Trans Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 15. Nr. August 2004

10.5. Forms of Life: Theatre Forms as an Articulated Way of Life
HerausgeberIn | Editor | Éditeur: Herbert Gantschacher (Klagenfurt)

Buch: Das Verbindende der Kulturen | Book: The Unifying Aspects of Cultures | Livre: Les points communs des cultures

The Limits of Virtual Reality or Our deal with the past and future

Herbert Gantschacher (Klagenfurt)


Today newspapers are reporting in a few lines about the refusal of pilots of the Air Force of Israel to bomb cities, villages, camps, cars and people in the land of the Palestine Authority. But newspapers need a lot of lines for their news reports about the marriage of the son or a daughter of a king or a queen.

In August 1914 "Serbien muss sterbien" announced the newspaper "Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung" after the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz-Ferdinand on 28th of June 1914 in Sarajevo and on the eve of the big apocalypse of the 20th century World War I and World War II. The translation of "Serbien muss sterbien" means "Serbia must die" which means the total annihilation of a nation and culture by war.

But that means also that this announcement on the front page of this newspaper in 1914 did not inform the people but tried to influence them for the propaganda of a preventive war on the eve of World War I.

So the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy initiated the first Total War in History with all elements of a modern war in the air, on the water and on the ground in big battlefields. The Austro-Hungarian Empire and the General chief in staff of the military forces, Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf were full responsible for starting this preventive war against Serbia which became "Der Große Krieg / La Grande Guerra / The Great War" and the responsibility to create this apocalypse.

Official history often denied and denies this responsibility. As in 2003 politicians were often speaking about a "Reunion of Europe" as we know from history Europe in the past never was united. So we have to learn from Hidden History and Hidden Art in the past and the present.

One of the examples for Hidden History and Hidden Art is The Hidden Years Archive Music Project in South Africa by David Marks, which is in the process of restoring, transferring, cataloguing and issuing 35 years of music (on CD, Radio and perhaps TV) that was ignored, banned, or restricted during the Apartheid Area in South Africa. Much of the musical past, like the political past, is hard to access. Just as people and books during the time of the Apartheid Area were banned and censored, so too were musicians and their music.

So this project is a powerful documentary of the art of a civilized world and also a history of a civilized world. This is one example that Hidden Art is a witness of Hidden History. It is also a document for the survival of humanity.

Monuments of war are not reflecting peace and humanity. Monuments remembering the Holocaust are trying to reflect memory. But who takes the profits ? In general the economy and especially constructions of companies. The companies who produced the gas "Blaukreuz / Blue Cross" for WW I were the same who produced the gas for the industrial annihilation of people in the concentration camps. Before World War I and after World War II these companies produced so called "civilized" products for prevention of "Unkraut". And after World War II these companies produced again so called "civilized" products after supporting the Holocaust essentially. These companies are producing and selling so called anti-sprayer products. Such an anti-sprayer product was used in building the monument of the Holocaust in Berlin. So monuments do rarely reflecting memory. But what could be reflected, what could be seen, what question in all is about such happenings ? It's the economy, stupid.

The "monuments" reflecting war, peace, humanity, memory has to be found in the hidden history and hidden art. Such hidden projects are real "monuments". But if we would try to find "monuments" about that kind of history and art, we would find no "monuments", because these "monuments" are not industrial works. They are written books or composed music. Friedrich Georg Nicolai, Andreas Latzko and Viktor Ullmann are three examples from the 20th century for the existence of hidden history and hidden art.

Friedrich Georg Nicolai was a doctor of medicine and a specialist for physiology. He was born in 1874. In the world of arts the name of his uncle is better known. Otto Nicolai was a composer and musician, he composed the opera "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and he was the founder of the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra.

