Pre-war German radio broadcasts to children recreated by Made in Manchester

Stephen Chapman's picture
by Stephen Chapman

German radio broadcasts, containing coded messages about life in the 1930s, have been recreated by Made in Manchester for BBC Radio 4.

The original programmes were made by the German-Jewish philosopher, Walter Benjamin.

“Behind the much-mythologised figure of Benjamin the philosopher, there lies the little-known historical reality of Benjamin the broadcaster,” explained MIM creative director Ashley Byrne.

“When the Gestapo stormed his last apartment in 1940, they stumbled upon a cache of papers which the fleeing philosopher had abandoned in his hurry to escape Paris. Amongst these papers were the scripts for an extraordinary series of radio broadcasts for children covering everything from toy collecting to the politics of tenement housing, from the psychology of witch hunts to human responses to natural catastrophes. Designed to encourage young listeners to think critically, to question sources and to challenge clichés, Benjamin's broadcasts stand in stark contrast to the fascist propaganda which would come to take their place.”

Benjamin’s Broadcasts is presented by Michael Rosen, with Benjamin played by the actor, Henry Goodman.

It was produced by Kate Schneider and will air as part of Archive on 4, on BBC Radio 4 from 8pm on Saturday night.

Benjamin committed suicide in 1940, when his escape from Europe was blocked at the Spanish border. He died believing that most, if not all, of his writings had been lost.

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