Friday, December 9, 2016

#hate

Much has been written about #hate on the Internet. Why is it so that even a Liberal city councillor from Freiburg wrote on facebook about brown rats leaving their gutters referring to the populist movement AfD in Germany? His poisoning remark raised a shitstorm, rightly so.

Freiburg is in turmoil since on October 16, an early jogger found the corpse of a 19 year old student who on her way back from a faculty party was raped and then drowned in the Dreisam River. The police worked overtime and on December 3, revealed that the prime suspect was 17 year-old Afghan boy who had come to Germany as a UMA (unaccompanied underage foreigner). Since then he had been living with a German foster family.

At the scene of the crime the police found the key indication in a nearby bush: a single 20 cm long multicolored hair. In watching hours of video tapes taken on the streetcar line running nearby they eventually assigned the hair to the Afghan boy. The matching of the DNA secured at the scene of the crime makes him the prime suspect in the murder of the student.

Suddenly even tolerant citizens start to blame Chancellor Merkel for her open refugee policy that had spilled 800,000 unchecked persons into Germany in 2015. Only now our bureaucratic system is coming to grips with the number of refugees stranded in my country. It is estimated that nearly 500,000 persons are not entitled to political asylum thus living illegally in Germany. Many of those should be extradited. Such an expulsion is a lengthy procedure, too long for many of my country fellows.

Here are just three moderate examples of #hate mails in the case of the Freiburg murder sent to the Badische Zeitung, most of them in rudimentary German:

Rapefugeesarenotwelcome!!! Verpisst euch!! (Rapefugees are not welcome!!! Piss off!!)
Dem gehören die Eier ab!!!! (Cut off his balls!!!!)
Ich hoffe das sie dich Tod Schlagen du kleines arschloch!!! (I hope they will beat you to death you little asshole!!!)

The brutal murder and its circumstances pushed Freiburg into the national news. Yesterday night Mayor Dieter Salomon was on the Maybrit Illner talk show. He iterated his position: The committed murder is not worse because the suspect is a refugee. Had it been a German I would not have been less appalled.

Maybrit Illner is the second lady from the left.
Note the projected "angst" in the background (©ZDF).
Although the topic of the discussion was Refugees under suspicion - the end of Germany's welcoming culture? the debate soon turned to the problem of repatriation of refugees into so-called safe countries. It happens that according to the German government Afghanistan is defined as a safe country. So Afghan refugees must return. 

Salomon was right looking sceptical (©ZDF)
During the talk show host Maybrit presented a young Afghan man who has lived in Germany over the last five years, speaking German and looking for a job. He presently is in a state of toleration. He may only stay in Germany if he finds an apprenticeship. In fact, his appearance on television will be the chance of his life.

If Germany likes to keep the good refugees how can it get rid of criminals? Countries like Morocco refuse to take those citizens back. Should they be parachuted over the Maghreb?

Today and tomorrow Salomon is in the Vatican at a summit meeting of 50 European mayors. Their topic: Refugees are our brothers and sisters. Pope Francis will assist the summit on Saturday for three hours hopefully enlightening those mayors.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

National Socialism in Freiburg

Don't panic, it's all history. Yesterday Red Baron attended the opening ceremony of an exhibition: Nationalsozialismus in Freiburg at the auditorium of the university. The entrance to the building was well protected by security staff for the organizers feared demonstrations by right wingers.

Mayor Dieter Salomon greeting the audience.
The photo in color behind him shows a scene of a rally
 on Münsterplatz during the NSDAP district assembly in 1939.
The guy in traditional costume looks skeptical.
Is he aware about the war starting in September of the same year?
The auditorium was fully packed when Mayor Salomon addressed the assembled dignitaries and common people. This remark was the only joke in his heartfelt speech. On several occasions he deviated from his manuscript speaking off the cuff. With the rise of populists all over the world putting democracies to the test people in Germany are particularly perturbed. As the Holocaust survivor, the Italian chemist Primo Levi once wrote: It has happened and therefore it may happen again.

Admittedly the Weimar Republic was an unloved child attacked by the Communists on the left and the Nazis on the right with the latter winning in 1933. So when putting Donald Trump in the States, Marine le Pen in France, Nigel Farage in England, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, and Frauke Petry in Germany in one, i.e., the populist basket democratic-minded people generally stress the stability of modern democracies with an uneasy feeling remaining.

Same rally as in the photo above.
People raising their right hands in the Nazi salute convey an eerie atmosphere.
Following a reception in the foyer of the auditorium attendees were invited to walk 500 meters and see the exhibition at the Augustinermuseum exceptionally open until 11 p.m. on the occasion. The place was too crowded so Red Baron only stayed for a short while but will come back another day.

Reichsbischof Ludwig Müller visiting Freiburg in 1935
Here is one of the exhibition items that has already excited me. I did not know that the gleichgeschalteten (brought in line) Lutherans called themselves not only Deutsche Christen (German Christians) but evangelische Nationalsozialisten too.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Black Saturdays

At this year's Thanksgiving Dinner at the Greiffenegg-Schlössle US Consul General James W. Herman eloquently calmed down German angst with respect to the new administration taking power in January 2017. He praised the idea of thanksgiving as giving your thanks for all the good things you have received during the past year. Mr. Herman encouraged the German people to adopt the celebration of Thanksgiving.

Consul General James W. Herman at the Greiffenegg-Schlössle
Pardon? Didn't he know that from time immemorial we have been celebrating the Erntedankfest (harvest festival) on the first Sunday in October although admittedly mostly in rural areas and without much publicity.

Fact is that over the past years the German people or rather department stores and vendors have adopted Valentine's Day, Halloween, and most recently Black Friday. In particular this year Red Baron saw the shops full of creepy articles they never were able to sell for Halloween showing that the rooting of this custom in my country is not very deep. I also noticed that Black Friday sales are picking up pace in Germany.

