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Creative Conversations: Crossing enemy lines

  • Date recorded: 24 Sep 2015

  • Duration: 34:20

'It's fascinating to explore how and why these individuals constructed these accounts in retrospect, or edited the events they witnessed.'

– Minna Muhlen-Schulte

About this video

In this poignant and thought-provoking presentation combining photography, oral history and narration, hear how Berry Family fellow Minna Muhlen-Schulte researched her family's Australian-German history using sources from the Library's collections.

The video includes readings by actors Edwina Wren and James Saunders, who bring to life the memoirs and letters of Minna's grandparents, Achim and Muriel Muhlen-Schulte, and their friend Vera Bockman.

Muriel and Vera were Australians who married German men, and whose destinies took them to Nazi Germany during WWII. As middle-class Germans enjoying the wave of prosperity that Nazism brought to Germany, Minna's grandparents appeared to give tacit support to Hitler's regime. As the war progressed and Germany's position deteriorated, Achim was forced into military service on the Eastern Front, where he died three months before the end of the war.

With honesty and objectivity, Minna examines her family history in relation to the wider collective memory of war history in Australia, explaining how her grandparents' war story is disconnected from the Anzac tradition.

By examining the records they left behind, Minna attempts to gain an understanding of why her grandparents stayed in Germany, and looks at what Muriel and Vera couldn't or wouldn't talk about in later years as they wrestled with the memories of their experience of Nazi Germany.

Minna also examines the often unreliable nature of memoirs, where memories align, contradict and diverge from the facts of history. The silences, she suggests, can sometimes convey more than words.

About Creative Conversations

This Creative Conversations talk was presented at the State Library in September 2015. A series of intimate lectures that feature artists and writers from the State Library's fellowship program, Creative Conversations provides a behind-the-scenes look at the work of our Fellows, who use the Library's collections for unique research and creative endeavour.


Minna Muhlen-Schulte was the 2014 Berry Family Fellow at State Library Victoria. She has a Master in Public History from Monash University, and has worked on a range of history and arts projects for community organisations and local and state governments.

Edwina Wren is a Melbourne-based actor who has performed in theatre, film, television, radio drama, animation and audiobook narration.

A 2014 Creative Fellow, James Saunders has performed for most major Australian theatre companies, and his television credits include City Homicide, Wilfred, Stingers and Blue Heelers.