In summer of the year 1915 during the World War I Friedrich Georg Nicolai was at the fortress of Graudenz near Königsberg (today in the district of Kaliningrad of the Russian Federation). This Prussian fortress was near Königsberg. In Königsberg the philosopher Immanuel Kant lived from 1724 to 1804 and there he published a lot of essential works among them "What is the Enlightenment ?" (1784) or "The Perpetual Peace" (1795). And in 1798 in his book "The Metaphysics of the Morality" Kant published an essential concept for international law. In Graudenz Nicolai had to work as a military doctor of medicine in the fortress. But Nicolai was not there in Graudenz by a free decision. He was forced to work there although he refused before in Berlin the military service and the soldier's oath. Nicolai was a physiologist and worked at the hospital of the Charité and the medical faculty of the university. And sometimes he had given medical advice to the wife of the German Emperor Wilhelm II. At the beginning of World War I in August 1914 he was not as enthusiastic for starting the war as the majority of people of the German-Prussian and Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. Nicolai started to look behind the propaganda of war. In October 1914 an "Appeal to the World of Culture" was published and signed by 93 German intellectuals among them the theatre director Max Reinhardt. So this so called intellectuals defended in a way of propaganda the warfare of the German Empire. Nicolai published few days later an "Appeal to the European" where he described also a vision of a Union of Europe in the future. This appeal he had worked out together with Albert Einstein, Otto Buek and Wilhelm Förster. So four intellectuals living in the German Empire understood the importance of history and memory, so they were able to write essential words about the present and future time of Europe in 1914. They had a vision of an emerging Europe as the only possibility of a peaceful development. And Nicolai started giving lectures under the title "War as a Biological Factor in the Development of Mankind" about the warfare and the reality of war, about the losses of people, energy and money for the people. These lectures he enlarged more and more and in 1915 he finished at Graudenz the first version of "The Biology of War". The case of Nicolai was also discussed at the 41st session of the German parliament in April 1916. In 1917 the first version of "The Biology of War" was published in Zürich. So this book for an essential peace was written during the war. And immediately this book was in Europe well known. The staff of the army of German Army wanted to bring Nicolai to a military court. But in spring 1918 Nicolai could flee from the German Empire with a military plane to Denmark. But his book was also read at the front. The soldier and composer Viktor Ullmann who served at the Austro-Hungarian Army read the book together with comrades at the front of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy against Italy. On 22nd of February 1918 Ullmann sent a letter to his girlfriend Anny Wottitz from the front. About Nicolai Ullmann wrote in this letter: "I would feel well, if I could work. Reading a good book would be something like this. Or Mischi could read from the marvellous book 'The Biology of War' written by Dr. Nicolai, Berlin (in Germany this book is forbidden by censorship - the book is available in the bookshop of Glanig. Please present the book in the window of your shop !!)". Nicolai's philosophy and his book should have an essential influence to one of the musical masterpieces Ullmann composed later. The opera "The Emperor of Atlantis or The Death-Refusal" is deeply influenced by "The Biology of War". And Ullmann put Nicolai also in the opera as the character of the doctor (who never appears on stage), for whom the Emperor in the opera is calling through his loudspeaker. In August 1918 Friedrich Georg Nicolai wrote: "Now I understand war; and now I know what a horrible demon tortured mankind in the past and modern time. And now I hate war - the war of the 20th century". The book "The Biology of War" was translated into nine languages. After the war he started again teaching at the university, but his colleagues and the students boycotted him. And in 1922 he was forced to leave Germany (eleven years before the start of the dictatorship of the Nazis). He started working and teaching in Southern America first in Argentine and later in Chile. In the mid-1930's he worked also on a book with the title "Das Natzenbuch - A Natural History of National Socialist Movement and of Nationalism in General". The "Natzenbuch" is, therefore, "antinational as such", identifying nationalism as "one of the greatest, possibly greatest danger to the further development of the human race". 1964 Nicolai died in Chile. Today the life and work of Friedrich Georg Nicolai is not well known to the public. It is more or less hidden history. But that fact must be changed.

Another case is the life of the Austrian-Hungarian poet Andreas Latzko. He was born in 1876 in Budapest and he died in 1943 as a poor emigrant in New York. During the World War I he served as a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian Army. There at the front he saw the real life of the soldiers. From this experience he wrote some very important novels against the war among them "People at War" and "The Peace Court". In both novels there we see faces of common soldier destroyed by war and not the faces of emperors or generals. And Latzko is asking in these novels why these common people are fighting each other. And one answer he found is the terror of the propaganda by ministries and newspapers. In 1918 33000 books of the novel "People at War" and 14000 books of the novel "The Peace Court" were sold. Also soldiers at the front read these novels among them the musician and composer Viktor Ullmann who served as Latzko at the front against Italy. Karl Kraus wrote in October 1917 in his magazine "Die Fackel" about the novel "People at War": "As a document about the war this most important book influences also important sections in the government. Some people know that in near future the official Austria will be proud to be involved in the World War by the fact of the existence of this novel." But till today we are waiting for the fulfilling of this vision of Karl Kraus. Today Andreas Latzko is nearly forgotten and unknown to a bigger audience.

