Articles of Interest  

Remembering Travis Dustin Fretter, winemaker, teacher, welcoming Berkeleyan

Travis Dustin Fretter, 1940-2021TTravis Dustin Fretter, 1940-2021ravis Dustin Fretter played piano and guitar and sang songs in many languages. • Berkeleyside • July 23, 2021

Travis Dustin Fretter, 1940-2021

Travis Dustin Fretter passed away July 9 after a recent cancer diagnosis, with his family by his side. He was 81. Travis was known as an award-winning winemaker, a teacher of European languages, and an outgoing and welcoming Berkeleyan. He was fluent in English, French, Italian and German. He had a great sense of humor and was always available to friends and family members when they needed a helping hand. 

Travis was loved and appreciated by many friends, relatives, acquaintances, and associates in California and around the world. He was witty, talented and sincere — always up for conversation with old friends and new, sharing a delicious meal and a glass of wine. He played piano and guitar and sang songs in many languages, much to the delight of loved ones and visitors. Fittingly, these were some of the last words he heard: Il y a longtemps que je t’aime; jamais je ne t’oublierai.

He will be missed by his mother, Grace; his sister, Gretchen; his daughters, Sophia and Xenia; his partner, Betsy; and by many dear friends from his boyhood days, his years living in Europe and his involvement in Bay Area communities.

Donations can be made in Travis’ name to his German group, the Gerlind Institute, online or by sending a personal check to:

Gerlind Institute for Cultural Studies
2128 108th Ave.
Oakland, CA 94603

This was Travis’ choice, as he had been on the board of directors for Gerlind.

Berliner Straße bekommt einen neuen Namen: Audre Lorde statt Manteuffel
Hanser Verlag
Die 1992 verstorbene US-Dichterin Audre Lorde wird mit einer Straße in Berlin geehrt.Die Bezirksverordnetenversammlung hat entschieden: Geehrt wird künftig eine amerikanische Dichterin statt eines preußischen Demokratiegegners.
Berliner Zeitung 15.6. 2021

Location of new Berlin street named for Audre Lorde. Grafik: BLZ/HecherBerlin- Schwarz, feministisch, lesbisch, Dichterin, Kämpferin, Mutter. So beschrieb sich die 1992 verstorbene US-Amerikanerin Audre Lorde gerne selbst. Damit vereint sie Eigenschaften, die im Berliner Straßenbild unterrepräsentiert sind. Der Bezirk Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg will das mit einer Audre-Lorde-Straße ändern.

Die Bezirksverordnetenversammlung (BVV) hat auf ihrer Sitzung am Mittwoch entschieden, den nördlichen Teil der Manteuffelstraße umzubenennen. In Kreuzberg verbrachte Lorde einen Teil ihres Lebens, sie lehrte als Gastprofessorin an der Freien Universität und engagierte sich für afrodeutsche Frauen. 

Die BVV hatte bereits 2005 beschlossen, Straßen zunächst nur noch nach Frauen zu benennen und sich schon im Februar 2019 auf Audre Lorde festgelegt. Unklar war nur, welche Straße in Kreuzberg dafür erwählt würde.

Bei einer postalischen Umfrage und einer Onlineveranstaltung am 4. Mai konnten interessierte Anwohnende abstimmen. Auf den nördlichen Teil der Manteuffelstraße (ab Skalitzer Straße bis Köpenicker Straße) entfielen dabei 26 Prozent der 466 abgegebenen Stimmen. 16 Prozent hätten den nördlichen Teil der Wrangelstraße bevorzugt, 15 Prozent einen Teil der Adalbertstraße und 29 Prozent die Admiralstraße.

Die Beschlussvorlage des Queer-Ausschusses für Mittwoch lautete dennoch auf Umbenennung der Manteuffelstraße, benannt nach Otto Theodor von Manteuffel (1805–1882), der sich als preußischer Ministerpräsident gegen die Demokratiebewegung einsetzte. Der südliche Teil der Straße bis Paul-Lincke-Ufer bleibt nach ihm benannt.

Grafik: BLZ/Hecher


In a German zoo…

The animals in a zoo in Germany were depressed and never left their dens. This happened during the pandemic. Nobody went there anymore, neither children nor adults. The zoo remained empty. So the zoo keeper called this pianist to play for them…. And see what happened.

Hey! :) Ich heiße Thelonious Hermann und spiele leidenschaftlich gerne Klavier. Mit meinem Projekt Stadtgeklimper bin ich mittlerweile durch 18 Länder gereist und habe in den Städten Europas hunderte spontane Open-Air-Konzerte mit meinem akustischen Klavier gespielt. Künstler und Zoo-Tiere haben momentan eines gemeinsam: Ihnen fehlt das Publikum. Daher hatte ich die Idee, für die Tiere des Kölner Zoos ein kleines Konzert zu spielen. Es war wirklich beeindruckend, wie die Tiere auf die Musik reagiert haben! Meine weiteren Reisen kannst Du auf Instagram unter @stadtgeklimper verfolgen. Viel Spaß beim gucken! Video by Julius Tyson (@juliustyson)


Can a Bill Have a Gender? Feminine Wording Exposes a Rift
NYTimes | By Christopher F. Schuetze | Oct. 15, 2020

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, left, Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht, center, and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany in Berlin on Wednesday.Credit...Pool photo by Henning SchachtBERLIN — A dispute over grammar between two federal ministries has reopened a front in Germany’s longstanding battle about gender equality, forcing officials to redraft a debt protection bill.

Last month, the Justice Ministry presented a draft of the bill, which aims to shield debtors and businesses from insolvency in the wake of the coronavirus. While the bill drew little attention at the time, the draft language was written employing “Femininum,” a grammatical device that includes the use of the feminine form of plural nouns to describe groups that include both men and women.

An equivalent in English would be to refer to a group of both male and female actors collectively as “actresses.”

On Monday, the Interior Ministry announced that the draft would be rejected based on its use of the generic feminine form, dealing a blow to those who say the usual masculine marginalizes people who do not identify as men. In a country like Germany, where gender norms remain entrenched, the dispute shows how the traditional norms of language can become an obstacle to equality.
Christine Lambrecht, the justice minister who rolled out the draft bill, ran into resistance from the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, who warned that the document’s language could, in legal terms, exclude men from its protections. Steve Alter, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said that Mr. Seehofer’s objections were focused solely on the question of whether it was legally valid to use such language in a bill.

“The generic feminine for use for female and male people has not yet been linguistically recognized,” Mr. Alter said. “This applies completely independently of whether a certain social state is desired.”

German has gendered nouns — masculine, feminine and neutral — but as in several other European languages, the masculine form takes precedence when referring to groups of men and women, especially on official and legal documents.

Read the article here. Download it here. (Photo: Credit...Pool photo by Henning Schacht)


Meet Denmark's school where education is all about sustainability
DW | April 27, 2020 | Download article

At the Green Free School in Copenhagen, you're more likely to find pupils repairing a bicycle or doing urban farming than sitting in front of a blackboard. Could a different approach to learning spark a green transition?

Children learn outside at the Green Free School in Copenhagen, Denmark

A dozen children are sitting in a circle when the bell rings. Instead of rushing to their next class, the children close their eyes. “Raise your hand when you can no longer hear a sound,” says their teacher, holding a pair of bronze cymbals — the kind you might find in a Buddhist temple. One by one, their hands go up.

At the Green Free School (Den Gronne Friskole), in Copenhagen, educating children for a world affected by climate change begins with putting them in the right frame of mind — literally. Classes here include urban farming and often start with mindfulness training.

“We thought about what kids need to learn to take part in the green transition we're going to go through,” says Phie Ambo, a Danish filmmaker who founded the school in 2014 with American translator Karen MacLean. “They need to learn to be courageous and take risks. And they need to learn some basic things about the planet and how we as human beings exist together. I couldn't really see that happening in the Danish school system.”

Pupils from the Green Free School attend a lesson in the woods in Copenhagen, Denmark

(right photo: Pupils at the Green Free School spend much of their time studying outdoors.)

Rethinking the syllabus
Unlike the country's regular state-funded schools, the Green Free School — which has 200 pupils aged six to 15 — puts sustainable living at the heart of its syllabus. At first glance, there's nothing unusual about the Green Free School. It occupies four inconspicuous buildings in a post-industrial neighborhood southeast of Copenhagen's center. Only a woodshed flanking a paint-daubed playground hints at a different kind of institution. Its main building — made entirely of sustainable materials — houses a workshop where pupils learn to sew and use materials such as wood, clay, wax, felt, metal, and plastic. They also learn to compost, repair bicycles, and collect rainwater.

In shaping the syllabus, founder Ambo drew inspiration from “systems thinking” — a way of looking at the world in terms of its underlying patterns and interrelated systems. Pupils are encouraged to think about these systems through time spent outdoors exploring the world and gaining hands-on experience growing vegetables, while learning about edible plants and climatic conditions. One 12-year-old pupil said she was “a little nervous about the future” because of the climate crisis, but felt she learned a lot at the school.

According to deputy principal Suzanne Crawfurd, the school’s teaching method combines “project-based learning and design thinking.” In other words, you won't see teachers at blackboards or children in front of screens. Instead they do hands-on projects that are supervised by several teachers and span different subjects. For example, the children might learn how to forage edible mushrooms, then practice drawing them, before heading into the kitchen to make mushroom soup. 

Lesson preparation at the Green Free School in Copenhagen, Denmark

(left photo: Lessons at the Green Free School often begin with mindfulness practice. Students at the Green Free School garden in Copenhagen right photo: Children at the school take part in hands-on projects that span different subjects.) Despite its alternative approach, setting up the school was easy, Ambo says. While most schools in Denmark are publicly run, anyone can set up a private “free school,” with the state covering about three-quarters of its costs and the rest being made up by fees.

Eco-friendly lessons 
Tuition at the Green Free School costs 2,600 DKK a month (about €350, $380) — and it sets aside at least 5% of its budget to provide bursaries to children whose parents can’t afford the fees. That means its pupils come from “a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds” in Copenhagen, says Ambo.

By law, a “free school” must follow the national curriculum. In addition to learning to read and write, they study history, maths, and science. But otherwise it’s permitted to devise its own syllabus, allowing the Green Free School to teach subjects like urban farming and greenwashing. “They [the pupils] need to learn to grow their own food and they need to be able to see through companies that claim they are sustainable — because we don’t have time for that,” Ambo says.

The Danish Green Free School isn't the only educational institution in Europe with an “eco-friendly syllabus.” Berlin's Hagenbeck high school, for instance, teaches students about the importance of species and ecosystems, successfully incorporating biodiversity throughout its hands-on curriculum.  Ambo says she hopes the Danish school will inspire young teachers to apply its approach in other schools in a country where climate change is becoming a growing political focus. Last December, the Danish parliament passed a climate law committing the country to reduce carbon emissions to 70% below 1990 levels by 2030.

Teachers and pupils examine plants at the Green Free School in Copenhagen, Denmark

(right photo: The school tries to encourage children to think critically about sustainability.)

Green transition and its challenges 
Still, the school's founders have faced hurdles. The site that Ambo and MacLean chose for it was polluted with chemicals used to clean ships — a drawback they turned to their advantage. "It used to be one of the most toxic places in Copenhagen, but we decided to make it part of the curriculum," says Ambo. The school's inaugural intake of 43 pupils duly learned "what kind of trees and plants can remove chemicals from the earth and how to live in and transform places that are tainted by the old industrial way of thinking."

While the school provides more structure in its teaching today, Ambo admits it isn’t ideal for children with severe learning difficulties. Moreover, its students don’t sit exams. “It’s definitely not for everyone,” Ambo concedes. “Some parents think it sounds good and then they realize there won’t be any tests or exams and withdraw their kids.” At 15 pupils move on to further education at other schools, where they usually gain formal qualifications.

Freed from learning geared toward telling examiners what they want to hear, the school aims to equip students to draw their conclusions about the world. But it does have a clear aim of where those conclusions should lead. “We're saying to the students, ‘Be critical, think for yourself, and do what you want — but we want you to make the green transition,’” says  Dorthe Junge, principal of the Green Free School. “That's a challenge.”


Close-up of young woman. © Imaga Images / Photo Alto / F. CirouWhat's life really like for black people in Germany?

DW | April 27, 2020 | Download article

Blacks are Germany's most visible minority. But how they experience racism and discrimination remains largely unknown. The Afrozensus, or “Afro Census,” wants to change that by asking about their experiences.

After grocery shopping at Arnimplatz in Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg district recently, I saw a scene that is not uncommon in the German capital. A man had passed out. And the cops were trying to move him from the pavement after what was probably a bad case of daytime drinking or drugs. As I walked by, I noticed the third policeman. He was black. I smiled slightly as I did a double take. Fortunately, he returned my smile, so it wasn't awkward. This was the first time I'd seen a black police officer in Berlin.

I see black people in many places in the German capital, but I rarely see them working in client-facing roles, in jobs that allow them to engage directly with the public. Their roles tend to be less visible — confined to restaurant kitchens or worse. “Why do bathroom attendants have to be African?” a good friend from Kenya, who also lives here, once asked me.

That black people are overrepresented in menial jobs is an example of structural and institutional racism, says Poliana Baumgarten, a German Afro-Brazilian filmmaker whose work deals with racism and discrimination. “It just shows there’s not even a chance for black women to get jobs where they would experience some form of dignity,” she adds.

Lack of data hampers anti-discrimination efforts  
Racial discrimination has been rising in Germany. The absolute numbers of reported racist incidents have increased, and they are growing faster than other forms of discrimination, according to the country’s Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. There were nearly 20% more racist attacks in 2018 than in 2017, based on official crime statistics. However, the data that would allow the anti-discrimination agency to see just how racism affects specific groups of people is missing. Germany doesn't collect information on race and ethnicity.

That's a problem, says Daniel Gyamerah, an expert on anti-discrimination. He believes that the data needs to be more targeted to help fight discrimination against people of African descent. “They are seen as blacks and experience racism against black people, but there's no research about that,” he explains. 

Daniel Gyamerah, the founder of Each One Teach One / Photo © Severine Lengler

Daniel Gyamerah is chairman of Each One Teach One, an empowerment organization by People of African Descent and Division Lead at Citizen For Europe, one of the project partners of the Afrozensus. “Politicians look at numbers,” he says, noting that more evidence of racism is needed to get policymakers to act. 

More than 1 million people of African descent live in Germany, according to estimates. And anti-discrimination advocates want to better understand their lives and experiences of racism. Gyamerah came up with the idea that will now result in Germany’s first Afrozensus. The survey could help shed light on what it's like to be black in Germany today. 

Our aim is not to differentiate blacks from other ethnicities or communities, it's to show that there are intersections,” he says, noting how other social categories, such as gender or religion, can change how a black person experiences discrimination.

The Afrozensus, which is funded by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency, will collect standard demographic data — age, gender, disability — and discrimination experiences. It will also ask respondents about their economic participation, civic engagement and expectations from lawmakers.

The data would allow us to broach the issue of discrimination in public discourse in Germany, because it becomes more visible,” says agency spokesperson Sebastian Bickerich.

Legacy of the Third Reich
It’s impossible to discuss racism in Germany without mentioning National Socialism. The effects of the Nazi period on German society still linger. And some experts attribute the country's inability to adequately tackle racism in public discourse today as a response to the understanding of race during the Third Reich.

There is an idea that “by acknowledging racial differences, you are promoting them,” says Sarah Chander, a Brussels-based social justice advocate. She believes politicians need to adopt an understanding that comes from anti-racist organizations to deal with discrimination. “We need to recognize the social differences that you ascribe to us with race,” says Chander, whose work has given her an overview of the problem across Europe. “We can't just hope that those differences won’t exist if we don't talk about them.”

Daniel Gyamerah would agree. “Because of National Socialism and the unfathomable responsibility of the entire society, in relation to Nazism and what our forefathers did, it often means that the consequences of German colonialism are neglected,” he says.

Emaciated Herero survivors / Photo Public Domain

Thousands died in the genocide in German South West Africa — in concentration camps and from starvation. Gyamerah points to colonialism and National Socialism as elements of a “racist continuity.” The first genocide in the 20th century is linked to Germany. Tens of thousands of Nama and Herero were killed in German South West Africa (now Namibia) after they rebelled against colonial rule. And while several German politicians have acknowledged the genocide, an official apology is still pending. Numerous streets in the country still bear the names of individuals many would consider mass murderers.  

The focus is on National Socialism because the collective responsibility there is so big that it's difficult for society to recognize other events in German history,” says Gyamerah. “Colonialism and anti-black racism have no place in the country's public discourse.”

Is Germany changing how it talks about race? 
Speaking at the country’s integration summit last month, Chancellor Angela Merkel used the term schwarz (black) to question why people of African descent have to prove they are German even when they were born and raised here. This was the first time in years a high-ranking government official used the word. Some saw her statement, in the aftermath of the most recent racist attack in Hanau, as a direct reference to discrimination that targets blacks or other people of color. 

It's a huge relief that groups of people who are more likely to suffer discrimination are actually being named,” says Maureen Maisha Auma, professor of childhood and diversity studies at the University of Magdeburg. “For a long time, it was a taboo because [racism] was lumped together with xenophobia, which in a sense also places the blame on the person who is being discriminated against,” she explains.

The German chancellor’s recent viral sound bite gives more weight to the calls from scholars like Auma who have repeatedly spoken about anti-black racism. “The way we see the world, because we navigate it in a black body, has started to take on a meaning [in Germany],’ Auma says. While Germans have recognized that racism is an issue, “they still have reservations about having certain groups of people in their proximity,” according to Sebastian Bickerich. Examining how those reservations affect blacks in the country could begin with the Afrozensus, which will be launched in May in three languages — German, English and French. People can already sign up to receive the online survey. Its initiators want the results, which are slated for publication at the end of the year, to spur policymakers into action.

But for Germany's black population and people of color, it will be about more than just numbers. It will also be an opportunity to get insights into how to deal with discrimination, says Daniel Gyamerah.


‘I Will Never Be German’: Immigrants and Mixed-Race Families in Germany on the Struggle to Belong
Thirty years after Germany’s unification, nearly 500 readers shared with us what it means to be German. By Lara Takenag, New York Times online •  Nov. 8, 2019

Three decades since the Berlin Wall fell, Germans remain deeply divided over the question of what it means to be German. In an article marking the 30th anniversary of Germany’s unification, Katrin Bennhold, The Times’s Berlin bureau chief, examines the renewed debate over German identity. The most vocal participants have been members of Germany’s far-right, anti-immigrant party, who draw a sharp line between “bio-Germans,” with German blood, and “passport Germans.” We asked Germans and immigrants to Germany how they think about their identity — and how they navigate the simmering tensions in their country. Nearly 500 people responded, including many whose lives straddle two national identities: Germans married to immigrants, and vice versa, and the children of intermarried couples.

Read | Download the article…


30 Years After Reunification, Germany Is Still Two Countries
Why Eastern Germans are embracing the far right. By Anna Sauerbrey
Ms. Sauerbrey is an editor and a writer at the German daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel
and a contributing opinion writer.

BERLIN — Nov. 9 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. There will be no lack of commemoration— but there will also be very little celebration. Today the country is once again divided along East-West lines, and growing more so. As it does, the historical narrative of what really happened in the years after 1989 is shifting as well. Only a few years ago, when my country consecutively celebrated the 25th anniversary of the wall’s demise and of German reunification in 1990, the official mood was one of victory and hope.

President Joachim Gauck, a former East German pastor who had played a role in the Communist regime’s demise, then later oversaw the declassification of the archives of the Stasi secret police, praised the East German masses who, in their “desire for freedom,” stood up to “overwhelm” the “oppressor” — an uprising, he said, in the tradition of the French Revolution. A year later, he spoke optimistically about German reunification, stressing the dwindling differences between eastern and western Germans.

He wasn’t entirely wrong: After the mass unemployment and deprivation following the breakdown of the socialist state economy during the transition years of the 1990s, the economy in eastern Germany has been on a slow, steady recovery. Regional identities, once solidly split between East and West, were softening — the Allensbach Institute, a polling organization, found that since 2000, more people on both sides of the old border were identifying as simply“Germans.”

You can download the rest of the article from our web site, here, or read it online here.


Audre Lorde’s Berlin
NYTimes •  July 21, 2019 •  By Charly Wilder
Following in the footsteps of the self-described “black feminist lesbian poet,” whose ideas caught fire in a city she cherished and criticized.

I come here to read my poetry tonight as a black feminist lesbian poet,” said Audre Lorde, standing onstage in a dashiki and head wrap, to a mesmerized West Berlin audience at the Amerika Haus in June 1984.

Audre Lorde and May Ayim © Dagmar SchultzAt the time, the Wall was still standing, and the western part of the divided city was a hotbed of radical politics, Cold War angst and scrappy, state-subsidized bohemia. But it had never seen anything quite like Lorde, the poet, essayist and activist born in New York City’s Harlem to Caribbean parents in 1934, whose ideas about female rage, intersectional feminism and the political dimensions of self-care have perhaps never been as relevant or embraced as they are today. During Pride month in June, Lorde and her politics were frequently invoked, from acknowledgements at the Stonewall Inn rally in New York City to the official landmarking of her Staten Island home.

The 1984 trip was the first of many extended visits Lorde would make to Berlin, a city she depicted in poetry and prose, where she played a pivotal role in the birth of the Afro-German identity movement in the years before she succumbed to liver cancer in 1992 at age 58. Since her death, Lorde’s momentous influence on the American left has become clear. But she also lives on in today’s Berlin, now a truly international city grappling with what it means to be pluralistic and humane.

Audre Lorde in front of the Berlin Wall. © Dagmar SchultzThe city itself is very different from what I’d expected,” Lorde wrote in her journal in June 1984. “It is lively and beautiful, but its past is never very far away, at least not for me.” She went on: “The silence about Jews is absolutely deafening, chilling. There is only one memorial in the whole city and it is to the Resistance.” The past is still close in Berlin, but Lorde’s second observation seems almost inconceivable today. The Resistance memorial at Plötzensee, which inspired her 1984 poem, “This Urn Contains Earth from German Concentration Camps,” is now one of the least known Holocaust memorials in a city full of them — most notably the Stolperstein project and the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe by Peter Eisenman. What would Lorde have thought to see the Amerika Haus, where she gave that first public address, on a recent night, as visitors filed into the modernist structure to view photographs of Holocaust atrocities, part of an exhibition on images of death? Since 2014, the Amerika Haus has been home to C/O Berlin, one of innumerable local venues now featuring the kind of culturally diverse, socially engaged material that Lorde often found lacking.

