Monday, January 15, 2018

New Year‘s Reception 2018


Last year Red Baron was one of the 1300 lucky citizens invited to Freiburg’s official New Year‘s Reception 2017. This year I went to the reception of my local Lower- and Middle-Wiehre Civic Association.

Citizens attending the reception are listening to the speeches. Note the eerie light effect.
This is not the holy grail but the sun focussed on a wine glass.
Following a lengthy speech by the chairman of the Bürgerverein - harping on perennial issues like the traffic situation in our quarter Wiehre, a veritable squaring of the circle - Mayor Dr. Dieter Salomon answered at equal length emphasizing the achievements of his administration in the past years, albeit enhanced by full employment and bubbly tax revenues.

Mayor Dr. Dieter Salomon in action
Martin Horn's flyer:
Together let us shape Freiburg




We Freiburgers will elect our mayor on April 22, so the meeting turned out to be a sort of early election rally with all five contenders present. We have a left-wing woman of Die Linke, a right-wing candidate of the AfD, and an independent Green Party male challenging his colleague, incumbent Mayor Dr. Dieter Salomon, who is looking for a third eight-year term as mayor. The Christian Democrats (CDU) did not find a suitable candidate while last week the Social Democrats (SPD) pulled a heretofore unknown young man out of the hat.

This handsome non-party guy called Martin Horn is the only serious contender to Dieter and attracted all the attention. Here are some photos:

Later the two top contenders were discussing back to back with the people

I captured this picture from a video on Facebook.
The scene was taken during Freiburg's official New Year’s Reception 2018.
Note the person in the back, longtime SPD MP for Freiburg Gernot Erler, watching Martin Horn attentively.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Plumpsklo

When Red Baron learned about Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury on January 4, he immediately looked into Amazon and found out that the American edition would not be available in Germany until the 9th. But when I searched in the Apple Store one day later, I was invited to download a copy onto my iPad. The reason for this earlier release was, as you all may know, an impending injunction President Trump’s lawyers were preparing to forbid the publication of the book.

I wanted to read the book not so much for the sometimes juicy details (yes!) but rather to better understand the American political system of checks and balances. On the first pages, I read that like most of us nobody in Trump’s entourage had reckoned with his victory, but I was stunned that he himself was not at all prepared for the presidency for he did not want it himself. The Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft will dedicate its February Stammtisch to Fire and Fury with Red Baron reporting.

When last Friday, January 12, halfway through the book, I checked the news I was shocked that reality had surpassed any possible fiction: On Thursday Trump reportedly grew angry during a meeting about protections for immigrants from several countries, and asked: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He then reportedly added, “Why do we need more Haitians?” and suggested the US bring in more people from Norway.

Subsequently, the NYT reported that foreign correspondents had problems translating shithole into their languages. As a child, I remember a shithole being an essential part of the Plumpsklo (pit latrine) at my grandparents’ farm. It was a plank with a hole to sit down on that was in use until the building got a proper toilet connected to the sewer system in the 1950s. By the way, some people now claim that POTUS had rather said „shithouse“ which, however, does not change the explanation given in this paragraph. Comedian Stephen Colbert commented subsequently, “He does not belong in the White Hall.”

POTUS's remarks are inhumane and racist (although positive for Norwegians). He is on the same line as leading figures of Germany’s right-wing AfD (Alternative for Germany).

Father and son Becker (©dpa)
Jens Maier, MP and judge, after having babbled about the creation of mixed race populations called tennis legend Boris Becker’s son Noah a Halbneger (half-nigger), and AfD deputy chairwoman Beatrix von Storch twittered after the police in Cologne had sent out an appeal for a peaceful New Year’s night in various languages: Was zur Hölle ist in diesem Land los? Wieso twittert eine offizielle Polizeiseite aus NRW auf Arabisch. Meinen Sie, die barbarischen, muslimischen, gruppenvergewaltigenden Männerhorden so zu besänftigen? (What the hell is happening in this country? Why does the police of North Rhine-Westphalia twitter in Arabic? Do they think this will calm down those barbaric, Muslim, and gangbanging hordes of men?) referring to #meToo events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve two years ago.

I just learned that today the French are celebrating the medieval Christian Festum Asinorum (fête de l'âne or Feast of the Ass) commemorating the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Honi soit qui mal y pense.

