Words, tunes and political action

A night inspired by the Nobelist Heinrich Böll

The tenth anniversary of our office in Thessaloniki has coincided with another very important date for us: the 50th anniversary of Heinrich Böll being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. It was therefore to be expected that we should dedicate one of our anniversary events to the great German writer, whose name - with the consent of his family - our Foundation bears. And not just any event, but our final event in the courtyard of the Goethe-Institut, which marked the culmination of our two-day anniversary celebration.

Wanting to present Böll's work in an original and exciting way, we entrusted the project to director Dimitris Sporidis. He focused mainly on the anti-war Böll (what could be more topical -unfortunately- than the war!) and composed a theatrical play which combined Böll’s war short stories, information from his life, but also elements from his great novels that made him world-famous, such as "The Clown" and "The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum". Through the play and the performances of the actors Socratis Logothetis and Chrysa Goutou, Heinrich Böll's sensitivity and literary merit were highlighted, as well as other aspects of his work, such as social activism, public intervention, questioning of dominant narratives, defence of human rights.

Before the theatrical performance, Michalis Goudis, Director of Foundation’s Thessaloniki office, Marc Berthold, Head of the Foundation's European Union and North America Department, and Olga Drossou, former Director of the Thessaloniki office, addressed the audience. Through their short speeches, they outlined the reasons that led - in the midst of the economic crisis - to the establishment of the Office in Greece, the choice of Thessaloniki as the seat, the activity during the first years, but also the present and future plans of the Foundation.

After the presentation of the theatrical play, the evening ended in an atmosphere of celebration, accompanied by the band Roll the dice (Yiota Papadopoulou, Paris Karagiannopoulos, Pavlos Nikou).

An important contribution to the success of the event, which was attended by a large number of people, mainly young people, was made by our co-organizers: the Goethe-Institut Thessaloniki and the Department of German Language and Literature of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Our 10-year anniversary events, which included a conference (Rethink) and a series of 10 actions across the city (React), was concluded at the Goethe-Institut Thessaloniki, with which we co-organized the final event entitled "Words, tunes and political action".
A large number of people gathered in the courtyard of the Institute to attend the evening, which was inspired by the author Heinrich Böll. Short introductory speeches and a concert by the group Roll the dice accompanied a theatrical performance based on Böll's life and work.
The great German novelist Heinrich Böll (1917-1985), whose name our Foundation bears, was a model of active citizenship, embodying some of the values we stand for: defence of human rights, social courage, tolerance, public intervention, activism.
Apart from the 10 years of the Foundation's operation in Greece, the evening was also dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Heinrich Böll (1972).
Heinrich Böll's political activism, peace advocacy and ecological consciousness still move people all over the world, and especially young people.
Michalis Goudis, Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Thessaloniki office, summarizes the conclusions of the anniversary events, which were not so much about the past as about the future and the positive contributions that the Foundation can make to Greek society.
Marc Berthold, Head of the Heinrich Böll Foundation's European Union and North America Department, explains the reasons that led to the establishment of the Thessaloniki office in 2012, in the midst of a deep economic and political crisis in Greece.
Former Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Thessaloniki, Olga Drossou, describes the challenges faced in establishing and consolidating the Foundation in Greece, as well as the most important milestones of its early years.
The play "When the war broke out", written especially for the event and directed by Dimitris Sporidis, is based on Heinrich Böll's book "When the war broke out and other short stories".
Sokratis Logothetis impersonated the character of Heinrich Böll in various stages of his life, but mainly in his youth, when he was conscripted and participated as a soldier in the World War II.
Chryssa Goutou played all female roles, including Böll's wife, Annemarie, with whom the writer married in 1942, during the war. They had three sons, but one of them died as an infant.
"Someone said that Cologne was blocked because it was contaminated by the dead bodies and another said that for 30, 40 years we would be cleaning up the rubble. Rubble and debris. From behind someone pushed me and asked: 'How about 100 grams of bread and a cigarette?' Everyone was trading with everyone". Cigarettes were a trademark of Heinrich Böll; in most of his photographs he is depicted with a cigarette in his mouth.
"My hand was all pale. With gentle fingers she took my pulse, then I suddenly felt a prick in my arm as she gave me an injection. And then her head came very close to me and I whispered 'Give me a kiss!' She blushed and pulled the needle out of my hand. Suddenly she smiled and I smiled too...". A story about war can be related to a love story... in particular to the love story of Heinrich and Annemarie.
Some of Heinrich Böll's most famous characters, such as Katharina Blum from the novel "The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum", which deals with the manipulation of public opinion by the media, appear in this play.
One of the most iconic characters in Heinrich Böll's universe is of course the Clown, from the novel of the same name, which criticizes many aspects of post-war Germany as well as the role of the Catholic Church.
Heinrich Böll is a prominent representative of the so-called "literature of the rubble", which describes the effects of war on the society.
The writer and director Dimitris Sporidis congratulates the actors of the stage performance, Chryssa Goutou and Sokratis Logothetis.
Within 30 minutes, the play managed to combine in a very modern and up-to-date way Böll's biography, a significant part of his work and the depiction of an entire era, while it was enriched by video and photo projections.
Shortly after the bow, a surprise awaited the audience: Sokratis Logothetis appeared from a window, once again playing Heinrich Böll, who this time read out excerpts from his speech at the Nobel Prize award ceremony.
The event was co-organized by German Language & Literature Department, AUTH, as its students translated the play into German. Here they are photographed with the director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Michalis Goudis, and their teacher and chair of the department, Anthi Wiedenmayer.
The event was realized in cooperation with the subtitling company "Neaniko Plano", which projected the text of the play in German throughout the performance, in order to facilitate the German-speaking audience and our colleagues from Heinrich Böll Foundation offices around the world.
The evening ended with the band Roll the dice, which performed jazz and swing arrangements of well-known Greek and international songs.
Roll the dice are: Yiota Papadopoulou (vocals), Paris Karagiannopoulos (guitar, vocals) and Pavlos Nikou (saxophone, clarinet).
The uplifting sound of the band created a beautiful atmosphere of a party, which led the audience of the event straight to the "dance floor".
Despite the exhaustion of preparing for the anniversary events, the Heinrich Böll Foundation team proves that they know how to have fun!