Books Too Bad It’s Good: The Nystaken Tragedy

Her name was Annmarie, although everyone called her Nesthäkchen.

Americans don’t know much about it, although it was called “Anne of Green Gables” in Germany before the war. Graceful, blonde, and assertive, her adventures are chronicled in some of the most popular and beloved children’s books of their day. Its creator got rich, and by the late 1930s Hollywood was seriously considering buying the film rights to the Nesthäkchen series as a vehicle for Shirley Temple even though the books had not yet been translated into English. Its place in the literary pantheon should have been confirmed.

Except that the most famous, and perhaps the best, book of Nesthäkchen It was all about Germany’s home front during the Great War, which meant that any film based on it would be unadaptable for an English-speaking audience, even if Annmarie was played by one of the world’s most beloved child stars.

Worse, the creator of Nesthäkchen had a secret. And that means disaster no matter how many books she sold, or how many girls love Nesthäkchen and get to know her:

Nestakchen and Her Dolls (Nesthäckchen und Ihre Puppen) and its nine sequels, by Else Ury – Else Ury was in many ways a typical producer of the late 19th century Burgertum, or the German middle class. Her father, Emil, was a wealthy merchant who could buy a house in the upscale district of Kaiserdamm, while her mother, Francesca, was kind, educated and well-educated. She and her siblings received the best education their parents could afford, with plenty of exposure to Wilhelmine Berlin’s burgeoning artistic, musical and literary culture, and it’s no wonder Else, the older girl, decided on a literary career. I started with a short cut for my beloved “Aunt Stus” Fuschzeitung She published her first collection of short stories by 1905. What did the lucky kid hear?. This was quickly followed by a steady stream of novels, short stories, and episodic pieces over the next 28 years. Most of them were stand-alone works, but there were two series: The Five Professors Zwilling He wrote about a set of twins that were nearly identical to the Bobbseys, and ten volumes after Annmarie “Nesthäkchen” Braun from wonderful childhood to comfortable old age.

Ury’s books all sold well, but it was the Nesthäkchen series that really took off. A notable example of a popular German musical genre calledBackfischroman,” Or the story of a little girl from school to a respectable marriage, Urey’s books stood out from the crowd thanks to Anne Marie herself. instead of the usual hOsfrau In training, Annmarie was the kind of spirited, intelligent kid with minor problems that has been a staple in literature for generations. Critics have often compared her to Ann Shirley, the beloved heroine of L.M. Montgomery. Anne of Green Gables The books and parallels are striking. Like Anne, Anne-Marie eventually left home, got an education, and earned a living so she could be ready to marry, and create a happy and successful family.

No wonder German girls (and their mothers) loved Anne-Marie and took advantage of her adventures as soon as she appeared in bookstores. It was so popular that although the sixth book, Nesthäkchen fliegt aus dem Nest (Nesthäkchen fly out of the nest), which ended with Annmarie getting married and starting a family, Ury’s publishers talked her into continuing the series thanks to a deluge of fan letters. The following four series weren’t popular (or good; although the series purportedly covers the life of Anne Marie up to 1972, there is almost no sign of the massive technological and social changes of the 1920s, let alone the next half century), but All ten books continued to sell, even during the hyperinflation of the early post-war period and the Great Depression a decade later.

All this means that by 1933, Else Ury earned a quarter of a million ringgits for her books alone, or roughly $1.4. million Today – and this does not affect her earnings from radio adaptations, translations into several European languages ​​and articles she wrote for newspapers and magazines. By today’s standards, she was a really wealthy woman, and although she continued to live with her elderly mother, she bought a vacation home in the Silesian mountains which she called “Haus Nesthäkchen” for obvious reasons.

No wonder that by 1939 she was openly marketing her work to English language publishers and film studios. Her nephew Klaus, who had moved to England for his education, had no luck finding a publisher in Britain—Urey’s writings full of satirical literary references proved difficult to translate—but an acquaintance had connections in Hollywood, and by summer her agent was promoting Nesthäkchen’s books as a possible follow-up to Shirley Former Temple Heidi. Hollywood was hungry to adapt children’s books, and Nesthäkchen’s Adventures seemed to be perfect.

There was only one problem: Else Ury, who made her fortune writing about the example of the German Golden Girl, was Jewish. And by the time she was trying to find a British publisher and a Hollywood contract, she wasn’t trying to make money. She was trying to save her life.

