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E-Book Sensation Oliver Pötzsch

German e-book sensation Oliver Pötzsch, of “The Hangman’s Daughter,” is back. We’ll look at Germany, Europe, and the human condition.

Execution of Pirates in Hamburg, 1573

Execution of Pirates in Hamburg, 1573

Germany and Germans, center stage on the planet right now as Europe wobbles.  German money.  German industry.  German values.  German morals.  Towering over a continent in crisis.  Do as we say, comes a German message, or Europe will go down.

German broadcaster and historical fiction writer Oliver Potszch knows Germany in his bones.  He’s written “The Hangman’s Daughter” series of novels on old-time executioners in the family.  Days of witchcraft, courage and fear.  Now he’s watching the world with us.

This hour, On Point:  Germany, center stage.

-Tom Ashbrook


Oliver Pötzsch, author, radio personality and screenwriter. His new book is The Dark Monk.

From Tom’s Reading List

Project Syndicate “It seemed clear that Germany (or at least this rather large gathering of government, business, and labor leaders) remains committed to the euro and to deeper European integration, and recognizes that success will require Europe-wide burden-sharing to overcome the ongoing eurozone crisis.”

Reuters “Players and coaches sought to play down the political meaning of a clash between Greece and Germany at Euro 2012 on Tuesday, as France, England and hosts Ukraine prepared to battle for the last two quarter-final places.”

Excerpt: The Dark Monk

Use the navigation bar at the bottom of this frame to reformat the excerpt to best suit your reading experience.

Video: The Hangman’s Daughter


Hobeckentanz by Fraunhofer Saitenmusic
Waldgeist by Voluptatis Causa

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  • Jasoturner

    I think they got “Tom’s Reading List” wrong for this episode.  Have not read this book, but based on Amazon review it looks like a decent summer read.  As for me, my daughter got me to start reading the Hunger Games trilogy.  To my surprise, I quite like it, despite it’s rather workman like writing and plot.  Though for good kid’s trilogies, I think Pullman’s “Dark Materials” still sets the standard…

    • JamesC45

      Total agreement here.  I was unable to read or even listen to any of the inane Harry Potter books, and fell asleep in the theater every time I accompanied children or tweens to a viewing, while I read Pullman with relish.  Even the movie had Harry Potter beat.  I skipped even trying the Hunger Games, as my experience is that anything that becomes that popular cannot be very good.  So far this assumption has always proved true in books and movies though not in music.

  • Greyman

    Any connection, direct or indirect, between Potzsch’s tale and
    the collaboration of Ambrose Bierce and Adolphe Danziger De Castro, “The Monk
    and the Hangman’s Daughter”, an
    adaptation itself of Richard Voss’s 1891 novel  The Monk of Berchtesgaden?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=719668166 Paul Hoogeveen

      Having read Pötzsch’s novel “The Hangman’s Daughter” (incidentally a very enjoyable read), I can confidently say there is no similarity between the two tales.

      • Greyman

        Thank you! Once I heard the discussion ensue and learned of Potzsch’s family connection, I didn’t much think so, either, but didn’t know (and still don’t know) of his awareness of Voss’s novel, which I have not read, either. –I, too, with other posters above wish that today’s conversation had remained restricted to literary matters, I’d’ve liked to’ve heard more about his novel.

  • Greyman

    The Sanson family in France constituted a brief dynasty of executioners in the 18th and 19th centuries. Anything comparable in England? Spain? Italy? et cetera. 

  • Ellen Dibble

    German history puzzles me.  It seems somewhat parallel to America’s because of waves upon waves of people coming out of the Russian steppes, looking for a better life, and because of having lots of independent and self-sufficient principalities (my very general impression), and yet it came together into a unified force, outside of the Vatican (thanks to Luther), outside of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  And modern Germany has been like a pendulum between success and failure, reason and extremism.  It’s a little unnerving to see the parallels…

    • at

       It didn’t come together thanks to Luther.  It came together the first time thanks to Charlemagne, and the second time thanks to Kaiser Wilhelm.  Part of Germany has always been Catholic. And those waves upon waves of people who came out of the steppe you mention were Germanic to begin with, they had formerly immigrated from the Germanic homeland in north west Europe into that steppe when they expanded their range because of population pressures.
      What you mention as the failures of Germany were almost entirely caused by outside agents, whether you are speaking about the British and French economic dependence on a weak and divided central europe in the Middle Ages or the later American intervention in WW1 that prevented the British from experiencing the true karma of their late empire and it’s nefarious deeds, and gutted the German economy and industrial base to pay their war debts to the bankers who pushed the US into the war in the first place, thus as Keynes who was in attendance said, we are only putting the end of this war off for twenty years not finding a solution.  That’s the same Keynes who says you have to spend your way out of a depression — right both times.  The American Bankers who lied and cheated to get us into the war were entirely responsible for the conditions that lead to the rise of Hitler, and the conclusion of a conflict we should have stayed out of to begin with.