©Store norske leksikon


Apropos people from Norway: 75 years ago the Nazis deported young Johan*, belonging to the blond Germanic race, from Norway to Germany to teach him German Physics. He died last year on July 15, peacefully at the age of 96 in Oslo, a vital man indeed.
*later my boss at CERN until 1980

Resquiescat in pace.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Fish & Friends

Elisabeth and I like to eat fish although it is tough to find a good choice in Freiburg. The city is just too far away from Germany’s coasts where it is a tradition to eat seafood often. In the States, I always found a good selection of various fish even in places like Knoxville and in particular lobster in Oak Ridge.

English still is the preferred language in Germany.
The only chance to eat fresh fish in Freiburg is a German restaurant chain called Nordsee where we quite often eat grilled filet of plaice caught in the Pacific even though it tastes entirely different from plaice found in the North Sea. This is why whenever I am in Hamburg I try to eat Speckscholle, a plaice caught by men on fishing cutters harbored in Finkenwerder, a village on the left bank of the Elbe river. Remember my blog of last January? I nearly missed the boat.

Coupons; this only is the first page
The local Nordsee restaurant tries hard to convince Freiburgers that fish is healthier than their traditional Schäufele (pork shoulder). It issues coupons that will cut your bill in half. Sometimes it is hard to find those coupons and so Red Baron joined their customer club Fish & Friends, neither to be confused with the craft beer Fox & Friends nor with the early morning show on Fox Television.

Note, the restaurant is open, not geöffnet.

Yesterday I had a strange encounter. With some difficulty, I had created a barcode on my iPhone using the Nordsee app giving me a price reduction on our favorite dish. When I proudly presented the above image to the man behind the checkout counter he panicked, “I don’t need that,” handing me not one but two sheets of coupons thus avoiding the electronic gadget like the plague. He nearly fainted when a young man waiting in line behind me showed him his mobile phone with a barcode too.

So much for digital competence in Germany.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Stolz

I do not mean the German word for pride, but am referring instead to a professor of theology at Freiburg’s Alberto-Ludoviciana born in 1808, Alban Stolz, a professing anti-Semite.

Since 1913 Alban Stolz’s bronze bust
has stood in front of the Konviktkirche (Seminary Church) (©BZ)
He belongs to the Freiburg dozen, i.e., those street names identified by a naming commission as unacceptable according to present moral standards.

©BZ/Ingo Schneider
An article in yesterday‘s Badische Zeitung titled "Alban Stolz in the Snow and the Rain" showed an old photo of his bronze head in the snow. These days with temperatures much too warm for the season his bust is left out in the rain. For how long? The Archbishop’s Ordinariate announced already last February that the physical memory of Alban Stolz will be removed.

View from the Konviktkirche (Seminary Church)
 to the Münster (Minster Church) (©Hans Sigmund)
There are other places in Freiburg’s suburbs named after Alban Stolz: a children’s daycare center in Zähringen and a Catholic dormitory in Littenweiler. The building was renamed in 2017 and is now dedicated to Saint Alban of Mainz so residents may continue to call it Alban-Haus.

Stolz was a representative of Catholic anti-Semitism, and as such he wrote countless articles in his popular calendars, stirring up hate against Jews using animal, plant, and plague metaphors. He was on to Presse- and Schacherjuden (press and bargaining Jews). To these traditional clichés of anti-Judaism, Stolz added the alleged genetic conditionality of Jewish shortcomings, bringing him close to racist ideas.

In Wikipedia, I read: After the revolutionary turbulence of 1848, he alleged a Jewish-Masonic conspiracy, something of a direct link to the Third Reich where the menace was the Jewish-Bolshevik plot.

A sinister anti-Semitism runs like a red thread through history, from the time of the Romans to the 21st century. In this context, the renaming of a street is nothing other than a symbolic act.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Theater-Maker

Last Wednesday Red Baron saw Der Theatermacher by Austrian playwright Thomas Bernhard at Freiburg’s City Theater. This comedy written in 1984 belongs to the category Theater of the Absurd.

Bruscon arguing with the innkeeper (©Theater Freiburg)
Staatsschauspieler* Bruscon has collated a comedy The Wheel of History comprising all other comedies according to him. The premiere shall take place at the depraved dance hall of “The Black Stag”, an inn at a small Austrian village called Utzbach. Bruscon's wife, son, and daughter are serving as co-actors.
*a title the government awards to deserved actors

The guy is a creep tyrannizing both the innkeeper and his family. The first one because he wants to eat Frittatensuppe, a bouillon with strips of pancake, in the early afternoon while the innkeeper and his family are busy making blutwurst (blood sausage). When Bruscon asks him, “Do you have your blutwurst day once a week?” the answer is, “ No, but always on Tuesdays.”

