Gunner Schmidt at the Crossroads1994
Gunner Schmidt at the Crossroads
Drama and original illustrations. Biography. History 20th century. Visual art.
by Robert Dietz
Astrid Brunner [publisher's note, translations]; Duncan Fraser [preface].
ISBN 1895466040
Price: $33

Robert Dietz was a wounded, generous, difficult man. He promoted, idiosyncratically, what he believed in, and irritably refuted what he thought "schtupid." He was magnanimous, but he could stab you in the back, too. He loved young people for their potential, he disdained what was established and no longer easily moved.

In March, 1993, I invited him to lecture before a class of about 200 students at Dalhousie University in Halifax; it was one of those 'Writing Across the Curriculum' colossal compulsories, which some universities saw as a remedy to student illiteracy. Ultimately, such classes were a punishment to everyone, but they had the potential to be turned into something imaginative and passionate if one tried: having Dietz give a sound and visual-underscored lecture was a bit like putting on Shakespeare behind the Berlin Wall.

Says one of the students: "As much as I have read about Nazi concentration camps, Hitler's brutality... and the war in general, I had never felt the impact of these actions personally. I regret that it took a man of great courage and strength to illustrate to me the impact of the war by being choked up and sobbing during the final few minutes of his lecture. It was then that the experiences I read about during my high school years had more meaning than a tragic story in a history text book." [Laurie Whidden]

Another: "...what he wanted to say all evening was that hearts as well as people died in the war." [Andrea Bonomo]

Author and artist Dietz could not have wished for better, for living history is what he had in mind. This book was partly funded by the then Nova Scotia Department of Education. Gunner Schmidt yet awaits dramatic representation on stage or film. Reprinting and performance rights may be obtained from the publisher.