Monday, January 23, 2017

Alternative Facts

From the NYT: Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, said the White House press secretary gave "alternative facts" when he inaccurately described the inauguration crowd as "the largest ever" during his first appearance before the press this weekend.

Alternative facts is a new combination of words for Red Baron although the concept is old. I admit having used alternative facts as a student. No, not in examinations but during a trip to East Germany in 1959. Here is the full story copied from my blog, Weimar, German History in a Nutshell:

Red Baron then a young scientific hopeful in Munich still remembers his first visit to Weimar in 1959. In November 1958 Nikita Khrushchev issued the Berlin ultimatum that caused Hamburg's press baron Axel Springer in January 1959 to start a campaign in the Federal Republic with the slogan Macht das Tor auf (Open the Gate) selling pins with the Brandenburg Gate for 20 pfennig a piece.

Later in 1987 President Reagan when visiting the Berlin wall and looking at the Gate modulated Springer's slogan imploring the right person: Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

In fall 1959 a left wing Gesellschaft für fortschrittliche Politik (Society for progressive politics) in Munich had posted an answer to Axel Springer's slogan: Wir machen das Tor auf (We open the Gate) offering a bus trip at a moderate price to Gera, a small industrial town in Thuringia, and as a lure a detour to Weimar. Together with a friend and a couple of other students we took this unique opportunity to visit Weimar the working place of Germany's quadruple star Goethe, Herder, Schiller and Wieland but before that our delegation had to suffer agitated political discussions in Gera.

Political slogan in Gera's theater: Germany's fate will be decided between the forces of peace and
the military adventurers in the west
This scanned slide is more the 50 years old. In spite of image processing its quality is bad.
With my friend we fought virtually back to back against devoted followers of the communist regime. In the beginning we felt somewhat lost against their arguments supported by hard facts until we noticed that the achievements forwarded were not as "hard" as it seemed. So I started to invent "supporting numbers" myself and became so successful in defending "western values" that my East German counter part, a trade union official, looking for help frequently asked a journalist of the Neues Deutschland, the official government newspaper: Antworte du dem doch mal (You should rather answer him).

Back to 2017, here is my question: Are alternative facts as in the case of the inauguration crowd always post-factual?

Here in Germany we have problems with facts too but more with the word alternative and its special relation with our chancellor. Whenever she defends a decision of her government she utters: Diese Entscheidung ist alternativlos (This decision has no alternative).

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Freiburg's Catholic City Deacon and Cathedral Prelate Wolfgang Gaber and the Lutheran City Deacon Markus Engelhardt are best oecumenical friends. Once sitting together over a glass of wine united in the Lord* they wrote a common press release on the renaming of streets in the city. Red Baron reported.
*For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20).

It could have happened on this occasion - some say it was as early as 2015 - that Markus had asked Wolfgang whether he may celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in the Münster church. Initially built by and for Freiburg's burghers it became a bishop's church only later in the 19th century. So it would be the ideal place for Freiburg's citizens to celebrate this special anniversary in their church. Prelate Gaber saw no problem. Already now Deacon Engelhardt is present in the Münster as a nativity figurine presenting the Lutherbibel? (Luther's Bible) to the new-born child.

Markus Engelhardt guiding a camel ©BZ
Last week after consultation with Archbishop Stephan Burger Prelate Gaber paddled back: The Lutherans should celebrate in a Protestant church since the anniversary of the Reformation is an eminent Lutheran commemoration. Initially I regretted the negative decision but I now start to understand. For us Catholics the Reformation still is a painful event.

In all oecumenical understanding and friendliness the Protestants will now celebrate at Freiburg's Municipal Theater. Deacon Engelhardt said, we as a Church would like to go out into the world where there is life. We will celebrate the service with a strong oecumenical touch. German Catholics and Protestants had already agreed earlier to commemorate the anniversary of the Reformation jointly as Christusfest (a feast of Christ).

Friday, January 13, 2017

A New Year's Reception

Neujahresempfänge are proliferating in Freiburg. It is a nice gesture to come together with friends, glass in the hand, wishing them a good year, and making small talk. Red Baron is invited to many of those New Year's receptions but has to skip some for their timely density is too high.

