The Dispersion of the Simon Family

Posted by Connor.

Remember the opening scene of the Heimat mini-series? After the introduction in English with the photo albums, the camera’s attention turned to Paul and was focused on Paul as he returned to his hometown of Schabbach, Germany. After the First World War, the Simon family had finally been reunited. Their beloved soldier Paul was back from the war. Yet it did not seem to be such a joyous occasion. Everyone in the family went about their daily chores. Mathias didn’t really acknowledge Paul as Paul jumped into to help him mend a piece of metal. Wouldn’t you think he’d have been excited/proud that his son had returned home? Eduard went on reading the newspaper with everyone in the room, talking of all the different political events going on in the world. Paul did not seem to care at all that he was home and was blocking everyone out as he dreamed of his comrade who had passed in the war. I know I did not get the sense that this was a very cohesive family unit. Perhaps Reitz was foreshadowing what was to become of the Simon family, a family left in pieces. Did anyone see this coming?

Through four episodes we now see how each member of the Simon family has gone off in their own direction. Paul married Maria and they had two kids, then all of a sudden out of the blue Paul decided to take off for America. Why? Why would Paul who was working on his technology improvements and who had just started a family with a beautiful wife and two gorgeous kids up and leave? Was it PTSD? Could Paul not reacclimate himself to being home after his time at war? Whatever the reason, we have not seen Paul since the scene in the barbershop, and it does not appear that he is going to be returning anytime soon. Besides, Maria has moved on to Otto. If Maria and Otto get together, will Maria and her sons have the same role in the Simon family? Or will they go off in a different direction and lose contact just like Paul has?

Then there is Pauline. Pauline of course married Robert the jeweler, and they haven’t looked back since. Their business is booming and they have settled into their home. Pauline has transformed (quite literally as in the last episode it appeared to be a completely different actor playing her role than in the first couple of episodes) into more of a modernized woman. She did her hair like the famous singer/movie star who Maria and she had witnessed in the theater. What is going to happen with this family? Will Robert and Pauline decide to expand their family? Or will they continue to focus on their business? Will problems arise because Pauline thinks she can do a better job selling the jewelry than Robert because she is a woman and she made more money in a day running the store than he normally does?

The Simon parents are kind of just moving along as everything develops. Both Katherine and Mathias are set in their day to day ways. Katherine fears all the change and gets upset because everything is now bought “on tick”. I feel she worries about what is becoming of her family as all her children are off doing their own thing. The only daily interaction she has with anyone connected to Paul, Pauline, or Eduard is dealing with Anton, Ernst, and Maria. Yet if Maria up and leaves with Otto, then what is left for Kath and Mathias? Do they eventually cave in and go along with the more modernized world? I don’t think they will but who knows? I feel as if Katherine wants Maria to be with Otto so Maria is happy. Kath has seen everything the poor girl has gone through since Paul left. When she goes down late at night she asks if everything is alright. Maria responded, telling her everything was fine that Otto had injured himself, but telling Kath to go to bed. Katherine knew what was going on and she let it happen. She wants Maria to be happy.

Finally there is Eduard. Eduard went to the big city of Berlin and met Lucie, what a character. We all know their story. I’m interested to see what happens between them. How can Eduard continue to put up with Lucie’s flirtatious ways? Will Lucie leave Eduard because of his unwillingness or incapableness to move up higher in the ranks? Or will Eduard leave Lucie? I don’t think things are going to end well between these two. At the end of the last episode Eduard seemed tired and frustrated, almost worn out by Lucie. Eduard said, “I thought I could bring a little of what we had in Berlin here.” Perhaps this was a last ditch effort to rekindle old feelings? I think Eduard has had enough of everything because after his coughing fit at the end of the last episode he told Katherine that there was something nice about being home.

To me this last line that Eduard speaks could be a foreshadowing that perhaps there is hope for the Simon family. Perhaps Eduard will end things with Lucie and return to the household. Perhaps Paul comes home. What do you think is going to happen to this family going forward? Will they continue to live their separate lives? Or will they once again be reunited?