Where to find Lorde today
The best starting place for any Lorde pilgrim is, a comprehensive English-language website created by Dagmar Schultz, a German sociologist and publisher who helped secure Lorde a visiting professorship at the Free University of Berlin in 1984. The two women would become close friends, and Ms. Schultz recorded copious footage of Lorde’s time in Berlin, which eventually became a 2012 documentary, “Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984-1992,” screened regularly in art house cinemas in Berlin and beyond. The film and its supporting material, including photographs, interviews, letters and posters, now form the basis of the Free University’s Audre Lorde Archive, which can be viewed by appointment at the campus in Lankwitz. Much of this material is also on the website, as is an interactive map of significant locations.

During her first stay, Lorde lived in a red apartment building that still stands at Auf dem Grat 26, overlooking Thiel Park, a sloping stretch of green marshland near the university in the lush, villa-laden western district of Dahlem. The yellow phone booth that used to stand on the park’s edge figures in her haunting 1984 poem, “Berlin Is Hard on Colored Girls,” which mixes the language of border crossings with imagery evoking the African diaspora: “I cross her borders at midnight / the guards confused by a dream / Mother Christopher’s warm bread / an end to war perhaps … A nightingale waits in the alley / next to the yellow phone booth...” 

Through her lectures and workshops in 1984, Lorde began to connect with young German women of African descent — women like May Ayim and Katharina Oguntoye — who would later play important roles in what became known as the Afro-German movement. It was Lorde who coined the term, “Afro-German,” as she encouraged the women to tell their stories and forge an identity. The resulting co-authored 1986 book, Farbe Bekennen, translated into English as Showing Our Colors, tells the story of black German women reaching back to the Middle Ages, a story that had largely been ignored in the national discourse up to that point.


Germans are Bad? Very Bad?
CHRISTINE SCHOEFER, Knowing Germany | May 31, 2017

The first thing you have to know is that Germans love America. They love the country and they call it Amerika in conversation even though they know one is supposed to say Vereinigte Staaten, United States. During my Berlin childhood, the word Amerika cast a powerful force field; it rang with possibility and promise.

Angela Merkel
AP Photo/dpa, Soeren Stache AP Photo/dpa,Soeren Stache

Germans have felt the tug of the American Dream, for a long time. Since the eighteenth century, seven million Germans have immigrated to North America. They left their homeland looking for economic opportunities and religious and political freedom.

But the love for Amerika got its strongest boost at the least likely moment: after the Americans (with British, French and Russian allies) defeated Germany in World War Two.

I learned as a child that Germans were grateful to the Americans because of the role they played in liberating Germany from the nightmare of National Socialism. My relatives admired the GIs who occupied the country after 1945 - the young men embodied what Germans then lacked: Lässigkeit - a mix of cool, easy, casual. American music soothed wounded hearts and Hollywood movies sprouted fantasies of peacetime prosperity in Deutschland.

But it was more than that. Amerika was the mightiest country in the world and instead of punishing Germany, the US government rebuilt and protected the country they’d just defeated.

The American Marshal Plan jump-started West German reconstruction. American troops saved the city of West Berlin when the Soviets imposed a blockade, by airlifting basic supplies to the besieged population for an entire year. Most West Germans were grateful for NATO, with the US at its helm. Perhaps most importantly – and lastingly - the values of the US Constitution shaped the West German Verfassung which is one of the most democratic constitutions in the world.

Of course, Germans know that it wasn’t altruism – it was political strategy. The Cold War was very hot back then and it played out most immediately in Germany when the country was divided by the infamous Wall. West Germany’s economy would be capitalist, its growth would create a reliable market for American goods. Its geographic location made West Germany a perfect base for the US military, allowing for quick retaliation against the Soviet enemy.

Germans have always known they played an important role for the United States and for the most part, they didn’t mind. They were Amerika’s loyal and steadfast partner. But since they have strong opinions and believe in open political discourse, Germans spoke out against the Atom bomb, against McCarthyism, against the Vietnam War. Today, they speak out against racism and mass incarceration. They do not support US military involvement in Iraq and other countries. They wonder about homelessness and mass shootings and America’s anti immigration policies.

Most of all, they wonder about the President.

“What’s going on over there?” my friends in Germany ask me. “How can this be happening?” Young Germans are dismayed and angry at being called ‘bad, very bad’ by the US head of state. Older Germans are disappointed. Weren’t they the favorite friend, the Musterschüler - star pupil- of the country they admired?

Bad? Just because they are really good at making and selling cars? That’s what they were taught to do.

Bad? Because they take in hundreds of thousands of refugees and try to work out the ensuing challenges? That’s what they were taught to do. Bad? Inevitably that adjective conjures up a time when Germans were known throughout the world as evil, trampling on rights and democratic values, unleashing a world war that devastated Europe, and organizing a Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews and forever transformed our thinking about civilization.

That, however, is not contemporary Germany. Today, Deutschland is a democratic, prosperous, conscientious country. Its politicians are aware that they have global responsibilities.

Germans know this is a different Amerika from the one they grew to love in the fifties. They understand that their love was always based partially on a fantasy, a myth. The current reality has not eclipsed the ideas of liberty and equality, not yet.

Even if every German knows today that the real United States are no longer the promised land, the word Amerika still vibrates with the possibility of there being a promised land – if not now, perhaps in the future?

It is possible to love someone and still hate what they do and the choices they make - I have experienced this with my parents, my spouse, even my children. When this happens, you have to make boundaries, limit contact, go your separate way for a while - maybe a long while.

It looks like that’s what Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel is proposing to do with Amerika.


Infographic: Benefits of Language Learning

This infographic highlights the many ways that language learning and bilingualism benefit people of all ages by improving academic skills, job prospects, and health.


The Women of the Bauhaus School

Women of the Bauhaus School

The male icons of the early-20th-century Bauhaus school, like Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, and Paul Klee, are some of the most celebrated pioneers of modern art. But the women artists who taught, studied, and made groundbreaking work with them are often remembered in history books as wives of their male counterparts or, worse, not at all.

While women were allowed into the German school—and its manifesto stated that it welcomed “any person of good repute, without regard to age or sex”—a strong gender bias still informed its structure. Female students, for instance, were encouraged to pursue weaving rather than male-dominated mediums like painting, carving, and architecture. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius encouraged this distinction through his vocal belief that men thought in three dimensions, while women could only handle two.

The year 2019 will mark the 100th birthday of the Bauhaus. As that date approaches, this bias toward the school’s male students is being revised, and its many integral female members recognized by scholarship and institutional exhibitions. Weavers, industrial designers, photographers, and architects like Anni Albers, Marianne Brandt, and Gertrud Arndt not only advanced the school’s historic marriage of art and function; they were also essential in laying the groundwork for centuries of art and design innovation to come after them.

Below, we highlight 10 female Bauhaus members who contributed fundamental work, instruction, and innovation to the school over the course of its relatively short existence, between 1919 and 1933, and bolstered its lasting legacy.

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Germany Grapples With Its African Genocide

WATERBERG, Namibia — In this faraway corner of southern Africa, scores of German soldiers lie in a military cemetery, their names, dates and details engraved on separate polished tombstones. Easily missed is a single small plaque on the cemetery wall that gives a nod in German to the African “warriors” who died in the fighting as well. Nameless, they are among the tens of thousands of Africans killed in what historians have long considered — and what the German government is now close to recognizing — as the 20th century’s first genocide.

A century after losing its colonial possessions in Africa, Germany and its former colony, Namibia, are now engaged in intense negotiations to put an end to one of the ugliest chapters of Europe’s past in Africa. During German rule in Namibia, called South-West Africa back then, colonial officers studying eugenics developed ideas on racial purity, and their forces tried to exterminate two rebellious ethnic groups, the Herero and Nama, some of them in concentration camps.

“It will be described as genocide,” Ruprecht Polenz, Germany’s special envoy to the talks, said of a joint statement that the two governments are preparing. Negotiations, which began this year, are now also focusing on how Germany will compensate and apologize to Namibia. The events in Namibia between 1904 and 1908 foreshadowed Nazi ideology and the Holocaust. Yet the genocide in this former colony remains little known in Germany, the rest of Africa and, to some extent, even in Namibia itself. Throughout Namibia, monuments and cemeteries commemorating the German occupiers still outnumber those honoring the victims of genocide, a concrete reminder of the lasting imbalance of power.

“Some of us want to remove that cemetery so that we can put our own people there,” said Magic Urika, 26, who lives about an hour away from the cemetery here in Waterberg. “What they did was a terrible thing, killing our people, saying all the Herero should be eliminated.” While Germany’s efforts to atone for crimes during World War II are well known, it took a century before the nation began taking steps to acknowledge that genocide happened in Namibia decades before the Holocaust. About 80 percent of all Herero, who numbered as many as 100,000, are believed to have eventually died. Many perished after the battle of Waterberg: They were shot, hanged from trees or died in the desert, where the Germans sealed off watering holes and also prevented survivors from returning.

Even after the centennial of the Namibian genocide in 2004, Germany’s willingness to acknowledge it officially has proceeded so slowly — and, to critics, grudgingly — that it has set off accusations of racism in how the victims in Europe and Africa have been treated. “The only difference is that the Jewish are white in color and we are black,” said Sam Kambazembi, 51, a traditional Herero chief whose great-grandparents fled during the genocide. “The Germans thought they could keep this issue under the carpet and the world would never know about it. But now we have made noise.”

Read the remainder of this article | View the Gerlind Institute seminar on the Herero genocide.


6 reasons why Berlin is now known as ‘the failed city’
26 Aug 2016 | By Max Bringmann and Verity Middleton

With state elections around the corner, The Local looks at the poor side of Germany's “poor but sexy” capital city.

Tourists flock to this grungy vibe too, with nearly six million visiting in the first six months of this year alone. But the reality is that the city is struggling with poverty, unemployment, poor infrastructure, a floundering education system, debt, the refugee crisis and crime. Its chronic problems led national newspaper Die Welt to label it a “failed state” in 2014. Here are a few reasons why Berlin has earned this uncomfortable moniker.

1. Six years behind schedule, the airport still hasn’t been opened.
Berlin is hardly unique in Germany when it comes to embarrassing mega projects. Anyone acquainted with Stuttgart's underground central station or Hamburg's new concert hall knows that cliches about German efficiency hold little water. But there is something spectacular about how Berlin has failed to open the Berlin-Brandenburg airport. Its launch has been postponed repeatedly since 2011 due to planning failures and amid corruption accusations. Few people believe the city's claim that it will open next year.
Upon his resignation in 2014, former mayor Klaus Wowereit described the fiasco as the biggest failure of his 13-year term in office. The original projected costs of the airport have more than doubled. By 2017, some estimate the taxpayer will have forked out over €5 billion for it. To pick just the most recent of years of negative headlines, this week a former senior employee admitted to taking €150,000 in bribes from a subcontractor.

Fights break out as refugees clamour to receive an appointment at Berlin's asylum seeker registration centre. Photo: DPA.

2. In comparison to Germany as a whole, Berlin is swimming in debt.
While debt is increasing in other Bundesländer - with Hamburg's debt rising from €26 billion in 2014 to €26.7 billion in 2015 - it is decreasing in Berlin, with the capital's debt dropping from €59.8 billion in 2014 to €59.2 billion in 2015. Despite this, Berlin's debt still overshadows that of other states, towering above Bavaria's €36.9 billion.
While capitals are often the economic power houses of their respective countries, Berlin is heavily reliant on the rest of the Bundesrepublik. In fact, it is the only European capital which is a drain on its country's overall economy, a study by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research demonstrated.
Germany has a system of fiscal equalisation which tries to eliminate financial inequalities between states. Berlin is the largest recipient of payments, receiving over €3.6 billion last year. By contrast, Bavaria is the biggest contributor to the scheme, providing over €5.4 billion.

3. Berlin is struggling to provide adequate care for refugees.
At the height of the refugee crisis last year, 500 asylum seekers were arriving daily at the capital’s main registration centre, known as LaGeSo, but only 200 could be given an appointment on a given day, an employee told the Berliner Zeitung last December. “Our leadership is completely overwhelmed”, the employee said. “The files we’ve put on hold are mounting up in boxes. We store them in several rooms. There is no system to it, which is why we have come up with a job called 'the seeker' - someone whose only task is to find the necessary file,” said another. Refugees have queued outside LaGeSo in temperatures as high as nearly 40C and as low as -8C in recent years. Antje Kapek, leader of the Green Party in Berlin, talking to the city parliament in June described the situation as “disgraceful”.

4. Berlin’s crime rate is higher than in all the other German states.
In 2015, Berlin experienced the highest crime rate of all the Bundesländer, according to the Federal Interior Ministry’s crime statistics. The capital reported 16,414 cases per 100,000 people, above Hamburg’s 13,839, Bremen’s 13,784, Saxony’s 8,893, and the national average of 7,797. Berlin’s overall crime rate increased by 4.9 percent between 2014 and 2015. During this period, while murder and manslaughter decreased by 14.5 percent and robbery fell by 5.1 percent, shop theft increased by 14 percent, bag theft rose by 25.8 percent and basement break-ins increased by 34.6 percent, police crime statistics for the capital showed.

Photo: DPA.

5. Unemployment and poverty are very real issues.
In 2015, the capital had the second-highest unemployment rate of all the German states, with 10.7 percent of the working-age population jobless, while the overall national rate was 6.4 percent. In Hamburg the rate was 7.4 percent of Hamburgers and in Bavaria it was 3.6 percent. While only 4.3 percent of people in Baden-Württemberg and 3.6 percent of people in Bavaria receive Hartz IV welfare benefits, 16.4 percent of Berliners receive this funding.
But not only that: 20 percent of Berliners are classified as "in danger of poverty" (receiving less than 60 percent of the median national income for private households), compared to Bavaria’s 11.5 percent and Baden-Württemberg’s 11.4 percent. A Berlin branch of the Catholic welfare organisation Caritas e.V. reported that between 2014 and 2015, the number of treatments given to homeless people and people without insurance increased by a third at their local treatment centre. And those who aren't sleeping on the streets of the capital still earn less than people in many other German states.
In 2014, the disposable income in private households per inhabitant was €18,594 in Berlin, in comparison to Bavaria’s €23,080 and Hamburg’s €23,596.

6. The capital has the worst education system in the Bundesrepublik.
One of the reasons behind the city's plight may just be its poor education system. Berlin's education system trailed in last place in the Bildungsmonitor 2016, an analysis by the Cologne Institute for Economic Research for the think tank New Social Market Economy Foundation.
Saxony and Thuringia took the top spots in the survey. In 2014, the dropout rate in Berlin schools was 8.1 percent compared to the national average of 5.5 percent, and 39.7 percent of students did not complete their vocational training compared to the national average of 27.7 percent, the survey demonstrates.


10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
01 Aug 2016 10:20

You can bet your bottom dollar that your teachers didn’t tell you these colloquial words and phrases when they taught you how to speak Hochdeutsch (Standard or High German) perfectly.

  1. “Krass”, “Hammer”, “Wahnsinnig” and “Geil” Do you have strong feelings about anything and everything? “Krass” can be used whenever you have an extreme emotional reaction towards something. If you love it, it’s krass. If you hate it, it’s krass. If it makes you roll around on the floor laughing, it’s krass. If it makes your hair stand on end with fear, yes you’ve guessed it, it’s also krass.
    The phrase “Das ist der Hammer!” in fact has nothing to do with hammers, but actually implies that something is completely extraordinary.
    Wahnsinnig” has quite a similar meaning. Feeling the adrenaline pump through your body as you plunge down a crazy rollercoaster? “Das ist ja wahnsinnig!” will convey that you think it’s insanely fun or even exhilarating.
    Do you think something’s cool, awesome, great or amazing? Don’t stick with your textbook classics of “toll”, “spannend” or “ausgezeichnet” - why not try the less standard “geil” instead? The adjective “geil” gained superstar status in Germany when “Supergeil”, a promotional music video by supermarket giant Edeka, went viral. But just a word of warning: be careful as to when you use this word, as in some contexts it can mean “horny” instead.

  2. “Quasi”, “sozusagen”, “naja” and "halt" If you want to avoid umming and ahhing when lost for words, these fillers are your go-to. “Quasi” and “sozusagen” are the equivalent of “so to speak”, and “naja” (“well…”) can be used if you’re a bit hesitant about a statement. Have you heard British and American teens throwing the word “like” into sentences as if a phrase is utterly incomplete without it? It’s exactly the same here in Germany, where “halt” is sprinkled into phrases like there's no tomorrow. So next time you chat to your German friend, try throwing in a few fillers - you might end up with a bizarre sentence like “ war denn...halt...quasi schrecklich, sozusagen”.

  3. Photo: DPA“Bescheuert” While you were probably taught the adjectives “schlecht” and “schrecklich” over and over again until you could say them standing on your head, you probably haven’t heard of the more colloquial “bescheuert”. Whether something’s rubbish, annoying, or depressing - if it brings you down, it can be described as “bescheuert”. But when you get to Germany, you’ll hear anyone and everyone uttering the phrase “das ist total bescheuert!” as they dash onto the station platform only to have missed the train by a few seconds.

  4. “Na?” Forget “Wie geht es Ihnen heute?”, “Wie geht’s dir?”, or even “Was geht ab?”. Why trot out all those long phrases when you can stick to the one-syllable word “Na?” to ask how someone is? You can also use “Na” to ask how something went. When your friend comes back from a date, no lengthy question is required, just a simple “Naaaa?” will get across that you want to know all the details. But try not to confuse it with the rather more sarcastic “Na und?” (“so what?”).

  5. Photo: Alexander Lyubavin, Flickr

    “Alter” In America you’d say “buddy”, in England you’d say “mate” and in Scotland “pal”. But how do you refer to a male friend very casually in German? “Alter” or "Alta" is the way. “Alter, was geht ab?” (“Dude, what’s up?”) is often heard among German teens. As you can tell, this kind of slang is very colloquial, so it’s generally only used by younger people.

  6. “Quatsch” “Das ist totaler Quatsch”, you might think when someone shamelessly declares that they are an authority on a particular subject when they clearly don’t know the first thing about it. If you say that something is “Quatsch”, it means that it’s utter nonsense or complete gibberish.

  7. “Bock auf etwas haben” If you know the expression “Lust haben” (“to want to do something” or “to be up for doing something”), the phrase “Bock haben” means roughly the same thing. Not really up for the day trip that your German friends are organising? “Ich habe keinen Bock darauf” will convey your lack of enthusiasm. Completely down for a night out, though? “Ja, ich hab' Bock drauf” will show that you’re interested.

  8. “Auf jeden Fall” “Bock haben” and “auf jeden Fall” go hand in hand on the enthusiasm scale. Instead of using “natürlich” (“of course”), a piece of vocab which was probably drummed into you at school, try out the more casual “auf jeden Fall” (“definitely” or “for sure”). And if you want to be really down with the kids, you can shorten it to a simple 'auf jeden'.

  9. “Jein” Another way of expressing uncertainty, “jein” is a mashup of, yep you’ve guessed it, “ja” and nein”. So if you want to express that you’re quite doubtful about something, or you just don’t want to come down really strongly on one side or the other, “jein” is the one to use.

  10. “Mach’s gut!” Forget the textbook ways of saying goodbye - the casual “Tschüß” and the more formal “Auf Wiedersehen” - by throwing in a “Mach’s gut!” to your friends instead. Literally translated as “Make it good!”, the phrase is the equivalent of “Have a good one!” in English.


A Syrian refugee in Germany: war fears taken to the stage. Aziz Dyab brings his recollections of fleeing Idlib to German community theatre
Financial Times | Guy Chazan, Berlin | October 25, 2016

Germany welcomed nearly a million migrants last year, an immigration wave that has changed Europe’s biggest economy for good. But what is known about the individuals who make up this massive influx?

The FT has spoken to three of them, Ahmad al-Soliman, Abdulaziz Dyab and Nazir Wakil, all Syrians who fled civil war in their home country to make a new life in Germany. The three men’s stories are a work in progress: the FT is following how they integrate into German society and returning to them for regular updates. Their journey will unfold in the telling: this is the second instalment.

Read Ahmad’s story. Read Nazir’s story. Learn more here.

Photo: Aziz Dyab, 21, right, rehearses with other refugees for a play about their route from their home country to Germany © Jan Zappner

Aziz Dyab has good news. The young Syrian has just heard he was awarded the top score in his last German language exam — a “DSH3”. It could be the key to a bright future in his adopted homeland. The exam was a crucial rite of passage, and a sign that, for at least some refugees, the pieces of the German jigsaw can occasionally — magically — fall into place.

Aziz, who has lived in the eastern city of Frankfurt-an-der-Oder since September last year, is now free to take up his place at Karlsruhe University in south-west Germany, which was contingent on the outcome of the language exam. The 21-year-old will be studying mechatronics — a hybrid of mechanical engineering and computer science. His dream is to work at a space agency like Nasa, or for SpaceX, the exploration company founded by Elon Musk. It’s an exciting time for him, but he’s also wistful. “The last hurdle for me will be leaving this city and the people I know here,” he says. Karlsruhe is a seven-hour train journey away.

The last few months have been intense. He had three hours of language lessons every morning, paid for by the University of Frankfurt, then revised in the local library till 5pm. In the evening he went to rehearsals of a play, a documentary work based on the experiences of six refugees to Germany, called: Fear: the Story of Ruthlessness.

Performed last month in a Frankfurt community theatre, it is a moving and disturbing work. In it, Aziz reminisces about his former life in Idlib, while jerky video footage shows anti-government demonstrations in the town, a police crackdown that leaves dozens dead, and the slide into civil war. “Destruction became normal,” he says. He describes hunkering down with his family while Syrian troops occupy the city. “We hear only bangs and shots.” After a traumatic journey across Europe he finds himself in a village in Brandenburg, sharing a tent with 20 other people. “I thought — have I done something wrong? I wondered what would happen to me here, I thought about my family.”

But the play ends on an optimistic note, as all six actors speak warmly of their new lives, the generosity of German volunteers who have helped them, and their hopes for the future. “This is a fulfilment of a dream — peace,” Aziz says.

In a podium discussion with the audience, he admitted it was hard to relive his memories of war. But through the play, “it became a lot easier to accept these experiences and to talk about them — it’s therapeutic”. And he felt the message of the play, which was seen by more than 500 people, was important. “We had to explain why we came here,” he said.

