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Letters from Weimar Germany - A Diplomatic Life

 
Letters from Weimar Germany - A Diplomatic Life by BOWKER, Reginald James (1922)

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Author: BOWKER, Reginald James
Title: Letters from Weimar Germany - A Diplomatic Life
 
Year: 1922
Publisher: Unpublished
Place: London; Berlin; Heidelberg; Burma etc
Dust Jacket: No
Signed: No
 
Price: £600
 
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From the occupation of the Ruhr in 1922 Weimar Germany to the establishment of independent Burma, via a stint in early 1930s Berlin this collection of letters and documents charts the diplomatic life of Reginald James Bowker (1901-1983) or 'Jim' as he is always addressed in around 60 letters sent to him by friends, colleagues and lovers - and a further 40 of his own to his mother. Bowker's letters to his mother (presumably appropriated after her death in 1969) chart schooldays at Charterhouse and Oriel College, Oxford and the highlight of the collection is the would-be diplomat's stint learning German in Heidelberg. These 30 letters (including a couple in German) from 1922-23 were written from Weingasse 7 in the ancient university city, at first guided by his landlady (a relative of the distinguished Great War General, Axel von Petersdorff) who 'very kindly went with me to the university and showed me the lecture room and explained the system of pinning a card on to a seat and so reserving it for the whole term.' Quickly Bowker's observations turn to the political turmoil surrounding the 1922 French occupation of the Ruhr in response to the Weimar Republic's failure to pay reparations: 'Prices continue to soar and countless people have the cheery prospect without either enough coal or food. With the exit of Lloyd George hope and the mark took a big drop together. He was looked upon as the country's one hope against French aggression. And now despair is settling in.' Rampant inflation hits home when Bowker discovers that his matriculation fees are now at '31,500 marks!' and he dwells on the profound German resentment of French, 'I suppose it always happens in occupied territory but the feeling in the British part is a flea-bite compared to the anto-Frenchism.' Through the winter of 1922-23 Bowker continued to report on the increasingly desperate position: 'They say that if the French hold up the coal longer the factories will have to close down in two months. Then will come colossal unemployment and perhaps Bolshevism in earnest. It will be interesting to see if Russia joins in.' A week later in late January 1923 he describes how 'something very like a war fever has taken hold of people' and gives a gripping account of a public meeting dominated by his rabble-rousing Heidelberg history professor which concluded with the singing of 'Deutschland uber Alles'.

Present in the archive are the documents appointing Bowker to the diplomatic service in 1925 and from the 1930s correspondence sent to Bowker while he was at the Berlin Embassy and immediately afterwards from his frustrated lover and would-be spouse, Constantia, who writes to Bowker that 'this Germany is growing before our eyes into something so different to what it was, that seeing it as a close-up it is hard to taken objective view.' At times it is hard to separate her frustration with Hitler's regime from her angst at the break up of her relationship with Bowker though she eventually accepted: 'we can't be married. I realise that our little saga has dragged on too long and I think we are too much alike in character.' (Constantia was forced out of Berlin as a consequence of Hitler's rise to power, eventually writing that she had left the city and 'we are no longer diplomats')

Bowker's move to Buenos Aires in 1943 is charted in a series of letters including two from Evelyn Shuckburgh and then to Burma where he first served as Ambassador 1947-50. His Burmese documents include a vintage photograph, possibly signed, of the first Burmese President Sao Shwe Thaik and a separate image of his wife Sao Nang Hearn Kham. Alongside a significant run of post-war correspondence from his mother are charming incidentals such as a menu from Trolle-Ljungby castle; letters of thanks from the British Museum for gifts and his final honour, correspondence relating to his appointment as Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps bringing with it the inevitable invitations to Buckingham Palace and a Downing Street banquet in 1962 complete with seating plan. An excellent collection.
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