The day before yesterday the city of Freiburg held its New Year's reception at the Konzerthaus. Red Baron got an invitation and was one of 1300 guests.

When I arrived in time at 1800 hours all chairs for the elderly people were already occupied. So I placed myself with my back against a railing easing the weight on my aching legs.

There were only a few chairs for elderly people and VIPs in the foyer of the Konzerthaus.
Red Baron, white hair, blue jacket, is standing on the left with his back to the railing
(©BZ/Ingo Schneider)

Same audience as seen by the speaker Mayor Dieter Salomon.
Red Baron is the tall guy in the back clinging to the railing on the left (©Amtsblatt/A. J. Schmidt)
In his speech Mayor Dieter Salomon recalled the old year with all its turbulences. Citizens have become uneasy accusing authorities of no longer being able to protect them. Hence populists are questioning fundamental assets of a pluralistic society like democracy, parties, elections, parliaments, justice and freedom of the press. We may no longer take these values for granted. To weather the threat from the right on our "western values" we need a wehrhafte Demokratie (well-fortified democracy).

Dr. Salomon's speech was translated into sign language
Freiburg is a boom town. The growth in population is twofold. People from outside move to Freiburg and more children are born inside. The city needs more and in particular affordable housing. On the other hand the development of the city's infrastructure is well under way.

Dr. Salomon also mentioned the events that moved Freiburgers in 2016: the murder of a young student, the renaming of streets, and the remains of the old synagogue. Red Baron reported. At the end of his relatively short speech Mayor Salomon announced what was already known: he will run in 2018 seeking a third eight year term as mayor.

At the end of his speech the audience applauded
 but the mayor's glass was empty and he was eagerly looking for a water refill.
Since I was in a strategic position I "sprinted" into the empty space between him, the audience, and the glass of water, wished him all the best for the future, and gratulated him for his decision in quoting a phrase from a couplet by Otto Reutter: Nehm‘n Se ‘n Alten, denn der tut besser halten (Take an old guy for he lasts longer). The mayor roared with laughter.

What a relief!

Ich bin hindurch* (I am through with my speech)
*Martin Luther ought have said following his hearings at the Worms diet in 1521.
Not all citizens agree with Mayor Salomon's decision to run for a third term: His system is too burocratic, Dieter is lacking visions, we need a new person with new ideas. At the moment I do not see any other valuable candidate so in times of trumpism it is good to know that one can rely on a proven guy (Nehm‘n Se ‘n Alten ...).

Even our Italian citizens like Freiburg's mayor:
 Diter Salomon ist meine Papa.
(Graffiti at the Martinstor)

Monday, January 9, 2017


Officially the Year of Luther started in Germany on October 31, 2016, commemorating the 500th anniversary of him posting the 95 theses against the abuse of indulgence in the evening of the day before All Saints' Day 1517. There still is the question. If Martin Luther had a hammer, a hammer in the evening did he use it to nail the paper with his theses to the door of the Schlosskirche at Wittenberg? Well, Scotch tape had not been invented in 1517.

Brother Martin nailing viewed the American way.
The dramatic act of Brother Martin nailing is an embellishment of the 19th century as theologists point out. Now they are not so sure anymore because of a Latin note by Luther's secretary Georg Roerer discovered in 2006 in Luther's working copy of the New Testament of 1540. It reads: Im Jahr 1517 am Vorabend vor Allerheiligen sind in Wittenberg an den Türen der Kirchen die Thesen über den Ablass von Doktor Martin Luther vorgestellt worden (In the year 1517 in the evening before All Saints' Day the theses against indulgence by Doctor Martin Luther were presented on the church doors at Wittenberg).

Five hundred years of Reformation! Exceptionally October 31, 2017, will be an official holiday in Germany. At his time Luther was hailed as liberator of the German people from the yoke of the Roman Church so that in spring of 1522 papal nuncio Cardinal Hieronymus Aleander wrote in a letter to the Holy See: Jetzt aber ist ganz Deutschland in hellem Aufruhr; neun Zehnteile erheben das Feldgeschrei: Luther! und das übrige Zehntel, falls ihm Luther gleichgültig ist, wenigstens: Tod dem römischen Hofe! (Now Germany is in full turmoil; nine tenth of the people shout Luther! as their battle cry while the missing tenth, indifferent to Luther, demand at least: Death to the Roman court!).