Another example is the life of the musician and composer Viktor Ullmann. He was born on 1st of January 1898 in Teschen in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (today Teschen is parted in a Polish and Czech city as a result of World War I). His father Maximilian Ullmann was a regular soldier and in the ranking system of the Austro-Hungarian Army among the one hundred most important officers. During World War I in 1916 Viktor Ullmann finished the school in Vienna and started serving as a one-year voluntary soldier in the army of the Austro-Hungarian Army. A lot of young men did the same as for example the composer Ernst Krenek. Viktor Ullmann got training at the battery of a 38 cm howitzer. This weapon was one of the most modern batteries of World War I. It was constructed for a mobile war; this kind of war became later famous under the name "Blitzkrieg". The existence of this howitzer was not known in the public, the censorship did not allow publishing articles and photos about that howitzer. And the communication in the team of the howitzer was absolutely modern. They used telecommunication systems like telephone and radio. The job of Ullmann in the battery was the work of an observer, to find out aims in the front line of the enemies. So in September 1917 the battery "K.u.k. 38 cm. Hb. Bt. Nr. 4 B. 5" where Ullmann served became part of the elite troops of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. The battery was transferred to the Soca Frontline into the First Corps of General Krauss for the preparation of the 12th Battle at the Soca Front. The whole battery was transported by train from the shooting school at Hajmasker near Veszprem in Hungary to the frontline crossing the cities of Pragerhof (Pragersko), Klagenfurt (Celovec), Villach (Beljak). In the night from 22nd to 23rd of September 1917 at Thörl-Maglern near Arnoldstein (Podkloster) the battery stopped. Arnoldstein was an important train station during World War I for providing the southern frontlines against Italy with soldiers, weapons and food. For the transport this colossus of a howitzer with a weight of 182,2 tons was well prepared. It could be transported directly on the tracks by removing wheels. The cars and transporting systems of the howitzer had two different wheels, one for the transport on the street and one for the transport on tracks. So this howitzer could be transported independently from the traffic situation in the war. That was sometimes more than chaos. This type of car and transporting system was constructed by Ferdinand Porsche at the factories in Wiener Neustadt near Vienna (Porsche later constructed the "KdF-Wagen" for the Nazi-government which was named later and after World War II the "Volkswagen" VW). Skoda constructed the howitzer. In all the composition of the battery consisted of five trucks including trailers and a car for the command. So in Thörl-Maglern the battery "K.u.k. 38 cm. Hb. Bt. Nr. 4 B. 5" was removed from the tracks to the street. In the night the 5 trucks and the car of the command of the battery were driven through the mountains of the Julian Alps to the Soca Valley. There the Battery Nr. 4 was involved in the preparation of the 12th battle at the Soca front. About the start of the battle Ullmann wrote to Anny Wottitz: "From the position of the observer we saw also on 24th of October at 2 am in the night the start of the heavy gas attack. This attack was to the introduction to our action. We could observe the shooting of our battery. At the third day the combat zone was far far away from our position. I think, this push war a big step forward to peace. We were going down from our observing position. Everything was like a sigh of relief, the landscape was freed from the horror brought by shells." This letter Ullmann sent on 9th of November to his girlfriend in Vienna. In a few words he characterised the horror of war and the desire for peace of a common soldier. This last battle at the Soca river later was named as "The Miracle of Karfreit / Kobarid / Caporetto". But there was real no miracle. It was the horror of weapons of mass destruction that managed the battle under the high command of Emperor Karl of the house of Habsburg. The battle was started with a massive gas attack against the Italian soldiers. This gas "Blue Cross" was produced by the same companies, which supplied later the concentration camps like Auschwitz with gas for the mass murder. So Ullmann became a witness of the apocalypse and later by himself a victim of the apocalypse in Auschwitz. Viktor Ullmann and his artistic work later were deeply influenced by his personal experience during World War I. One example for that is the composition of "Autumn". For that song he used a poem by the Austrian composer Georg Trakl, who became a victim of World War I. Trakl died in 1914 after having seen the heavy battle of Grodek and being as a first aid attendant alone at the battlefield with a lot of wounded and dead soldiers. Ullmann finished the composition of this song on 24th of January 1943 in the concentration camp of Theresienstadt / Terezín. Here under the conditions of a concentration camp his memory went deeply back to Word War I. And here he composed the melodrama of "The Lay Of The Love And Death Of Cornet Christoph Rilke" remembering his work as an observer during World War I near the castle of Duino in 1918. And a "Cornet" was in the military rank a sergeant like Ullmann named historical as a standard-bearer. He could see the castle and in a letter he kindly asked Anny Wottitz to send her this poem written by Rainer Maria Rilke, who lived in 1912 at the