Frittatensuppe (©Wikipedia/RobertK)
Bruscon complains to the innkeeper about the sultriness of the room, fears that the floor will break through, and finds the village of Utzbach to be far too small for his "outstanding" work. He then is starting a fuss about the emergency lighting. He requires total darkness for the last scene of his concoction, a condition conflicting with fire protection regulations. Here he is categorical, “Without complete darkness, there will be no performance.” So Bruscon sends the busy innkeeper to fire chief Atwenger asking for a derogation.

During rehearsals of the play with his children, he is driving out their love of acting. In recurring phrases, he alternately cleans up their acting talent, whereas he always highlights himself as a great "state actor" and demands servant behavior of his children. He often gets entangled in contradictory statements without realizing it, saying to his son, "You are my greatest disappointment, you know that, but you never disappointed me, you are my most useful."

The eerie scene where Lady Churchill meets Klemens von Metternich, the Austrian foreign minister at the time of Napoleon, takes half an hour to rehearse, “Naturally, her hat pin must get loose before the hat falls to the ground.”

Bruscon eating Frittatensuppe in the presence of his family (©Theater Freiburg)
Bruscon’s wife, an apparently cold woman ("your mother invests all her talent in her illnesses"), enters the scene for the first time while he is eating the previously ordered Frittatensuppe keeping him quiet for a moment. Later he continuous attacking his wife, but she never speaks a word.

At the end, with Atwenger’s derogation granting a maximum of ten minutes darkness, the theater group is in costumes peeping through the curtain daring covert glances as the spectators arrive. A heavy thunderstorm passes by and, following a great crash of thunder, the audience leaves the dance hall. A lightning has set the parish house on fire. Good for them for the roof above starts to drip leaving Bruscon disappointed on stage in the rain.

I wish you all a Happy* New Year
*my German friends will read “Healthy”

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Maryam and Īsā ibn Maryam

Mary and the son of Mary, key figures in the New Testament, are important personalities in the Quran too. The title page of Der Spiegel even goes so far to propose: Jesus, the Muslim, although the religious topic in the last edition of 2017 is not at all controversial contrary to articles in previous years. The title story rather is a narrative of common beliefs and differences between Christians and Muslims.

©Der Spiegel
In Islam too, Jesus, called Īsā, is born of a virgin as announced by Archangel Gabriel, but leaving out the cuckolded Joseph: And she who guarded her virginity. We breathed into her of Our spirit and made her and her son a sign to the world (Sura 21:91). Maryam is all alone in the desert giving birth to Īsā. When she presents her newborn boy at the Jewish temple, he starts his prophecies convincing old Zechariah and other attending scribes that he was conceived without a mortal man.

Maryam and her adult baby son (©Der Spiegel)
In contrast, according to the oldest known text of the New Testament written in old Greek* we read in Luke 2:46 how Joseph and Mary were searching for twelve-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem: And it came to pass after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them and asking them questions. These differences between the Quran and the Bible stories are obvious but not decisive.
*Called Codex Sinaiticus. It dates back to the 4th century and was discovered at the St. Catherine monastery located on the Sinai peninsula only in 1859

At the end of his life, Īsā ascends to heaven from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. No mention in the Quran of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. For Muslims, Īsā is just a prophet precursor of Muhammad, the latter outshining all previous prophets. How to explain the crucifixion? God told one of Jesus’s disciples that he will make him look like Īsā, and have him crucified. Were both Romans and Jews fooled? The gospel, no glad tidings but fake news?

Der Spiegel article continues describing in length the bloody disputes between Christians and Muslims, the Crusades and the Jihads, the fall of Constantinople, the Reconquista of Granada, the transformation of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque and of the Alhambra into a cathedral. How many lives were lost how many objects of art destroyed.

At the end, Andrew Thomson, pastor of the Anglican church in Abu Dhabi, formulates an allegory, “It is the same God, but there are different entrance doors”.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Body and Soul

It is a tradition that Germany’s weekly magazines write about religious topics around Christmas time. So Die Zeit titled, Where resides the soul?” We are searching for it.

©Die Zeit
Greek philosophers located the soul - only humans are supposed to possess - in the heart, the brain, or even in our blood. That is what Mephistopheles meant when he said in Goethe’s Faust, “Blut is ein ganz besonderer Saft” (Blood is a quite peculiar juice).

For the monotheistic religions, the human soul is God’s Odem (breath of life) that we receive when we are born and that will leave our bodies at the moment of our deaths. More poetically said, “the soul is a droplet of a divine nature”, a definition acceptable for those who have their problem with a personal, fatherly god. In nearly all cultures the individual soul is something that will stay beyond death.