Where there are winners there are losers. Losers were those who died in the many religious wars that followed the schism. They culminated in the apocalypse of the Thirty Years' War when one third of the German population perished. Germany became a divided "nation" with a Protestant north and a Catholic south. Protestants living in diaspora in Catholic regions and "Schwarze" (meaning Catholics) living their faith in territories dominated by "Blauköpp" (blue heads means Lutherans) had hard times. Only the mixing of people following Germany's total defeat in the Second World War eventually mitigated those religious divisions. Today we mostly are a non-religious country with the former East German territories in fact being heathens' land.

As many a man before also Luther initially demanded just reforms within the Catholic Church although in his later years he advocated a German Church independent from Rome. After all, Reformation became a question of money. In particular princes of German territories not under Catholic Habsburg rule attentively listened when Luther grumbled: Wie kommen wir Deutschen dortzu, das wir solche reuberey, schinderey unserer güter von dem babst leyden mussen? hat das kunigreich zu Franckreich sichs erweret, warumb lassen wir Deutschen uns alszo narren und effen? (How come that we Germans suffer such robbery and plundering of our goods by the pope? The French kingdom has resisted so why do we Germans accept to be fooled and kidded?).

Luther, the movie.
In 2003 a movie about Luther and the Reformation was released starring Joseph Fiennes as Luther and the late polyglott and magnificent Sir Peter Ustinov as Luther's patron Duke Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, called the Wise. When I mention the movie most of my American friends do not know it. As a poor ersatz let me mention two of Luther's main traits.

Above all Luther was a family man. His wife Käthe gave birth to six children. They brought them up in the rigor of the Lord and in love but Luther showed a violent temper when he felt that his religious convictions were under attack.

Peasants revolting against their masters keeping them in serfdom violated one of Luther's fundamental principles: Rulers are God given and therefore must be obeyed under all circumstances. So he vociferated in an article Wider die Mordischen vnd Reubischen Rotten der Pawren (Against the murderous and rapacious hords of peasants): Die Obrigkeit [soll] hier getrost fortdringen, und mit gutem Gewissen dreinschlagen, solange sie eine Ader regen kann. Die hie ist das Vortheil, daß die Bauern böse Gewissen und unrechte Sachen haben; und welcher Bauer darüber geschlagen wird, mit Leib und Seele verloren und ewig des Teufels ist … man soll sie zerschmeißen, würgen, stechen, heimlich und öffentlich, wer da kann, wie man einen tollen Hund erschlagen muss ... Bleibst du drüber todt, wohl dir, seligern Tod kannst du nimmermehr überkommen; denn du stirbst im Gehorsam göttlichen Worts und Befehls und im Dienste der Liebe deinen Nächsten zu retten aus der Hölle und des Teufels Banden (The authorities shall confidently proceed and strike with good conscience as long as they have blood in their veins. It is an asset that the peasants have a bad conscience and unjust items; a peasant who is beaten is lost with heart and soul and will belong to the devil eternally ... Those capable should break, choke, and stab them, secretly and publicly like slaying a mad dog ... You are blessed when you are killed in action. A more graceful death you will find nowhere; you will die in the obedience of God's Word and His order and in the service of love by saving your neighbor from hell and devilish bondage).