castle of Duino. But much more Ullmann used his memory to World War I in the opera "The Emperor of Atlantis or The Death-Refusal". This piece he composed at Theresienstadt / Terezín from 1943 to 1944. In the story of the opera Death (dressed as a retired soldier of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy) refuses to collaborate with the Emperor in the pre-emptive total war. Ullmann served in the battery "K.u.k. 38 cm. Hb. Bt. Nr. 4 B. 5" as an observer. In the artillery handbook of the Austro-Hungarian Army the function of an observer is clear defined. The observer works in cooperation with the command of the battery. And for his work the observer uses telephone or radio or other optical sign. And if the observer uses the telephone or the radio, he always must start the message with following words: "Halloh! Halloh!". And the first two words in the opera "The Emperor of Atlantis or The Death-Refusal" are "Hallo, Hallo !" used by the character of the "Loudspeaker", who describes himself as "a not real existence like the radio". So there we have now one character coming out from Ullmann's memory to World War I. But also the other characters of the opera are remembering to the battlefield experience of Ullmann. The character of the "Death" is clothed like an officer, not high ranked, but something like a lieutenant. That was the rank of Ullmann, when he left the army. The "Emperor" is Emperor Karl, the last emperor of Austria-Hungary responsible for the gas attack at the 12th Isonzo battle, where Ullmann was involved. The character of the "drummer" is the announcer of the war in the opera as it happened in reality on the eve of World War I and during the Great War. The character of the "Soldier" on the battlefield comes up also from the experience of Ullmann during the 12th battle on the river Isonzo. And in the opera the "Soldier" meets a "Bubikopf" from the army of the enemy in a combat man to man. But this "Bubikopf" is not a man it is a "Girl". And they fell in love and the resistance against the pre-emptive total war of the "Emperor" during love starts. By research work I found out, that the name "Bubikopf" was one of the nicknames of the women called suffragettes, who fought for the equal rights of women at the turn from the 19th to 20th century. And in a total war everybody is involved also women. There are letters from women existing, who wants to fight in World War I. And in the army of the German Empire the closest ally of Austria-Hungary some women served really, some of the in the rank of an officer like a captain. So all characters of the opera based on the personal experience of Ullmann during World War I. But Ullmann is not celebrating the war in the opera; during the words of the libretto and his music he called and calls also nowadays for resistance against any form of despotism or misuse of democratic rules. And this opera he composed in the concentration camp of Theresienstadt. And there the prisoners of the camp knew all this meanings, because a lot of them were involved in the battlefields of World War I like the father of the musician and poet Herbert Thomas Mandl. Mandl's father was a close friend to Ullmann and served like Ullmann in a battery of the Austro-Hungarian army. Or we have to remember the name of Johann Friedlaender, who was an officer in World War I and became later the general of the high command of the army of the first Austrian republic named as a "Feldmarschall". The Nazi Authority also sent Friedlaender to the concentration camp of Theresienstadt. So the potential audience for the opera in the camp would know what are the meanings of the words and the music. The opera was on rehearsal in the camp as part of the free-time organisation "Freizeitgestaltung". To some prisoners in the camp it was allowed to do after work some performances, lectures or concerts. That permission was given also to Ullmann. So the opera was rehearsed there but never performed there in the camp. It took 51 years for the first performance in Theresienstadt in 1995 by the performance of ARBOS - Company for Music and Theatre. Ullmann survived the 12th battle at the river Soca. The 38 cm howitzer got a barrel burst during the battle. And so Ullmann got his first and last experience at the front in World War I. Maybe this barrel burst saved his life. But unfortunately he could not survive World War I. He was deported to the concentration camp of Theresienstadt on 8th of September 1942. Here he created only in 24 months 22 musical works, he wrote a lot of reviews about other concerts and performances, he teached music, he played piano, he worked as a conductor. That all he has done under the conditions of a concentration camp. In one of his last essays he wrote: "It is here, in Theresienstadt, when in our daily existence we had to vanquish matter with the help of the power of form, when everything that was related to the muses contrasted extraordinarily with the environment which was ours, that was the true school of mastery." And so Theresienstadt was also the only place, where such masterpieces of music could be created during the Third Reich. It was under the condition of a concentration camp also a place of liberty. Such liberty did not exist for the German people, because more and more of them were following since the end of World War I a certain propaganda, which changed in the thirties to the dictatorship of Hitler. And as we learned from Ullmann, Hitler is not the emperor in the opera "The Emperor of Atlantis or The Death-Refusal". Everybody could be it or any kind of despotism or misuse of democratic rules or of international law.