Misunderstood Black Friday: for a whole week
In Freiburg we really do not need Black Friday for we have black Saturdays throughout the year. Going downtown on a Saturday means that you'd better polish up your French and your Alemannic dialect for any sort of communication. In particular the Swiss invade the department stores at Kaiser-Joseph-Straße and Freiburg's restaurants. Black Saturdays are bright Saturdays for Freiburg's merchants. Now at Advent time the Swiss assault has increased and - thanks to Trump ante portas - is nourished by a Swiss franc getting stronger with respect to the euro every day.

Around Bertoldsbrunnen this morning
I must admit that I profited from the Black Friday sales on the Internet in completing my private weather station with a wind gauge, paying 25% off. Well, my actual gain was less with the US dollar getting stronger with respect to the euro every day. Thank you, Mr. Trump.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Unisterben

Within fifteen years, from 1803 to 1818, nearly half of the German-speaking universities disappeared which may be described as the great Universitätssterben ("die-off" of universities).  Among the talks given at the Ott Fest, a colloquium on the occasion of the 85th anniversary of Professor Hugo Ott, the presentation by Sandra Haas was the most lively and interesting one.

Emperor Joseph's decree (©Sandra Haas)
Throughout its history Freiburg's university was threatened with closure. In the second half of the 18th century the quality of teaching was bad at the Albertina. So it was no surprise that Emperor Joseph II also mentioned Freiburg when he decreed the closure of half of the six universities on Habsburg territory. While the University of Innsbruck was downgraded to a lyceum and Brno was closed, Freiburg miraculously survived.

Four waves of  "die-off" of universities in Germany (©Sandra Haas)
Sandra Haas told the audience that starting in 1803 one may distinguish four closing waves that swept over German universities. The first blow to their existence came in 1797 when the Second Congress of Rastatt resulted in a peace agreement between the French Republic and the Holy Roman Empire. In this agreement all German territories left of the Rhine River became French. Under French rule the cities of Löwen, Trier, Mainz, Bonn, and Cologne closed their universities.

German universities in 1797 (©Sandra Haas)
The next wave started on February 25, 1803, when the German princes who in 1797 had lost their territories on the left bank of the Rhine were finally "compensated" in the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss (German mediatization). Most of the land for their compensation was "gained" by secularizing ecclesiastical principalities and the sometimes vast territories of monasteries. So the prince-bishoprics of Bamberg and Fulda were dissolved and lost their universities while the city of Dillingen became Bavarian and the new sovereign downgraded its university to a lyceum.

In the same year Hercules III of Modena took possession of the Breisgau that Napoleon had imposed on him in the Treaty of Campo Formio compensating the duke for his territories lost in Northern Italy. As the Freiburg university officials feared the closing of the Austrian Albertina they sent a letter to Emperor Franz II begging for the preservation of the university. When the Freiburgers learned that the senile Hercules had appointed his heir and son-in-law, the Austrian Erzherzog Ferdinand, as regent of the Breisgau the letter fortunately became obsolete.

A third mortality wave swept over German universities during the years of Napoleonic rule, i.e., the time between 1806 and 1813. Only two new universities were founded during that period both at the expense of closing existing ones. When the University of Berlin, later Humboldt University, was founded in 1810 Frankfurt on the Oder was closed. Likewise, the foundation of the University of Landshut in 1801 was nothing else than a shift from Ingolstadt on the River Danube to the city on the River Lech. However, Landshut's university did not last long. Already in 1826 King Ludwig I moved the university to the Bavarian capital Munich.

German universities in 1818 (©Sandra Haas)
The fourth wave came in the aftermath of the Congress of Vienna. A "bad" example was Prussia that due to its territorial acquisitions was confronted with many "new" old universities. The universities of Duisburg, Münster, Paderborn, Wittenberg, and Erfurt overstrained the financial possibilities of the Prussian state and were closed.

The Congress of Vienna also confirmed the existence of the Grand Duchy of Baden that was suddenly faced with two existing universities: The Calvinist Ruperto Carola in Heidelberg of 1368 and the Catholic Albertina in Freiburg of 1457. In fact, Baden was in a difficult political situation with a Protestant population in the north while the acquired Breisgau was mostly Catholic. As Freiburg's professor and poet Johann Georg Jacobi wrote, it became more urgent to "marry" Baden's Protestant North with its Catholic South than to worry about universities.

Already in 1806 Elector Karl-Friedrich was asked to close one of the two universities but he answered: By no means, they do not belong to Baden alone, they belong to mankind. The following year, as a precaution and preventively, Freiburg's university officials offered the title rector magnificentissimus to their sovereign.

Now, following the Congress of Vienna in 1816, Baden's financial constraints were even greater. The government in Karlsruhe told a delegation from Freiburg that one university in Baden was sufficient. Being compensated by a Catholic bishop and the permanent stationing of a garrison Freiburg should not complain.

Titlepage of Karl von Rotteck's Promemoria (©Sandra Haas)
In this messy situation Freiburg's professor Karl von Rotteck wrote a Promemoria (memorandum) in which he stressed that the elongated form of Baden's territory justified two universities. Also, competition between the Ruperto Carola on the River Neckar and the Albertina on the River Dreisam would be good with respect to the quality of teaching. Baden's governor in Freiburg, Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Friedrich Freiherr Drais von Sauerbronn, added the argument that the study of theology should be Catholic in Freiburg and Protestant in Heidelberg.

On January 23, 1818, the relieving message arrived in Freiburg: an explicit ducal order guaranteed the existence of the university. When in 1820 Grand-Duke Ludwig granted the Albertina a yearly government subsidy of 15,000 guilders the thankful university officials asked their sovereign for his gracious permission to rename Freiburg's university: Albertina-Ludoviciana, vivat, crescat, floreat ad multos annos.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Freiburg's Coup With a Cup

Coffee to go has spilled over the Atlantic with the result that one-way paper cups are littering (vermüllen) German cities. While in the States many customers of coffee shops take their personal permanent mugs along thus avoiding the pollution of the environment in Germany this is rarely the case.

