Germany Recalls Myth That Created the Nation

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Each year some 100,000 people visit the Kalkriese museum, which does a good job of explaining the battle. This year, visitor numbers are likely to be well above the average. The museum shop is doing a brisk trade in souvenirs such as "Hard Hermann" sausages, replica Germanic drinking horns and "Varus Temptation Waffles."

But the myth of Hermann has lost its power in modern Germany. The old nationalism has been replaced by an easy-going patriotism that mainly manifests itself at sporting events like the soccer World Cup. Today's interest in Arminius mainly reflects curiosity about what really happened in that fateful September 2,000 years ago. "This is a historical thriller," said Söger.

"The myth of Hermann will continue to wane," said Bendikowski. "What will remain of him will be the experience of how a historical myth was created, and how a nation sought to invent itself by fabricating history. It may help us to understand ourselves and other nations better."


The Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD represents the birth of the German nation and is commemorated in this gigantic monument to the German tribal chieftain, Arminius or Hermann, completed in 1875 near the town of Detmold.


The presumed site of the battle was discovered near the village of Kalkriese in northwestern Germany, close to the city of Osnabrück, in the late 1980s. It is has been a major archaeological site for the past two decades.


Part of an earthen wall was found at Kalkriese which tied in with Roman accounts of how Germanic warriors lured the legions into a bottleneck between a morr and a wooded hill. The wall was built to aid the German ambush. Some of the wall has been restored to show what it would have looked like in that fateful September.


Susanne Wilbers-Rost, the chief archaeologist at Kalkriese, has helped uncover more than 5,000 artifacts including spear tips, crushed skulls and metal parts from Roman body armor.


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