On 16th of October 1994 Ullmann was deported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz. There he was murdered on 18th of October 1944 by gas, produced by the same company, who produced the gas "Blue Cross" used at the start of the 12th battle on the river Soca on 24th of October 1917. So Ullmann became of witness and victim of the apocalypse of the 20th century. But Ullmann left to us with his music and especially with his opera "The Emperor of Atlantis or The Death-Refusal" an important message for humanity created as a masterpiece of music.

So Nicolai, Latzko and Ullmann are three examples for a certain believe in humanity and human dignity. These three names are only representative for a lot of more others like the poet Theodor Kramer, who served in World War I as a soldier, survived World War II in the exile of London, and died as a poor man in Vienna on 3rd of April 1958. Theodor Kramer was a close friend to Viktor Ullmann. Or the name of Petr Kien (a friend of the German poet Peter Weiss), who was a young painter and poet. Together with Kien Ullmann wrote the libretto for the opera "The Emperor of Atlantis or The Death-Refusal" in the camp from 1943 to 1944. Kien as Ullmann did not survive. So I mentioned two more names. I could add now a long list of hidden art in the past. From these scientists, philosophers, poets, composers or artists we can learn the history of a Civilized World and not from daily newspapers and official history, because art reflects the reality. The politics and the economy are not able to do it.

We are only able to manage the present, if we remember on our history. With this memory we could look through the present time to the future to a civilized world with a triumph of humanity.

But today: Old fortresses are deconstructed to castles, and museums are presenting the "marvellous" fights of troops like the "Kaiserliche Garde". And so they are praising the mass murder of a total war.

And at any time a war could only be organised by the rich, by emperors, by politician and especially by businessmen today. Poor people are unable to manage a war.

The Roman-Catholic Church sanctions and protects the transformation of cemeteries of died soldiers from all nations to national "Sacraios" of Fascism with graves for Italian soldiers only. So the cemetery of Redipuglia could be changed from an Anti-War-Cemetery to the fascistic cemetery monument of Benito Mussolini. The whole monument is arranged like an army with hundreds of soldiers in their tombs inscribed with the call of the fascists "Presente". And it is also a symbol for the existing racism protected by the Roman-Catholic Church. As today the thesis of Mr. Samuel P. Huntington of some kind of clash of civilizations is nothing more than racism. As also the genocide on the Inuit society happened in 40s and 50s of the 20th century protected by governments and churches was nothing more than racism organized with a little help from the military.

And Emperor Karl, the Last Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, is on the way to his beatification.

But time and nature works. Nature destroyed a lot of streets and bunkers, which were used in World War I.

And I will bring this lecture to an end with the "Farewell - Aria" of the "Emperor" from the opera "The Emperor of Atlantis or The Death-Refusal". This are the last words of the "Emperor" before he would leave for ever: "Freed from the pressure of human ties, the land will stretch out in unharvested fields under the sun and the wind. Under the debris of the cities reigns the snow and in the moulded ruins play the hare and the foam. Ah, if only we had withered ! The woods would grow freely, woods, which we only hinder; no one would prevent the water from following its course. Death return ! Hunger, Love, Life. Death has returned. Hunger, Love, Life. Often clouds, often lightning, but murder never again. Our lives are in your hands ! Take them. Take them away !"

© Herbert Gantschacher (Klagenfurt)

10.5. Forms of Life Theatre Forms as an Articulated Way of Life

Sektionsgruppen | Section Groups | Groupes de sections

TRANS       Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  15 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
Herbert Gantschacher (Klagenfurt): The Limits of Virtual Reality or Our deal with the past and future. In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 15/2003. WWW:

Webmeister: Peter R. Horn     last change: 24.8.2003     INST