German student publishes great-grandfather's diary
Sometimes your family’s past holds hidden treasures that offer surprising insights into the past. This is what Ruben Gallé, a young German student, experienced.
When we think of war, images of distress, pain and horror arise in our minds. Especially the two World Wars of the 20th century have traumatised many in previous generations. Even more surprising seems the diary of Georg Steinbach, a German soldier who lived during the First World War. He describes his day to day experiences during his stationing in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul) in 1918, a place spared from direct combat. Instead of having to fight, the young soldier embarked on a journey of discovering Istanbul of 1918. His diary paints a beautiful picture of the city, sparked by Steinbach’s ever increasing fascination with the Orient.
Thanks to his great-grandson, Ruben Gallé, the remarkable testimonial by Georg Steinbach is now accessible to everyone as part of the prestigious series “Memoria.Fontes minores ad Historiam Imperii Ottomanici pertinentes” published by the Max Weber Foundation with the help of the Orient-Institut Istanbul.
Ruben Gallé was deeply touched by these memoirs, just like his father Volker Gallé, who had already created a radio program based on his grandfather’s diary, focusing on the encounter between the Orient and the Occident. Ruben later decided to engage with the diary as well. In 2014 he took it with him to the History Campus “Europe 14|14” , a youth festival for 400 young Europeans organised by the Körber-Stiftung, the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung and further partners, which was attended by more than 80 EUSTORY alumni from all over Europe. During the event designated to the commemoration of the First World War, Ruben presented his great-grandfather’s experiences. These show a striking contrast to the individual experiences of immense suffering during this time presented by other young Europeans.
In the preface to the book Ruben states: “For my part, the diary and the correspondence were a discovery that brought my family history to life. They also helped me to understand, more than ever before, that life is history – history, which first needs to be experienced and then wants to be told.” By engaging with the journal he has thus not only uncovered his own family history but also allowed for his great-grandfather’s voice to be heard beyond the confines of his own descendants.
On the 14th of March this year Ruben Gallé is going to visit Istanbul to present the book at the Orient-Institut Istanbul.
To dive into the memoirs of Georg Steinbach click here.