The soul is the place where we experience love, perceive happiness, discover beauty, have hope, feel pity, and desire another person. We suffer together with other people, donate on Christmas or for victims of an earthquake, and love our pets. May robots be more intelligent in solving problems or perfect in producing goods; they do it mechanically and are only intelligent electronically; they are without a soul.

Maybe we should consult Goethe on the meaning of soul. He wrote the following poem in 1779 while contemplating the Staubbach Falls at Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland:

Gesang der Geister über den Wassern

Des Menschen Seele
Gleicht dem Wasser:
Vom Himmel kommt es,
Zum Himmel steigt es,
Und wieder nieder
Zur Erde muß es, ewig wechselnd.

Und Goethe lässt sein Gedicht enden:

Seele des Menschen,
Wie gleichst du dem Wasser!
Schicksal des Menschen,
Wie gleichst du dem Wind!

Song of the Spirits Over the Waters

The soul of man
Is like to water;
From Heaven it cometh,
To Heaven it riseth,
And then returneth
To earth, for ever alternating.

And Goethe is ending his poem:

Soul of man mortal,
How art thou like water!
Fate of man mortal,
How art thou like wind!

Did our national poet belief in transmigration?

On the lighter side; here are some pictures of this year's Christmas Market. Due to the poor light conditions I employed the HDMI technique for the first time.

The Market seen from my dentist's practice on a late and somewhat foggy morning.
Veterans of the Parnerschaftsmarkt know the site well.
In the back from right to left: St. Martin's church, and the two town halls,
built in Renaissance and in Historicism style, respectively.
In the background: St. Martin's church

Mulled wine in a simple and in a fancier cup

Santa and I wish you a Merry Christmas 

See also this.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Atoms for Peace

Red Baron happened to be in Geneva when in 1958 the United Nations hosted the Atoms for Peace Conference and Exhibition. During semester breaks I used to serve my father as a driver on his business trips. So we visited the exhibition and we were both impressed.


When I was looking for an illustrating picture - the slides I took at that time have long since faded - I came across a citation by Frederick Reines. He was awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in physics for his detection of the neutrino in experiments he had conducted together with Clyde Cowan in 1956. So he surely had given a paper in Geneva in 1958. In 1996, following his Nobel Prize award, he came to CERN and gave a lecture that Red Baron attended.

Atoms for Peace had started with President Eisenhower’s speech at the United Nations in New York on December 8, 1953, expressing the conviction that from then on atomic energy would solely be used peacefully under the auspices of an atomic energy agency.

He said, “The atomic energy agency could be made responsible for the impounding, storage and protection of the contributed fissionable and other materials. The ingenuity of our scientists will provide special safe conditions under which such a bank of fissionable material can be made essentially immune to surprise seizure.

“The more important responsibility of this atomic energy agency would be to devise methods whereby this fissionable material would be allocated to serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind. Experts would be mobilized to apply atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine, and other peaceful activities. A special purpose would be to provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world.


How far did we get? With respect to the first paragraph, the checks and inspections of fissionable material by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)* in their member states are thorough and efficient.
*established in 1957

Red Baron still remembers the nuclear inspectors visiting CERN to check the quantity and quality of the tons of depleted uranium (DU) the organization kept on its premises. Due to its high density, the material was and is still used in particle detectors as absorber or shielding material. Proudly the inspectors demonstrated their ingenuity showing that the degree of depletion of 235U was smaller in DU acquired from Russia than in material coming from the States, proving that the extraction of fissionable 235U from natural uranium was more efficient in the US.

These inspections were peanuts and fun for the men from Vienna, but what about checks in countries operating nuclear power reactors breeding fissionable plutonium as a by-product? There are states that meticulously grant IAEA inspectors access to all their nuclear stock, but a few countries are less open. The situation does not look so bright with Iran although the government agreed to inspections but is absolutely somber with North Korea openly building the hydrogen bomb.

One may think that at least Eisenhower’s hopes expressed in the second paragraph were fulfilled, i.e., applying atomic energy to the needs of agriculture, medicine, and other peaceful activities. Today the euphoria of 1958 has considerably faded. Yes, there are powerful diagnostic tools in medicine based on radioactive tracers, but the use of radioactive materials in the therapy of cancer is already being more and more replaced by effective and more specific chemotherapies.

Finally, the use of nuclear power has developed into a major problem for future generations. The energy is not clean, producing radioactive waste for which we cannot guarantee safe storage at present. Red Baron has reported on this.

Three weeks ago the University of Chicago celebrated the 75th anniversary of Enrico Fermi‘s first successful nuclear reactor experiment in a structure beneath the viewing stands of a football field on December 2, 1942.

