling of an apocalypse never before imagined. In the first part of my talk, I shall address the literary and artistic topics and forms used by British, French and German writers, poets and painters, who had in their majority fought in the war. There are striking similarities in their representation of the gas war: first of all the impersonality of this enemy, the feeling of helplessness in gas attacks, the shock of seeing one’s comrades „before my helpless sight … guttering, chocking, drowning“ (Owen) and the experience of an infernal landscape.
Nearly all authors and painters condemned the waste and pointlessness of the ongoing or past war, but their vision of the future often differed according to their national background. In the second part of my talk I shall concentrate on the public battle over the interpretation and collective remembrance in the aftermath of the first world war. Particularly at the end of the 1920ies a wave of publications on the war underlined a renewed public interest mainly in England and Germany. The memories, dramas and pictures on gas warfare played a decisive part in this context.