It has become even more important in recent months as scepticism about the refugee influx grows. Two terror attacks carried out by migrants over the summer rang alarm bells: will Germany succeed in properly integrating its hundreds and thousands of newcomers? Aziz says the attacks “angered me — we left our homeland because of people like that and now they’re here too. They came here as terrorists, not as refugees.”

He has also noticed some subtle changes in the way he’s treated by locals. He recalls an incident on his birthday when he and some German friends tried to go to a local disco. The bouncer looked at his ID and refused him entry. The whole group ended up leaving. “I felt guilty that I’d spoilt the evening for everyone else,” he says.

Aziz has also virtually given up hope of being able to bring the rest of his family to Germany. They want to leave Idlib, but don’t know where to go. “All paths are closed now,” he says. Aziz has a residence permit for three years: after that he will probably be given leave to remain for a further five years. He is entitled to citizenship after seven years. But he finds himself dogged by a lingering fear that his status hangs in the balance. “It was a political decision to let us in, and that can change,” he says. “I could still be deported.” “If I study, if I’m active, I won’t be. But I can’t guarantee that.”


Every 5th person in Germany is from migrant family
20 Sep, 2016| Reuters News
(Photo © Fabrizio Bensch / Reuters)

© Fabrizio Bensch / ReutersThe number of people in Germany from foreign backgrounds has reached a new high of 21 percent, a recent study suggests. Migrants who came to Germany in and after 2015 were not included in the statistics, however. Germany’s Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) has released data which shows every fifth person in Germany (21 percent), has some kind of migrant background – meaning that out of a population of 82.2 million, 17.1 million people are not exclusively of German descent.

The data, however, didn’t include hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Northern Africa and elsewhere, who came to Germany in and after 2015, Destatis pointed out. A person is considered to be of migrant background if they didn’t have a German passport at birth, or if one of their parents is not a German citizen. A total of 6.4 million people out of the 17.1 million with foreign backgrounds migrated to Germany. Some 5 million others were of German descent, but were born outside Germany.

The microcensus conducted in 2015 showed an increase of 4.4 percent compared to 2014, the report says. Most of the migrants mentioned in the report have links with Turkey, Poland or Russia. A total of 6.3 million people had relatives in Greece, Italy or Turkey who came to Germany as guest workers in the 1960s or 1970s. Among the population under 18 years old, one in three comes from an immigrant family. People with immigrant backgrounds are usually less well-educated, according to Destatis. Non-German citizens between the ages of 25 and 35 usually don’t have a high school diploma, and only some have a vocational high school degree. If a person with an immigrant background enters university, however, they achieve about the same results as non-migrants, the study suggests.

The data also showed that migrants were less likely to obtain a job and were twice as likely to be engaged in manual labor. There are also significant wage differences between people of different backgrounds. One example the study lists is that of young professionals with French roots, who usually earn about twice as much as those from Bulgaria do – €2,622 (US$2,930) compared with €1,352 ($1,500), respectively. The census explores the trends common in various ethnic communities. Chinese students living in Germany are more likely to continue their education at university after they finish school than those who came from Turkey. In 2015, Germany was named as the country hosting the second-highest number of international migrants worldwide by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. As of 2014, the largest number of immigrants had arrived from Turkey (2.85 million), followed by Poland (1.61 million), Russia (1.18 million), and Italy (764,000), an earlier Destatis microcensus showed. In addition, since the end of 1980s, nearly 3 million ethnic Germans have exercised their right of return and come back to their ancestral homeland.


Nestlé statt Muttermilch
16.03.2016 | 29 Min. | UT | Verfügbar bis 16.03.2017 | Quelle: WDR

Nestlé statt MuttermilchGerman documentary on formula marketing in the Philppines by Nestlé.

Jeden Tag auf Neue versucht die philippinische Stillberaterin Tintin Cervantes Leben zu retten, indem sie Mütter von der Flasche wegbringt. Der Flasche mit Baby-Pulvermilch, zu der fast 70 Prozent aller Mütter im Land greifen: Hier auf den Philippinen sterben täglich 13 Babys an Durchfall.


The False Promise of Meritocracy
Managers who believe themselves to be fair and objective judges of ability often overlook women and minorities who are deserving of job offers and pay increases.
The Atlantic | Marianne Cooper | December
1, 2015

MARIANNE COOPER is a contributing writer at The Atlantic, a sociologist at the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University, and an affiliate of the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. She is the author of Cut Adrift: Families in Insecure Times and was the lead researcher for Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

Americans are, compared with populations of other countries, particularly enthusiastic about the idea of meritocracy, a system that rewards merit (ability + effort) with success. Americans are more likely to believe that people are rewarded for their intelligence and skills and are less likely to believe that family wealth plays a key role in getting ahead. And Americans’ support for meritocratic principles has remained stable over the last two decades despite growing economic inequality, recessions, and the fact that there is less mobility in the United States than in most other industrialized countries.

This strong commitment to meritocratic ideals can lead to suspicion of efforts that aim to support particular demographic groups. For example, initiatives designed to recruit or provide development opportunities to under-represented groups often come under attack as “reverse discrimination.” Some companies even justify not having diversity policies by highlighting their commitment to meritocracy. If a company evaluates people on their skills, abilities, and merit, without consideration of their gender, race, sexuality etc., and managers are objective in their assessments then there is no need for diversity policies, the thinking goes.

But is this true? Do commitments to meritocracy and objectivity lead to more fair workplaces?

Emilio J. Castilla, a professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, has explored how meritocratic ideals and HR practices like pay-for-performance play out in organizations, and he’s come to some unexpected conclusions.

In one company study, Castilla examined almost 9,000 employees who worked as support-staff at a large service-sector company. The company was committed to diversity and had implemented a merit-driven compensation system intended to reward high-level performance and to reward all employees equitably.

But Castilla’s analysis revealed some very non-meritocratic outcomes. Women, ethnic minorities, and non-U.S.-born employees received a smaller increase in compensation compared with white men, despite holding the same jobs, working in the same units, having the same supervisors, the same human capital, and importantly, receiving the same performance score. Despite stating that “performance is the primary bases for all salary increases,” the reality was that women, minorities, and those born outside the U.S. needed “to work harder and obtain higher performance scores in order to receive similar salary increases to white men.”

These findings led Castilla to wonder if organizational cultures and practices designed to promote meritocracy actually accomplished the opposite. Could it be that the pursuit of meritocracy somehow triggered bias? Along with his colleague, the Indiana University sociology professor Stephen Bernard, they designed a series of lab experiments to find out. Each experiment had the same outcome. When a company’s core values emphasized meritocratic values, those in managerial positions awarded a larger monetary reward to the male employee than to an equally performing female employee. Castilla and Bernard termed their counter intuitive result “the paradox of meritocracy.”

The paradox of meritocracy builds on other research showing that those who think they are the most objective can actually exhibit the most bias in their evaluations. When people think they are objective and unbiased then they don’t monitor and scrutinize their own behavior. They just assume that they are right and that their assessments are accurate. Yet, studies repeatedly show that stereotypes of all kinds (gender, ethnicity, age, disability etc.) are filters through which we evaluate others, often in ways that advantage dominant groups and disadvantage lower-status groups. For example, studies repeatedly find that the resumes of whites and men are evaluated more positively than are the identical resumes of minorities and women.

This dynamic is precisely why meritocracy can exacerbate inequality—because being committed to meritocratic principles makes people think that they actually are making correct evaluations and behaving fairly. Organizations that emphasize meritocratic ideals serve to reinforce an employee’s belief that they are impartial, which creates the exact conditions under which implicit and explicit biases are unleashed.

“The pursuit of meritocracy is more difficult than it appears,” Castilla said at a recent conference hosted by the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford, “but that doesn’t mean the pursuit is futile. My research provides a cautionary lesson that practices implemented to increase fairness and equity need to be carefully thought through so that potential opportunities for bias are addressed.” While companies may want to hire and promote the best and brightest, it’s easier said than done.

GapJumpers, a Silicon Valley start-up, is focused on making meritocracy a reality by taking a skills-first approach to identifying the highest-performing talent. Modeled after research showing that blind auditions block biased evaluations, GapJumpers developed an online technology platform that enables hiring managers to hold blind audition challenges. In the challenges, job applicants are given mini assignments that are designed to assess the applicant for the specific skills required for the open position. All submissions are evaluated and ranked, and the top-performing submissions (minus any applicant identifiers) are then reviewed by the hiring manager who selects candidates to bring in to interview. The result: About 60 percent of the top talent identified through GapJumpers’ blind audition process come from underrepresented backgrounds.

Hiring managers do not expect this outcome. “The high percentage of underrepresented applicants that make it through the skills-first screening process is often met with suspicion,” says Sharon Jank, a social psychologist and Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University, who is conducting her doctoral research with GapJumpers. In her work, Jank has observed that “hiring managers tend to be surprised that the top performing submissions they pick to advance very often come from applicants without an elite education, training, or experience. This suggests blind performance auditions are a powerful tool to manage bias and address the pervasive and incorrect assumption that elite pedigree best predicts performance of on the job skills."

“Our biases lead to sub-optimal talent selection decisions when evaluating resumes,” says GapJumpers cofounder Kédar Iyer. “By scaling the successful and proven method of blind performance auditions, GapJumpers’ results show that real work performance trumps labels on a resume.”

In addition to blind auditions, transparency and accountability also support more meritocratic outcomes. Recently, Castilla published the results from a longitudinal study he conducted with the same large service-sector company that he had studied years earlier. After learning from Castilla’s analysis that there were pay disparities in their organization (white men received more compensation than equally performing women, minorities, and non-U.S.-born individuals) the company asked Castilla to recommend practices to close the pay gap.

Drawing on research showing that transparency and accountability reduce bias because, among other things, transparency provides the information needed to track inequity and accountability puts people on notice that their decisions will be monitored, Castilla counseled the company on actions they could take.

The company then made many changes such as creating a performance-reward committee to monitor compensation increases and sharing information with top management about pay broken down by gender, race, and foreign nationality. When Castilla analyzed the data five years after these changes were introduced he found that the demographic pay gap had disappeared.

American beliefs about the rightness of meritocratic ideals often leads to the belief that those ideals are what guides society. But research shows that a real commitment to meritocracy requires understanding that America hasn’t gotten there—at least not yet. It is this insight that leads to the adoption of practices that will ultimately result in a society where merit truly does equal ability + effort.


Mona Harry: Liebeserklärung an den Norden
Published on Nov 12, 2015

Diese junge Frau aus Hamburg traut sich was: Mona Harry trug beim Poetry Slam 2015 im Medienatelier Deggendorf (in Bayern) dieses Liebesgedicht an den Norden vor - authentisch, klar, schnörkellos und offensichtlich mit vielen Glückshormonen - aber sehen und hören Sie selbst...Bei diesem Video handelt es sich um einen Zuschnitt, der um die Anmoderation gekürzt wurde. Und hier geht es zur Facebook-Seite von Mona Harry:


Wendy Lower, 2015 Yom HaShoah Scholar, Exposes German Women's Role in Holocaust
May 6, 2015 | USC Shoah Foundation

USC Shoah FoundationProfessor Wendy Lower began her 2015 Yom HaShoah Lecture on Thursday by admitting that, like many scholars, she found her research topic by accident. In 1992, she was a PhD candidate at American University on a research trip to Ukraine. At the time, Holocaust scholars were mainly interested in researching the decision-making behind the Holocaust – how Adolf Hitler and other top Nazis actually directed the Final Solution to take place. So, Lower, too, was looking for key documents at archives in Ukraine that might shed light on this question.

She didn’t end up finding the crucial materials she was looking for, but she did find something else: personnel lists showing that a significant number of young German women were stationed in Ukraine during World War II. As she began digging further, she found countless other files indicating that women did indeed play active roles in the German war effort in a variety of ways. Lower said that this raised the question in her mind of why German women’s roles in the Holocaust had never been truly exposed or discussed before. Most depictions of German women during the Holocaust were “caricatures,” Lower said: either they were demure housewives whose only job was to produce Aryan babies, or they were fanatics, screaming and waving flags at Hitler rallies. Lower set out to create a more realistic portrait of these women, one that is just as nuanced and detailed as the study of male Nazis, and discover how women got involved in the war effort, why, and what they did.

She has performed her research with the help of USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive. Lower said that the testimonies have enabled her to add victims’ and survivors’ voices into her research, particularly to provide context for historical photographs. 

Her project has taken shape as the book Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields, which focuses on 13 women who represent a “spectrum” of how women participated in the Nazi party during World War II. In her lecture, Lower told the stories of three women featured in the book.

The first, Erna Petri, was tried and convicted along with her husband for crimes perpetrated during the Holocaust. She admitted to shooting six Jewish children on her farm, and said she did it because she was living surrounded by Nazi officials and had become “hardened” and wanted to prove herself to them. Another young woman went to Ukraine to work with the German Red Cross, entertaining German soldiers who were stationed on the Eastern front. Lower said that for many young women, going east felt like an adventure and was an opportunity to leave their hometown for the first time in their lives. Finally, a large number of the women perpetrators were secretaries who performed administrative work for SS commandants. They would maintain lists of Jews who were to be killed, destroy documented evidence of crimes, and control safes that contained secret orders.

Lower explained that these young women were part of a unique generation – a “lost generation.” They were born right after World War I and came of age during the rise of the Nazi Party. They were active politically, but they were not feminists; rather, they became “agents of a conservative, racist revolution.” One photo Lower found in archives depicts the wife of an SS commandant straddling a motorcycle, wearing an apron and with her hair pulled back into a conservative bun: a perfect combination of housewife and radical.

Learning the stories of these women has made it even more important for Lower to further investigate the role of German women in the Holocaust and share these stories with the public so that we can finally view female and male perpetrators and bystanders equally. Other scholars have stated that genocide cannot happen without the broad participation of society, Lower noted.

“And yet nearly all histories of the Holocaust leave out half of the population of that society as if women’s history happened somewhere else,” Lower said. “It is an illogical approach and puzzling omission.”

Women like Erna Petri and her contemporaries reveal the darkest side of female activism, she added. “They show us what could happen when women are mobilized for war and acquiesce in genocide,” she said.


How US students get a university degree for free in Germany
By Franz StrasserBBC News, Germany | 3 June 2015  BBC Magazine

While the cost of college education in the US has reached record highs, Germany has abandoned tuition fees altogether for German and international students alike. An increasing number of Americans are taking advantage and saving tens of thousands of dollars to get their degrees. (download this article)


Small Talk as Daily Bread
The Positive Aging Newsletter | Taos Institute, Ken Gergen

Photo Credit: Tiara via Compfight, cc

I had never liked small talk; for me, it seemed to be directionless chit-chat about nothing in particular. Invitations to small talk were everywhere, invited by neighbors, friends, guests, my assistant at the office. It was there at dinner parties, on train rides, and on planes—should I ever give an opening to the person sitting next to me to talk. My concerns were elsewhere—to the “important things in life,” solving problems, making progress, and reaching goals. Those were matters truly worthy of conversation. In recent years, however, I have changed my mind about small talk. There is another story to be told about its value, and its special importance as we grow older. 

For me the story began when I was giving a month of lectures at a university in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Because there was no guest-house for professors, I was quartered in the spacious apartment of an 86-year-old widow. I didn’t look forward to my tenure in the household, because Frau Ferlein seemed introverted and spoke only German. At the same time, I was trying to better my fluency in the language, so a little conversation with her seemed a good idea. I began to notice, however, that as I asked her questions about her life, and intensely sought to comprehend her replies, a transformation began to take place. Her reticent voice acquired volume; her timidity gave way to humorous story telling. As the days went by, I too began to change. I found myself listening not to improve my language skills, but because she was simply fun to be with. I became animated by the exchanges, and by the end of two weeks we were rollicking good friends. At the end of my stay, parting was indeed sweet sorrow. When I returned to visit her the following year, much of her buoyant energy had sadly disappeared. 

So, where lies the magic power of small talk? Consider this: Mary and I are taking a walk, and I casually say, “Hmm, seems to be clouding up.” Now contrast two possible responses, the first just a simple “hmm” as she stares straight ahead. The second is an energetic, “Oh well, at least we won’t be sunburned.” With the first response, something in my world also turns grey. I trudge onward in silence. With the second, the clouds now gain a new and more positive meaning. I may even chuckle. And what’s more, I myself take on significance. My step becomes lighter. For in her humorous response, Mary injects importance into the otherwise mundane. My interest is heightened. At the same time, she affirms my significance to her. I am brought into being as a person whose words—even if otherwise trivial—hold value. In small talk we hold our worlds together, we give these worlds color and dimension, and we affirm each other’s significance. Sometimes we also learn things we didn’t know or didn’t even know we wanted to know!

And so it is, as we grow older, as the ranks of our age-mates begin to thin, and the demands of working life are lessened, that we can appreciate anew the life-giving potentials of small talk. In the cheery greetings, a brief chat with neighbors, trading stories on the telephone, or sending small notes by email, text or mail, we animate the world about us. And in our daily lives with our partners, the small acts of appreciation, the attention we give to their well-being, the sympathetic gaze, or just the way we are energized when they enter the room, is significant. With small talk we affirm the significance of the realities we have created and enrich the world in which we live.


Doris Dörrie
geboren am 26. Mai 1955 in Hannover
deutsche Regisseurin, Produzentin und Schriftstellerin 
60. Geburtstag am 26. Mai 2015

Doris DörrieBiografie • Literatur & Quellen
„Der blaue Rock ist zu blau und der rote Pullover ist zu rot”, sagt Lotta,  „ich will das Prinzessinnenkleid anziehen.” In ihrem ersten Kinderbuch (1998) – übrigens zauberhaft bebildert von Julia Kaergel – läßt Doris Dörrie Mutter und Tochter in prächtigen Kleidern mit einer Krone auf dem Kopf mit der Straßenbahn zur Arbeit und in den Kindergarten fahren. Diese Szene kann als exemplarisch für Dörries Philosophie gelten: spielen, sich verkleiden, querdenken, Grenzen überschreiten, Ernstes in Leichtfüßiges verwandeln, eigenwillige Wege suchen, unterwegs sein …

doris dörrieDoris Dörrie trampte in der Sowjetunion, fuhr durch Südamerika, war häufig in Asien unterwegs („Rucksack habe ich immer abgelehnt”). Es sind auch Reisen zu sich selbst, die dann in ihren Filmen und Büchern wiederkehren.

Sie wuchs in Hannover als Tochter einer Arztfamilie auf und studierte nach dem Abitur von 1973 -1975 Theaterwissenschaft und Schauspiel in Kalifornien und New York. Von 1975 bis 1978 studierte sie an der Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen in München. Der erste Walzer heißt ihr erfolgreicher Abschlußfilm dort. Doris Dörrie dreht Kinderfilme (z.B. Paula aus Portugal) und Dokumentarfilme, u.a. das Porträt einer jungen Schäferin: Von Romantik keine Spur. Ihr dritter Kinofilm, die KomödieMänner (1985), wird im In- und Ausland ein überragender Publikumserfolg und macht Doris Dörrie weltweit bekannt.

1989 gründet Dörrie mit FreundInnen die Cobra Filmproduktions GmbH, die ihre nächsten Filme herstellt. Seit 1987 schreibt sie auch, unter anderem Kurzgeschichten, die mehrfach ausgezeichnet werden. Filme und Bücher ergänzen sich nun. So wird aus dem Drama Happy der Film Nackt (2002), aus den Kurzgeschichten Für immer und ewig der Film Keiner liebt mich (1993).dörrie keiner liebt mich

dörrie bin ich schönWährend der Dreharbeiten zu Bin ich schön? (1996) stirbt ihr Mann, der Kameramann Helge Weindler. Erst sechs Jahre später ist Doris Dörrie in der Lage, diesen Verlust in ihrem Roman Das blaue Kleid zu formulieren. Es ist kein Trauer-, sondern ein Trostbuch geworden: Witz und Fantasie führen aus dem Labyrinth. Die Trauerzeremonie auf Bali geht trotz Platzregen unbeirrt weiter … Dieser Blick auf fremde Rituale gibt dem Tod sein Gesicht zurück, durchbricht ein Tabu unserer Gesellschaft.

Mit der Inszenierung der Mozart-Oper Cosi fan tutte in Berlin (2001) wagt sich Doris Dörrie auf fremdes Terrain. Maestro Daniel Barenboim ist begeistert von der Präzision ihrer Arbeit; auch er liebt es, ausgetretene Pfade zu verlassen. Im Januar 2003 nimmt Doris Dörrie den Kulturellen Ehrenpreis der Stadt München entgegen. Es ist ihre neunte Auszeichnung. Sie erhält sie für ihr filmisches Schaffen, ihren Erfolgs-Film Nackt, der bei den Internationalen Filmfestspielen in Venedig zu sehen war. Gleich darauf folgt im März der Deutsche Bücherpreis für Das blaue Kleid.

Doris Dörrie lebt mit ihrer 1989 geborenen Tochter Carla in München. „Humor und Selbstironie”, sagt sie, „sind absolut notwendig, um zu überleben.” ~ Birgit-E. Rühe-Freist


Pfingsten: Ausgießung der heiligen Geistkraft oder Verzückte Zungen
 Luise F. Pusch, FemBio | am 05/30

FemBioAus Wir machen uns unsere Sprache selber: Ein Feminar. Zweiunddreißigste Lektion. Text von 2009.

Heute meldete die dpa:

Nur etwas mehr als die Hälfte der Deutschen kennt die Bedeutung des Pfingstfestes. Das ist das Ergebnis einer Umfrage für die «Bild am Sonntag». Demnach wissen 49 Prozent nicht, dass an den beiden Feiertagen der «Ausgießung des Heiligen Geistes» und der Gründung der Kirche gedacht wird.

FemBioWas hingegen die dpa und “Bild am Sonntag” nicht wissen:  “Der Heilige Geist” ist aus der Mode, heute reden wir stattdessen von der “Heiligen Geistkraft” (Bibel in gerechter Sprache). Andere sagen wohl auch “Heilige Geistin”. Gemeinsam ist den Neufassungen, dass sie die Weiblichkeit des Originals, des hebräischen (ruach) wie des griechischen (sophia), in der deutschen Übersetzung wiedergeben wollen. Schließlich ist eine rein männliche Hl. Dreifaltigkeit nicht mehr zeitgemäß; außerdem wird die Heilige Geistkraft durch eine Taube symbolisiert und nicht durch einen Täuberich!