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11 responses to “The Dispersion of the Simon Family

  1. We can already see that the family is slowly spreading out. I think it is logical to expect that trend to continue, not only from evidence in the film, but also because that is how we know real life to grow as well. How many of us plan on taking our future families back to the same town we grew up in?
    But the focus is of course on home, so no matter what happens, someone will still be in the village, and others will still remember their connections to it. Just look at Paul’s letter: he’s home-sick. Which is the exact opposite of the meaning of the first episode’s title (translated as ‘the call of far away places” or “longing to escape”). This is an interesting twist, and seems fitting for the middle of the series. Perhaps other characters will slowly return to their homes as the series concludes?

  2. While we’re on the subject of Paul, did anyone else find it odd for him to be so heavily focused on in the 5th episode (Up and Away and Back), and then completely disregarded in the 6th (The Homefront)? I realize that four years have passed, and the war is at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but Paul’s apparent return was such a major plot-line, and a welcome surprise (to me at least) for its failure to be just shoved to the side like that. If he was never allowed back into Germany, why weren’t we shown more consequences of that? Did he ever send more letters to the family? Or is Paul’s absence somehow “needed” for the Simon family to move forward? Ernst may have never entered the Air Corps if his hate for his father wasn’t present, and if Paul had returned, would he be considered the “man” of Schabbach instead of Wilfried during the war? It seems fate doesn’t want this family to be together, they were meant to split apart.

  3. One thing that I found interesting was the schism-like atmosphere that Paul’s return caused within the family. For the most part, everyone is overjoyed to hear that Paul will soon return, but that does not include Ernst and perhaps Maria. Upon hearing that his real father will return home, Ernst goes into a fit of rage and leaves the house. But who is to blame him? He probably doesn’t remember Paul at all, and feels that he owes him nothing. Also, over the past few years, Ernst has grown quite close to Otto and most likely sees him as his father instead of Paul. Anton on the other hand rejoiced when he hears his father will return. When Ernst storms off in rage, Anton follows and consoles him, saying that this is a good thing. At the docks, he asks Maria is that father at every man who passes, because just like Ernst, Anton has no memory of his father. Maria’s reaction to the letter is a most surprising one as well. Initially, she is sad because she loves Otto now and knows that he will have to leave. This is also the first time we see her really lash out at Paul. She says what Paul did was unfair to her and the children and feels as though she shouldn’t welcome him back. However, it appears that her feelings change when she does get to the docks, because she does everything she can to try to get him back, which I found interesting. Why do her feelings change towards the situation? Or do they change at all? Perhaps she is just pretending to be the good, loyal wife like what she has done for all those years.

  4. I agree with Rob in that the focus on Paul in the 5th episode ended very abruptly in the 6th. I forgot about the Aryan identity incident until someone in the 6th episode brought it up. Perhaps this was intentional because I’m sure after 4 years on top of 10 before that, forgetting Paul was not that difficult. The family had moved on before, why not again? And there is more going on in the world this time than the first time he left. The new innovations move life along much faster, and people have less time to dwell. I would have liked to know what happened to him. I’m sure there was some news. Maybe not, though. It is an interesting commentary on the Nazi policy on foreign affairs, and followthrough on Paul’s situation would have been interesting.

  5. I think that because this series is called Heimat, after all, even though the Simon family will disperse and spread out just as any family does, they will eventually be reunited. Even when one journeys far from home, what grounds them is their knowledge of where they came from. Your surroundings and feelings towards life may change, but your true home and family do not. I think Eduard’s slight removal from the rest of his family is not permanent; he does not seem happy with Lucie and eventually, something’s got to give. He has been almost painfully subservient to flirtatious Lucie, letting her push him around. I think he’s had enough and will leave her to be with his family, as it was in the beginning of the series. At the same time, Lucie is a city girl and her home is in Berlin. She may realize she does not belong with Eduard in the country the more she forces him into being someone he clearly is not and he fails at moving up the ranks.

    Maybe the same goes for Paul: was he forcing himself to be someone he wasn’t by leaving his loved ones behind? Has he lost a part of he who was by traveling to America and becoming removed once again, from his home?

