Germany: Memories of a Nation
Germany: Memories of a Nation is a BBC podcast program created by art historian and former director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor in conjunction with his book of the same name. The podcast explores German history and culture from the Holy Roman Empire to the modern day in a series of fifteen-minute episodes. Key areas this podcast covers are German culture, the formation of a German identity, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War. Recorded in a short and digestible manner, MacGregor uses different artifacts and places to discuss specific topics or themes central to German identity, as well as providing historical context for each discussion.
The website contains thirty podcast episodes, which are available to listen to online or download. Each episode is self-contained and can be assigned individually. Unfortunately, the episodes do not have an accompanying transcript, which may pose a challenge for hearing-impaired students or students who struggle with audible learning. Each episode does provide a short summary, which is helpful for understanding each topic. The website also offers short clips from episodes, highlighting an artifact with an anecdote. Because of the short runtime, these episodes cannot provide in-depth insight into a specific topic. However, these episodes would be perfect for a preparatory or follow-up homework assignment to supplement classroom activities.
The website is very centered on German history and culture, but a few standout episodes can be applied to broader European or world history conversations. The episodes “At the Buchenwald Gate” (about concentration camps) and “Purging the Degenerate” (about the Nazi's attack on art and attempts to control German society) both center on World War II, fascism, and how the Nazis affected German society. The episode “Kathe Kollwitz: Suffering Witness” shows students the emotional effects of World War I on civilians through the eyes of a mother who lost her son in battle. Germany was also ground zero for the Cold War, and students can gain an understanding of life in these two societies with the episode “Divided Heaven”, which highlights how many East Germans were desperate for escape.
This podcast is an excellent example of how primary sources, in this case artifacts, can inform us about the past. The narrative of each episode allows listeners to be engaged, and the personal stories found in many can help students understand how the everyday person lived through these historic events. While Germany: Memories of a Nation is not a perfect resource, it exposes students to a different form of history (podcasting) and can be applied to different areas of a high school level world history curriculum.