Das eigentümliche Wort Pfingsten leitet sich von griech. πεντηκοστ? [?μ?ρα] (pentekost? [h?mera]) her und bedeutet „der fünfzigste Tag“. Am 50. Tag nach Pessach / Christi Auferstehung waren die Jünger und Jüngerinnen versammelt - und erlebten also die “Ausgießung der heiligen Geistkraft”: Flammen züngelten über ihren Häuptern, und plötzlich konnten sie “in Zungen reden”, so dass auch Anderssprachige sie verstehen konnten. Bei Luther liest sich “das Pfingstwunder” so (Apostelgeschichte 2, 1-6):

Und als der Pfingsttag gekommen war, waren sie alle an “einem” Ort beieinander. Und es geschah plötzlich ein Brausen vom Himmel wie von einem gewaltigen Wind und erfüllte das ganze Haus, in dem sie saßen. Und es erschienen ihnen Zungen, zerteilt wie von Feuer; und er setzte sich auf einen jeden von ihnen, und sie wurden alle erfüllt von dem Heiligen Geist und fingen an zu predigen in andern Sprachen, wie der Geist ihnen gab auszusprechen. Es wohnten aber in Jerusalem Juden, die warengottesfürchtige Männer aus allen Völkern unter dem Himmel. Als nun dieses Brausen geschah, kam die Menge zusammen und wurde bestürzt; denn ein jeder hörte sie inseiner eigenen Sprache reden.

Frauen gab es damals anscheinend noch nicht. Und das Wunder hielt auch nicht lange an, sonst bräuchten wir nicht so viele Bibelübersetzungen. gibt es allein acht (!) verschiedene Bibelübersetzungen in deutscher Sprache, 4 in englischer, außerdem Übersetzungen in 30 andere Sprachen.

All diesen Übersetzungen gemeinsam ist das eifrige Bemühen, die Frauen auszumerzen.

Und so fehlt denn auch bei die schöne neue Übersetzung der Bibel in gerechter Sprache, in der der obige Passus wie folgt aussieht:

Als der 50. Tag, der Tag des Wochenfestes, gekommen war, waren sie alle beisammen. Da kam plötzlich vom Himmel her ein Tosen wie von einem Wind, der heftig daherfährt, und erfüllte das ganze Haus, in dem sie sich aufhielten. Es erschienen ihnen Zungen wie von Feuer, die sich zerteilten, und auf jede und jeden von ihnen ließ sich eine nieder. Da wurden sie alle von heiliger Geistkraft erfüllt und begannen in anderen Sprachen zu reden; wie die Geistkraft es ihnen eingab, redeten sie frei heraus. Unter den Jüdinnen und Juden, die in Jerusalem wohnten, gab es fromme Menschenaus jedem Volk unter dem Himmel. Als nun dieses Geräusch aufkam, lief die Bevölkerung zusammen und geriet in Verwirrung, denn sie alle hörten sie in der eigenen Landessprache reden.

Was fällt der frauenbewegten Frau sonst noch zu Pfingsten ein? DasLesbenpfingsttreffen, eine ehrwürdige Einrichtung, die es schon in den 20er Jahren gab. 1992 wurde sie der nichtchristlichen Mehrheit zuliebe inLesbenfrühlingstreffen (LFT) umbenannt. Vom Pfingstwunder des Zungenredens können trotzdem die meisten Lesben auch beim LFT schöne gefühlvolle Lieder singen.


Der Preis der Verrohung
Menschenrechte sind nicht billig. Der Preis für eine menschenverachtende Asylpolitik wird aber noch viel höher sein.
KOMMENTAR VON INES KAPPERT • Ressortleiterin Meinung | der Taz | 17. April 2015

Menschen zahlen mit ihrem Leben (Streetart in Bamberg). 
Menschen zahlen mit ihrem Leben (Streetart in Bamberg).

Innenminister brauchen Feinde. Wie sonst können sie sich als Schutzpatrone inszenieren? Terroristen eignen sich prima für dieses Theater, gegebenenfalls tun es auch Linke, notfalls müssen unpolitische Kriminelle herhalten. Thomas de Maizière nun hat sich eine neue Berufsgruppe ausgesucht: Die Schlepper.

Das ist ungewöhnlich, aber zeitgemäß. Immerhin machen ertrinkende Flüchtlinge neuerdings Schlagzeilen, und der Innenminister muss sich fragen lassen, was er gegen das Massensterben im Mittelmeer zu unternehmen gedenkt.
Seine Antwort zwischen den Zeilen lautet: Nichts. Gut vernehmlich sagt er: Wir stecken in einem Dilemma. Denn wir können die Menschen nicht einfach ertrinken lassen. Doch wenn wir sie alle retten, dann hilft das vor allem den „kriminellen Schleppern“. Die verdienen Tausende Dollar damit, Menschen auf unsicheren Booten nach Europa zu bringen. Das müsse ein Ende haben, weshalb ein neues Seenothilfeprogramm nicht infrage komme.
Im Moment finden Tausende von Menschen den Tod. Weswegen in der Presse vielfach von einer „Tragödie“ gesprochen wird. Doch dieser Begriff geht fehl.

Kein unausweichliches Schicksal
So ist Tatsache, dass in den ersten vier Monaten dieses Jahres bereits schätzungsweise 900 Menschen ertrunken sind – im letzten Jahr waren es im selben Zeitraum 50 –, kein unausweichliches Schicksal. Es ist das Ergebnis einer politischen Entscheidung, nämlich der, das europäische Rettungsprogramm „Mare Nostrum“ einzustellen. „Mare Nostrum“ war von Oktober 2013 bis Oktober 2014 aktiv und rettete in dieser Zeit rund 100.000 Vertriebenen das Leben. Man kann dieses Programm jederzeit wieder aufnehmen.

Ines Kappert
Ines Kappert

Das aber wollen Europas Sicherheitspolitiker nicht. Und de Maizière als Sprachrohr der deutschen Konservativen will es schon gar nicht. Schließlich: Wenn die Leute nicht ertrinken, stellen sie in Europa Asylanträge, zum Beispiel in Deutschland. Darauf ist die deutsche Verwaltung nicht eingestellt (auch ein Ergebnis einer politischen, nämlich personaltechnischen Entscheidung).

Blöd nur, dass mangels Kapazitäten und Kompetenzen darüber diskutiert wird, Flüchtlinge nicht nur in Containern, sondern auch in ehemaligen KZs unterzubringen. Das übersteht kein guter Ruf unbeschadet. Also schien es opportun, das Programm zur Rettung durch eines zur Kontrolle zu ersetzen: „Triton“ (passenderweise heißt so ein griechischer Meeresgott) soll daher nicht mehr Leben, sondern EU-Außengrenzen schützen.
Über diese Fakten aber geht de Maizière hinweg. Und der ihn zur jüngsten Katastrophe interviewende ZDF-Journalist trägt sie auch nicht an ihn heran. Weshalb der Minister unwidersprochen Flüchtlingshelfer zum eigentlichen Problem erheben kann.

Die wirklichen Kosten
Ohne diese Helfer also blieben die jungen Männer und die vielen Kinder in Syrien oder in Libyen? Auch dafür fehlt dem Minister der Beleg. Doch wieder muss er keine Nachfrage befürchten. Weshalb er nahtlos zur Schelte der EU-Länder übergeht.

Sein Ärger, dass Frankreich oder England so gut wie niemanden aufnehmen, ist aber natürlich berechtigt. Doch würde das mächtige Berlin auf eine menschenwürdige Flüchtlingspolitik dringen, würde diese auch auf den Weg gebracht. Das tut Berlin aber nicht. Denn: Was ist mit den Kosten? Und es stimmt ja: Menschenrechtsschutz sind nicht billig. Trotzdem ist der eigentliche Preis der Verrohrung ein anderer, und er ist höher.
Eine EU, die es zulässt, dass Tausende vor ihren Küsten ertrinken, wird sich auch intern der grassierenden Menschenverachtung nicht erwehren können. Der Aufstieg der Rechten (wie hierzulande der AfD) ist Vorbote einer solchen Entwicklung. Was nämlich könnte ein de Maizière der Fremdenfeinden entgegenhalten? Nichts. Genau. Eine gerechte Flüchtlingspolitik ist daher vor allem eine Frage des Selbstschutzes.


When a black German woman discovered her grandfather was the Nazi villain of 'Schindler's List'
An odd series of events led Jennifer Teege to discover that her grandfather was none other than the notorious Nazi Amon Goeth
By Avner Shapira | Feb. 6, 2015

Jennifer Teege / Amon Goeth
Jennifer Teege / Amon Goeth

In the mid-1990s, near the end of the period during which she lived in Israel, Jennifer Teege watched Steven Spielberg’s film “Schindler’s List.” She hadn’t seen the film in a movie theater, and watched it in her rented room in Tel Aviv when it was broadcast on television.

“It was a moving experience for me, but I didn’t learn much about the Holocaust from it,” she tells me by phone from her home in Hamburg, mostly in English with a sprinkling of Hebrew. “I’d learned and read a great deal about the Holocaust before that. At the time I thought the film was important mainly because it heightened international awareness of the Holocaust, but I didn’t think I had a personal connection to it.”

Indeed, it was not until years later that Teege, a German-born black woman who was given up for adoption as a child, discovered that one of the central characters in the film, Amon Goeth, was her grandfather. Many viewers recall the figure of Goeth, the brutal commander of the Plaszow concentration camp in Poland – played in the film by Ralph Fiennes – from the scenes in which he shoots Jewish inmates from the porch of his home. But Teege, who had not been in touch with either her biological mother or biological grandmother for years, had no idea about the identity of her grandfather.

The discovery came like a bolt from the blue in the summer of 2008, when she was 38 years old, as she relates in the memoir “Amon,” which was published in German in 2013 (co-authored with the German journalist Nikola Sellmair), and is due out in English this April under the title “My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past.

Teege is scheduled to visit Israel next week to take part in events marking the book’s publication in Hebrew (from Sifriat Poalim), at the International Book Fair in Jerusalem, the University of Haifa and the Goethe Institute in Tel Aviv.

She opens her book by describing the 2008 visit to a library in Hamburg to look for material on coping with depression. While there, she happened to notice a book with a cover photograph of a familiar figure: her biological mother, Monika Hertwig (née Goeth). She immediately withdrew the book, titled “I Have to Love My Father, Right?” and which was based on an interview with her mother.

“The first shock was the sheer discovery of a book about my mother and my family, which had information about me and my identity that had been kept hidden from me,” Teege says. “I knew almost nothing about the life of my biological mother, nor did my adoptive family. I hoped to find answers to questions that had disturbed me and to the depression I had suffered from. The second shock was the information about my grandfather’s deeds.”

Thus Teege embarked on a long personal journey in the wake of the unknown family heritage. But in the first half year after the discovery at the library, she relates, “I lapsed into silence, I slept a lot and I wasn’t really functioning. Only afterward did I begin to analyze the situation and try to understand the characters of my mother and my grandmother. I only started to learn more about my grandmother at the end. Today I understand that I went through the process step by step, peeling away layer after layer. But in the first months I had no idea what to do.”

Teege was born on June 29, 1970, in Munich, the offspring of a brief affair between her mother and a Nigerian man. At the age of one month, she was placed in a Catholic children’s home, and when she was three, she was transferred to a foster family, which adopted her formally when she was seven. That also marked the end of the loose ties she had had until then with her mother and her grandmother.

The only black girl in the Munich neighborhood where she grew up, she was often the butt of insulting remarks about her skin color. In 1990, after graduating from high school, Teege went to Paris, where she became friends with a young Israeli woman, Noa Berman-Herzberg, now a screenwriter. Teege arrived in Israel the following year, toured around worked on a tourist boat in Eilat and had a brief affair with an Israeli man. After they broke up, she decided to remain in Tel Aviv. She learned Hebrew, received a B.A. from the Middle Eastern and African Studies Department of Tel Aviv University, and worked in the city’s Goethe Institute. She left the country in 1995.

“Germans who come to Israel never know what kind of reception they will get,” she says. “I was welcomed with open arms. My German origin generated interest – not because of the Holocaust or Nazism, but mainly because of [then] recent events, such as the toppling of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany. In any event, I didn’t represent the German stereotype.”

Her skin color served as camouflage, even if Teege didn’t yet know for what. Years later, when she discovered her actual roots, she recalled the many Holocaust survivors she had met at the Goethe Institute. They came because they wanted to speak and hear German, the language of their old homeland, she notes in her book. When she saw the numbers tattooed on their arms in the camps, she felt for the first time that there was something disadvantageous about belonging to the German nation – something that demanded an apology.

Teege shared her rented apartment in Tel Aviv with the actor and director Tzachi Grad, then at the start of his professional career.

“Jennifer seemed to me special and beautiful, a woman with European class,” he recalls now. “We got along very well in the apartment, we became friends and talked about many different subjects. The fact that it turned out years later that her grandfather was a sadistic Nazi is no reflection on her, even if some of the genetic matter and traits came from him. I do not attribute to the Nazis’ descendants the wrongs perpetrated by their forebears.”

Therapist in tears

After leaving Israel, Teege moved to Hamburg and started to work in an ad agency, where she met her partner, Goetz Teege. They have two children. When she found out that Amon Goeth was her grandfather, she entered psychotherapy. The therapist himself burst into tears when he heard her story at their first meeting, but afterward helped her cope with the questions that hounded her.

Digging into the past brought her face to face with many of the atrocities perpetrated by her grandfather, who was known as the “butcher of Plaszow.” He shot inmates from his porch every morning and had two dogs that were trained to attack prisoners at his command.

After the war, Goeth faced trial in Krakow on after being accused of genocide, including responsibility for the death of 8,000 people in Plaszow and the murder of some 2,000 more during the evacuation of the Krakow Ghetto. He denied responsibility for the crimes, and said he had only been following orders. He was hanged in September 1946. His last words were “Heil Hitler.”

Goeth never saw Monika, the daughter he had fathered a year earlier during an extramarital affair he had with Ruth Irene Kalder, a young German woman who worked as a secretary in the Wehrmacht; Goeth's wife had remained behind in Austria.

The couple were introduced by Oskar Schindler – who needed to have good ties with Goeth so as to obtain Jewish workers for his factory – at a dinner in Goeth’s villa. Kalder became Goeth’s lover, moved in, raised two dogs of her own and lived a life of wanton luxury. His plan to divorce his wife and marry Kalder was dashed when he was arrested and executed.

Teege, who remembers her grandmother as a central figure in her early childhood, who showed her more warmth and love than her mother, also delves into her grandmother’s attitude toward Goeth’s deeds. For years Kalder denied his crimes and claimed she knew nothing about them; she and Teege never discussed the subject.

In a conversation in 1975 with the Israeli journalist and historian Tom Segev (who spoke to her while he was reporting his 1988 book “Soldiers of Evil”), she said, “It was a beautiful time. We enjoyed being together. My Goeth was the king, and I was the queen. Who wouldn’t have traded places with us?”

In 1983, when Teege was 13, her adoptive parents told her they had seen mourning notices in the paper for her biological grandmother. They did not know that Ruth Irene Goeth (she had changed her surname after the war) had committed suicide in the wake of a serious illness – and also, apparently, because of belated regret for her moral blindness during the Holocaust.

After learning about Goeth’s deeds and the life her grandmother led in Krakow during the war, Teege decided to go see the place where her grandfather had murdered people – to get very close to him in order to distance herself from him afterward, as she writes in the book. I ask her whether she succeeded in her mission.

“At the beginning I didn’t know that it was important to be close to Amon,” she replies. “I felt a powerful need to be done with this part, and I decided to visit Krakow and the memorial monument for the Plaszow camp, to place flowers there and honor the victims, so that I could resume a normal life. When I returned to Germany after the visit, I felt a certain release. I wanted to let go of the past but not to make it disappear. I didn’t want to be like my mother, who felt so tied to the family past and couldn’t disconnect herself from it. I managed to achieve distance.”

Closing the circle

In her book, Teege describes her quest to learn about her grandparents, mother and biological father (whom she did not meet until adulthood). She also talks about the difficulty she had sharing her life story with her Israeli girlfriends. She remembered that relatives of two of her friends had perished in the Holocaust, although she did not know whether they had relatives in the ghettos and camps where her grandfather had served.

One of Teege’s Israeli friends, Anat Ben Moshe, now a nurse at Yoseftal Hospital in Eilat, recalls that she and Noa Berman-Herzberg had stayed in touch with Teege after she left Israel, and had even attended her wedding, but that suddenly, and over a period of two years, she stopped responding to their emails.

In 2011, when the Israeli film “The Flood” (for which Berman-Herzberg wrote the screenplay, together with the director, Guy Nativ, and which stars the former roommate, Tzachi Grad) was accepted by the Berlin Film Festival, Teege was invited to the screening. With some apprehension, she renewed the connection with her friends, and told Berman-Herzberg the whole story. Later that year, Teege visited Israel, and she and Ben Moshe met for a long talk.

“I wanted to understand all the details and to know that she was seeing the picture properly and coping with it. I supported her when she decided to make the story public,” Ben Moshe says. Later, she invited Teege to accompany her son’s high-school class on a visit to the Plaszow camp. Teege accepted the invitation, told the students her story and replied to their stunned questions. Her book ends with an account of the extraordinary ceremony that the teenagers from Israel conducted together with her, in memory of the victims in the camp of which her grandfather was commandant.

Teege is very excited about her upcoming visit to Israel. “I very much wanted the book to be translated into Hebrew, and I am looking forward to seeing how it’s received,” she says. “People ask me if I’m not afraid of the visit, but I have no fears. I lived in Israel for five years, I have friends there and I know the mentality a little.

“I am first of all Jennifer and not first of all Amon Goeth’s granddaughter. I am coming as a private person, even though I know that I am more than that. The survivors who were in contact with me see me differently. I am so different from the figure of my grandfather. Some of them, who were in touch with me after the book came out in German, responded very warmly and said that reading my story was a kind of closing of the circle for them.”

‘Drop of humanity’

One of the survivors who contacted Teege was Rena Birnhack, 88, from Haifa, one of the Schindler’s list survivors. She expects to meet with the younger woman during her visit here next week.

“Goeth was even worse than he is described in Teege’s book, but it was important for me to contact her, because I am perhaps the only Jew who was left alive and survived because of her grandfather,” Birnhack says, in an interview with Haaretz.

She was born in Krakow and sent to the city’s ghetto with her family as a girl. She relates that she took the family’s dog with her to the ghetto. The dog gave birth to two puppies, and when the ghetto was liquidated, in March 1943, and the residents were summoned for a “selection” process – to decide who would be deported to Auschwitz and Belzec, and who would do forced labor in the Plaszow camp – Birnhack had to abandon the older dog but took the two puppies, wrapped in a small coat.

“It was the first time I saw Amon, a huge, frightening person,” Birnhack recalls. “In the selection he indicated with a finger movement who should go to which side. When he saw me holding the coat, he shouted, ‘What do you have there?’ But when he saw the two puppies, a drop of humanity came into his eyes for a few seconds. He asked me what I intended to do with them, and I offered them to him as a present. He ordered one of the soldiers to take the puppies, and sent me to the side with those who would remain alive.”

From reading Teege’s book, Birnhack learned that Goeth gave the puppies to Irene, who raised them in the villa. During her time in Plaszow, Birnhack saw Goeth only at camp roll-calls – or when he shot inmates from the porch. She, her sister and her parents were among the Schindler survivors.


Germany Isn't Turning Backward: What Does Pegida Say About Germany?
New York Times Online | By ANNA SAUERBREY | JAN. 22, 2015

Jason ReitmanBERLIN — I am a patriot. Being German, those words don’t come easily, particularly for a leftish, skeptical urbanite like myself. And particularly not now, just a few days before we commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. But yes, I love my country.

The reason I say it out loud, now, is that I feel I have to defend Germany against those on the streets of Dresden who also call themselves “patriots” — “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West,” to be precise, which is the name of a loose alliance that brings thousands to the streets every Monday. Since the terror attacks in Paris, the movement has grown: The police counted 25,000 demonstrators on Jan. 12, the Monday after the attacks, a 7,500 jump from the week before. (It canceled its Jan. 19 protest over security concerns.)

Known by its German acronym, Pegida, the group has inflicted great harm on the country’s international reputation. Our neighbors and allies are asking whether Germany is stumbling back into the darkness of xenophobia, and rightfully so. Many Germans are asking the same question these days.

There are two ways to look at the situation. The optimistic take is to note that, for all the attention Pegida gets inside of Germany and abroad, Germany has never been as liberal, culturally diverse and open toward minorities as it is today.

Last year a biennial poll conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a foundation associated with the left-wing Social Democrats (and thus unlikely to underestimate the problem), found that anti-foreigner attitudes were at a historic low. While its 2012 poll found that about a quarter of Germans reported hostile views toward foreigners, only 7.5 percent did in 2014. And anti-Semitism, which is on the rise elsewhere in Europe, has dropped significantly, to 4.1 percent from 8.6.

Apart from the polls, there is quite a bit of evidence for a new openness. On Jan. 12, 100,000 people went to the streets nationwide in counterdemonstrations against Pegida, showing their solidarity with German Muslims. In Leipzig, 4,800 pro-Pegida protesters were met by 30,000 counterprotesters.

Meanwhile, all over Germany, private initiatives are popping up to help refugees. In Duisburg, a local politician has collected 100 bicycles for refugee children. In Zirndorf, doctors are providing refugees with free medication. Even in Dresden, Pegida’s stronghold, groups are helping refugees with the hard tasks of getting settled, like providing translation services at appointments with authorities.

Still, the enormous support for Pegida requires us to consider another, darker reading of the situation, as evidence of troubling developments within German society.

One is the failure of mainstream politics. There is a tendency among the major parties to move toward the center of the political spectrum, creating an ideological void at its far right and left ends. The far right in particular has lacked political representation in the past years, which helps explain why a new populist party, Alternative für Deutschland, had such enormous success in European and state elections last year. While leaders of the Alternative, as it’s called, claim to be primarily anti-European Union, many have also expressed support for Pegida.

Munich Pergida-Bragida and Anti Demonstration in Munich 4
Photo Credit: paspog via Compfight (cc)

Another change revolves around the Internet. In this view, the Pegida people are just the usual frustrated lot looming at the edges of society. Now, emboldened by the reinforcement they find in like-minded communities online, they’re taking to the streets.

And a third is the persistence of regional differences. Though Pegida has drawn support in western Germany, it is strongest in the former East Germany. In the East, xenophobic attitudes are still more common than in the West, for a complex mix of reasons, including higher unemployment rates, but also because of feelings of inferiority.