Enrico Fermi's reactor set up
During my professional life visiting Fermilab I made a pilgrimage to the site that is honored by a Henry Moore sculpture symbolizing an atomic mushroom - and a skull.

©UChicago
It is this mushroom, the portent of the atomic age, that Cai Gu-Quian, a 59-year-old Chinese artist who lives in New York and stages ephemeral art based on fireworks and gunpowder, wanted to simulate. About the event we read in the press:

Cai Guo-Qiang said: “In the 1990s, I used black gunpowder to create mushroom clouds, humankind’s most iconic visual symbol for the 20th century. These mushroom clouds formed part of my Projects for Extraterrestrials. Today, the color mushroom cloud symbolizes the paradoxical nature of employing nuclear energy: Who is it for?”

“The work dramatizes the creative and destructive forces of nuclear fission,” said Steward*. “It takes the iconic shape of nuclear energy’s most destructive form and animates it with color as a profound symbol of creativity and peace.”
*Laura Steward, curator at the Smart Museum of Art on the campus of the University of Chicago

Wosh ... (©UChicago)
Ah ... (©UChicago)
The mushroom (©UChicago)
Sorry, this event was just macabre and not at all colorful!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Shielding Democracies?

A selfie of Red Baron in front of the Carl-Schurz-Haus
 perturbed by the poster announcing the lecture
On Monday, Red Baron went to the Carl-Schurz-Haus to listen to a luncheon talk by Laura Daniels, “Shielding Democracies From Hacking and Disinformation.”


The Director of the CSH, Friederike Schulte, introduced the speaker. Laura currently is the German Chancellor Fellow at the Global Public Policy Institute (GPPI) in Berlin.

Here is the first paragraph of her abstract: States have long tried to influence one another, at times through subversive means. Today, reports of hacking and leaking, “fake news” propagated by bots and false accounts, rumors of foreign funding to extremist parties, and other similar tactics have caused alarm in Western democracies. These methods have elicited comparisons to Soviet “active measures”—or subversive operations—which appear to be back in business and benefitting from a technological upgrade.

While Laura was reminding us about Soviet subversive activities during the Cold War, giving many examples of Russian interference in recent years, and elaborating on her research on the present situation when Russia has possibly influenced US, German, and French elections, my thoughts strayed.

Do not our own governments blur information we are entitled to? For me, Afghanistan is one of the continuing bad examples. As an ancillary of the US forces, German troops are sent to the Hindu Kush and meant to educate local forces in their fight against the Taliban. Have we seen any progress? Let's face it. Over the years the military situation in Afghanistan has not improved; it has remained stable at best.

The Obama administration slowly started withdrawing troops from the region in 2011, but this was not sufficient for Donald Trump who tweeted in January 2013: Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA.

In December 2014 he became more aggressive: Now Obama is keeping our soldiers in Afghanistan for at least another year. He is losing two wars simultaneously.

One year later he tweeted: A suicide bomber has just killed U.S. troops in Afghanistan. When will our leaders get tough and smart? We are being led to slaughter!

Wikipedia reports: In the middle of June 2017 newly elected U.S. President Donald Trump gave the U.S. military decision making authority over troop numbers for U.S. military operations in Syria, Iraq. and Afghanistan. The new authority includes increasing the current troop level cap beyond the 8,400 U.S. troops authorized as of July 2017.

POTUS confirmed his about-turn in August 2017, tweeting: Important day spent at Camp David with our very talented Generals and military leaders. Many decisions made, including on Afghanistan.

Germany wholeheartedly followed in the wake of the U.S. with respect to a reduction of its troops; it will now be difficult to increase the German quota again, in particular when we still have no government.

Why does nobody officially tell us that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won? Remember the British moved out a first time in 1842, came back later, and definitely left in 1919. The Soviet Union moved in in 1979 and gave up in 1989, leaving Afghanistan in turmoil. When eventually the Taliban had taken over the region the U.S., later reinforced by NATO troops, intervened in 2001 but they will not stay either. So why not regard the Education Mission "Democracy" as finished and bring our troops home?

Sorry, this was not the topic of Laura‘s talk. In the last part, she elaborated on the application of modern methods and techniques used to interfere with democratic elections (U.S.?) and political decisions (Brexit?). From experience, it seems that the „attacker“ is always one step ahead of the „defender“.

The ensuing discussion was lively, and the curry luncheon opened the way to many individual conversations.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Lead Us Not into Temptation

Our Lord’s Prayer is something all Christians have in common. In Germany Catholics and Protestants pray the same text, „und führe uns nicht in Versuchung“ (and lead us not into temptation).