Nevertheless, President Obama was seen on his latest and last visit* to Berlin with a presidential paper cup.
*He said he would like to come back as a private person to visit the Munich Oktoberfest

On another occasion: President Obama stepping off the plane is
greeting the Marines with a latte in a presidential paper cup
while Michelle is possibly appalled (©CNN).
You will not find this collector's item in the street.

The presidential paper cup (©The Paepae)
The City of Freiburg decided to reduce the volume of garbage caused by paper coffee cups and introduced the Freiburg Cup, a plastic cup with an one euro deposit that you may return to any coffee shop participating in the program. These cups are washed and may be reused 400 times except for the cap that for hygienic reasons still ends up in the waste. This Achilles heel has already given rise to critics. Another point of moaning concerns the one size only uttered by people who like to drink lattes by the liter.

Freiburg Cups (©BZ/Rita Eggstein)
Overall Freiburg brought off a big coup. The success is overwhelming. The 5000 cups initially ordered disappeared in one day not into the landscape but as a collector's item. Freiburg's environmental mayor immediately ordered another 10,000 cups with many more coffee shops going to introduce the Cup in Freiburg.

With all the publicity municipal officials are sure that other German cities will follow Freiburg's example soon. When shall we see the Federal Cup not to be confused with the Federation Cup?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Kärcher

Companies are happy when their brand names become generic names. When I started work at CERN I remember that adhesive tapes not only those made by 3M were called Scotch while in Germany I had been accustomed to the generic Tesa produced by the German firm Beiersdorf. Another example is Tempo in Germany generic for any Papiertaschentuch (paper handkerchief) which the Americans call Kleenex.

The German firm Kärcher produces high-pressure cleaners using hot or cold water. Due to their high quality Kärcher products are successfully exported to many countries. In the UK the umlaut (Tüttel) on the a is simply left out as in the case of an earlier export: Georg Friedrich Händel became George Frideric Handel.

In France they write Karcher without umlaut, too, the syllabic stress moving to the last syllable. The French even went so far as to form a new verb karcher (premier group de conjugaison). Instead of saying "cleaning something with a high-pressure water jet", they karcher the object. The Kärcher company was delighted.

In 2005 during the time of a youth rebellion in France the verb karcher became highly political. The then Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy heated up the political climate by insulting the young Maghreb demonstrators as racaille (scum) and declared qu'il fallait «nettoyer» les banlieues au Karcher (one needs to "clean" the suburbs using a Karcher). Sarko proposed to karcher subjects instead of objects; so far so bad. From that moment on karcher became a synonym for cleaning the suburbs.

Where is the Karcher? (seen on Facebook)
Last month and with regard to upcoming elections in France Kärcher sent a letter to all political parties and presidential candidates asking them not to use karcher in their campaign in the meaning karcher les banlieues. The answer Kärcher may expect is the same they already received when they sent a similar letter in 2010: We do not understand the excitement. Using the verb karcher is free publicity and means that your products are efficient and of good quality. Kärcher would rather do without such a publicity.
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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Quo Vadis, America?

Is Professor Koschut covering his face?
Wohin steuert Amerika? Only two days after the presidential election Professor Simon Koschut of the Free University of Berlin dared to speak about the future US foreign policy, a topic where even our Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier confessed: Nichts Genaues weiß man nicht (It's all so confusing). As you may imagine, the auditorium was fully packed.

Presidential candidate Donald Trump made this statement
with respect to the fight against internal and external terrorism.
When, following his talk, Prof. Koschut was asked whether he had actually prepared a lecture B beforehand he answered: About Hillary's foreign policy I would have given the talk off the cuff.


Results of a poll show that Republicans rate President Obama's foreign policy as bad. So in his lecture B Prof. Koschut cautiously interpreted Donald J. Trump's statements during the election campaign and discovered many contradictory remarks that make a prediction of America's new foreign policy difficult.


With respect to the Middle East will Trump increase the bombing of ISIS and give carte blanche to Assad and Putin at the same time? Sending ground troops into the already burning powder keg - something Hillary was occasionally accused of - is unpopular in the States.

Already now the US have a military budget that is bigger
than that of all those other countries mentioned taken together
Whether America's resources are totally over extended is doubtful as far as the present military spending of the US is concerned. Increasing the defense budget and at the same time lowering taxes will necessarily incur new debts. Raising of the US debt ceiling? No problem, given the Republican majorities in both houses. The stock market is soaring in view of new investments and as I learned German firms hope for a fat share too with their expertise in wall-building.

America is going to be strong again but those countries protected by the American shield shall pay for it. High-paid NATO officials in Brussels are already deeply worried about their posts rather than about the future of the defense alliance.

©Der Spiegel
An unpredictable nation? At least Prof. Koschut assured the audience that President Trump cannot revoke the Paris Climate Protection Agreement but he can block its application.

©Der Spiegel
When congratulating President-elect Donald Trump, Chancellor Angel Merkel laid down the rules: Germany and America are bound together by values: democracy, freedom, respect for law and the dignity of people regardless of their origin, the color of their skin, their religion, gender, sexual orientation, or their political beliefs.

My Bundestagsabgeordneter (member of parliament) Gernot Erler said in an interview: My hope is that the American institutions and moderate fractions of the Republican party will hem in (einhegen) the new president.

We all know: Hope dies last but let's wait and see.
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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Post-Factual

During the past US election campaign I learned a new German word: postfaktisch. In 2010 the term was coined by David Roberts, a blogger, in the context of post-truth politics describing a debate that is based on passion and emotion rather than reason and evidence. In fact, the word post-truth is clearer than the construct post-factual.