The Jews subdued by the Catholic Church were invited by Luther to follow evangelical freedom. When they refused to convert an infuriated Martin wrote: Wir müssen mit gebet und Gottes furcht eine scharfe barmhertzigkeit uben jre Synagoga oder Schule mit feur anstecke und was nicht verbrennen will, mit erden uber heuffe und beschütte, das kein Mensch ein stein oder schlacke davon sehe ewiglich, yre Heuser des gleichen zerbreche und zerstöre, damit man mag sie unter ein Dach oder Stal thun, wie die Zigeuner auff das sie wissen, sie seien nicht Herrn in unserm Lande, wo sie rhümen, sondern in Elend und gefangen. Außerdem solle man ihnen ihre heiligen Bücher wegnehmen, ihre Lehrer zum Schweigen bringen, ihnen verbieten, zu reisen oder Handel zu treiben, und ihren Besitz einziehen, denn alles was sie haben haben sie uns gestolen und geraubt durch jren Wucher (In praying and in the fear of God we must exercise a sharp charity in burning their synagogues, their schools, and cover up with dirt things that cannot be burned so nobody may see a stone or cinder for eternity. Break and destroy their houses, place them under a roof and in a stable like gypsies so the Jews may learn that they are no masters in our country where they exalt but are in misery and in captivity. Take away their books, silence their teachers, prohibit their travel, and ban them from commerce. Seize their goods and chattels for all their belongings they stole and robbed by ripping-off).

Did Luther have a bad conscience when in one of his sermons he repeated: Sine vi humana, sed verbo. Ich bin dem ablas und allen papisten entgegen gewesen, aber mit keyner gewalt, jch hab allein Gottes wort getrieben, geprediget und geschrieben, sonst hab ich nichts gethan. Das hat, wenn ich geschlafen han, wenn ich wittenbergisch bier mit meynem Philipo und Amßdorff getruncken hab, als(o) vil gethan, das das Bapstum also schwach geworden ist, das jm noch nye keyn Fürst noch Keyser so vil abgebrochen hat. Ich hab nichts gethan, das wort hatt es alles abgehandelt und außgericht. Wann ich hätt wöllen mit ungemach faren, ich wolt Teützsch lanndt in ein groß plut vergiessen gebracht haben, ja ich wolt woll zu Wurmbß (Worms) ein spil angericht haben, das der keyser nit sicher wer gewesen. Aber was were es? ein narren spil wer es gewesen. Ich hab nichts gemacht, ich hab das wort lassen hendeln (Without human violence only by the Word. I was against indulgence and against all papists but without any violence. I solely propagated God's Word in preaching and writing otherwise I did not do anything, God's Word did everything while I was sleeping or when I was drinking Wittenberg beer with my Philipo and my Amßdorff*. I have weakened papacy more than the emperor or the princes. I did not do anything, the Word dealt with everything and acted. If I had intended adversity I would have caused great bloodshed. I could have made a play at Worms with the emperor feeling unsafe but this would have meant just fooling about. I did not do anything I had the Word acting.
*Philip Melanchton and Nicolaus von Amsdorf

Luther was he a Schreibtischtäter (pulling the levers)? Two well-known German authors, Heinrich Heine and Thomas Mann, may enlighten us about Luther's traits: Heine exiled in Paris wanted to present the German Luther to the people of France who had granted him asylum. He wrote in 1834: Luther not only was the greatest but the most German man of our history. In his character all virtues and faults of a German are amazingly combined, i.e., he in his person represents fabulous Germany ... He simultaneously was a dreaming mystic and a practical man of action. His thoughts not only had wings but they had hands too; he spoke and acted. He not only was the tongue but the sword of his time. He simultaneously was a cold scholastic quibbler and an enthusiastic intoxicated prophet. When during the day he had slaved away at his dogmatic distinctions in the evening he took his flute, looked at the stars and melted in melody and prayer. The man who railed like a fishwife could be soft as a tender virgin ... He was full of a gruesome fear of God, full of devotion honoring the Holy Spirit, he was able to immerse himself into pure spirituality; but yet he well knew the splendors of this world and appreciated those. From his mouth blossomed the famous slogan: Who does not love wine, women and song, remains a fool his whole life long ... He was a complete man, I like to say an absolute man: spirit and matter were not separated ... and in his pamphlets he gave in to plebeian brutality that is both repelling and magnificent.

Seamlessly Thomas Mann wrote about Luther under the impression of the German defeat in 1945: Who would deny that Luther was an enormous great man, great in the most German style; as well great and German in his ambiguity as a liberating and back-setting force, a conservative revolutionary. Nothing against Luther's greatness! Everybody is a priest. With this he promoted European democracy. He was a hero of freedom - but in the German style for he did not know anything about freedom.