  • Lifobryan

    C’mon …. talk about the guy’s book. You do a lot of shows on the European economy. 

  • J__o__h__n

    How come the usual religion apologists aren’t defending killing witches?

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Priests are too busy Molesting and Abusing?

  • Burkhard

    I think he meant

  • Drew (GA)

    I applaud the rational discussion between the caller with the ancestor beheaded and the guest who’s ancestor might have beheaded them. This is what we need! Rational discussion of ancestors misdeeds without resulting to histrionics. BRAVO!

  • Roundabaum

    Can someone explain to me what Oliver Poetzsch’s book promotion has to do with the European sovereign debt crisis? Did Tom bother to spend just 10 minutes of research into why Europe is where it is right now, before going on air and comparing Merkel’s refusal to have Germany pay the bill for the borrowings of other sovereigns, to the atrocities committed by Nazi Germany?

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FSTN5453LFVPU44EFDT4H5G33U Domenico

      I do not know why the current problems in the EuroZone are attributed to “cultural differences” among the European countries. I have heard several commentators claim that Wall Street operatives played key roles in fudging the financial submissions that had allowed the entry of Greece, Italy, etc. into the EuroZone. According to these commentators, everyone–including the Germans–knew about these fudged financial statements [e.g. the way Greece's expected future revenues from tourism were "securetized."]

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Banksters, that PROFITED, involved deeply, in ALL the recent ‘failures’?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FSTN5453LFVPU44EFDT4H5G33U Domenico

    I enjoyed the discussion about Germany’s role in creating a United States of Europe. The creation of a European Federation, following the creation of nation-states, had been one of the key objectives of many 19th-century European patriots, many of whom had foreseen the coming catastrophe of WWI. A unified Germany was to play a central role in this process. This expectation peaked under the leadership of the German Social Democratic Party, following the 1912 Reichstag elections–it collapsed tragically with the outbreak of WWI, but is again in full swing one century later.”In the Spring of 1834, while at Berne, [Giuseppe] Mazzini and a dozen refugees from Italy, Poland and Germany founded a new association with the grandiose name of Young Europe. Its basic, and equally grandiose idea, was that, as the French Revolution of 1789 had enlarged the concept of individual liberty, another revolution would now be needed for national liberty; and his vision went further because he hoped that in the no doubt distant future free nations might combine to form a loosely federal Europe with some kind of federal assembly to regulate their common interests. [...] His intention was nothing less than to overturn the European settlement agreed in 1815 by the Congress of Vienna, which had reestablished an oppressive hegemony of a few great powers and blocked the emergence of smaller nations. [...] Mazzini hoped, but without much confidence, that his vision of a league or society of independent nations would be realized in his own lifetime. In practice Young Europe lacked the money and popular support for more than a short-term existence. Nevertheless he always remained faithful to the ideal of a united continent for which the creation of individual nations would be an indispensable preliminary.” [Denis Mack Smith, "Mazzini," Yale University Press (1994) pp. 11-12]What is truly incredible is the following letter. Karl Blind was a German patriot living in exile in London. Giuseppe Garibaldi was truly an amazing visionary. His observations are just as applicable today as they were 146 years ago. ===============Letter to Karl BlindApril 10, 1865The progress of humanity seems to have come to a halt, and you with your superior intelligence will know why. The reason is that the world lacks a nation which possesses true leadership. Such leadership, of course, is required not to dominate other peoples, but to lead them along the path of duty, to lead them toward the brotherhood of nations where all the barriers erected by egoism will be destroyed. We need the kind of leadership which, in the true tradition of medieval chivalry, would devote itself to redressing wrongs, supporting the weak, sacrificing momentary gains and material advantage for the much finer and more satisfying achievement of relieving the suffering of our fellow men. We need a nation courageous enough to give us a lead in this direction. It would rally to its cause all those who are suffering wrong or who aspire to a better life, and all those who are now enduring foreign oppression.This role of world leadership, left vacant as things are today, might well be occupied by the German nation. You Germans, with your grave and philosophic character, might well be the ones who could win the confidence of others and guarantee the future stability of the international community. Let us hope, then, that you can use your energy to overcome your moth-eaten thirty tyrants of the various German states. Let us hope that in the center of Europe you can then make a unified nation out of your fifty millions. All the rest of us would eagerly and joyfully follow you. [Denis Mack Smith (Editor), "Garibaldi (Great Lives Observed)," Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J. (1969) p. 76.]

