Film collection goes to Warwick

January 2, 1998

A RETIRED German film critic has sold a collection of film memorabilia from pre-war Germany to the University of Warwick in a gesture of regret for second world war bombing raids on Coventry.

Henning Harmssen's collection, which dates from 1923, includes about 700 rare monographs, reference works, official film books and a valuable set of illustrated film programmes from the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich.

The university bought the lot for about Pounds 16,000 after Erica Carter, a research fellow in German studies at Warwick, spotted Mr Harmssen's advertisement for his collection in a German film magazine. With the support of Richard Parker, Warwick's German subject librarian, Dr Carter made several trips to Germany to negotiate to buy the collection.

She said Mr Harmssen hated Nazism and was deeply traumatised by being German and felt responsible for what had happened. "A lot of his career has been diverted to expurgating that trauma, and he was very keen that his collection should come to Coventry for that reason," Dr Carter said.

Mr Harmssen grew up under the Third Reich and joined the German army at the age of 17, towards the end of the war. He was court-martialed because of his hatred of national socialism. He escaped execution only to be captured by the Red Army in 1945.

He spent five years as a prisoner-of-war, becoming involved in theatre and jazz inside the camp. On his release, he put his experience to good use when he became a film and theatre critic for local newspapers in Hamburg. He dedicated much of his career as a newspaper and radio journalist to interviewing emigre Jews and former resistance fighters.

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