Story today on NPR about the song “Gottingen” from French singer Barbara. A beautiful song, beautifully sung, on an unlikely subject for a popular French song – French-German friendship. This was even the more the case at the time when the song was written, in 1964, when the memories of WW II were fresh. More surprising is the fact that the woman who wrote and performed the song, whose real name was Monique Andrée Serf, was a French Jew, who had a traumatic childhood, hiding from the Nazis in occupied France. She had been invited to come to Göttingen, a small university town in central Germany. She categorically declined the offer, but eventually was persuaded to come for just one concert, but then ended up staying for a week, having been overwhelmed by the positive reception and the friendliness of the people.
At the end of the week, she wrote the moving tribute to the city, in which she dares to compare the sleepy German town to Paris. She celebrates “les enfants blonds de Göttingen” (the blond children), the Grimm fairy tales (Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm were professors there), and the dark soul of the Germans (“Eux, c’est la mélancolie même” – with them it’s melancholy itself). The images strike us today as stereotypes, but they are positive – not like the negative images prevalent at the time in France. The song had an impact on the relations between the two countries and has been referenced by politicians from both Germany (Gerhard Schröder) and France (François Mitterand).