Der Sonntag, Freiburg. Photo©AFP
The post-factual concept is multilayered and should not be confused with "simple" lies. Fact is, facts play no longer a principal role in political debates for "facts" derive from a Lügenpresse (lying press). It no longer matters whether a candidate for political office tells the truth as long as he sticks to statements his followers like to hear and will swallow. When the press is no longer the main source of information social media take over where everybody (even bots) can write what he/she likes and thus influence the vox populi.

The die is cast. This morning I was watching television. At 8:29 a.m. Donald J. Trump was still missing one electoral delegate, at 8:30 a.m. the Wisconsin result came in, and: Habeamus principem! One US journalist expressed his hope: Our system of checks and balances will save the American democracy. Franz von Papen made a similar statement in 1933.

As I stressed in my previous blog, the similarities between Germany's past and America's present are depressing. This morning Bill Clinton's slogan, It's the economy, stupid, hit back, when Trump announced his victory. I will double America's economic growth, he said. I will not only renew our infrastructure but make it better. I will be fair to our allies and friends, but America first. In his statement he left out the wall for, according to him, the Mexicans will build it and this without creating new jobs in the States. Anyway, the march of angry Republicans on Washington is no longer necessary and therefore cancelled.

This morning Chancellor Angela Merkel congratulated Donald Trump, appealing to the old and venerable American democracy while the European political establishment keeps its fingers crossed. On the other hand, American experts said on television that with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress not only the Supreme Court justice to be appointed will be conservative but with the political change government officials in Washington will be replaced by Republican-minded staff down to the last clerk.

How will domestic economical growth go along with the creation of jobs? In 1933 following the Machtergreifung (Nazi takeover) Reichsbankpräsident Hjalmar Schacht prohibited the foreign exchange of the Reichsmark and started printing money for the construction of autobahns and above all for German re-armament. These actions more than halved unemployment in the Weimar Republic, i.e., from 5.7 million in 1932 to 2.1 million in 1936. Financing government expenses by loans? With majorities in both houses of Congress it will be easy for a Republican president to have the the US debt ceiling raised.

Will America honor its climate goals? Donald Trump does not believe in climate change.
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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Elbphilharmonie

Although many foreigners regard German technology as top-notch we are miserable in finishing major construction projects.

The most striking example is the Hauptstadtflughafen Berlin-Brandenburg (capital airport). Groundbreaking was in September 2005 and completion planned for 2011. Since then lots of serious mistakes in the planning and construction have been heaping up, delaying work. Now the opening of the airport should take place in one year. Costs have exploded from initially 2.5 billion to 6.5 billion euros in 2016. At present Willy Brandt whose name is reserved for this building site that will someday be finished is no longer turning over in his grave but rather rotating.

The other example is Stuttgart 21, the new underground main train station of Baden-Wurttemberg's capital. The project was started in February 2010 and the commissioning of the station was initially planned for December 2019. In the meantime the date was changed to December 2021 while experts regard the opening of the station by the end of 2022 as more likely. Initially planned for 4.5 billion euros Die Bahn (Germany's federal railway) corrected the sum to 5.987 billion in July 2013 deliberately avoiding the 6 billion mark (not marks but euros!). Independent cost estimates involve instead a final cost of 6.8 billion euros.

So with some pride on November 2, a minor construction project although major with respect to costs and delays finally came to an end.

Finished (©Der Spiegel)
Hamburg's Elbphilharmonie not only will be the new landmark of Germany's biggest port but is located within the harbour.

©Der Spiegel
Newspeople have already started comparing the Elbphilharmonie with the Sydney Opera House.

©Der Spiegel
The cornerstone-laying ceremony for the building was in April 2007, the initial authorized costs were 241 million euros, and the completion of the Elbphilharmonie scheduled for 2010. Six years later the total costs had reached 789 million euros, i.e., a more than threefold increase in money for a construction period of nearly 10 years instead of four. NDR's (North German Broadcasting) satirical television show Extra Drei rightly tweaked the exultant photo shown above.

Expensive (©NDR)
At the inauguration ceremony Hamburg's mayor Olaf Scholz (Social Democrat) said that the decision to build the Elbphilharmonie was correct indirectly praising his predecessor Ole von Beust (Christian Democrat). Scholz had to swallow the high costs. The Elbphilharmonie not only is a fascinating building, he said, but one of the best concert halls in the world.

This is the true Hanseatic spirit: Forget party lines when it concerns Hamburg's interests. With both Hamburg soccer teams ranking last in their respective national leagues they are no longer attractive to watch playing. Therefore the city needs other tourist highlights. It would like to attract more people not only those visiting Reeperbahn and Große Freiheit, Hamburg's red light district, but cultivated music lovers, too.

In connection with the inauguration Red Baron learned that the word Philharmonie is of French origin. The two components root in ancient Greek philos meaning friend, loving and harmonia euphony, music. Humanistically educated Frenchmen coined the word philharmonique from which the English philharmonic and the German philharmonisch were derived and adopted.

The official opening concert is scheduled for January 11, 2017, and already on January 18, Red Baron will listen to Haydn's Die Schöpfung (The Creation). I truly deserve it for whenever I was in Hamburg over the last ten years I always wondered whether I would live long enough to listen to music at the Elbphilharmonie. Let us keep our fingers crossed.
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Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Certain Smile

On the street where I live there are two houses of student fraternities one opposite my apartment, the other just neighboring. It is nice to see so many young people around though noise levels sometimes are high when they party in their gardens during warm summer nights. As a sort of compensation and in the spirit of good neighborship we, the adjacent residents, are invited to most of their events. When reading their semester program Red Baron usually finds one or two interesting topics.