We also have to ask what Pegida says about Germany, whatever its causes. It certainly indicates that the relative social peace we are experiencing right now is fragile. But it also shows how the country, still new to the multiethnic game, is struggling with its identity. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the first waves of immigrants arrived, the “Gastarbeiter” (guest workers) from Turkey and Italy who came to fill the labor gap in the country’s prospering postwar economy.

For decades, Germany was able to pretend that the guest workers were just that, guests. But the third generation of Turkish immigrants is now reaching adulthood. At the same time, immigration numbers are rising: Germany’s immigrant population grew by about 430,000 last year. Many came from the Southern European countries that still suffer from the euro crisis, but last year Germany also welcomed some 220,000 refugees, mostly from Syria, Eritrea, Serbia and Afghanistan.

The white face of German society is changing at a rapid pace. In this context, the Pegida protests are getting such attention because they act as a weekly checkup of German society. It’s as if every Monday, the news media are putting a trembling hand to the country’s forehead, checking its temperature, wondering whether our ugly, xenophobic past is taking over again. And we don’t have to look back to the 1930s to find that past; in the early 1990s, when the country last saw similar numbers of refugees, an irrational fear of foreigners taking the jobs of “real Germans” gripped the country, culminating in anti-immigrant riots in several cities, with several deaths, many wounded and thousands scared.

Last week, a 20-year-old refugee from Eritrea was found stabbed to death near his apartment in Dresden. Neighbors reported that swastikas had been painted onto the door of his apartment. Germans held their breath. Was this a neo-Nazi murder? Was there a connection to the Pegida rallies? Then, on Thursday, authorities arrested one of the victim’s roommates, another asylum seeker, who they say has admitted to the attack. Still, we don’t trust ourselves. Why should our neighbors? Why should you?

However the investigation turns out, I am an optimist, believing that we will not see history repeated. Germany has come a long way since even the early ’90s. And rather than causing violence, Pegida has set off a public debate on Germany’s national identity. This is long overdue. Prominent conservative politicians like Peter Tauber, the secretary general of the Christian Democratic Party, have demanded a new, clearer framework for immigration. Last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that “Islam is part of Germany.” It was an assessment, rather than an ideological statement. It was the simple acknowledgment of a simple reality.

Anna Sauerbrey is an editor on the opinion page of the daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel. Updated: This Op-Ed has been updated to include developments in the news.


Sexism is Germany's hidden secret
January 2015: Casual sexism has become a hidden part of German culture, says DW's Kate Brady. She takes a look at the country's stereotyped gender roles - from Mummy Merkel, to glib dirndl comments, and even gender-specific sausages.

Bier Mädchen
Photo Credit: Arne Kuilman via Compfight (cc)

Germany has boomed in popularity in recent years. It's Europe's powerhouse. It's driven. It's inventive. It's hip. But it also has a sexist secret which is blemishing gender roles and representations in society.

Following the 2013 Brüderle-gate uproar, when the Free Democrats' then-leader Rainer Brüderle commented how well a female journalist could “fill out a dirndl,” it looked as though Germany could finally address one of the country's largely hidden pitfalls which had become embedded in its culture. However, the German media still leaves much to be desired in catching up in the fight to stamp out casual sexism.

In a country where married women have legally been allowed to accept a job against her husband's wishes only since 1977, it comes as little surprise that, particularly among the more conservative quota of Germany's older generation, I often have the impression that defending your opinion as a woman remains “improper” - to the extent that one woman once described it to me as “unladylike.”

Unlike the public sexism of lecherous stares and wolf-whistling which I'd unfortunately become accustomed to in daily life in Britain, in Germany it appears to be rooted much deeper in conservative traditions.

Mummy Merkel
As the country with the longest-serving female leader currently in office, it would be logical to think that Germany would have come on in leaps and bounds in accepting women in roles of leadership and power.
But the press couldn't even give Angela Merkel her credit where it was due. Since coming to power in 2005, she has been dubbed as “Mutti” - Germany's “Mummy.” Despite all the positive connotations associated with motherhood, I doubt very much that Germany would have referred to former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder as “Vati” or “Daddy.”

In similar fashion, as Merkel celebrated her 60th birthday in July last year, the German media went to town, providing the nation with a plethora of life accounts of the chancellor. Many chose to run similar headlines to that of the Stuttgarter Zeitung which read, “From Kohl's little girl to the nation's Mummy,” - failing to highlight any of her achievements prior to being appointed as Federal Minister for Women and Youth in 1991 under Chancellor Helmut Kohl, or any since for that matter.

Political target
Television, as the number one mass media outlet, has without doubt the greatest influence on impressions and misconceptions of gender representations in Germany. But earlier this month, when Katja Suding - leader of the Free Democrats in the city state of Hamburg - appeared on television show "Tagesschau," German broadcaster ARD chose to transport the nation to a largely bygone era of 1980s television production. From behind the scenes, one camera man decided to treat Germany's viewers to a panning shot over the politician's legs - a perspective of Suding which many viewers deemed as sexist.
Apologizing to Suding on the “Tagesschau” blog, ARD-aktuell's chief editor Kai Gniffke, admitted: “I assume that camera shot was produced by someone from the school and spirit of past decades, who found this portrayal particularly attractive.”

The 'Wurst' in promotion
Advertisement in Germany has also been a top contributor to categorizing gender image in recent years. “Sex sells,” as advertisers and consumers are seemingly never allowed to forget.

But it is by no means only women who are subjected to "passive sexism" in the promotion of products in Germany. German supermarket Edeka was one of the big names to come under fire after it launched a range of “his and hers” Bratwurst sausages, which critics claimed were promoting sexual stereotyping. The mens' sausages, marketed as “hearty and strongly-spiced” were not only larger, but also cheaper than the women's which were advertized as “lean.” In a parting shot to pull in the wurst-loving nation, the men's packaging also featured the image of a woman and the ladies' a pectoral-flexing male - leaving the poor man to be pulled apart like a piece of meat.

Photo Credit: WTFeminism via Compfight (cc)

Own goal
Ferrero Deutschland, the offspring of the Italian chocolate giant of the same name, has also caused a stir on numerous occasions since launching its “gender-specific” Kinder Surprise eggs back in 2012. The pink “girl” egg, with the slogan “only for girls” was later followed up by a series of confectionary eggs which included a “World Cup footballer” egg and a “Footballer's wife” egg. The company's Facebook page was inundated with complaints that Ferrero was categorizing what was deemed as suitable for boys and girls.

Who's the daddy?
Another recurring offender of gender role stereotyping in Germany is Aptamil, which continues to launch a string of television adverts for baby formula milk, showing a mother at home, feeding her baby. According to the chain of adverts, at least, German fathers are incapable of bottle feeding a baby. As Germany continues to encourage new fathers to take advantage of their paternity leave, the somewhat elusive father figure across the adverts is hardly doing anyone any favors.

Cultural sexism?
When the employment discrimination law was enforced upon the European Union in 2000, several German lawyers rejected the two directives, claiming that there was no sexism in Germany. Day-to-day tell-tale signs, however, show that the widespread tradition of specific gender roles remains very much an issue in Germany's media outlets. The largely hidden attitude of casual sexism, which has become a subtly engrained part of Germany's culture, appears to be being drip-fed into society and remains ignored in many quarters.

But if it doesn't pick up the pace, Germany may soon be left behind with 20th century gender relations, while the rest of us pursue a life of gender equality.


What Happened to Mary Berg?
A young girl’s account of the Warsaw Ghetto was a big success. Then the diary—and its author—disappeared.
By Amy Rosenberg • July 17, 2008
• The Tablet (download the article)

Mary Berg in New York, 1945Mary Berg, born and raised in Poland, was nineteen in March 1944, when she stepped off a prisoner-of-war exchange ship from Lisbon and onto a dock in New York. She stood with her American-born mother, her Polish father, and her younger sister, clutching a suitcase that contained her U.S. passport (thanks to her mother’s citizenship) and a set of twelve diaries describing her experiences in the Warsaw Ghetto. Before she cleared immigration, she met Samuel L. Shneiderman, a journalist who had come from Poland a few years earlier. Thirty-seven at the time, Shneiderman had worked as a reporter in Warsaw, become the Paris correspondent for a few Polish dailies, and covered the Spanish Civil War until he left Europe in 1940. In New York, he made it his mission to spread the news of Poland’s pain, and in particular the pain of its Jews. It’s not known quite how he and Berg met on the dock after her ship anchored; it seems he was milling about, seeking stories, and she captured his attention. (Judging from pictures, she cut a striking figure, tall and sturdy, with dramatic dark looks and gigantic eyes.) However it happened, he learned about her journals and convinced her to let him edit them.

The two worked together closely, Berg growing close to the journalist’s family as she spent weeks turning her Polish shorthand into actual narrative at Shneiderman’s kitchen table, his wife and two children looking on. After advising her about clarifications and additions he thought she should make, Shneiderman translated the narrative into Yiddish, and two months later, not long before D-Day, an excerpt appeared as the first in a series of ten monthly installments in one of New York’s leading Yiddish newspapers, the politically and religiously conservative Der morgen Zshurnal.

The grim facts Berg described are familiar to us now—all too familiar; we can easily fail to register their horror—but American readers in 1944 did not know them. A few other articles and pamphlets offering eyewitness testimonies emerged around the same time, but none did what Berg’s did: chronicled day-to-day life in the ghetto from its initial days through to the eve of residents’ first armed resistance, more than two years later.

Here, in brief outline, is the story the excerpts told: Berg was fifteen in the autumn of 1939, when the German army invaded her native city of Lodz. She and her family fled, walking and bicycling the seventy miles to Warsaw. The ghetto was officially established about a year after the family settled in. As part of the moneyed class—her father was a respected art dealer and they’d managed to escape with some funds—they had it easier than many around them. (Berg felt guiltily aware of her advantages. “Only those who have large sums of money are able to save themselves from this terrible life,” she wrote, describing the hunger and sickness she’d seen in others.) In some ways, her accounts of daily life are astonishing for the normality they portray: relatives getting married, people going to work, friends chatting in cafés, students—herself included—working toward graphic arts degrees, theatre aficionados attending cabarets. But all that was short lived, and her accounts of the outrages she saw on the street are equally astonishing: “Sometimes a child huddles against his mother, thinking that she is asleep and trying to awaken her, while, in fact, she is dead.” In July 1942, Berg and others with foreign passports were put into the Pawiak prison, near the center of the ghetto, while most of the rest of the inhabitants were deported to their deaths. She watched them leave from the prison windows. “The whole ghetto is drowning in blood,” she wrote that August. “How long are we going to be kept here to witness all this?”

Searching for food in the courtyard, drawn by Mary BergAfter its initial appearance in Der morgen Zshurnal, translations of Berg’s tale landed on the pages of several other papers—the leftist (and nonreligious) English-language P.M., Aufbau, a German-language paper aimed at a Jewish readership, and Contemporary Jewish Record, a precursor to Commentary. Soon after, in February 1945, L.B. Fischer—a German press that fled Europe and established temporary wartime headquarters in New York in 1942—published the diary in book form with a dust jacket Berg herself had drawn, an image of the brick wall that marked the ghetto boundary. Laudatory reviews appeared in the Saturday Review and The New Yorker. In The New York Times Book Review, Marguerite Young wrote, “Without qualification, this reviewer recommends Mary Berg’s Warsaw Ghetto to everybody.” Fellow Poles realized the significance of the books as well.

Renowned poet Julian Tuwim, also a native of Lodz and an occasional customer of Berg’s father, called the book “a Baedeker of our misery.” Over the next two years, translated versions appeared in five countries, and Berg became widely enough known that she was considered a New York celebrity. She marched on City Hall with signs demanding action to save Jews still alive in Poland. She gave talks before audiences and interviews on the radio. And then she, along with her book, disappeared.

In fact, if you’re not a Holocaust memoir buff, you’ve probably never heard of Berg’s wartime account, whereas you surely learned of Anne Frank’s diary before you were old enough to be a buff of anything. That’s in part because Berg’s book fell out of print in the early 1950s, right around the time the English-language edition of Frank’s diary was issued. (Frank’s has been in print continuously ever since.) On the surface, the two teenage diarists had a lot in common. Both were from well-off families, both wrote about the hardships they suffered. Both began their diaries on their birthdays (or, in Berg’s case, on her adopted birthday, because her actual one coincided with Hitler’s, and Jews weren’t allowed to be born on the same day as the Führer). But Frank was hidden from the full horror of the war while she wrote her diary; her entries necessarily focus on her own emotional development and the quotidian aspects of life in a small space. Berg stepped out into the streets and saw atrocities every day. Her words bear witness to the suffering and violence all around her and make her tale harder to take. Lawrence Langer, author of the landmark study Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory, puts it this way: “Anne Frank’s diary was and is more popular because it records no horrors; the horrors came after she stopped writing, so readers don’t have to confront anything painful.”

Last year, Susan Pentlin helped usher into publication a new edition of Berg’s diary—sixty-two years after its initial release. Pentlin, a professor emerita of modern languages at the University of Central Missouri, suggests that Berg’s withdrawal from the public eye played a big part in the forgetting of the book. Pentlin interviewed Shneiderman in the early 1990s, a few years before he died, and he told her that Berg walked away from the book at some point in the early 1950s. She wanted nothing more to do with it and hoped to forget the life she’d led in Europe, Berg had told him, as she broke off contact with him and his family. Sometime earlier, in 1950, L.B. Fischer disbanded its American outpost and returned to Germany. The company sold the rights to Berg’s diary to A.A. Wyn, publisher of Ace Books, an imprint famous for its paperback genre novels and, at the time, for its stinginess toward authors. Wyn sat on the rights. After he died in 1967, his widow sold them back to Shneiderman. Berg still refused involvement.

Until the diary was republished last year, interest in it had been scarce. Historians and researchers knew of it, certainly, as it appeared frequently in bibliographies of Holocaust studies, but it was only in the mid-1980s, when a Polish version was published for the first time and a Warsaw theater staged a dramatic reading, that public attention rekindled briefly. The play’s director contacted Berg to invite her to the show, but she responded through friends, refusing to return to Poland to watch it, according to a New York Times article at the time. And when Pentlin contacted her in 1995 about the possibility of reprinting the book, Berg responded bitterly.

Instead of continuing to milk the Jewish Holocaust to its limits,” she wrote, “do go and make a difference in all those Holocausts taking place right now in Bosnia or Chechin….Don’t tell me this is different.” Berg wanted nothing to do with any revival. “She told me to ‘bug off,’” Pentlin says. “I also understand that she has denied being Mary Berg on several occasions.” At the time, she was seventy-one years old and still living in the United States; if she knows where, Pentlin isn’t saying. Pentlin also says she doesn’t know if Berg is alive today, and there is no obituary on record.

Mary and her sister Anna in the Warsaw GhettoIt goes without saying that Berg was one of the lucky ones. Unlike Anne Frank, she escaped Europe alive. Her family escaped with her, and she saw her story published. She heard critics, reviewers, and readers call her a hero, her story evidence of, as The New York Times put it, “the dignity of man.” But perhaps this reception was what eventually drove Berg away from her story. “Dignity,” says Langer, “is the last word I would use to describe the anguish of the ill and starving Jews in the ghetto. If you check some of the early reviews, you will see how eager most of them were to transform this into a heroic story.” Berg did not want to be a hero. As she wrote from the Vittel internment camp in France, where she was sent after her ghetto imprisonment, “We, who have been rescued from the ghetto, are ashamed to look at each other. Had we the right to save ourselves? Here everything smells of sun and flowers and there—there is only blood, the blood of my own people.” The account in Der morgen Zshurnal was published before the war ended, before the Jews of Hungary were decimated, while it was still possible to hope some people might be rescued. Berg published her diary as a call to action. “I shall do everything I can to save those who can still be saved,” she wrote. “I will tell, I will tell everything, about our sufferings and our struggles and the slaughter of our dearest, and I will demand punishment for the [Germans]….who enjoyed the fruits of murder….A little more patience, and all of us will win freedom!”

But not all of them did, of course, and Berg’s disappearance suggests that even those who escaped were never free. Is it grim to wonder what would have become of Anne Frank had she survived Bergen-Belsen, what would have become of her book? Philip Roth does so in his first Zuckerman novel, The Ghost Writer. Alive and in hiding (according, at least, to Zuckerman’s imagination), Frank, under her assumed identity, explains why she could not reveal herself after learning about the publication of her diary: “I was the incarnation of the millions of unlived years robbed from the murdered Jews. It was too late to be alive now. I was a saint.”

With memoir, it is the fact of a life outside the pages that gives the book its aura. If that life has a tragic end, like Frank’s, it’s possible, as Roth suggests, to feel a kind of catharsis—often a desperately needed one. If the life that comes after is one of triumph over adversity (like, say, Elie Wiesel) we derive something different—a sense of hope, perhaps, or at least satisfaction. Mary Berg’s diary offers neither catharsis nor satisfaction. The story that comes after it is not tragic or triumphant; there is, in fact, no story. A terrible, true event took place, and someone lived to tell about it, and the world responded either indifferently or with misguided sympathy, and many hundreds of thousands more died despite the truths that had been told. After that there was nothing left to say. (download the article)


Ten objects that made modern Germany
To mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and ahead of a British Museum exhibition, Neil MacGregor chooses the icons that shaped the memories of the new nation
The Guardian, Friday 26 September 2014

It is 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell and a new Germany was born. In the last quarter of a century the country has seen an unprecedented opening up of archives and a programme of national education and much public debate about the different inheritances of East and West Germany. There has also been an unprecedented building of monuments marking the horrors of the recent past. But what are the memories that German citizens bring to their new state? What, in short, does the world look like if you are German?

At the forefront of that memory is the Third Reich and the Holocaust.

Volkswagen Beetle. Photograph: Tim Woodcock
Volkswagen Beetle. Photograph: Tim Woodcock

But there is more than that, and one of the ways that German history is not like other European histories is that Germans consciously use it as a warning to act differently in the future. As the historian Michael Stürmer says, "for a long time in Germany, history was what must not be allowed to happen again". This is very different from Britain or France, where most public engagement with history, in terms of monuments and memorials, is to honour valour and heroism, with little public recognition of any wrongdoing, or of follies that might have led to the wars in which the valour had to be demonstrated. What is striking about German war memorials is that they look forward not back—a characteristic clearly visible in their parliament building.

The historic Reichstag was burnt out in 1933, with the fire blamed on the communists and used to advantage by the Nazis. During the war it was badly damaged, then occupied by the Russians. After reunification the decision was made to restore it, but the marks of the 1933 fire, as well as graffiti made by Soviet soldiers, were left untouched, as a reminder to legislators that if you get things as wrong as Germany did then the consequences are unimaginably terrible. An MP travelling to the Reichstag today will pass not only the Holocaust memorial but also memorials to the killing of homosexuals, disabled people and Roma. When they get to the building, they find it topped by a huge glass dome, to which the public have access. So not only do you have an emblem of a transparent legislature, but the public can literally exercise oversight over their government—a direct reversal of the situation under both the Nazis and the Stasi.

In effect the building is a meditation on different aspects of history. I can't think of another country in the world that lives so closely with the acutely uncomfortable reminders of its past in order to help it act more wisely in future.

In making our radio series, British Museum exhibition and book we have tried to look at objects that evoke memories of which pretty well all Germans can say "this is part of me". Some are obvious, such as the Gutenberg Bible. Every German knows that Germany invented printing and, in that sense, made the modern world. But we have also tried to focus on elements that the British public might not be so familiar with, as well as areas of German history about which there is still a reticence in Germany. People talk about the Holocaust very honestly and fully, but subjects such as the huge civilian losses from allied bombing raids are little discussed, unlike in this country. Yet it remains a potent memory.

It has always been the British Museum's job to present the history we need in order to make sense of now. Germany is the European state we most need to understand if we are going to comprehend both Europe, and the world.

Read more…


A Debate Over Tiananmen Finds Echoes in Germany’s Fascist Past

Army tanks hold positions on an overpass in Beijing on June 6, 1989, two days after the crushing of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations.Credit Vincent Yu/Associated Press
Army tanks hold positions on an overpass in Beijing on June 6, 1989, two days after the crushing of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. (Credit Vincent Yu/Associated Press)

The military suppression of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests in June 1989 was a ‘‘one-off’’ in China’s recent history. Its leaders lost control of the situation. China is freer today than in 1989. Its people have the right to forget.

That was the gist of recent articles by Frank Sieren, a Beijing-based German media consultant and columnist for Deutsche Welle, a German state-run broadcaster, the first of which ran on the station’s website on June 4, the 25th anniversary of the killings in Beijing. They prompted outrage among Chinese political exiles and rights activists in Germany, and an impassioned exchange ensued on the broadcaster’s website between Mr. Sieren and Chang Ping, a Chinese journalist. The dispute raises questions that go to the heart of ideas of historical crimes and responsibility: Can a massacre and its aftermath — hundreds, possibly thousands, died in Beijing — ever be explained, even excused, in this way?

‘‘The massacre of June 4, 1989, was no one-off,’’ ran the headline of Mr. Chang’s first retort. Mr. Chang is a former editor at a Chinese newspaper, Southern Weekly, and his writings have been banned by the authorities.

Instead, the killings showed a ‘‘systematic continuity’’ in the nature of Communist Party rule that persists to this day, he wrote, citing the state’s vast ‘‘stability maintenance’’ program, which snares common criminals, justice-seekers and political dissidents alike. Censorship means Chinese are not allowed to remember what happened, Mr. Chang wrote: How can they have the right to forget, if they don’t even have the right to remember?

A Nazi rally in Nuremberg, Germany, on Sept. 11, 1938.Credit Associated Press
A Nazi rally in Nuremberg, Germany, on Sept. 11, 1938. (Credit Associated Press)

Germany is proud of how it has dealt with its own troubled history, a process known as ‘‘Vergangenheitsbewältigung,’’ or ‘‘coming to terms with the past.’’ Its historians track such issues closely. Some historians see in the debate over Tiananmen echoes of Germany’s struggles with fascism and Communism. Among them is Marion Detjen, an author and researcher who specializes in contemporary history at Humboldt University in Berlin. To her, to describe Tiananmen as a one-off is ‘‘outrageous.’’

‘‘It’s morally and intellectually totally unacceptable to describe crimes as ‘one-off’ events, to relativize and excuse them,’’ she wrote in an email.

