Friday, 23 September 2016

Nothing is too small or ordinary

Stories pinned to the map on Durham at War
Stories pinned to the map on Durham at War
‘That catastrophe [First World War] was so gigantic and so complex that it can only be reconstructed by a vast number of single accounts of individual and limited experiences, and we are only at the beginning of such a reconstruction. Nor should these accounts be limited to those by people who took an active part in fighting; one should know how all those countless millions we call the people lived - in France or Germany, England or Russia. The parents and children, the old people whose declining years were saddened, the very young whose whole future was changed. Nothing is too small or ordinary, for all connects up, is part of the great fresco.'
- Paul Cohen-Portheim

At the Voices of the Home Fronts Conference earlier this month, I attended a talk about the Lofthouse Internment Camp in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, which housed German civilians. One of the internees was a man named Paul Cohen-Portheim, an Austrian who was living in Paris. However, as a painter, he made regular trips to England and was on one of these when war was declared. He wrote a book about his time at Lofthouse Park titled 'Time Stood Still' which I recently borrowed from Durham Libraries.

On reading the preface, it struck me how his words, published in 1931, described what we are trying to do with Durham at War.

Here are some of the latest stories on Durham at War:
South Shields woman played football for Armstrong Munitionettes

Darlington butcher, son of German immigrants

Seaham Harbour man served with the Australian Imperial Force killed near Amiens

Cinema hall screened The Battle of the Somme film in 1916

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