The Burschenschaft Teutonia started the winter semester 2016/17 on October 22, with a highlight. For two days the Chinese ambassador was their guest of honor. His Excellency Shi Mingde wanted to learn about the activity of German fraternities. While according just one hour to Freiburg and Mayor Salomon to sign the city's Golden Book he lived together with the fraternity students from Saturday afternoon to Sunday noon. He opened "his" program by speaking at the Teutonia fraternity house about Die Rolle Chinas in der Weltpolitik, Einblicke in die Politik, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Chinas (China's role in world politics, Insights into China's politics, economy, and society.

Red Baron entered the neighboring building somewhat early and had lots of time to talk to the Teutonia Aktivitas (students active in the fraternity) and their Alte Herren (former student members). Many of the "old boys" had come to listen to Shi Mingde from far away, e.g., Delmenhorst, a small town near the port city of Bremen.

His Excellency was welcomed by the Erstchargierter der Aktivitas (head of the active fraternity) and by the chairman of the union of former fraternity students with both speakers emphasizing that Teutonians are cosmopolitan and liberal-minded.

Note Teutonia's flag behind the speaker:
Voran und beharrlich für Freiheit, Ehre, Vaterland!
(Ahead and persistent for freedom, honor, fatherland)
And so was Ambassador Shi Mingde. Rumors have it that China sent its best man to Germany in 2012 and indeed: His Excellency was excellent in his presentation and spoke excellent German. In his younger years he was ambassador to East Germany and lived through the disappearance of the GDR. Their way to socialism was doomed because the GDR lacked reforms, he said. Taking this as a bad example China sought and found its own way of integrating market economy into communism, a combination leading to yearly double-digit economic growth rates over the last 35 years. When China started its economic development the average yearly income per capita was U$ 200. It is now around U$ 9000 while for Germany the figure is U$ 43,000. China's gross domestic product presently is 10 billion U$ while that of the States is 18 billion but keep in mind that one-fifth of the world population is Chinese.

Ambassador Mingde did not want to talk about China as a world power. His country had been a world power before it was subdued by the colonial powers in the 19th century, he said, but it became liberated in 1949. When asked about human rights he defined them as the right to eat and to be housed. While Germany has a "wealth problem" China still is a developing country with 40 million people living below the poverty line. For China basic human rights consist in providing enough food and decent housing for all its citizens. The economic situation in China's inland must still be improved while the economic development in China's coastal regions is rapidly moving in the direction of quality rather than of quantity.

The relations between Germany and China are excellent for they have much in common. The two countries rely on growth through innovation, they are against protectionism, and they both cooperate in the development of the world economically. There are currently 2800 German firms active in China and 2000 Chinese enterprises working in Germany.

With respect to energy, Ambassador Mingde admitted, China still depends too much on coal. China produces only 8% of its electricity by renewable energies but will increase the share to 15% while in Germany in 2015 the percentage of electricity produced by wind and sun was 32%. To lower COemissions by 40% and at the same time fight smog in China's cities the country will reduce the burning of coal but increase the present share of only 2% of nuclear energy by building new nuclear power stations. This will certainly not please his audience in Freiburg, Ambassador Mingde said, but the progress of replacing coal by renewable energy alone is too slow to satisfy China's needs for electricity. Although Germany will phase out its nuclear reactors by 2022, he added, it still produces 18% of its electricity by nuclear power compared with 70% in France.

In the discussion Ambassador Mingde said, Chinese firms sometimes find it difficult to demand overtime from their German staff as a consequence of well-being while Chinese people are extremely motivated. At present 35000 ambitious Chinese students are studying in Germany.


When the much applauded ambassador left the lecture hall I tried to get a close-up photo. When I pushed the button on my iPhone I noticed a red distance-measuring flash from another digital camera nearby spoiling my shot. Here is my photo of Ambassador Mingde where the red color is nothing else than a technical artifact.

PS: With respect to mutual investments and settlements of firms it is not all roses between China and Germany, the aforementioned difference in work ethic only being a minor problem. While so far China has used its enormous foreign exchange reserves unhampered investing in German high technology firms German investors in China are facing restrictions when buying Chinese company shares. A few days ago when our minister of economics visiting China touched on the subject China's government representatives were annoyed. Nothing serious. In the era of globalization we all depend on each other,  Ambassador Mingde said in his talk. I cannot imagine how German car manufacturers would do without the Chinese market. Are we open to blackmail?
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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Give Me Four Years

Gebt mir vier Jahre Zeit. This slogan of 1936* makes me think about Make America great again in 2016.
*Boiled down from the Verordnung zur Durchführung des Vierjahresplans dated October 18, 1936 (Order for the implementation of the Four-Year Plan).

Small hands but an impressive thumb (©Der Spiegel)
Yesterday night at the monthly Stammtisch of the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft the topic of discussion was the presidential election in the States. The renewed investigation into Hillary Clinton's e-mails is grist for Donald Trump's mill.

Ten hours ago. They are close (©NYT)
As masters of ceremony Jason Brown and René Freudenthal from the local Carl-Schurz-Haus guided the participants of the Stammtisch through the labyrinth of the presidential election with René arguing for Hillary Clinton and Jason trying hard to make the case for Donald Trump. The discussion was lively and we foreigners learned new words: Fly-over-state and striking expressions: Hillary is a wonk and Trump speaks his mind.

But let me come back to the two slogans. On Tuesday former Trump rival Gov. Scott Walker introduced the presidential nominee at a rally in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Here is what I read in yesterday's Wisconsin State Journal: This is a message for any Democratic voters who have already cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton and are having a bad case of buyer’s remorse: Wisconsin is one of several states where you can change your early ballot if you think you’ve made a mistake, Trump said. You can change your vote to Donald Trump and make America great again. She will never make America great.

I am far from comparing the two persons involved when I compare Gebt mir vier Jahre Zeit with Make America great again. However, to Germans having lived through the rise and fall of the Third Reich the similarity in the meaning is depressing in particular when realizing that the four year period is the same.