‘‘The crime happened,’’ she wrote. ‘‘Why and how it came to that is remembered, and demands a historical coming-to-terms. The fact that it happened is enough to make clear it is a symptom and an expression of problems in the political culture.’’

Describing Tiananmen, which he made clear he views as a tragedy, Mr. Sieren used a historically loaded term used by some postwar historians to explain Nazism: Ausrutscher, or ‘‘one-off,’’ ‘‘lapse,’’ even ‘‘blooper.’’ China’s government, some Chinese and some foreigners, particularly those with business interests in the country, have long explained Tiananmen as a necessary response to an emergency.

It’s treacherous territory, Ms. Detjen said.

‘‘The idea of a ‘one-off’ has strong connotations in German history,’’ she said. ‘‘Until far into the 1960s, Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust were seen as a ‘one-off’ within Germany’s otherwise positive history and tradition,’’ she said, citing the historians Hans Rothfels and Friedrich Meinecke.

There was an expression for it: the ‘‘little man from Mars theory,’’ as if Nazism had occurred randomly, without connection to the German social or political context. That view changed only as society began to accept that there was more to it, that Germany had within itself certain elements that had made fascism, and the pogrom against Jews, possible. Mr. Sieren said he was unaware of such connotations of Ausrutscher, and had not heard of its use to describe the Nazi era. ‘‘If it were of any importance I would have heard about it,’’ he said in a telephone interview in Beijing. Instead, his aim had been to highlight that Tiananmen ‘‘happened only one time, in the 1980s. It never happened again, which is a fact. They never used tanks against their own people again.’’

‘‘I think it’s very bad that the government puts people in prison,’’ he continued. But it isn’t true to say, as Mr. Chang did, ‘‘that nothing has changed.’’


Shit some white Germans say to Black Germans
Published on Jun 27, 2012 | YouTube Channel von Sidney Frenz

“In diesem Video präsentiere ich euch den Schwachsinn, mit dem viele Schwarze Deutsche immer wieder konfrontiert werden.

Die Idee für dieses Video hatte ich schon vor einiger Zeit, aber erst als ich das Video "Shit White Germans Say to Black Germans" von runshanerun gesehen habe, habe ich mich dazu entschlossen dieses Video zu machen. Alle in dem Video vorkommenden Fragen und Aussagen habe ich schon gehört - kein Scherz! Naja, alle abgesehen von dem "Massemba". Ich hoffe, dass euch das Video gefällt :)”


Der Dalai Lama gilt als Weise
Der Dalai Lama gilt als Weise

Universell und unergründlich
Von Ingrid Strobl | 01/01/2014.

Sie ist eine hochgeschätzte Tugend. König Salomo, Laotse, dem Buddha und den "weisen Frauen" wird sie zugeschrieben. Man spricht von "Altersweisheit". Und "Narrenweisheit".

Es gibt aber keinen Weisheits-Studiengang und keine Ausbildung zur Weisheitsfachkraft. Neuerdings versuchen Wissenschaftler, ihr auf die Spur zu kommen. Doch sicher ist bisher nur: Sie wird oft schmerzlich vermisst. Und so geht Lebenszeichen den uralten und brandaktuellen Fragen nach: Wer ist weise und warum? Was macht Weisheit aus? Und: kann man sie lernen?


Das Mädchen, das „Leila Negra“ war
Nichts war normal
Als schwarzes Kind in Nazi-Deutschland musste Marie Nejar in NS-Propagandafilmen mitspielen. In der Nachkriegszeit tingelte sie als „Leila Negra“ durchs Land. | 20.04.2014

Marie Nejar 1950 an der Seite von Peter Alexander. “Wenn Marie Nejar geht, Straßen entlang, Treppen steigend, legt sie alle Eleganz, die ihr die elf Nägel im Rücken erlauben, in ihre Bewegung. Es ist der Disziplin abgerungene Schönheit. „Dieses Kind tanzt“, hätten Leute früher gesagt. Jetzt tritt sie über die Schwelle des Cafés Leonar in Hamburg, Grindelhof 87, nach links, nach rechts sich wendend, fast eine Pirouette drehend, aber so weit kommt es nicht, es ist nur eine Nuance mehr Hingabe an die Bewegung, wider den Schmerz.

„Ich wollte Tänzerin werden“, sagt Marie Nejar, 1930 geboren, bei der Großmutter aufgewachsen. Diese will, dass sie Musikerin wird. Wie Marie Nejars Mutter Cécile. Aber die Enkelin will tanzen. „Untersteh dich, Dinge zu wollen“, die Großmutter war sehr streng, forderte Ehrlichkeit, Zuverlässigkeit, Akkuratesse, Sanftmut – Tugenden zur Genüge. Mit Tugenden wollte die Großmutter das Mädchen schützen, denn die Nazis waren an der Macht und Marie Nejar fiel auf. Sie konnte sich waschen, wie sie wollte, ihre Haut wurde nicht weiß.

Jetzt sitzt sie, die jung aussieht mit den dunklen Augen, dem verschmitzten, weichen Lächeln, in diesem jüdischen Café in Hamburg. Ein Marzipanei liegt auf dem Tisch, ein Nougatosterhase. Sie sagt, ihr Leben sei ganz normal gewesen.

Über dreißig Jahre war sie Krankenschwester, schon mehr als zwanzig Jahre Rentnerin. Es sind Jüngere, die wollen, dass sie trotzdem erzählt, wie es war in der Nazizeit, die sie als schwarzes Mädchen in Deutschland erlebte. „Ich war doch nur ein Kind“, sagt sie. Sie habe nichts erlebt. Die jüdischen Leute, die hätten gelitten, sie nicht. Dieses eine Interview will sie noch geben, dann keins mehr.” (Marie Nejar 1950 an der Seite von Peter Alexander. Bild: dpa)



Rwanda: The Art of Remembering and Forgetting
Two decades after the genocide, Rwandans navigate the way forward. | PUBLISHED APRIL 7, 2014
Peter Gwin
Photographs and videos by David Guttenfelder

Clothing removed from the bodies of genocide victims hangs on the walls of the sanctuary at Ntarama Church, now a memorial site. “Male and female of every age group were killed here, from babies to old people, in almost every way you can imagine,” said Bellancilla Unitonze, a genocide survivor and memorial guide, “bullets, grenades, machetes, even smashing the children’s heads against the wall.”

“If you arrive in Rwanda today to witness ceremonies commemorating the genocide that began here 20 years ago, you might expect the country to be a mournful place. Up to a million people were murdered by their neighbors in roughly a hundred days, and you could reasonably expect that tragedy, guilt, shame, and rage continue to weigh heavily on the Rwandan people. The skeletons of genocide victims are still occasionally discovered, stuffed into sewers and under dense bushes. Fragments of bone and teeth still turn up in church parking lots. And by and large the country is still oddly devoid of dogs: During the genocide the animals acquired a taste for human flesh and had to be exterminated.

But today Rwanda bears few obvious scars of its cataclysm. Its rapidly modernizing capital, Kigali, is one of the jewel cities of Africa. A lacework of tree-lined boulevards and greenswards rises and falls over a cradle of verdant hills and valleys. New construction is transforming the city center, with upscale hotels, a grand shopping mall, and a state-of-the-art convention center. The airport bustles with tour operators picking up clients arriving to visit Rwanda's national parks, which hold the nation's famous mountain gorillas. Add to that Rwanda's rising standard of living, steady economic growth, and low incidence of corruption, and you have a country that in many ways is the envy of the continent.

Life here bears no relation to the darkness that descended over the nation beginning on April 7, 1994. To find evidence of that period, you have to look into the hearts of the people where those memories lie buried. During today's official events, Rwanda's leaders will urge its people, if not to forget, to set aside many of their bitterest memories to help sustain the country's impressive progress. (See “In Rwanda, Reconciliation Is Hard Won.”)

Remembering is a tricky thing. It can release a river of volatile emotions that can drown you in sorrow or shame, and it can also unleash a torrent of vengeful anger. But forgetting is equally treacherous, lest those who were lost died in vain or the crucial lessons learned are not passed on to future generations. Rwandans of all walks of life navigate this complex riptide of emotion every day, each in his or her own way. It is far more art than science.”

Read, see photos and videos in the rest of the article…


German again: Bay Area Jews reclaim citizenship the Nazis stole
Thursday, April 3, 2014 | by alix wall

Leo Mark Horowitz and the German Counsul General
Leo Mark Horovitz (left) with German Consul General Peter Rothen • photos/cathleen maclearie

Many of our Oral History presenters are featured in this article by Alix Wall (jWeekly). You can download the article here.

Seventy-five years after he fled Germany as a 10-year-old boy for safe haven in England, Leo Mark Horovitz had his German citizenship reinstated at the German Consulate General in San Francisco.

My relationship with Germany has always been a big topic for me, but citizenship was a nonissue until recently,” the 85-year-old Horovitz said over lunch before the Feb. 25 ceremony the consulate arranged in his honor.

This confirms that you have always been a German, because you were deprived of your citizenship by the Nazi regime,” said Peter Rothen, Germany’s consul general, as he handed the Antioch resident his citizenship papers. “I’m very honored and pleased to be able to hand over this naturalization document which reconfirms your German citizenship.”

At the end of World War II, it seemed inconceivable that Jews would ever want to return to Germany. Tens of thousands of them fled their homeland after Hitler came to power in 1933, and those who remained were stripped of their citizenship by the Nuremberg laws in 1935. Most were murdered in the Holocaust. At the end of the war, a Jewish population that had numbered 565,000 just 15 years earlier was reduced to about 37,000, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In the past two decades, however, Germany has become a country that people flock to instead of flee from. In addition to the tens of thousands of Jewish émigrés who have streamed in from the former Soviet Union, Berlin’s reputation as an artistic, tolerant mecca continues to attract young Israelis — as many as 20,000, according to some estimates — as well as American Jews. Germany’s total Jewish population is estimated at 104,000, not including another 150,000 former Soviet émigrés who do not affiliate with the Jewish community.

Since 1949, Jews who fled Nazi Germany have had the right to reclaim their citizenship, according to Article 116 (2) of the German Basic Law, the country’s postwar constitution. And this right applies to their descendants as well. In recent years, more and more are actively doing so — last year, about 2,600 Jews from around the world were naturalized as German citizens. In the Pacific Northwest region covered by the German Consulate in San Francisco, five or six Jews reclaim German citizenship every month.

They do it for a variety of reasons, ranging from the practical — for example, the holder of a German passport is allowed to work legally anywhere in the European Union — to the emotional, or “to right a [historic] wrong,” according to one person interviewed. Horovitz falls into the practical camp: Having German citizenship will allow him to stay in Germany with the woman he loves, a German psychologist, without being restricted to the usual 90-stay tourist visa. “I never thought about citizenship before because the question always was ‘Would I use it or get something out of it?’ ” he said.

The vast majority of Jews who reclaim German citizenship under Article 116 are the children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors or refugees from Nazi Germany. Horovitz is the rare example of a German-born Jew who lived through the Nazi era and is now choosing to reclaim his citizenship, according to Consul Antje Susan Metz, whose job it is to oversee such applications from the consulate’s region.

While citizenship documents usually are sent through the mail, Rothen wanted to handle Horovitz’s reinstatement in person. Not only was his case a rarity, but the two men hit it off when they met last November at a Lehrhaus event at the Jewish Community Library in San Francisco marking the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Horovitz relayed his personal story at the event, and Rothen acted as moderator; each was impressed with what the other had to say.

“We respect that many don’t want anything to do with Germany anymore,” Rothen said during Horovitz’s citizenship ceremony. “This is why Germany hasn’t forced it on anyone, but has made a provision that gives every such person the right to have it back, and I’m so glad to have a man like you as a fellow German citizen.”

Leah Sharp (left) and Miriam Zimmerman

The offer to become German citizens while maintaining their American citizenship has resonated for many in the Bay Area.

For Miriam Zimmerman, a 67-year-old Holocaust educator living in San Mateo, it was a way of connecting with her father, a doctor who attended medical school in Berlin and fled in 1937, settling in Terre Haute, Ind. Voicing a thought common to many Holocaust survivors and refugees, as well as their children, she said, “Without Hitler, I would be a different person. I would be a German Jew living in Germany.” Zimmerman, who identifies strongly with the Reform movement in which she was raised, noted that it was born in Germany. She is proud of her German roots and thrilled that her three grown children became citizens as well, which means all three of her newly born grandchildren will, too (the paperwork for new babies is minimal).

Zimmerman hopes to spend some of her retirement in Germany talking to high school students about her family’s history. While she’s taken up German several times already, she has yet to master the language. “I don’t want to have to use a translator,” she said. “I can see having a prepared script for 10 or 15 minutes and then having a Q&A with a translator. Although our friends are retiring left and right, I don’t want to retire now that I have this other very attractive goal.”

Zimmerman’s daughter Leah Sharp, 34, a physics professor at the College of Marin, applied for her German citizenship while living in Munich for five years with her husband, also an academic. “I fell in love with German culture and had a wonderful experience living there,” said Sharp, who lives in Alameda. A new mother, Sharp is already getting her daughter’s German citizenship papers in order. “This is an amazing opportunity she’s going to have with that document, being able to live in Germany or anywhere else in Europe. She can have her pick of European universities. That is the thing I’m especially excited about for her. “It’s purely practical,” said Sharp. “For my mother, it was much more personal.”

Rob ShaperaOakland resident Rob Shapera’s maternal grandparents fled Germany around 1935. He remembers that when he was growing up, his mother had a distaste for all things German. But when he learned a few years ago that he was eligible for citizenship, he researched the matter and decided to do it.

“I like the idea of having citizenship in the EU if I ever want to live or work there,” said the 42-year-old massage therapist. “I’m not so much interested in living in Germany; it’s more access to the EU.” But “historically speaking, this was an opportunity to right a wrong that was done to my family. My grandparents were deprived of their citizenship, and this is getting something back that was taken away from our family: the right to be on European soil and live there if we want to, whether it’s in Germany or somewhere else.” To get a copy of his grandparents’ marriage certificate, Shapera traveled to Cuba, where the couple married before settling in the U.S. Though he later found out he had sufficient paperwork to prove his lineage, he was still glad to have found the old document.

Applicants must show proof of their relative’s citizenship, such as a birth certificate or restitution payment, and then marriage and birth certificates proving lineage. Metz said people should not get discouraged if they can’t locate the full set of documents. “We can help or give advice as to where to find the needed documents,” she said. “We cannot take over the search, but I can always help people get in touch with municipalities or other institutions that might have information.” While applicants are not required to state why they are applying, Metz said some do share their reasons as they go through the process.

Those interviewed who have had their German passport for a few years said it is an added convenience when traveling in Europe. Zimmerman once almost missed a flight to an educators’ conference in Israel; she didn’t realize her American passport was about to expire, and Israel doesn’t permit entry if passports are within six months of expiration. So she whipped out her German passport and made the flight. The ability to work in Europe was the reason two Bay Area–bred cousins decided to apply. Aaron Kaye, 31, from Los Altos and working for a technology company in London, and Moraga native Dan Aufhauser, 40, who works in Paris, share a set of grandparents who fled Germany. Their grandmother left in 1934, when she was prevented from studying medicine as a Jew, and their grandfather traveled back and forth to the U.S. Both were from wealthy banking families. The two were introduced while he was on a business trip, and it was she who convinced him to leave Germany and his seemingly promising banking career in Munich.

Kaye first heard about the possibility of citizenship reinstatement from Zimmerman, who is a family friend. Initially ambivalent, he decided to go forward when he prepared to attend graduate school in London and realized with a German passport he could stay longer and work there.

“At first I didn’t have a specific plan to live in Europe, but it did seem like an amazing opportunity, and I should take advantage of it given my family’s past,” Kaye said in a Skype interview from London. “On the one hand, I feel a bit of guilt I have this amazing passport to the world, and I can work in Europe, and I feel like I’m using it a bit, but then on the other hand, I can look at it like I have this opportunity because my grandparents lost everything, though obviously there are a lot of stories much worse.” Aufhauser studied in France and helped a European company open an office in San Francisco. Once he had his German citizenship, he was able to accept a job the company offered him in Paris with no additional paperwork. His wife can legally work in Europe as well through his German passport.

“This allowed me a very special opportunity to live and work legally in an area that is really connected to where I’m from,” said Aufhauser in a Skype interview from Paris. “I really feel I’m European, as I’ve always been drawn to Europe. I was always the one asking my grandmother questions, connecting with our story.” While his grandmother never took advantage of Germany’s offers to fly her back for a visit, and died in 2007 before knowing that her grandsons had reclaimed German citizenship, Aufhauser thinks she would have appreciated the opportunities offered to her grandsons, considering all that had been taken from her. “After having seen why I obtained the passport and how I was using the status,” he said, “she would have been absolutely thrilled for me.”

Rothen, the German consul general, understands how that is the case for some applicants: “It is clear that those who have been mistreated so badly cannot forget about what has happened, but we’re grateful that some choose to look ahead and accept that this nationality and that this culture is somehow a part of their personality despite everything that has happened.”

Daniella Salzman (left) and Elana Levy

Berkeley poet Elana Levy, 73, and her 44-year-old daughter Daniella Salzman of Oakland, a teacher, are among those who reclaimed citizenship for more emotional reasons. Levy’s parents fled in 1939, and many of her extended family members were killed. Levy grew up in New York, speaking German at home. Levy and Salzman, both of whom have made the healing process with Germany a big part of their lives, received their German citizenship last December and their passports in February. Salzman said it was definitely strange seeing her citizenship declared as “Deutsch” in her new red Reisepass.

Mother and daughter have traveled to Auschwitz as part of a “Bearing Witness” trip with Bernie Glassman and the Zen Peacemakers, in which people of many faiths sit on the tracks of Auschwitz-Birkenau, meditating and chanting the names of the dead.

“My visits to Auschwitz were key to my own healing,” said Levy, who has done the trip several times. “The first one changes your life, and the ones after that build on that.” Salzman added, “I found my mind just quieted down there to feel the experience of all of those who had been there, not just Jews but Nazis and Poles and Russian soldiers. I could relate to both prisoners and keepers of them. It was about going beyond ‘us and them’ or ‘victim and perpetrator’ [to think about] the human experience and both the mystery and catastrophe of it. [Taking German citizenship] is not only healing for me and for us, the Jews, but it’s really also for the Germans.”

Levy said that starting in the ‘50s, her parents took her along on vacations in Germany every chance they got, so she never developed anger toward the country like many other Jews did. Salzman said her mother’s decision to apply for German citizenship made her feel OK about doing the same, “but it was still hard to do, partly because it brings up the pain and sadness which I believe is inherited, or passed through our genes. There is a brokenness in me, even though I never lived it.

“Applying for citizenship is part of that healing process,” Salzman said. “I have always felt this conflict between my German self and my Jewish self internally. There are ways in which I’m very German, yet I’m much more American, but part of this process for me has been about creating peace between those aspects of who I am.”


Klaus Seilwinder, a 57-year-old homeless man from Berlin, participates in a philosophy course. (© dpa)
Klaus Seilwinder, a 57-year-old homeless man from Berlin, participates in a philosophy course.(© dpa)

Berlin Project Provides Free Education for the Homeless
German Missions in the United States | November 18, 2013

The homeless community of Berlin now has the option to go to back to school: the city has a new university launched solely to educate the homeless and help them get back up on their feet. Called the Obdachlosen-Uni (“Homeless-Uni”), courses are designed to help the homeless, but are open to anyone. They are primarily taught by volunteers – some of which were formerly homeless – and held in various rooms across the city. The courses give the homeless the option to study art, cooking, philosophy, music and a number of other subjects. These are also meant to instill confidence in their abilities to serve the community, as well as help incorporate them into society.

The project was initiated by Maik Eimertenbrink, a freelance communications specialist who was inspired by the Megaphon-Uni in Graz, Austria, which provides free courses to anyone, regardless of age or financial standing, the Handelsblatt reports.  Eimertenbrink conducted a study in 2011, in which he examined the success of similar such institutions in Europe, as well as the interest homeless people in Berlin had in the idea. When asked what the homeless were most keen on learning, the majority expressed interest in computers, foreign languages and history. The program is led by an organization called Berlin Piloten, which organizes city tours, class visits to Berlin and education for the homeless.

Many of the courses at the Obdachlosen-Uni take place in the GEBEWO Social Services in Berlin-Schöneweide.


'Turkified': Why I Can Never Be a Proper German
By Özlem Gezer | November 7, 2013

Turks make up Germany’s largest ethnic minority, and SPIEGEL reporter Özlem Gezer grew up in the port city of Hamburg as a part of this community. She describes herself as a “model immigrant,” but explains how Germans have made her feel she could never be one of them.

“Would you sleep with someone who isn't circumcized?” I was 14 and had just arrived at a party thrown by my friend Marie, and this was one of the first questions of the evening. Others followed: “Are you allowed to have a German boyfriend? Does your father talk to you about sex? Wouldn't you at least like to try a bit of the pork, after all?” New people, old questions.

They just wanted to get to know me, I thought. But it was always the same story, even years later. I was 23 and had just reached out to shake his hand. He was good-looking, and I didn't quite catch his first name—it was too loud at the party. "It's really great that you're allowed to stay out so late," he yelled. "Yeah, great," I said. You wacko, I thought. It was only 9:30 in the evening, but I didn't say anything. These were just normal party conversations—things Germans say to Turkish girls like me. More…


50 verlorene Jahre der Integrationspolitik
Serap-Cileli | Veröffentlicht am 20. Oktober 2013

Die Integration und die innere Sicherheit in Deutschland bleiben nach wie vor eine der wichtigsten innenpolitischen Aufgaben und Pflichten der kommenden Jahre. Was versäumt wurde oder was gestern geschah weiß jeder, lassen Sie uns darüber reden, was morgen passiert und was getan werden muss.

Fakt ist, dass Deutschland in der Vergangenheit ein Zuwanderungsland war und in den nächsten Jahren auch bleiben wird. Fakt ist auch, dass ein spürbarer Teil der Migranten in Deutschland, besonders türkisch-muslimischen Ursprungs, in ihren frauenfeindlichen Lebensweisen, Bräuchen und Traditionen, ihrem islamischen Glauben und Kultur verhaftet geblieben sind. Mehr…


A new Columbia Business School study highlights the expectation of favors from female workers. Photograph: UK Stock Images Ltd /Alamy

Women in the Workplace

From the article, “Women, Work and the ‘Girl Scout Tax’”: “Women were more likely than men to be asked for favors and were more likely to grant requests for help, Frank found. When the recipients of help were asked how ‘indebted’ they felt, they appreciated the help of women less than the help of men–it turned out that people felt entitled to female help. Worse, the more ‘agreeable’ the woman seemed, the value of her help was discounted by the person she assisted (as if they assumed ‘she just likes to help’). In fact, women who were rated as less agreeable were more appreciated when they provided help, and so were men.”