The 1920s may have made Else Ury rich, but the 1930s saw the loss of everything she had been working for. The popularity of her books, her success as a magazine writer, her own standing as a respected middle-aged writer—none of this meant anything to the government after 1933. All that mattered was that she was Jewish, and therefore unsuitable for the delicacy of minds of the future mothers of the Aryan state.

And although there wasn’t much of a whisper in the books that Annmarie and her family were nothing but good, decent, and patriotic Germans, the series was pulled from publication in 1935. She was expelled from the German Authors’ Guild, and a pathetic attempt to curry favor with the new government through failed. Writing a book praising Hitler. Urey’s revenue dried up, no newspaper or magazine touched her work, turning her resounding success to ashes. While she was communicating with Hollywood, she was frantically trying to create a source of income in America or Britain so she could emigrate, because (like my cousins) she could see the gathering clouds of war.

If she had decided to market her books only a year ago, she might have succeeded. Golden-haired and adorable, Shirley Temple would have been the perfect Anne-Marie Brown character for American audiences, and there were plenty of talented teams able to play Nesthäkchen growing up. A Hollywood contract was enough for Else Ury to obtain a visa, perhaps even bring one or more members of her family with her, and once the war began she could apply for refugee status. It hurts to think about the difference one year would have made for both the author and her books.

Unfortunately, Else Ury tried to wait until the end of last crucial year. Everything is lost.

Hollywood was interested, but not interested enough to buy the film rights to the Nesthäkchen books in time. Uri and her sister were stuck in Germany, and as the war progressed, their money and possessions were stripped from them, one by one. Even Else’s beloved Haus Nesthäkchen was confiscated and given to a suitable Ari owner, and by the time she flew to Auschwitz in 1943, the only bag she had left was hers. This was painted with her family name in large white letters for identification purposes, and when she was taken to the gas chambers on arrival, the bag was left behind.

The rest of the story is almost as tragic as the ending of Else Ury. Her sister, who had trained as a teacher before her marriage, also died in death camps. her books, which German mothers hoarded and slyly gave to their daughters once the Nazis proclaimed their innocuous tales of awakening femininity Verbutinreprinted after the war, but No. 4, Nesthäkchen und der Weltkrieg, banned due to the promotion of war by the Allies and The Last Four, which depicted the flawless happy life of Annemarie Brown until 1972, was so archaic that it became almost unreadable. If that wasn’t bad enough, Else Ury’s last years and death were completely ignored by her publishers, the producers of the Nesthäkchen series, and the German public as a whole.

Only in the past few years has the truth emerged. A group of Nesthäkchen fans on a school visit to Auschwitz spotted her bag, realized who it belonged to, and began to spread the word. Historians were soon writing publicly about Uri’s later career and murder, and her briefcase was featured in an exhibition about her life in 1997. Several of her books, including Nesthäkchen und der Weltkriegnow available in English, and there was a major article on The New York Times About her life and career three years ago.

Despite all this interest, there is little evidence of a Nesthäkchen revival here in the United States. If you found Else Ury translated in the 1920s, they might have joined Babar the Elephant, Tintin, and Pippi Longstocking as children’s favorite classics around the world, but it’s probably too late at this point. It is also debatable whether the Nesthäkchen could have discovered it anywhere outside of Europe; Nesthäkchen und der Weltkrieg Unabashedly pro-German, it’s hard to see any publisher in an allied country wanting to have anything to do with the series.

As for Else Ury… there are now many memorials to her, particularly in her former homes in Germany and what is now Poland. German girls still read and love Nesthäkchen books, even with No. 4 reduced to a summary at the end of No. 3, and it’s only a matter of time before there’s another TV or movie based on it.

There is even a small but real chance the mod could appear on American or British television at some point. The German-Austrian short series about pop culture icons Maximilian I and Marie of Burgundy has been a broadcast hit during the pandemic, and Nancy Springer Enola Holmes The mystery series was a critical smash and ratings smash. A series about a brave German girl and her loving family may be exactly what these perilous times require.


Have you ever heard of Nesthäkchen or Else Ury? Did you manage to read one or two? Did you get out of a war zone just before the troops? Have you watched Maximilian/Mary TV even though it was subtitled? It’s a cold autumn night here at the Last Homely Shack, so gather around your non-existent GIANT FIREPIT O’DOOM, grab a glass of your choice, and share….


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