Already as a kid, I felt uneasy, "How is it possible that Our Father in Heaven leads us into temptation?" Year in, year out I am saying the same text in German, English, and French, in Catholic messes, Protestant services, at funerals, and baptisms almost mechanically but I am still hesitating when it comes to, „and lead us not into temptation.“

A better translation into modern Lower German?
"Let us not come off your law and make us free from all that hurts us."(©Wikipedia)
This is why I was electrified by Pope Francis‘s praise for the French bishops when they changed the text „Ne nous soumets pas à la tentation“ into „Et ne nous laisse pas entrer en tentation“ (And let us not fall into temptation).

Francis’s argumentation goes like this, „God does not tempt you. The Lord only tries you with good gifts to draw you to Himself. You misinterpret the words when you think that God is leading you into a temptation, to try you. No. The gracious Father in heaven admits evil, but he does not create it. He is the good, from which all goodness springs forth. But there is evil. It exists since the moment Lucifer rose up against God. It is up to you to make good out of evil by defeating it and asking the divine Father for the power to defeat it.

I am the one that falls, but it is not Him who leads me into temptation. A father does not do such a thing. A father helps you to get up again. The one who leads you in temptation is Satan.

What a Protestant view! Luther would have been delighted for he was obsessed by Satan. Whenever something went wrong in his reformatory drive it was the devil himself who was fighting him. The revolting farmers had Satan in them and the obstinate Jews were young devils and therefore condemned.

So finally from now on, we will pray the Lord, “make that we do not to fall into temptation and deliver us from evil. Amen.“

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Sein Kampf

You are reading correctly: His Struggle and not My Struggle. Why this is so will become clear below. Red Baron wrote about Hitler‘s Mein Kampf before. In Germany it was forbidden to print this infamous book until 2015.

Following my retirement in 2000 I decided to read Hitler’s book because I wanted to understand why my people had been following such a rabble-rouser. What I found was an electronic copy in German on an American website and I read the downloaded text.

I was disgusted but part of Hitler‘s writing remained incomprehensible since I did not understand the historical context. I remember that I had been in the same situation as a student when I was reading an uncommentated copy of Bismarck‘s autobiography Gedanken und Erinnerungen. Even worse was my experience with Goethe‘s Dichtung und Wahrheit. In all these books much of the text remains cryptic without knowledgeable footnotes or comments by competent historians or literary scholars.


This was the reason that in 2010 the Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich, financially supported by the Freistaat Bayern, decided to publish a commented and critical edition of Mein Kampf assuming that only libraries and history specialists would acquire this book. The result of the work were two volumes for the price of 135 euros that the institute published on January 8, 2016. Red Baron immediately ordered a copy, but had to wait three months before the second edition had been printed. In the meantime the institute has sold 85.000 copies of the 2000 page volumes. The revenues are for the benefit of victims of National Socialism.

Last Saturday the Badische Zeitung titled Affirmation of Antisemitism related to the contents of a book by Jeremy Adler, scholar and professor emeritus at London’s King’s College, “The Absolute Evil.” The author violently criticizes IfZ’s editing work of Mein Kampf, e.g., for not commenting on negative sentences regarding the Jews.

For me Hitler’s phrases, “Jews are belonging to a race and are not defined by their religion, they pillage their fellow human beings, and are driven by naked egoism”, are clear statements of hate and need not be commented even for today’s readers. They clearly prove Hitler’s brutal antisemitism. That these statements are not negatively commented does not at all compromise the careful work of the IfZ.

Adler continues his struggle (seinen Kampf), “In Mein Kampf Hitler mixes the theory of state with Darwinism, Enlightenment with political Romanticism, and the ideal of education with racism in an unbearable way.” This is exactly what makes Hitler’s book so indigestible and where the IfZ has focused on with its meticulous source study.

Adler culminates in the statement, “Absolute evil cannot be edited.” This remark only shows that Adler has not understood the work of the IfZ. Its task was not to evaluate Mein Kampf that hundreds of historians have done before but to comment the book in such a way that future generations will still find access to its contents.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Pumpernickel

Here comes the promised post about pumpernickel, the black bread from Westphalia that has a special baking process and a funny name so popular with anglophone people. Chris Howland, sporting his English accent on German radio, was a well-known disk jockey in the 1960s. He nicknamed himself Heinrich Pumpernickel.