Great Expectations for Female Lawyers
Twelve years after being interviewed by The New York Times Magazine, five women, who all started their law careers at Debevoise & Plimpton, reflect on ambition, leadership and success.

Why Do Female Chefs Get Overlooked?
New York Times, November 11, 2013
Many found Time magazine’s story on “The Gods of Food” notable for what was missing —goddesses. There were no female chefs among the list of deities or in a graphic of major culinary influences. Some chefs and food lovers were angered, others simply said, “So, what’s new?” Why do female chefs rarely win the adulation and recognition of male chefs?

Little surprise here: women expected to do more at home – and at work
The Guardian, November 1, 2013
A new study illuminates how ‘favors’ are expected of women at work, but they often go unacknowledged, keeping women down


What German Wisdom Can Teach The Rest Of The World About The Good Life
October 10, 2013 Huffington Post

“The people of Germany, with their reputation for having an industrial-strength work ethic, may not spring to mind as the happiest or healthiest people around. Yes, Germans are better known for their beer and brats than their wellness rituals. But at the same time, with their unique ways to relax, unplug, enjoy nature, and tap into the wisdom of their rich traditions, Germans have lot to teach the rest of the world about living the good life.

“In honor of the launch of HuffPost Germany, here are seven things that Germany can teach the rest of the world about living well.

  • They take time to slow down.
    Gemütlichkeit, a German word without a clear English translation, indicates a state of coziness and intimacy, and an unhurried pace to counter the frenetic speed of modern life. And although the Germans are known to work hard and take their careers seriously, they also make plenty of time for this gemütlichkeit. The German “work, work, work” stereotype may actually be an outdated one—Germans actually take more vacation time than citizens of any other European country. In a 2010 European Union report on holidays, Germany tied with Denmark for the number-one slot, with 30 days of paid vacation a year. The UK, by comparison, has an average of 24 days of paid annual vacation.

  • They get back to nature.
    In the German language, there's a word, wandervogel, which can be translated as “rambling, hiking, or wandering bird.” Wandervogel was also a German youth movement that started in the late 1800s with a group of young people who wanted to free themselves from the restrictions of society and return to the freedom of nature. The movement was reestablished in the mid-20th century and has several thousand members across Germany today. Wandervogel is closely tied to the German idea of naturmensch, or “natural man.” And in Germany, it’s easy to get back to nature: There’s no shortage of untouched natural beauty in the country, from the Black Forest to the romantic Rhine. 

  • They ask the big questions.
    Germany has a robust philosophical tradition that includes some of the world’s greatest thinkers, from Nietzsche and Marx to Hegel and Heidegger. The German idealism movement, which began with Kant and extended through Hegel, asked the big questions of human life and the meaning of existence. To this day, the German philosophical tradition stays strong at the country’s many top-notch universities. We could all stand to benefit from their timeless wisdom on happiness, morality and human nature. As Kant summed it all up with his three rules for happiness, seek “something to do, someone to love, something to hope for.”

  • They invest in holistic health care.
    Germany has a strong tradition of holistic medical research and naturopathic healthcare. The “Father of American naturopathy,” Benedict Lust, was trained in hydrotherapy and natural medicine in Germany during the late 19th century before bringing his “nature cure” teachings to America. Naturopathic health care is readily available in Germany to this day. The alternative medicine industry is regulated by the government, and CNN reported in 1998 that the herbal mood-booster St. John’s wort was the most commonly prescribed anti-depressant in Germany, as opposed to Prozac in the U.S.

  • They harness the healing powers of water.
    Spas throughout Germany use the power of water for healing, as they have since the birth of hydrotherapy in the early 1800s. Resorts and wellness centers across the country attract tourists by offering Kneipp hydrotherapy, a type of water therapy meant to strengthen and revitalize the immune system. If you're visiting, consider a stay at Göhren, a seaside hydroptherapy resort on the island of Rügen.

  • They support the arts.
    Young and up-and-coming artists are well supported in Germany. Not only do the country's major cities (especially Berlin) have thriving art scenes, but the government also provides funding to support emerging artists. Many creative workers in Germany are eligible to receive financial support from the government.

  • They’re prioritizing happiness.
    Happiness hasn’t always been Germany’s forte, but the government is working to change that. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said recently that gross domestic product (GDP) isn’t the only important marker of Germany’s success—individual and collective well-being also matter. Germany has recently been one of the lowest-ranked European countries in happiness and well-being, but Chancellor Merkel is determined to help Germany turn that around.paint pots

    “We look at the stock exchange index or currencies on the news each morning and talk a lot about growth in terms of gross domestic product, but we often don’t prioritize what is really most important to people,” Merkel said at a recent forum, “What Matters to People: Well-being and Progress,” vowing to focus more on boosting well-being.”


2 Black Lawmakers Voted to Parliament in Germany
By CHRIS COTTRELL | Published: September 23, 2013

Karamba Diaby
Karamba Diaby

BERLIN — When Karamba Diaby finished third in his party’s state primaries last February, the result catapulted him into the national spotlight. Now, after Sunday’s federal elections here, Mr. Diaby’s place in German history is guaranteed. And he is sharing the spotlight. For the first time, Germany has elected black lawmakers into the Bundestag, Parliament’s lower house. One was Mr. Diaby, a member of the Social Democrats, from Senegal, and the other is Charles M. Huber, a former actor with a Senegalese father and a German mother. Although both failed to secure direct mandates from their districts, they managed to get elected through Germans’ second votes, which are cast for so-called party lists.

“We were celebrating until 3 in the morning,” Mr. Diaby said in a telephone interview, adding that it was not until early Monday, when he looked at the Bundestag’s Web site and found a list of newly elected candidates, that he knew the results were official.

Charles M. Huber
Charles M. Huber

That Germans had never elected a black member of Parliament, despite the presence of a large immigrant population, was often cited as an indication of the sometimes-rocky relationship between the country’s ethnic majority and minorities.

“It was a historic victory,” said Mr. Huber, who will represent an area that includes the city of Darmstadt. “I’ve often been confronted with being the first colored man to do something.”

Mr. Huber, 56, known for his role in a popular German crime series, is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats. Born in Munich, he comes from a prominent Senegalese family — his father was a diplomat and his uncle, Léopold Senghor, a former president of Senegal.

“Politics is a tradition in our family,” Mr. Huber said. “Somehow it was meant to be.”

Mr. Diaby, 51, grew up in Senegal. The youngest of four children, he was raised by his sister after losing both of his parents by the time he was 7. In 1985, he came to East Germany to study chemistry in Halle.


Multicultural Germany: How We Experience Racism
By SPIEGEL Staff | September 19, 2013

Several recent controversies in Germany -- from the treatment of refugees to the obstacles faced by immigrants in the job market -- have thrown the issue of racial discrimination into the limelight. SPIEGEL spoke to 15 people of foreign descent to find out how racism affects their daily lives.

Lewis Otoo, 11, student, Berlin
Lewis Otoo, 11, student, Berlin

Last month, a newly opened shelter for asylum seekers in the Berlin neighborhood of Hellersdorf became the scene of heated protests by far-right demonstrators. But the controversy was only the most recent reminder that racism remains a serious problem in Germany. Far-right violence against immigrants has become endemic in parts of the country, while in the bigger cities, discrimination tends to be subtler if also widespread -- as seen with the recent scandals over racist door policies at nightclubs in Berlin and racial profiling by the Hamburg police.

In the spirit of public debate, SPIEGEL spoke to 15 people with foreign roots living in Germany to find out how racism plays into their daily lives. From the German-born housewife who was told to "go home" and treated like a terrorist after she decided to start wearing a headscarf, to the 79-year-old retiree whose family was killed at Auschwitz and still regularly gets insulted as a "gypsy" -- their stories paint a complicated, disturbing picture of the state of multiculturalism in a Germany still rife with nativist tendencies.

There are plenty of success stories -- a professional soccer player, a city treasurer and a parliamentarian are among those given a voice here. But even they have faced their fair share of discrimination. Lincoln Assinouko, a forward for a regional team in Lower Saxony, has been peppered with racial epithets by members of an opposing team. And Green Party Berlin representative Omid Nouripour has staff who help him sort through the piles of racist and Islamophobic hate mail he continuously receives.

Click through to read their stories in their own words.


Mileva Einstein-Maric, Serbian mathematician and physicist
born December 19, 1875 in Titel, Serbia
died August 4, 1948 in Zurich, Switzerland

Mileva Einstein-MaricShort Biography: 
Mileva Einstein-Maric, student at the Zurich Polytechnikum, second woman to finish a full program of study at the Department VI A: Mathematics and Physics. Marries Albert Einstein, gives birth to three of his children, surviving childbed three times, is betrayed by him,  discarded by him, dispatched from Berlin back to Switzerland with the children just before the First World War, divorced, brings up their two sons, cares for the schizophrenic son, dies.

Mileva Einstein-Maric and Albert Einstein…Mileva Maric was, both during their years of study and before the appearance of the 1905 papers (and from January 1903 on – the month of their marriage –  for 24 hours a day), THE most important intellectual partner of Albert Einstein. He appreciated her genius:

How happy I am to have found in you an equal creature, one who is equally strong and independent as I am.” (Albert to Mileva, October 3, 1900)

Download the article here.


Berlin WallThe Wounds Left By Surveillance
The Stasi Has Been Gone Over Two Decades. Germans Still Haven't Come To Terms With It.

There were a few things the Stasi never found out about me. One was the mini-laboratory.

I was a Lutheran pastor and underground environmental activist in the German Democratic Republic, and I was desperate to develop independent data on the health of our heavily polluted rivers and drinking water. Such research, in East Germany before 1989, was a criminal act; all environmental data was classified.

So friends of mine from the West smuggled in a mini-lab for water testing—equipment that was handed over to me in a parking lot along the transit road to West Berlin. Those parking lots were heavily monitored by the Stasi, and I was terribly scared. We had planned the transaction over the phone using a code, and it worked. There is not one line about it in my Stasi files.

It is important to remember such times, especially today when the consequences of surveillance are being debated again in Germany and around the world. We all recall the fall of 1989, when thousands of people all over the German Democratic Republic (GDR) marched from the churches to the streets and squares. They demonstrated for the daily bread of democracy, for free and fair elections, and for freedom of the press and the right of free assembly. There were no counter demonstrations. It seemed that the entire people had agreed to get rid of the dictatorship. How had a state kept this population of 17 million in check for the 40 previous years?

The answer: through surveillance, incarceration, and terror.

The wheels of terror were implanted in every brain. The moment a critical thought took shape, the wheels of terror started turning. Who would be able to hear this and make note of it? Which file would it land in? What could the consequences be, what reprisals would be taken? Could there be an impact on the children’s schooling, their apprenticeship position, their college placement? Even preschoolers and kindergarten kids had internalized that. They were trained by their parents and grandparents to differentiate between the things that were public, and thus could be talked about at school, and the things that had better never leave the house.

The guarantor for terror and order was the “Stasi,” or State Security. The “Eavesdrop and Peek,” as it was known in the vernacular, was always and everywhere. By the end, in 1989, the Stasi had 91,000 official and 174,000 non-official employees, or IMs (Inoffizieller Mitarbeiter), working undercover and spying on their own people. In a village of 1,000 inhabitants, for example, 15 of them spied on the rest of them. Since nobody knew whom the Stasi had recruited, you had to be careful always, and you knew that an IM worked with you, monitored you at the village fair, shared a table with you at the local pub, or sang with you in the church choir. Hardly anything went undetected. Like a fungus, surveillance permeated all of social life in “the service of Socialism” and to protect the country from the “imperialistic class enemy.”

How much the Stasi had penetrated—and how deeply its power had been branded onto society—became apparent during the demonstrations leading to the revolution in the fall of ’89. A huge crowd of people marched through downtown Eisenach in the state of Thuringia, where I live, chanting. But the moment the train of protesters passed the headquarters of the Stasi, they fell silent. Nobody shouted anything.

Later, at another demonstration, I witnessed a worker scaling a fountain and addressing the crowd. He started out with: “My name is …”, “I live in …’’, “I work in …” By refusing to remain anonymous, by stating his name and address and workplace, he revealed, in front of everybody, that the Stasi had lost its power over him. And when the Stasi headquarters were occupied, the listening devices disarmed and turned off, and the files were secured, the curtain between the Stasi and the citizens was pushed aside, once and for all. Read more…


Cure for distracted mind: Stare at a painting
By Deborah Kotz,  |  Boston GLOBE  |  MAY 27, 2013

JOHN SINGLETON COPLEYAre distracting smartphones making us more stupid? New research suggests that could be the case: When Carnegie Mellon researchers interrupted college students with text messages while they were taking a test, the students had average test scores that were 20 percent lower than the scores of those who took the exam with their phones turned off. Another study found that students, when left to their own devices, are unable to focus on homework for more than two minutes without turning to Web surfing or e-mail. Adults in the workforce can make it to about 11 minutes.

Jennifer Roberts, a professor of the history of art and architecture at Harvard, thinks she has a fairly simple solution to help her American art history students appreciate the act of focusing: They must pick any painting, sculpture, or object made by an American artist and stare at it — for three hours.

“They’re usually skeptical at first,” she told me, “but afterward, they tell me the process was really astonishing, enabling them to see things, make observations, and develop original ideas about the work that never would have occurred otherwise.”

Roberts, herself, has seen the payoffs of strategic patience after her own close analysis of John Singleton Copley’s 1765 painting “Boy With a Squirrel” (inset). After spending an hour with the painting, she noticed echoing patterns in the shapes of the boy’s ear and the squirrel’s ruff. After two hours, she got a different insight: that Copley is likely to have thought about the impact that his work would have on the London art world when he was painting it.

“What I like so much about this assignment is that it goes right to the heart of the belief that you’ll feel bored if you pay attention to one thing for so long,” said Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. “A lot of time when we turn away from things, we’re missing stuff that will give us a richer understanding of the world.”

Achieving sustained focus on a regular basis is tough when many of us spend our days attending to various buzzing gadgets. Whether this has diminished the mind’s ability to focus has been debated by brain scientists.

“We know there’s plasticity in the brain,” Willingham said, “but we might be in big trouble if our environment could change the brain that dramatically.”

Brown University neuroscientist Dr. Cathy Kerr said studies indicate that we don’t stick with one activity for as long as we did in the past, and it’s likely to be causing subtle brain changes.

On the flip side, practicing sustained attention every day can also result in subtle changes to the brain — in a beneficial way. Formal meditation, where people learn to focus on their breathing, can lead to better control over “their attentional spotlight,” where it’s placed and how well it’s maintained, said Kerr who has conducted meditation studies. This can reduce negative ruminating thoughts in people who are depressed and help increase a sense of calmness when encountering ordinary stresses such as a delayed flight or broken household appliance. While you may not have time to stare at a painting for three hours every day — you should try it at least once — you can probably find 10 to 15 minutes to study an object of beauty.

It shouldn’t be an image on your computer but something you’re “really confronting in the flesh,” Roberts said, to examine its texture, color, smell, and how light plays off of it.

Willingham takes a walk outside every day, without any electronic devices, to observe the sights and sounds of his natural surroundings. Spending several minutes watching a woodpecker hack into a tree stump or water tumbling over rocks in a stream helps increase meta-awareness. “You develop a curiosity and tend to create a new story about the world,” Kerr said, that’s different from a quick dismissive glance.

Feeling the reward from the focused activity will likely encourage you to do it again. And you might be discouraged from grazing over the latest entertainment news or status updates from your friends if you recognize that it’s just a time suck yielding few real insights.

“One of the ways I’ve managed to reduce my distractions,” Kerr said, “is by asking myself each time I’m about to distract myself whether that particular activity is salient to me; 90 percent of the time it isn’t.”


Der, die, das Professor
Themen Interview
| June 7, 2013

Luisa PuschLieber Herr Professorin: Weibliche Bezeichnungen sollen an der Uni Leipzig künftig auch für Männer gelten. Doch führt das auch zu mehr Gleichberechtigung? Ein Interview mit der Linguistin Luise Pusch.

In der deutschen Öffentlichkeit wird seit 30 Jahren über das Thema Geschlecht und Sprachgerechtigkeit gestritten. In den 1980er Jahren wurden deshalb Doppelformen wie "Mitarbeiter und Mitarbeiterinnen" in Deutschland eingeführt. Die Uni Leipzig geht mit der geplanten Einführung des sogenannten generischen Femininums, also der jeweils weiblichen Form eines Begriffs, noch einen Schritt weiter. Ein Professor wird in der Uni-Satzung demnach künftig als Professorin bezeichnet.

Der Senatsbeschluss in Leipzig entstand eher zufällig: In einer Sitzung ärgerten sich Mitglieder über komplexe Schreibweisen mit Schrägstrich wie "Professor/in". Daraufhin beschlossen die Mitglieder, künftig nur die weiblichen Formen zu verwenden. Dass auch Männer gemeint sind, soll in der neuen Uni-Verfassung durch eine Fußnote erklärt werden. Dass die Änderung durchkommt, ist so gut wie sicher: Auch das Rektorat der Hochschule stimmte zu.

Die kämpferische Sprachwissenschaftlerin Luise Pusch freut sich über die Leipziger Entscheidung. Die DW hat mit der Mitbegründerin der feministischen Linguistik über den Einfluss von Sprache auf unsere Gesellschaft und die Signale aus Leipzig gesprochen.

DW: Sie forschen seit über 30 Jahren zum Thema Sprachgerechtigkeit. Welche Bedeutung hat der Beschluss für die Frauen an der Uni Leipzig?

Luise Pusch: Das ist auf alle Fälle ein Fortschritt, und zwar nicht nur an der Uni Leipzig, sondern bundesweit. Der Beschluss wird diskutiert, das regt die Leute zum Nachdenken an und jede Art von Nachdenken über unsere Männersprache ist für die Sprache insgesamt gut, denn diese Sprache ist sehr ungerecht.

Warum ist es denn so wichtig, in der Sprache gerecht zu sein?

Es hat viel mit Identitätspolitik zu tun. Frauen wollen, dass sie in der Sprache genauso sichtbar sind wie Männer, denn die Männersprache verdrängt jeden Gedanken an Frauen. Jeder Satz, der im Maskulinum über Personen spricht, erzeugt in unseren Köpfen nur männliche Bilder, und das ist ein ganz großer Nachteil für Frauen.

Wie genau beeinflusst Sprache denn unsere gesellschaftliche Realität?

Im Deutschen haben wir lauter Suggestivsätze, die dieses männliche Bild erzeugen. Wenn Sie zum Beispiel hören "Wer wird der neue Bundespräsident?", dann ist das eine Suggestivfrage. Da kommt das Bild einer Bundespräsidentin kaum noch in den Blick. Es gibt viele psycholinguistische Tests, die den Effekt nachgewiesen haben. Wenn solche Fragen im Maskulinum gestellt werden oder Geschichten im Maskulinum erzählt werden, dann sollen die Testpersonen die Geschichte vervollständigen und wählen meistens Personen mit männlichen Namen.

Campus der Universität Leipzig (Foto: Swen Reichhold/Universität Leipzig)
Campus an der Uni Leipzig: Die Hochschule plant eine revolutionäre neue Sprachregelung

Sie stellen sich also Männer vor. Wenn vorher die Doppelform gewählt wurde, ist es gleich, es werden Männer- und Frauennamen genannt. Und wenn jetzt das Femininum gewählt würde, dann würden sie sich wahrscheinlich mehr Frauen vorstellen. Und das ist der Sinn der Sache, dass die Frauen auch mal in die Köpfe der Gesellschaft hineinkommen.

Gegner werfen Ihnen vor, dass das generische Femininum inhaltlich nichts bringe und die Sprache nur unnötig verkompliziere. Ist die Verwendung nicht zu umständlich?

Es kommt auf die Werte an. Wenn wir sprachliche Gerechtigkeit wollen, brauchen wir etwas anderes als das generische Maskulinum. Die Doppelform, also zum Beispiel "Professorinnen und Professoren", ist allgemein als gerecht anerkannt, aber natürlich viel umständlicher als das generische Femininum. Die Doppelform ist eigentlich nur ein Entgegenkommen gegenüber den Männern, weil sie dadurch nicht so in ihrer Identität verletzt werden wie Frauen durch das generische Maskulinum, das wir schon seit Jahrtausenden haben.

Demgegenüber ist das Femininum erstens besser für Frauen, zweitens gerecht nach dem Rotationsprinzip - jetzt sind mal die Frauen dran - und drittens kürzer. Ich bezeichne das generische Femininum schon seit 30 Jahren als Empathietraining für Männer, damit sie mal eine Vorstellung davon entwickeln, was es eigentlich bedeutet, immer nur mitgemeint zu sein und eigentlich nie genau zu wissen, ob "Mann" mit "man" überhaupt gemeint ist.

In Ihren Publikationen schlagen Sie noch viel tiefgreifendere Änderungen in der deutschen Sprache vor.

Studentinnen mit akademischen Hüten (Foto: AP/Jörg Sarbach)
Frauen sind an den Universitäten auf dem Vormarsch

Ich habe schon immer ein Stufenmodell vorgeschlagen. Erst mal müssen wir die Frauen in die Sprache hineinbringen, am besten mit dem generischen Femininum, aber das Ziel sollte später die Abschaffung der Endung "-in" sein. Eine solche Ableitung der Feminina aus den Maskulina gibt es zum Beispiel im Englischen kaum. Nach der Abschaffung des "-in" wollen wir zweitens das Neutrum für Personenbezeichnungen einführen. Wir hätten dann "die, der und das Professor". Das "-in" brauchen wir zum Beispiel auch nicht bei "die Angestellte", "die Abgeordnete". Deswegen ist "die Angestellten" dann im Plural geschlechtsneutral. Es gibt ganz viele Personenbezeichnungen im Deutschen, die bereits so funktionieren.

Systematisch ist die Endung „-in“ also eigentlich nicht nötig. Für Personen, deren Geschlecht nicht feststeht und die im Singular benannt werden müssen, da haben wir dann - anders als beispielsweise in romanischen Sprachen - das Neutrum. Also: "Gesucht wird ein Professor, das sich in feministischer Theorie auskennt." Warum sollen wir das Neutrum nicht aktivieren für diesen Mitteilungszweck, über Personen zu reden, deren Geschlecht nicht vorher festgelegt werden soll. Also: Wer wird das nächste Bundespräsident?