Are my German readers missing the texts above in German? You shall find them on my website: Freiburgs Geschichte in Zitaten (Freiburg's History by Citations). Only recently I updated the Luther web page containing odd details about the beginning of the Reformation.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Bratwurst News

A Happy New Year also among those bratwurst vendors on Freiburg's Münster market? Not for all; for two of them it is over. They have to close shops, sorry, stands on March 31, 2017.

Five bratwurst stands are located on the south side of the Münster church.
The other three are on the north side (©BZ/Schneider)
In the good old days a maximum of eight stands with five situated on the south and three on the north side of the Münster church offered their Freiburger Lange Rote (long red-colored bratwurst) and other types of brats-to-go. The stands rotated so at times a vendor had to sell his bratwurst at an unloved location on the north side of the Münster church being sure to return to the sunny side of business and the Münster market the next day. There was no real competition for all vendors asked the same price for their Lange Rote with or without steamed onions and they all used the Deppenapostroph, e.g., Uhl's Wurststand. From April 1, 2017, on the traditional vendors Uhl and Hauber will no longer be present.

Hauber's Grillwürste.
Note the hand-written note in the background asking for supporting signatures.
In 2011 Freiburg eventually applied European law requiring that licenses for public vendors must be renewed in a five year cycle. In principle an invitation to tender has to be sent out Europe-wide. In a first go five years ago the FWTM (Freiburg Economy-Touristic-Fair office) decided to allow one veggie stand selling tofu wurst. From this year on the foods-to-go offered shall be further diversified. While the veggie stand remains the number of stands selling bratwurst will be reduced to five.  One new vendor will offer the rather popular Fischbrötchen (fish buns) and last not least the eighth stand will specialize on Black Forest products.

Before Christmas all tenders for the five remaining bratwurst stands were in with vendors Uhl and Hauber failing. A storm broke loose. The Badische Zeitung received hundreds of angry letters to the editor, petitions were launched, and signature lists are circulated to support the two "losers". The most reasonable letter to the editor I read said: Five bratwurst-selling stands are sufficient.

Red Baron was quite neutral in this quarrel until he discovered the best invention made since the birth of the Lange Rote. How often were you frustrated eating a bun rather than a bratwurst? While the two ends are sticking out you start eating the sausage until you are left with a tiny rest of bratwurst hidden in the bun. What a sad end!

The Lange Rote in a bun at Meier's Wurststand
When walking around the Münster market the other day I saw a man who was enjoying his Lange Rote imbedded in half a baguette. I asked the guy: Where did you get that? At Hauber's was his snappy answer.

The bratwurst "hang-over" is smaller in a baguette than in a bun.
I took the photo of my Lange Rote in portrait mode with my iPhone 7 plus.
Hauber's traditionally also sells bratwurst in buns visible in the background.
Although I rarely eat a Münster brat I hurried to try out the ideal geometrical combination: a Lange Rote and a baguette. Belief me, it is a whole new way of enjoying your bratwurst. Boy, how crusty a baguette is compared to a soft bun, you eat both bratwurst and baguette simultaneously, and as a bonus you get more steamed onions in the longish bed of a baguette.

My only conclusion: the Hauber's Grillwurst stand must remain.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy New Year

While the world is waiting for Donald Trump to take office we should not forget other upcoming events or ongoing issues. One note recently published by the New York Times about climatic change nearly swept me off my feet.

© M. Lourdes
Warm temperatures in the Arctic in recent months could lead to record-low levels of ice. In mid-November 2016, parts of the Arctic were more than 35 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than observed averages, scientists said. Over all, the last year broke the Arctic’s record for the warmest year. “We’re going to be watching the summer of 2017 very closely,” one scientist said.

Watching in 2017 is a good thing but we all note that some areas of our globe are falling dry while others are haunted by heavy rainfalls and flooding. What will be the effect of those observations on the ongoing global migration of people? Are the countermeasures against climate change agreed upon by the world community in Paris coming too late? Although I read that President Trump cannot revoke the Paris Agreement, will his administration implement the agreed climate protection goals according to schedule?

The president-elect said: "There is no global anthem. No global currency. No certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag and that flag is the American flag," he continued. "From now on it is going to be: America First ... Never anyone again will any other interests come before the interest of the American people. It is not going to happen again."