In 1940 Germany was in the midst of a war it had started while with respect to the presidential four-year-term Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Trump biographer David Cay Johnston thinks that Trump would make it as president for just one year with his impeachment dragging on longer. From David's lips to God's ears!

In June 2010 Kathleen Canning, visiting professor at Freiburg's university, talked about the Tea Party Patriots and the resulting political polarization in the US at a Stammtisch of the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft. She was deeply worried about the resulting hatred comparing the threat of physical attacks against the political adversary to the situation in the Weimar Republic. I told her: Fear not! For most Europeans and me the States were a bulwark of democracy.

These days I am not so sure anymore having watched scenes on television where Trump supporters shouted: Kill her! David Johnston said in his Spiegel interview: I would be greatly surprised that some sort of violence wouldn't erupt after the election particularly when the result is close. And Trump is fueling the sentiment apparently not knowing what he is doing.

Found on Twitter: Crusader's Pastor Thomas Robb wrote:
You can see it on the shirts, buttons, posters and ball caps
such as the one being worn here by Trump speaking at a recent rally.
... But can it happen?  Can America really be great again?
This is what we will soon find out!
Red Baron heard Trump supporters on television say that in case of Donald's defeat they are willing to take up arms. Are they prepared to march on Washington?

Johnston said about Trump that he is a megalomaniac without a moral core. Well, one of Trump's statements that he used loopholes in the law to avoid taxes seems to be just a venial sin compared with some of his other remarks during the election campaign. While well-behaved Americans pay their taxes Trump gets away with his statement and even scores with his voters when he explains: It is Hillary's fault! Why didn't she close those holes when she was in power (?) insinuating that she was not capable then and she will be incapable as president too. Red Baron is looking into a deep abyss of demagogy.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof

Once in a while Red Baron visits cemeteries. Following my encounter with Brecht one evening, the next day I wanted to see his tomb at the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof. The Berlin district Dorotheenstadt dates back to Prussia's Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm who in 1670 gave real estate to his second wife Sophie Dorothea of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. The plot was located between the city wall and Großer Tiergarten, i.e., the princely hunting ground. With Berlin growing a new residential district was soon laid out in the area that was named after Princess Sophia Dorothea.

In the following I will present the burying sites of famous people at the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof who rendered services to Prussia and its capital, Berlin. Their biographies are available on Wikipedia so I will just add some personal observations and remarks. Let us start with Bertolt Brecht.


Eugen Bertolt Friedrich Brecht (10 February 1898 – 14 August 1956) was a poet, playwright, and theater director of the Berliner Ensemble. This Ensemble was jointly run by Bertolt and his wife Helene at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm where Red Baron recently saw Schiller's Die Räuber. I adore Brecht's development of the German language. When he was once asked: What book is most important for you? Brecht, a lifelong atheist, answered: Don't laugh: It's Luther's Bibel. He admired Luther for his powerful German style.

Here is Martin Luther at Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof pointing to "his" book.
At times Brecht was a communist and as such suffered from the political takeover of the Nazis. When the Reichstag building burned on the evening of February 27, 1933, he knew that the battle for a democratic Germany was lost and impressively wrote:

Zu Berlin im Jahre neunzehnhundertdreiunddreißig stand
Dann an einem Montagabend des letzten Reichstags Haus in Brand
.
(At Berlin in the year nineteen hundred thirty-three
Then on a Monday evening the building of the last Reichstag was on fire).

Bertolt's and Helene's tombstones are of a touching simplicity.



Nearby you will find Heinrich Mann's (27 March 1871 – 11 March 1950) stele. He was a German novelist and his life was always overshadowed by his younger brother Thomas. Whereas most people only associate Heinrich with the movie Der blaue Engel (The Blue Angel) starring Marlene Dietrich as Lola Lola I admire Mann for his social-critical novel Der Untertan describing the servility of German society in the Second Reich. Taken from Mann's novel Professor Unrat Carl Zuckmayer wrote the script of The Blue Angel with Josef von Sternberg being the movie director.


Opposite those authors are the tombstones of two famous German philosophers.


Johann Gottlieb Fichte (May 19, 1762 – January 27, 1814) was a founding figure of German idealism that developed from the philosophical writings of Immanuel Kant. From Wikipedia I learned that Fichte and not Hegel was the originator of thesis–antithesis–synthesis as a philosophical tool.

Fichte was one of the fathers of German nationalism and known for his Reden an die Deutsche Nation (Speeches to the German Nation) he delivered under French occupation in Berlin in 1808: Germans should be Germans and have character. He also said that making Jews free German citizens would hurt the German nation a remark that induced Freiburg's street renaming commission to place Fichte's name in their category B of "charged" names, i.e, the original street sign should be supplemented with an explanatory text.



Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) became the philosopher of German idealism. He studied theology in Tübingen where as a freshman he planted a freedom tree together with Hölderlin and Schelling. The three danced around singing revolutionary songs.

When Hegel saw Napoleon on the evening before the French troops crushed the Prussian army in the Battle of Jena and Auerstädt he enthused: I saw the Emperor – this world-spirit – riding out of the city on reconnaissance. It is indeed a wonderful sensation to see such an individual, who, concentrated here at a single point, astride a horse, reaches out over the world and masters it ... this extraordinary man, whom it is impossible not to admire.

In 1818, Hegel accepted Johann Gottlieb Fichte's orphaned chair of philosophy at the University of Berlin. In his lectures Hegel called the French Revolution a glorious sunrise and continued: Ein Enthusiasmus des Geistes hat die Welt durchschauert, als sei es zur wirklichen Versöhnung des Göttlichen mit der Welt erst jetzt gekommen (Enthusiasm of the spirit has sent a shiver through the world. It seems that only now the divine is reconciled with the world).



