Karen Bähr

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What topic are you working on for your masters degree or doctorate?

For my doctorate I want to conduct research on the return of World War I veterans to Germany and Austria during and after the war. Key aspects shall be the experience of the homecomers and their depiction in the public sphere.

Why did you decide to work on the First World War?

In my second Bachelor semester I was part of a great seminar about war experience after the First World War in Europe, which introduced me to research on the topic. For my Bachelor and Master theses as well as now for my doctorate I stayed in the field, partly also because it allowed me to combine historical research with my interest in Weimar novels. The reciprocal influence of literature, historiography (or its absence) and politics in post-war Germany and Austria is remarkable. Some parts like the controversy about “Nothing new on the Western front” are well researched, but for example the novels about homecomers are still waiting for their turn.

Which is your favourite book on the First World War and why?

My favourite book is Benjamin Ziemann’s „Front und Heimat: Ländliche Kriegserfahrungen im südlichen Bayern 1914-1923“ (Essen: Klartext, 1997) (expanded and translated version: War Experiences in Rural Germany: 1914-1923. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2007). By focussing on the area of southern Bavaria Ziemann offers a book about the soldier’s war experience as well as a nuanced analysis of rural mentalities during World War I. He breaks the historical caesura of 1918 by expanding his research until 1923 and challenges the brutalization theory as well as the war enthusiasm in 1914 (at least for rural Bavaria).The book reveals a whole different world that was less affected by the turmoils of the war and instead preserved the values of family, farming and religion.