Some people still claim that Napoleon - being blamed for everything* - coined the word when he - on his way to Hamburg, capital of the then French Département de bouche de l’Elbe - stayed for lunch at a small Westphalian village. The local peasants offered him the local black bread. The emperor took it in his hands, took a smell, and is claimed to have said, “Bon pour Nickel”, pointing to his horse named Nickel.
*According to the German playwright and filmmaker Curt Goetz: Napoleon ist an allem Schuld (Napoleon Is to Blame for Everything)

The peasants did not quite understand what Napoleon meant and would have been annoyed by his statement that their bread was only good for horses. The imperial words, however, pleased them, so from now on they called their dark bread pumpernickel.

The story is a hoax. It was the papal nuncio Fabio Chigi who first mentioned pumpernickel. When in 1644 - on his way to Münster where he attended the Westphalian Peace negotiations - he lunched at the Wittlerbaum Inn at Bocholt. Chigi summarized his experience as follows, "The people of Westphalia call their dark bread pompernickel, an almost inhumane food even for peasants and beggars."

And Goethe, describing his Campaign in France, tells the following story. His boss, the duke of Weimar, had ordered his prime minister to accompany him as an imbedded reporter during the campaign of the Princes' Alliance against the French Revolutionary Army. In France, Goethe felt captured in a bad dream zwischen Koth und Noth, Mangel und Sorge, Gefahr und Qual, zwischen Trümmern, Leichen, Äsern und Scheishaufen (between shit and misery, lack and sorrow, danger and anguish, between rubble, corpses, graves, and turds). Eventually Goethe became depressed when the Alliance suffered a defeat against the French Republic at Valmy and the troops had to retire.

On his way back home from his campaign, Goethe was passing through Westphalia where the streets were full of aristocratic French refugees. The local population did not like the foreigners who in spite of their humiliation and threatening poverty had kept their arrogance and immodesty.

While taking a rest at a rural inn, Goethe noticed a modest young Frenchman obviously under way on foot eating his frugal meal and that, when he paid, the landlord cut his bill in half. When Goethe inquired why, the landlord explained, "He is the first one of these blasted people who has eaten pumpernickel. He had to benefit from it."

In southern Germany pumpernickel is sold in supermarkets thinly sliced and packaged.

Does he prefer the dark pumpernickel to the blond girl?
Below is a typical pumpernickel dish. It is best sandwiched with half of a crusty roll, and in this case the fillings are Serrano ham* on the right and pork lard refined with roasted onions and apples (f*ck cholesterol) on the left. Although Red Baron prefers flavorful craftbeer, here a mildly hopped Landbier (country-style beer) is the ideal accompanying beverage.
*Westphalian and Black Forest hams are too salty


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

NS Documentation Center

Red Baron is dedicating this blog to a friend who indefatigably digs into Freiburg's Nazi past. The city owes him a number of commemorative plaques - he partly financed himself - located at sites of shame. As an example, here is a photo of the plaque that was put up on his persisting demand inside the Basler Hof, a historical building on Freiburg's Kaiser-Joseph-Straße.


Built in 1496 by Emperor Maximilian‘s treasurer Konrad Stürtzel, the building housed Basel's cathedral chapter from 1587 to 1678 when they had fled their city as a result of the turmoils caused by the Reformation. Later the Habsburg governors of the Vorlande (forelands, i.e., far away from Vienna) resided in the Basler Hof until in 1806 the administration of the Grand Duchy of Baden took over and moved into the premises. As its last resort Baden’s revolutionary government worked in the building from June 24, to July 7, 1849.

Stürtzel‘s city palace continued to accommodate governmental institutions. From 1933 to 1941 the Gestapo (Nazi Secret State Police) carried out its inhumane acts of mistreatment and torture in the basement. While Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) remind passing people outside the building the commemorative plaque informs the visitor inside about the Nazi past.

Basler Hof in the 1930s (©Stadtarchiv)

The Basler Hof following the disastrous air raid on November 27, 1944 (©Stadtarchiv)

The Basler Hof rebuilt
Since long my friend has been struggling for the creation of a Nazi documentation center in Freiburg. I will never forget when a couple of years ago at a New Year's reception for our part of town my friend approached Mayor Salomon asking him for support of such a center. The Mayor’s answer was abrupt, "I have no money."

My friend never gives up. Constant dripping wears the stone and the exhibition Nationalsozialismus (NS) in Freiburg not only turned out to be a great popular success (Red Baron reported) but also turned the tide. Following a lecture by my friend explaining his ideas of a NS documentation center, all parties presented at the municipal council eventually sent a letter to Mayor Salomon writing, "We know about the great challenge for a documentation center to be up to its mission, i.e., acquainting future generations with Freiburg's NS past." The mayor said, "The municipal council gave us a mandate and we will start working on some ideas we had already developed before.“

Note: The other "we", the citizens of Freiburg, shall elect a new mayor or re-elect the old one on April 22, 2018. Let's face it, Dr. Salomon is starting his election campaign early.