  6. I agree with Allison in that a person’s true home and family don’t change. That’s the reason why it’s considered home: someplace that you can always come back to no matter where you have been or what you have done. For Paul, this applies because he’s spent such a long time away from his family, yet is still able to come back where the family would have welcomed him. When his letter comes, though the general overtone is dismay especially with Ernst and Maria, there is a clear understanding that he is still a member of the family who does belong, as the preparations following indicate.

    In response to Allison’s last question, I think that Paul found himself by going to America: before he seemed lost and uncertain as he wandered around Schabbach. Now, coming back from America, he is a successful entrepreneur, is the first to make contact with the family, is concerned with the family, and wants to come back to the family. Hence, there is something in America that caused him to take control of his situation, instead of him simply going with the flow.

  7. In regards to Paul’s appearance in the fifth episode, but not the sixth, Ibelieve that Reitz is trying to show that Paul is still a viable character in the story, and that at some point he will come back, however, now is not the time. It would be even more awkward if Paul was not seen again until a later episode, where he suddenly appeared back at home, without any information about his whereabouts for the past several episodes. Paul’s work in America and his wish to return also goes right along with the theme of the course, and his eventual return would fit well with Holder of the World, where Hannah had to travel a long ways before she could find herself and return home.

  8. I think the point of the entire series was to watch the dispersion of a family as you watch the dispersion of the country into war. I remember at the very beginning when Paul left, I assumed that we would continue to watch Paul, and maybe see glimpses of the family. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the focus on Paul was actually highlighting the family structure and how each person relates to the world. The series was never about Paul and his issues, but about the family as a whole, and how it becomes less of a thing, and more of separate people living together as time moves on. Each family member had their own agenda and goals, and the series watches them each progress through success or failure and comments on how it unravels the family ties. I definitely do not expect to see the family together at any point in this series. I think now we just watch them become more separate.

  9. It’s interesting now to address the issue of the family spreading out and becoming less of a close-knit unit after we have discussed technology in so much depth. I think there is a strong connection between the two. Just think about it, the advancements brought by the telephone and the radio have allowed the family to connect with places and people far beyond their previous capabilities. One small rural town and singular family within this town now can tune in to hear direct messages from the leader of the country, Hitler. Before, this news would take days or weeks to reach them. So, it’s only logical that with the new allowances of technology the family moves father away from its hub. When anyone is just a phone call away, it isn’t as important that the family all live on the same block. When they can dial up Anton on his “wedding day” and speak to him as if he is in the room, his actually being in the room loses importance. Technology allows the family to move laterally without the guilt of completely leaving their home/parents behind.

  10. This post raises a lot of great questions about how people’s definitions of, and connections to, their homes change over time. I was intrigued by the discussion about Katherine, and her conflicting emotions as her children grow up and move away. She is simultaneously saddened to see them go, yet happy for them as they pursue new adventures.
    Is it, then, an act of betrayal for Paul, Pauline, Eduard, or Maria to leave Schabbach and the people there behind? Katherine frets about the social and political changes of the times, and the implications they will have on their lives. Katherine and Schabbach have provided the children with a home, a community, and abundant love; is it wrong for them to want something more?
    As others have said, I think the children’s respective moves away from Schabacch are natural and healthy…at least, as in Pauline’s case (who moved away due to marriage). Others, like Maria and Eduard, have married, had children, and/or experienced major life changes, but still remain connected to Katherine and the village. Paul’s case, however, is unique. No matter how great his dreams of America and a new life were, he betrayed his family by leaving without a word and leaving them to fend for themselves. It is one thing to outgrow a place; it is another to deny that it ever existed, or to be ungrateful for what it has given you.

  11. In response to Christina’s post, I strongly agree that Paul’s leaving is extremely unique and special. He does something that is unheard of in the Hunsruck, leave completely. In those days, the sons of a family were supposed to continue living in a relatively close distance, like Eduard. The sons were meant to help support their parents and family as they grew older and could not continue their profession. Paul breaks completely from this tradition. Everyone in the town assumes him to be dead, including his own parents. Reitz recognizes this utter split by putting so much emphasis on him in the first and second episode, then completely dropping him as a character. Then suddenly, a letter from Paul comes, bringing him back to life. It will be very interesting if we ever see Paul again and how his family, especially Maria, will act towards him after severing such an important bond.

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