2017 will be a year of elections in Europe starting in the Netherlands on March 15. Geert Wilders and his populist Party for Freedom will certainly gain more votes than in previous elections. This is followed on April 23 by the French presidential election where Front National's and populist Marine Le Pen stands a good chance of winning. On September 14 or 21 we shall have general elections in Germany and it is certain that the populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) will be presented in our new Bundestag. Aren't we lucky that up to now the AfD is lacking a charismatic leader? Fake news and trumpism (emphasizing national interests and fighting European integration) will dominate the election campaigns of all populist movements. And it is all good, for the elections are democratic.

The other day in an editorial coming out as an avowed defender of democracy a left leaning German journalist had an intuition: What I really mean and always meant is a liberal democracy.

In 2016 we read and heard over and over again that we must conserve and even defend our precious catalogue of Western values. How will the traditional parties withstand populism or will they somehow bashfully jump on the bandwagon?

The New Year will be an exciting one.

In the German way: I wish you all a healthy 2017.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin illuminated black-red-gold
one day after the torrorist attack on the local Weihnachtsmarkt (©AFP)
The year draws to an end and it was full of surprises. For me 2016 was a T-year. No, not Trump; that will be in 2017 and the three following years.

Paris: January 7, 2015
2016 was the Year of Terror. As far as my blog is concerned I changed my profile picture three times. When in spring 2016 Red Baron still remembered the Charlie Hebdo massacre Brussels, the Belgian capital, was haunted by terrorists on March 22.

Brussels: March 22, 2016
July 14, France's National Holiday, was overshadowed by a bloody truck attack in Nice ...

Nice: July 14, 2016
... a tactic that was cruelly repeated in Berlin on December 19. You may read in the November issue of the Internet journal Rumiyah: Trucks are like knives; they are easy to get and are not suspect. This is cynical with respect to the Polish driver murdered by terrorist Anis Amri in his cockpit. Łukasz Urban leaves a wife and a son behind.

Berlin: December 19, 2016
More and more right wing people in my country amalgamate the massive influx of Muslim refugees in 2015 with Islamic state terrorists trying to capitalize politically on these jihadist attacks aimed against our western society and our way of life.

European solidarity: a minute of silence in France's National Assembly on December 20 (©dpa)
Religious fanaticism is a root of evil and misguided fanaticism is worse. In our enlightened "Christian" world we should not forget that in the past "Christian fundamentalists" practiced crusades against Muslims and pogroms against Jews.

And if religion is not the root it is easily used as a pretext. The German historian Golo Mann rightly wrote: With the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War the Bohemian Protestants always claimed that the war was about religion while the Habsburgs continued stating that the war was nothing else than a secular rebellion, with other words a fight for power.

Frequently "leaders" cynically argue with religious ideology to keep the gemeiner Mann (common man) in line and then will send him to fight and die for the leaders' glory. Over the centuries nothing has changed except that nowadays the jihad sends suicide attackers killing "infidels".

On Tuesday, December 20, one day after the Berlin attack we had a precious guest at Freiburg. Red Baron visited the local Weihnachtsmarkt in good company.

We observed an increased presence of cops ...

Frohe Weihnachten protected by the police (©dpa/Patrick Seeger)
... and noted a somewhat subdued mood.

The Reibekuchenbude on Freiburg's Weihnachtsmarkt
When approaching the booth selling Reibekuchen (potato pancakes) we noticed the following commemorative poster.

A minute of silence
After all life continues so we ordered the most delicious freshly made potato pancakes with Apfelmus (applesauce).

More than ever I wish you a Merry Christmas.
May peace be with you and your family.

Birth of Christ (Paris Book of Hours 1410)
Note the sad looks of the holy couple.
In France it is the time of the Hundred Years' War.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Follower of the Being

When I opened the art & culture section of the Badische Zeitung the other morning I saw the following photo:

©Martin Heidegger Archiv
Red Baron was shocked. Martin Heidegger (RHS) and der Führer on one photo? Not at all, the other guy is Martin's younger brother Fritz. The photo illustrated an article titled Mitläufer des Seyns (Follower of the Being) dealing with the correspondence between the Heidegger brothers starting in 1931.