  • http://twitter.com/oldguey Sean O’Mordha

    To complete the oft used phrase in this discussion, “Be like Germany,” means be fiscally responsible. Why do news people keep overlooking the, “How did Greece, Spain, Italy, etc., get into such a mess?” These countries refuse to change their spending habits and want someone else to pick up the tab. It’s like the son who just shot his school allowance on candy instead of lunch and comes back for more money because he’s hungry. Oh, yeah, and he promises to pay back the advance. And just how will he do that with no job and no income? It’s easy to vilify Germany because of past mistakes. As if any European country has a clean history. Any of them. Yet they cling to past atrocities perpetrated on them like a dog with a bone, while overlooking what their ancestors did in turn. It’s about time the boneshakers give it up, forget the past, and concentrate on surviving in the future.

  • Todd

    Tom was uncharacteristically clumsy in this interview. His insistence on the endlessly-discussed Eurocrisis was irrelevant to Potzsch’s novels. Far too much time was wasted that way, and much of historical interest was sacrificed. Also, having forced the author repeatedly into discussion of current politics, (which was plainly uncomfortable for him), Tom’s blurted final question about handling a sword was just plain weird. Tom Ashbrook, talented as he is, should study Terry Gross’s interviews with artists. She digs much deeper into the art itself and the artistic process.

  • Mmaaaxx

    True, it was weird to ask a novelist about politics, but I enjoyed the light, historical perspective and the push back from both sides. I loved Poetzsch’s attitude and energy-

  • Dee

    Tom, I enjoyed your interview with this German writer…
    I was happy to hear Oliver Potzsch speak on the compet-
    ing forces within the German state–the hard liners and 
    those who show liberal views…In many ways , I feel 
    German society is a reflection of American society to-

    The extremists in the Tea Party often remind me of the 
    the earlier puritans who were intolerant to any miscon-
    duct or difference in views.  

    Think about Hawthorns’ Scarlet Letter & the Burning of 
    Witches in Salem…Many were woman who refused to 
    accept the status quo or had some mental health pro-
    blems.  I see some of the German hard right along 
    those lines also, in their criticism of the Greeks and 
    Angela Merckel’s inflexiblity on the Greek debt and 
    commitment to Austerity measures.)  

    (Yet, Germany’s success is the result of Greek and EU 
    spending as Oliver Potzsch rightly acknowledged.  
    Germany can come apart easily if the Greeks and 
    others target them for their inflexibility austerity…..

    I think about how my liberal friends would have been
    fascinated by such behavior and would have tried to 
    understand and accommodated such people and per-
    haps –how they might have tried to them like Helen 
    Keller’ teacher , The Miracle Worker,  Annie Sullivan.

    And it goes hand in hand that the fisrt school for the 
    blind and deaf were started in Massachusetts a century 
    ago. (It was Thomas Edison the inventor working with 
    the blind —when he discovered the light bulb)

    Still, on a broader note, i wonder if it was right to force 
    a union in the states as many are so ideologically differ-
    ent–even today. 

    Some People have the South have told me they have 
    found the New England States ” like a foreign country”

    This takes me back to your feature on Roger Williams 
    a few weeks ago (and his 400 years struggle to retain
    his different views on the relationship between church 
    and state. The Puritans like the Tea Party today are 
    so intolerant of this. ( I recall feeling a distant chill 
    when I heard Rick Santorium on the Republican cam-
    paign trial stating he doesn’t try to move to the cen-
    tre but tries to get people on his side. That could be 
    dangerous..like refusing to provide health coverage 
    for abortion and ther reproductive rights…)  Dee

  • Pingback: A journey into German identity beyond the wurst, The Wars, and The Wall « Duel

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