Two of Prussian's famous sculptors are buried at the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof. Christian Daniel Rauch (2 January 1777 – 3 December 1857) was one of them. Rauch created the Prussian National Monument for the Liberation Wars on Berlin's Kreuzberg and the statue of Frederick the Great on horseback still riding Unter den Linden. My late son took a memorable photo.





Johann Gottfried Schadow (20 May 1764 – 27 January 1850) was in direct competition with Rauch. Schadow's portrait statues include Crown-Princess Louise, the German Jeanne d'Arc, and her sister Frederica. The latter statue is on display at the Friedrichswerder Church in Berlin where I took one of my first digital photos in 2001. The quality is not too bad.




One of Berlin's famous citizens is buried here. Johann Friedrich August Borsig (23 June 1804 – 6 July 1854) was the founder of the famous Borsig-Werke (factory). In Wikipedia we read: Despite tremendous costs, the first locomotive, bearing factory number 1 and the name BORSIG, was finished in 1840. This locomotive had an interior frame, a two-axle front pivoted bogie and an extra dead axle behind the only drive axle. On 21 July 1840, Borsig let it compete against a Stephenson-built locomotive on the Berlin-Jüterbog railroad. The Borsig locomotive won by 10 minutes, proving that in spite of the lack of experience, Germans could build locomotives that were at least as good as the British models, and so the import of locomotives and engineers was no longer necessary. By the way the same happened with British cars in the second half of the 20th century.

Not all that glitters is gold. My father, a native Berliner, retained a slogan from his father highlighting the social grievances of industrial workers in the Second Reich: Wer nie bei Siemens-Schuckert war, bei AEG und Borsig, der kennt des Lebens Elend nicht, der hat es erst noch vor sich (A man who has never worked at Siemens-Schuckert, at AEG and at Borsig does not know the misery of life, for it is still ahead of him).



After the war a memorial stone was dedicated to opponents of the Nazi regime murdered by Gestapo henchmen when the war had already been lost. The inscription reads: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5,10). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, was one of them. He was a founding member of the so-called Confessing Church that stayed in strong opposition to the gleichgeschaltete Reichskirche (Lutherans forced into line with the Nazi regime).

Hans von Dohnanyi and Justus Delbrück belonged to a resistance circle created by Karl Ludwig Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg who worked at the Foreign Ministry of the Third Reich. His nephew Karl-Theodor von und zu Guttenberg with his attractive wife once was the young hopeful of the Christian Democrats until he had to leave his post of Minister of Defense in Chancellor Merkel's government because of his doctor's degree obtained by fraud.




Until November 1989 the Dorotheenstädtischer Friedhof belonged to East Berlin. One of the first "West Germans" buried there was Johannes Rau (16 January 1931 – 27 January 2006) who was a professed Lutheran and member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD). His party colleagues called him Bruder Johannes (Friar John).

Subsequently we read on his tomb: He also was with Jesus (Matthew 26:69), a statement that Social Democrat Johannes never denied, contrary to Simon Peter. Rau initially served as Ministerpräsident (governor) of North Rhine-Westphalia and was extremely popular due to his attitude: reconcile and not divide. In 1999 he was elected Germany's Federal President. Rau married in 1982 and became father for the first time at the age of 54. When he died in 2006 his youngest daughter was only twenty.




Egon Karl-Heinz Bahr (18 March 1922 – 19 August 2015) was a German SPD politician. He was a journalist and became the spiritus rector of the Ostpolitik promoted by German Chancellor Willy Brandt, for whom he served as Secretary of the Chancellor's Office from 1969 until 1972.

In 1999 I met Egon Bahr personally when, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of German unification, he gave a talk at the German School in Geneva. While he was outlining the initial processes that led to unification I hung on Bahr's every word for he not only was a unique witness of history lived through but a master of the German language too. He was speaking bühnenreif (ready for the stage) without manuscript or interjections (you know what I mean). He started a phrase and finished it in beauty, never turning around or correcting himself. The only other person I have met who was blessed with such a talent was a Swiss politician, Kurt Furgler.

Cemeteries are thrilling history books. This ends my trilogy of the 2016 Berlin blogs.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Think Global, Drink Local

... was the motto of this year's What's Brewing, a yearly craft beer workshop, at the Carl-Schurz-Haus. In its third edition the CSH beer workshop directed by Frank Geeraers (Flanders/Freiburg) and changing partners is surely attaining cult status. This year Joe Stange (Missouri/Berlin), a proven beer expert, was the second master of ceremonies who likes to drink local but always thinks global. The requests to attend the event were so numerous that the workshop had to be repeated the following evening.

The exchange of brewers between the two continents is flourishing. In the beginning Americans came to Europe learning and trying hard to overcome the beer without flavor from their large breweries. The resulting craft beer boom in the States then swept back to Europe with brewers "pilgrimaging" to the States learning in turn how to brew beers different from the European Einheitsplörre (uniform dishwater) within the limitation of the German Reinheitsgebot. In the meantime craft beer has reached a 20% market share in the US.


Let us start. The first beer the workshop participants tasted was Mahrs Bräu Kellerbier hefetrüb ungespundet (cellar beer yeast clouded unbunged), i.e., the CO2-pressure is kept low during the brewing process. Founded in 1670, the Mahr brewery at Bamberg was initially spelled Mahr's Bräu according to the correct German orthography still valid in the 19th century.

Old historical label
New orthographic label

Although they could have kept the historical apostrophe (cool) they did not want to be called Deppen (goofs) and are slowly changing their name to the now orthographically correct Mahrs Bräu. That however should be no problem for the visitor drinking Mahr's beer local at Bamberg; just simply ask for a "U" and the waitress will bring the right stuff. The "U" is a yeast-turbid specialty beer with a full-bodied smooth-malt character. Pleasantly tart and lightly carbonated.