What I read was even more shocking than the black & white photo. As early as December 18, 1931, exactly 85 years ago, Martin sent his brother Hitler's book Mein Kampf (My Struggle) from Freiburg to Meßkirch, hometown of the Heidegger brothers. Martin wrote: I really wish that you analyze Hitler's book. No understanding person may deny that this man has an extraordinary and sure political instinct. He already had it when we all were still befuddled. The national socialist movement will acquire even more power in the near future. This is no longer small party policy but will be the rescue or the fall of Europe and the Occidental culture.

And on March 2, 1932, Martin added: Today there exists only one clear line sharply separating left and right. Half measures are treason. Read Volk ohne Raum (People without space) by Hans Grimm and learn about Heimat and the destiny of our nation.

Fritz who apparently had the more precise political judgement wrote to his brother on April 3, 1933: Hitler's look on present pictures and part of his attitude frequently remind me of you. This comparison sometimes leads me to the conclusion that Hitler is an exceptional guy. Strange. Red Baron thought that in the photo above Fritz looked more like der Führer.

Martin answered in return: From day to day it becomes clearer how much Hitler is growing as a statesman.The world of our nation and of the Reich is in transformation and he that hath eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart to act is carried away and set into genuine and deep excitement - around us we meet again a great reality and at the same time a great distress integrating that reality into the spiritual world of the Reich and into the secret contract of the German being. By the way, three Jews disappeared from my faculty because of the law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service.

Were these lines written in view of Heidegger's longing for the position of rector of Freiburg's university? On April 20, 1933, Rector Wilhelm von Möllendorff, a social democrat, being pushed by the Nazis stepped back making room for Martin Heidegger.

During the war on September 3, 1943, with Germany more and more in ruins Martin wrote to Fritz: Although the darkeness draws on the quiet light of the Being the light is neither consumed nor clouded.

Later near the end of the Third Reich: A higher untouchable self prevails above and in us. We must not escape from its grace. Now one "world" will perish that for a long time already did not have the inner greatness and truthfulness but only was façade, noise, pleasure, and indifference.

And when it was all over Heidegger stated: Now all is bad and worse than during the Nazi period but to me the idea becomes more and more clear that our homeland (Heimat), the nucleus of the southwest, will be the historical birthplace of the Occidental Being although we contemporaries come too late for the gods and to early for the Being.

The French occupation forces withdrew his teaching permission but later on classified him only as a Mitläufer (follower of the Nazis). Heidegger laconically commented on September 21, 1949: I always was a follower of the Being and I am likely to remain so.

What a misanthropist.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Name Bashing

As I had predicted: the renaming of street names with a loaded past excited Freiburg's citizens. There was a flood of letters to the editor mostly complaining about the money involved that could be used better.

In fact, in my letter published in the Badische Zeitung I proposed that instead of renaming Rennerstraße* it would be easy to look into Wikipedia and find another famous innocent Renner as godfather for the street thus avoiding that residents had to change their addresses.
*named after Johann Jacob Renner the "burner of witches". In the meantime I wrote his missing article in Wikipedia.

In the case of Alexander Ecker I criticised the argumentation of the naming commission that a skull collection in the 19th century would have given rise to the racist ideology of the Nazis. At that time the study of skulls was à la mode and even practiced by Goethe.

In 1826 the mayor of Weimar presented him with Schiller's skull which Goethe gauged according to the then latest method: the Gallische Schädellehre (Gallic skull theory). He even wrote a poem: Bei der Betrachtung von Schillers Schädel (In contemplation of Schiller's skull).

Goethe's choice. With three skulls in front of him doesn't he look skeptical?
Weimar's mayor simply picked the biggest skull out of the many skulls he found in the ossuary for he thought that Schiller must have had a bigger brain than ordinary people. It was an irony for already at the end of the 19th century scientists were pretty sure that the skull Goethe had contemplated was not Schiller's skull. This was confirmed by DNA analysis in 2008 with the result that Schiller's skull is lost.