Money shall be earmarked for the center in the municipal budget of 2018/19. As for the future site, some people proposed the basement of the Basler Hof, others regard the former Gestapo basement used for torturing people as inappropriate for the future NS documentation center.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Kieser Training

Say yes to a strong body (©Kieser Training)
Red Baron has blogged about Kieser Training before. This time I would like to present a photo showing me among others listening to a lecture about better sleep.

©Kieser Training
Generally people at Kieser Training are not listening to lectures. They rather come to Kieser‘s Therapieräume für medizinische Kräftigungstherapie (Therapy rooms for medical strengthening therapy) working out their muscles. Mind you we, mostly elderly women and men, are no longer building our aging and aching bodies but are struggling hard trying to maintain our muscular leftovers.

When I moved into a new apartment in fall 2007, I met a neighbor who was looking at my sorrowful countenance and said: Sie müssen zu Kieser (You must train at Kieser‘s).

I followed his advice while he - already straining his muscles at Kieser‘s - got a bounty for his successful proselytizing that we spent together with our wives on a lunch. Since then we have become friends and celebrated our four birthdays during a year with common lunches on a regular basis. I am grateful to my friend for his advice. Sadly he passed away lately. In his memory we, the remaining, are keeping up the common lunches.

And I continue to do my 90 minutes twice a week at Kieser Training.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Try Again in 136 Years

This is a rounded figure for the original message was “Send quota exceeded, try again in 4294967295 seconds”. It was popping up on my screen when I tried to send you the usual e-mail, announcing two new blogs.
©Deutsche Telekom
In the past Red Baron has already had many struggles with his Internet provider Deutsche Telekom. The present problem seemed to be a recurrent one. Already three year ago a similar message appeared although the time lapse then given was only 46800 seconds so the following morning I was able to send e-mails again. The reason was that the Magenta Giant had allowed me to send only 200 e-mails per months. When I complained that being a member in various associations I frequently had to send group mails Telekom technicians flipped a switch on their server and solved the problem.

What had happened this time?

On November 14, Telekom had changed my telephone from ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network ) to VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) so I was suspicious that the troublemaker was the switch on their server again.

When I called the Telekom hotline on November 19, the guy on the other end told me that the strange message was not their problem but a problem with Microsoft's Outlook mail program. I should rather call their specialists.

When I insisted, he gave me another special Telekom number. On the other end of the line a girl took note writing down the above error message promising that a specialist would soon look into the matter and call me back.

In vain was I waiting for the telephone call during the evening so I called back Telekom the following morning. Same scenario: they will study the problem and call me back.

During the morning I looked as silly as those few other people carrying their mobile phone from machine to machine while working their muscles at Kieser Training*.
*A blog about Kieser Training is in the pipeline

Luckily nobody had called me during my training session but the telephone rang when I was at home having lunch. I was not at all prepared and had to switch on my PC first, but the friendly lady on the other end told me not to hurry and worry. Thanks to SSD the booting of my PC only required 25 seconds and soon the lady and Red Baron were in business. She really opened my eyes guiding me to a magenta-colored bar and showed me (Honi soit qui mal y pense) that my e-mail storage on the Telekom server had reached 1 GByte so rien ne va plus.

There was amazement and disbelief on my side but in a certain sense the first guy was right although he did not tell me how to cure an obvious MS Oulook bug. I use to delete very old mails on my PC on a regular basis but they still remained on the Telekom server in spite of an IMAP (Interactive Mail Access Protocol) account!

The Telekom lady on-line showed me how to squeeze their server so that deleted e-mails are gone forever. One actually can set time limits ranging from 3 to 90 days for keeping mail elements on the server before they are automatically deleted.

However it was not over yet, for the next attempt to send a group mail failed with the known error message. Since most of the Telekom service technicians kept harping on MS Outlook I eventually transported the blog address list to the Telekom mail program sending my group e-mail to you from there last night.

Sending the group e-mail again failed but now a different message popped up informing me that I had exceeded the allowed quota of 100 e-mail addresses in a month within my present contract. At the same time Telekom offered me an upgrade of space and number of e-mails on their server that I will never need. I grudgingly accepted their proposal although being sure that during the recent month I did not sent e-mails to more than 100 addresses.

This morning my group e-mail passed using MS Outlook ... hurrah, I am back in business again.