It was a good start and we were looking forward to Citrilla Maisels and Friends, an IPA wheat beer (!) or Bavaria meets California. In fact, Citrilla has flavors of fruity hop (Citra and Amarillo) and yeast combined with pineapple, lime, citrus fruit, and ripe banana. Citrella is likewise refreshing and a full-bodied beer.

Number three served was Berliner Berg, a lager beer in the German tradition brewed in Neukölln borough of Berlin, looking, smelling, and tasting like a lager. Brewed by an "American in Berlin" using a new German aromatic hop you could call the beer global.


There was a short drinking pause and suspense when suddenly the door opened and Frank and Joe entered the room with trays full of plastic cups filled with dark beer. In fact, we were served two different beers that we had to keep separated, placing them to our left and to our right. Were we supposed to drink beidhändig (two-handed)? Not at all; we simply were asked to compare two dark beers.

Not to be confused
Red Baron likes Schwarzbier and we learned that there is more to it than just the Thuringian Köstritzer* served all over Germany. On our LHS we tasted Bräunlinger Black Lion, on our RHS we drank the New Belgium 1554 Enlightened Black Lager. Founded like Freiburg by the Zähringen dynasty, Bräunlingen is located 60 km east of Freiburg in the Black Forest. For me the Black Lion was a local beer while the Enlightened Black Lager from Fort Collins, Colorado, had traveled nearly halfway across the globe.
*Not to be confused with the Saxon dark beer brewed in Krostitz Red Baron drank in Leipzig

Both beers were aromatic, the Black Lion quite subtle, not sweet and in keeping with my taste. The Enlightened Black Lager was slightly sweet and had in my opinion too much flavor.

When I traveled in the States in the 80s and 90s imbibing soft drinks and lite beer I always wondered why the Americans did not jump on a drink that is sparkling, slightly sour but adjustable by adding fruity syrup, low on alcohol, and which above all goes down well, i.e., a drink in the style of Berliner Weiße? Red Baron loves to drink Weiße mit Schuss (woodruff syrup) when in Berlin, i.e., local but is Berliner Kindl Weiße all there is to it? Did the white beers my father, born in Berlin, once drank taste different from today's Weiße?

Doesn't it look beautiful?
My two questions were partially answered when Joe presented a graphic drawn on a coaster showing that the onset of the output of Berliner Weisse-type beer in the States started as late as 2007 and since then the numbers of breweries and white beer lovers have increased exponentially.

Not forgetting the straw in his drawing (©Joe Stange)
Is there a Weiße beyond the mass-produced stuff you are generally served in Berlin? We tasted Schneeeule Marlene (Snowy Owl Marlene Dietrich) obviously without Schuss. According to the experts the yeast is the important ingredient. For Snowy Owl it was recultured using traces of yeast that were discovered in 40-year-old Berliner Weiße bottles from the former GDR. Following the two dark beers Schneeeule Marlene turned out to be a refreshing surprise.

The workshop continued on a sour note with Otra Vez. On the brewer's website you find the following text: On our search for the perfect warm weather beer, we wanted something light bodied and thirst quenching, yet filled with complex and interesting flavors. We stumbled across the fruit of the prickly pear cactus, native to California. This tangy fruit is a great complement to the tart and refreshing traditional gose style beer. Otra Vez combines prickly pear cactus with a hint of grapefruit for a refreshing beer that will have you calling for round after round. Otra Vez!

For me Otra Vez had too much taste. What is a great flavor for some people is sometimes obtrusive for me. It seems that quite a number of craft brewers put their pride into beers with a rich content because the market asks for this. Red Baron likes the soft notes both with drinks and food. I still remember the first workshop when Frank warned that taste buds, once saturated by strongly hopped beers, become unable to sense subtle notes in milder beers served later. The same is true for cheese tasting: Eat your Roquefort last!

The Alaskan Smoked Porter 2013 served next was overflavored too. Somehow the Berliner Weiße history was repeated when the brewers stated that German-style Rauchbier, i.e., a smoke-flavored beer was virtually unknown in the U.S. until Alaskan Smoked Porter was developed in 1988. The porter is produced in limited “vintages” each year around November 1 and unlike most beers, may be aged in the bottle much like fine wine. The beer we drank was brewed in 2013 and as stated on the label is best before the end of 2026 and counting.

Finally there was even more taste. The imperial stout Evil Twin Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room brewed by Evil Twin Brewing, Brooklyn, NY, has an intense black colour topped by a very fine beige head. The nose is complex with molasses and licorice aroma, but also notes of espresso in a perfect balance. On the mouth you can taste roasted malt and licorice flavors. In the finish, you will find fine notes of chocolate! Sorry, but when even the nose is "complex" you are no longer drinking beer but a liqueur that happens to have 10% alcohol. Covered up by all those strong flavors I did not even taste the alcohol. I could not drink more than half a liter of Evil Twin Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room without asking for a "normal" beer for diluting.

The workshop's bottle parade
This flavor bomb from New York ended the official part of the workshop but Frank being homesick (?) opened a final bottle brewed in his home country called Deux Amis (Two Friends), a product of a cultural exchange between Belgium’s Brasserie Dupont and America’s Lost Abbey Brewery. Deux Amis is brewed in Belgium using techniques perfected over almost a hundred years, Deux Amis receives its decidedly state-side flavor from the addition of American Amarillo and Simcoe hops. The result of this kinship is a dry, refreshing Old World Saison* full of peppery spice that finishes with New World flavors of floral orange and earthy pine.
*Copied as such. French for season


This propitiatory drink summarized the think global motto of the workshop well. Bringing the traditional style of beer from the old world together with refreshing new ideas from the other side of the Atlantic results in most astonishing brews as some of those served at the workshop illustrated perfectly.

Thank you, Frank and Joe, for this entertaining and informative evening.