A recurring remark in those letters to the editor concerned Luther's anti-Semitism and why the street bearing his name was not proposed for renaming. Did the naming commission beat Alban Stolz but meant Martin Luther?

Alban Stolz's bust in Freiburg (©BZ)
It indeed is remarkable: Freiburg's Catholic Cathedral Prelate and Lutheran City Deacon united in writing a press release: Nobody is morally perfect. If we judge on persons we place ourselves above them.

In their argumentation they simply follow John 8:7 when Jesus was asked about the fate of a woman caught in adultery he answered: Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her. The two clergymen pleaded to leave all street names including that of Martin Heidegger but add explanatory texts to the street signs.

©Michael Bamberger/BZ
In the meantime the city council decided to follow the recommendation of the renaming commission although the renaming of each of the dozen streets will individually be discussed at a later date. Haben die keine anderen Sorgen? (Don't they have any other worries?)

As you already know they have.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Last October the Frankreich Zentrum of Freiburg's university held an academic conference open to the public about Napoleon Bonaparte, hero, demon, visionary. Interpretative projections in the 19th century. Only very few people were present and listening.

What made Napoleon initially so popular among the people? Above all it was the bourgeoisie for he fulfilled their longing for stability in ending the excesses of the French Revolution. Elected as Consul for a period of 10 years Napoleon declared on December 13, 1799: Citizens! La Revolution is solidly anchored in its initial principles; it is over.

When the German poet Johann Gottfried Seume on his way back from Syracuse to Leipzig saw Napoleon in Paris on July 14, 1801, the National Holiday, he was disappointed. The Revolution not only was over, but in Seume's opinion Napoleon had betrayed the Republic by reintroducing the Catholic Church in France. Seume wrote in his diary: Since Napoleon has resolutely interred liberty I feel that only now I have become a republican. Bonaparte could have been a savior of mankind but he contented himself being the first reborn son of the Catholic Church.

However, the French people standing around him admiringly said: Il fait diablement des choses, ce petit caporal d'Italie; cela va loin! (The small Italian corporal is doing things devilishly well; that will lead far!). After the defeat of the Prussian army in the Battles of Jena and Auerstedt his compatriots called him: Le grand mécanicien de la victoire (The great mechanician of victories).

Sketch for the painting of Napoleon's coronation 
Napoleon himself promoted his fame when crowing himself as emperor shunting the pope.

Showing Napoleon crowing himself was possibly too much.
The ultimate painting shows Napoleon crowning his the wife Josephine instead.
He showed to the world that he is the greatest but he knew: Mon pouvoir tient à ma gloire, et ma gloire aux victoires que j’ai remportées (My power depends on my glory, and my glory depends on my victories that I have gained).

All in vain.
European nobility did not dig le petit caporal.
Napoleon had not only disavowed the pope but the Papal State being under his rule he ordered the Pontifex to pull a saint out of his tiara who should be venerated on August 15, birthday of the emperor. The pope came up with the patron of warriors, St. Neopolis, a Roman soldier and martyr. The similarity in name with Napoleon was greatly emphasized and the French memorial day from 1806 to 1813 was no longer July 14, but August 15.

St. Neopolis or St. Napoleon?
In countries under his rule many intellectuals and members of the bourgeoisie adored Napoleon too. They regarded him as savior of the peasants from serfdom, as Europe's unifier, as the new Charlemagne. And Napoleon knew: A new-born rule must dazzle and amaze otherwise it will topple.

When the emperor entered Erfurt on September 27, 1808, to open the Princes' Day people filled the streets. Foreign Minister Talleyrand observed: Everybody wants to see the man and see him closely who distributes crowns and thrones and who holds in his almighty hands the fate of Europe, delight and hope, distress and misery.

Writing the Code Napoleon ... for Europe.
Napoleon was a realist too when he said to the Austrian ambassador: Your rulers born to be on a throne could be beaten twenty times and still they will return to their residences. My rule will not survive the day when I ceased to be strong and subsequently will no longer be feared.

How true, although following Napoleon's defeat the admiration for him did not stop.

Napoleon's apotheose

Napoleon awakes to eternal glory.

Friday, December 9, 2016


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


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.