Inwiefern ist die Diskussion um die feministische Linguistik ein sehr deutsches Phänomen?

Der Staat Washington im Nordwesten der USA hat gerade etwas Ähnliches wie die Uni Leipzig gemacht. Dort wurde ganz gründlich die gesamte Verfassung des Staates umgeschrieben in eine geschlechtergerechte Sprache. Also alles, was da mit "-man" endete, wurde geändert. "Chairman" heißt jetzt durchgehend "chair" und "freshman" wurde zu "first year student". In der englischen Sprache gibt es nicht so viele Probleme wie im Deutschen, denn unsere Sprache ist besonders komplex und schwierig zu therapieren. Aber das Anliegen haben viele andere Länder auch und führen es auch durch.

In Leipzig wurde die Änderung von einem männerdominierten Senat verabschiedet. Ist das auch ein Signal für ein verbessertes frauenpolitisches Klima an den deutschen Hochschulen?

Das wäre zu hoffen. Es bleibt aber noch abzuwarten. Tatsächlich haben wir ja in den letzten 30 Jahren in vielerlei Hinsicht auch Fortschritte gemacht. Es geht jetzt nicht mehr nur um vier Prozent Professorinnen wie zu der Zeit, als ich studiert habe, sondern es sind immerhin 19 Prozent. Das ist eine Verfünffachung. Aber wir sind noch längst nicht am Ziel einer 50:50-Quote. Aus Leipzig hören wir, dass es dort auch mehr Studentinnen als Studenten gibt. Allein das statistische Prinzip legt also nahe, von Studentinnen zu sprechen.

Prof. Dr. Luise Pusch, 69, fordert seit 30 Jahren eine geschlechtergerechte Sprache. Die Sprachwissenschaftlerin gilt als Mitbegründerin der feministischen Linguistik. Sie lebt als freie Autorin in Hannover und betreibt das Institut für feministische Biografie-Forschung mit dem Webportal Ihre Aufsatz- und Glossensammlungen wie "Deutsch als Männersprache", "Alle Menschen wurden Schwestern", oder "Deutsch auf Vorderfrau" wurden zu Bestsellern.


„Hierarchien machen sozialen Stress
| May 24, 2013

„Niemand würde ein Leben als Bettler wählen, wenn er Alternativen hätte“, sagt Richard Wilkinson. Bild:  dpa

Große Einkommensunterschiede sind das Grundübel der meisten Industriestaaten, sagt Richard Wilkinson. Sein Rezept: mehr Genossenschaften.

taz: Herr Wilkinson, Sie schreiben in Ihrem Buch „Gleichheit ist Glück“, dass die Wohlfahrt der Industriestaaten nicht vom Bruttonationaleinkommen abhängig ist. Wovon denn sonst?

Richard Wilkinson: In den meisten Industriestaaten sind die Lebenserwartungen in den letzten einhundert Jahren enorm gestiegen. Jede Dekade werden wir zwei oder drei Jahre älter. Auf medizinischen Fortschritt allein ist das nicht zurückzuführen, denn in Ländern mit einer geringeren Schere zwischen Arm und Reich geht der Anstieg der Lebenserwartung schneller. In Gesellschaften mit einer großen Einkommensungleichheit haben wir deutlich mehr soziale Probleme. Überraschenderweise hängt dies nicht davon ab, wie sehr die Wirtschaft wächst.

Warum überrascht Sie diese Erkenntnis?
Bislang haben wir Studien über den Zusammenhang von der Lebenserwartung und dem Wohlstand immer so interpretiert, dass die Lebenserwartung vom Vermögen abhängig ist. Das stimmt aber so nicht, dieser Zusammenhang ist zu einfach. Die Lebenserwartung ist vielmehr vom sozialen Status abhängig, für den Geld wiederum in vielen Gesellschaften ein wichtiger Schlüssel ist.

In den einhundert größten Unternehmen Großbritanniens verdient die Unternehmensspitze durchschnittlich 300-mal so viel wie der niedrig bezahlte Arbeiter. Gibt es eine mächtigere Art und Weise, jemandem zu zeigen, wie wertlos er ist? Diese Hierarchien führen zu sozialem Stress und tiefergreifenden psychischen Krankheiten.

Leonie Sontheimer

Richard Wilkinson

Jahrgang 1943, ist ein britischer Gesundheitsökonom. Am Freitag wird er die Eröffnungsrede des Kongresses „Umverteilen. Macht. Gerechtigkeit“ in Berlin halten.

Foto: privat

Wo steht Deutschland im Ranking der Ungleichheit?

Die Armutsschere in Deutschland ist zwar noch kleiner als beispielsweise in Großbritannien oder den USA. Sie ist aber trotzdem viel verheerender als in den skandinavischen Ländern. Deutschland lag zwar immer über dem Durchschnitt der OECD-Länder, nähert sich diesem nun aber an. Die relative Armut, die das Einkommen im Vergleich zum Durchschnitt in einem Land misst, steigt seit den achtziger Jahren.

Wie können wir dieser steigenden Ungleichheit begegnen?
Zunächst müssen wir etwas gegen die Steuerumgehung tun. Eine Angelegenheit, die mehr und mehr durch die Finanzminister der Europäischen Union entwirrt wird, allerdings könnten sie in ihrem Bemühen deutlich weiter gehen. In den sechziger und siebziger Jahren gab es sogar in den USA Höchststeuersätze von zum Teil über 90 Prozent. Heute werden Leute wild, wenn sie 50 Prozent abgeben müssen.

Noch sinnvoller als die Umverteilung durch Steuern und Boni wäre es jedoch, die Ungleichheit noch vor den Steuern zu reduzieren. Dass Topmanager inzwischen 400-mal so viel verdienen wie ihre Mitarbeiter, ist ein Mangel an Demokratie. Es braucht hier effektive Restriktionen und im gesamten Wirtschaftssektor mehr Alternativen, wie zum Beispiel Genossenschaften, in denen die Einkommensungleichheiten weitaus geringer sind.

Geben Sie Bedürftigen auf der Straße eigentlich Geld?
Das tue ich manchmal, ja. Ich glaube, niemand würde ein Leben als Bettler wählen, wenn er Alternativen hätte. Wenn man diesen Leuten zuhört, merkt man allerdings, dass sie manchmal einfach nur jemanden brauchen, mit dem sie sprechen können. Einsamkeit hat bewiesenermaßen einen ähnlich großen Einfluss auf die Gesundheit wie Rauchen.

Climate Change & Green Energy

  1. Clean Break : The Story of Germany's Energy Transformation and What Americans Can Learn from It” by Osha Gray Davidson
    Slideshow • E-book ($0.99)

  2. The Price of Green Energy: Is Germany Killing the Environment to Save It?, By SPIEGEL Staff
    The German government is carrying out a rapid expansion of renewable energies like wind, solar and biogas, yet the process is taking a toll on nature conservation. The issue is causing a rift in the environmental movement, pitting “green energy” supporters against ecologists.


Rassismus in Deutschland und die ‚InderInnen’
Urmila GoelVeröffentlichungen von Urmila Goel
erschienen in: Meine Welt, 23/1, 31-32. (Text als pdf)

Im April 2006 wurde ein ‚Schwarzer’ Wissenschaftler am frühen Morgen an einer Potsdamer Bushaltestelle fast tot geprügelt. Schnell wurde ein rechtsradikaler Hintergrund der Tat vermutet, bald wurde dieser wieder in Frage gestellt. Von einer rassistischen Tat sprachen nur wenige. Rassismus ist kein Begriff, der für das heutige Deutschland benutzt wird. Rassismus wird in Deutschland in der Regel mit dem Nationalsozialismus in Verbindung gebracht. Heute von rassistischen Strukturen in der ‚deutschen’ Gesellschaft zu sprechen, erscheint als Tabu. Zum einen sollen die Verbrechen der Nationalsozialisten nicht verharmlost werden, zum anderen will sich das heutige ‚Deutschland’ von solchen Vorwürfen distanzieren. weiter…


For Whom the Bell Tolls
The inexorable decline of America’s least favorite pronoun
Megan Garber
| March 20, 2103

Whom, I am thrilled to inform you, is dying. But its death, I am less thrilled to inform you, has been slow.

According to Google’s expansive collection of digitized books, the word has been on a steady decline since 1826. The 400-million-word Corpus of Historical American English records a similar slump. Articles in Time magazine included 3,352 instances of whom in the 1930s, 1,492 in the 1990s, and 902 in the 2000s. And the lapse hasn’t been limited to literature or journalism. In 1984, after all, the Ghostbusters weren’t wondering, “Whom you gonna call?”

Read this article


Del tumenca
January 28, 2013

Ceija StojkaMit großer Traurigkeit teile ich euch mit, dass heute [28. Januar 2013] am späten Nachmittag Ceija Stojka im 80igsten Lebensjahr verstorben ist. Ceija Stojka wurde am 23. Mai 1933 in Kraubath, Steiermark, Österreich geboren. Ceija Stojka war Schriftstellerin und Künstlerin und gehörte den Lovara-Roma an, die besonders in Zentral- und Osteuropa beheimatet sind. Sie war die Schwester von Karl Stojka (Künstler) und Johann Mongo Stojka (Sänger, Gitarrist und Autor). Ihr Bruder Ossi starb an mangelnder medizinischer Hilfe und Hunger mit sechs Jahren im Konzentrationslager. Als Kind wuchs sie in einer Familie auf, die als Pferdehändler durch Österreich reiste. Nachdem ihr Vater im KZ Dachau ermordet wurde, wurde der Rest der Familie in das Konzentrationslager Auschwitz-Birkenau deportiert. 1944 wurde sie mit ihrer Mutter und Schwester nach Ravensbrück geschickt, wo Ceija in der Nähstube arbeiten musste. Kurz vor dem Ende des Krieges kamen alle drei nach Bergen-Belsen, wo sie befreit wurden.
Danach ließ sich Ceija Stojka in Wien nieder, wo sie zuletzt bei ihrem Sohn Hojda und der Schwiegertochter Nuna lebte. Von ihrer Familie (ca. 200 Personen) überlebten nur sechs den Völkermord der Nationalsozialisten.

Atsch Devleha, Ceija!


Hans Massaquoi, at 87; was editor of Ebony magazine
Boston Globe | January 24, 2013

MIAMI — Hans Massaquoi, a former managing editor of Ebony magazine who wrote a distinctive memoir about his unusual childhood growing up black in Nazi Germany, has died. He was 87. His son said Mr. Massaquoi died Saturday, on his 87th birthday, in Jacksonville.

“He had quite a journey in life,’’ said Hans J. Massaquoi Jr. of Detroit. ‘‘Many have read his books and know what he endured. But most don’t know that he was a good, kind, loving, fun-loving, fair, honest, generous, hard-working and open-minded man.”

In an interview in 2000, the elder Massaquoi said that he credited the late Alex Haley, author of “Roots,” with convincing him to share his experience of being “both an insider in Nazi Germany and, paradoxically, an endangered outsider.” His autobiography, “Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany,” was published in the United States in 1999. Mr. Massaquoi’s mother was a German nurse, his father the son of a Liberian diplomat. He grew up in working class neighborhoods of Hamburg.

Read more… Download an article here.


Bridge Markland: robbers in the box
Friedrich Schiller's: The Robbers for the Generation Pop Music

English Language Premiere! on January 24, 2013 at English Theatre Berlin the performance is then available for booking in German or English
- length of show approx 98 min. plus one intermission

German InfoGerman Videoclip

Bridge MarklandUsing puppetry and lip-syncing, Bridge Markland transforms Schiller's classic Sturm und Drang tragedy into a fast-paced, one woman show. Rebellion, envy, tragic love, stubbornness, hero-worship and desperation are all themes of the play. Markland underscores Schiller’s dramatic words with clips from 150 songs ranging from Wagner's “Ride of the Valkyries” to Lady Gaga’s “Pokerface,” from Ennio Morricone's hit Once Upon a Time in the West to the theme from Dallas. Schiller's text is spoken by actors from Berlin's English-language theatre community: Peter Scollin, from Platypus Theater, as the Old Moor; Jeffrey Mittleman as Spiegelberg; and many others.

The old Count von Moor adores his eldest son Karl. His younger son Franz grows jealous and plots to claim his father's fortune. “I will root up from my path whatever obstructs my progress towards becoming the master.” Rammstein roars: „Ich will jeden Herzschlag kontrollieren.” / “I want to control every heartbeat.”

With a forged letter, Franz slanders Karl to their father. “It’s Tragedy,” sing the Bee Gees, anticipating the outcome. In Leipzig, Karl waits in vain for a letter from his father to the strains of the Carpenters' "Please Mr. Postman." Instead a letter from his brother arrives telling him, “You may go, your father directs me to tell you, wherever your own vicious propensities lead.” Karl should not “entertain any hope.” Desperate, Karl organizes a band of thieves. “Robbers and murderers! As my soul lives, I am your captain!” Karl shouts.

And so the drama is set in motion.

Some quotes from Schiller's The Robbers in English language

Franz von Moor: Up then! and to your work manfully. I will root up from my path whatever obstructs my progress towards becoming the master. Master I must be, that I may extort by force what I cannot win by affection. [Frisch also! muthig ans Werk! - Ich will Alles um mich her ausrotten, was mich einschränkt. Herr muß ich sein, daß ich das mit Gewalt ertrotze, wozu mir die Liebenswürdigkeit gebricht.]

Robber Moor: Now we are free, comrades! I feel an army in my fist! Death or liberty! At the least they shall not take a man of us alive!
[Jetzt sind wir frei - Kameraden! Ich fühle eine Armee in meiner Faust Tod oder Freiheit! Wenigstens sollen sie Keinen lebendig haben!]

Amalia: Support me! for heaven's sake support me! It is growing dark before my eyes!
[Haltet mich! Um Gotteswillen, haltet mich! - es wird mir so Nacht vor den Augen.]

Cast, Voice-Over Artists, Puppets, Music

  • by and with: Bridge Markland, directed by: Bridge Markland, co directed by: Heike Gäßler
  • Soundtrack concept: Bridge Markland, Sound edit und creative collaboration: Jurij Panfilowitsch
  • Voices: Ric Oquita (Franz von Moor), Simon Newby (Karl von Moor / Robber Moor), Peter Scollin (The old Moor), Melissa Holroyd (Amalia), Jeffrey Mittleman (Spiegelberg), Oskar Brown (Hermann), Neal Wach (Daniel), Patrick O’Beirne (Razmann), Erman Jones (Roller), Kevin Mc Kinnon (Schweizer), Jonathan Toby Burdon (Schwarz), Brian Bell (Grimm), Patrick Scully (Pastor Moser), Patrick Lanagan (Father Dominic), David Cassel (Schufterle)
  • The puppets and their roles: Captain Li Shang from the Disney movie Mulan from 1997 as Ken doll (Robber Moor), Baby doll with Bridge Marklands face (Franz von Moor), 1960’s Nutcracker from the Erzgebirge/DDR (Hermann), copy of Barbie from 2005 (Amalia), Ken doll from 1991 (Spiegelberg), Barbie Beach Ken from 2012 (Kosinsky), Taylor Lautner as Jacob from the Twilight Saga as Ken doll (Schweizer), Robert Pattinson as Edward from the Twilight Saga as Ken doll (Schufterle), US Skateboard Legend Tony Hawks (Roller) and others.
  • Bridge Markland plays the following roles: Franz von Moor, Karl von Moor, The old Moor, Amalia, Hermann, Daniel, Roller, Spiegelberg, Father Dominic
  • Film-Music and Film-Quotes: Disney Film - Prince of Egypt, Céline Dion (Titanic), Ennio Morricone (Once Upon a Time in the West and others), Elmer Bernstein (The Magnificent Seven), Krzysztof Penderecki (The Shining), quotes from Charlie Chaplin - The great Dictator, Songs from the TV Series: Bones, Dallas, M.A.S.H. and many others.
  • Sound effects from: Black Sunday (1960’s Horror film by Mario Brava), Lord of the Rings and others.
  • More Music from: The Beatles, Bee Gees, Bloodhound Gang, David Bowie, Jeff Buckley, Prince Buster, Mariah Carey, The Carpenters, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Faithless, Lady Gaga, Lorne Greene, Gotye, Diamanda Galás, Whitney Houston, Human League, Led Zeppelin, Brenda Lee, Barrington Levy, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Marilyn Manson, Metallica, The Moody Blues, Elvis Presley, Public Enemy, Queen, Radiohead, Rammstein, Scooter, Simon & Garfunkel, Richard Wagner, Amy Whinehouse and many others.

PRESS-VOICES for the German version

Kieler Nachrichten, Ruth Bender, 14 Nov 2012
“Bridge Markland is player and actor, mean guy and delicate woman. She strides and poses, she laments and rages herself through Schiller’s Drama. She plays the movies, TV-soap, musical and big opera.”

zitty, Tom Mustroph, 28 June 2012
“an enjoyable game of OneWomanSpinsTheWorld. It shows ... that Pop can transform the classics.

Der Tagesspiegel, Katrin Gottschalk, 19 June 2012
“A female member of the audience confided to her neighbour: “First I thought it was a woman, then a man, but it's a woman after all.” ... Bridge Markland poses riddles to her audience.”

Berliner Morgenpost, Ulrike Borowczyk, 12 June 2012
“The most thorough way to dust down this 231 year old piece is with this pop-version.


Mahnmal für den Genzoid an Sinti und Roma (
Befehl zum „Ausrotten“
October 24, 2012

mahnmal_sinti.jpgAuch nach 1945 wollte niemand etwas von der Verfolgung der Sinti und Roma wissen. Erst jetzt werden sie in die Gedenkkultur aufgenommen.

Die Diskriminierung und Verfolgung der Sinti und Roma hat eine lange Traditionen. Das NS-Regime machte sich die überlieferten rassistischen und sozialen Ressentiments zu eigen und stigmatisierte die Minderheit von Anfang an. Die Ausgrenzung mündete im Völkermord. Auch dieser Genozid wurde so systematisch wie der Judenmord geplant und ausgeführt. weiter lessen…(download the article)


A Lesson from Philadelphia’s Little Film Festival that could
Akiba Solomon | August 10, 2012

gender matters

“…While the biggest crowds filled Philadelphia’s International House for screenings of nationally publicized works such as Brooklyn Boheme and Soul Food Junkies, lesser known films also attracted audiences. For me, the highlight was a German import, Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992.

Written, directed and produced by German feminist publisher and professor Dagmar Schultz, the documentary provides an intimate portrait of the poet, professor, activist and cultural organizer who died of cancer in 1992 at age 58. Through never-released video, photographs and (sometimes hilarious) interviews with Lorde, her partner, Gloria Joseph, and a tight-knit group of Afro-German activists and writers, The Berlin Years tells the story of Lorde the genius facilitator.

When Harlem-born Lorde arrived in Berlin in 1984 as a visiting professor, she immediately sought out Afro-Germans—who were then known only by pejoratives like “cross-breed,” “mulatto” and “brown babies”—and taught them how to see themselves outside of what she observed as “the pain of living a difference that has no name.”

The anecdotes are rich. For instance, at the end of a 1984 poetry reading, Lorde asked the white women to leave the room and the black women to remain until they had spoken to at least one other black woman. “Her intention was to make us feel: No matter what you do, you are not alone,” recalls one Afro-German activist who was in that room. “You must work together! Make yourself visible and raise your voice, each of you in her own way.”

Lorde’s seemingly simple act inspired an anti-racism movement tightly bound with feminism. Her gentle prodding, joke-cracking, party-throwing and speechmaking became the connective tissue between Afro-Germans who went on to found collectives such as ADEFRA (Afrogerman Women and Black Women in Germany) and the ISD (Initiative of Black People in Germany) and to produce anthologies, memoirs and poetry collections.

The Berlin Years also shows Lorde the social agitator. In a room full of visibly uncomfortable young white women, she explains, “Racism in Germany, in Switzerland, in Europe must become an issue for white feminists because it is part of your lives, it affects your lives in every way, and the fact that you are not people of color does not make you safe from the effects of it.” In another scene, a young black German man asks her if black women’s liberation struggles are a drain on “the overall movement.” Without sarcasm or condescension, she breaks down the basics of intersectionality.

The message of the Lorde film mirrors that of the BlackStar Film Festival, which Holmes says will return to Philadelphia next summer: To create change, folks need to gather in the same space, talk to one another and celebrate what we share. I’m looking forward to the alliances, the ideas and the work conceived and nurtured by this little festival that could.”


A Father’s Son…
August 29, 2012

The Sweetest PhotoNils Pickert lives in a small, traditionally religious town in Germany. He also has a five-year-old son who enjoys wearing dresses and skirts and painting his nails. Instead of discouraging his son from expressing himself, Nils decided to be a strong, supportive role model… by wearing skirts himself.

Nils explains how his decision has helped his son, in a translation from Buzzfeed:

“After a lot of contemplation, I had only one option left: To broaden my shoulders for my little buddy and dress in a skirt myself. After all, you can’t expect a child at pre-school age to have the same ability to assert themselves as an adult. Completely without role model. And so I became that role model. [...]

And what’s the little guy doing by now? [...] He’s simply smiling, when other boys (and it’s nearly always boys) want to make fun of him, and says: “You only don’t dare to wear skirts and dresses because your dads don’t dare to either.” That’s how broad his own shoulders have become by now. And all thanks to daddy in a skirt.”

[left] is a sweet photo of the father-and-son duo…

Read more…


A refuge for the Roma in Berlin
By Stephen Evans •  BBC News, Berlin • June 30, 2012

Roma children
The Roma children go a local school

It seems unlikely but Berlin, the very city where the genocide of the Roma (Gypsy) peoples was planned 70 years ago, has become the city where they now find refuge.

In the suburb of Neukoelln, a large complex of run-down apartments is being done up to become comfortable homes for more than 100 families from a dirt-poor village near Bucharest in Romania. Where the Nazis planned the mass murder of Roma, modern Germans plan comfort and acceptance.

There is no doubt that Europe remains a continent where Roma still face widespread discrimination. A Swiss magazine recently ran the headline They Come. They Steal. They Go alongside a picture of a Roma boy toting a gun (which later transpired not to be a real one). And the human rights campaigners Amnesty International reported: “Roma are among the most deprived communities in Europe. They suffer massive discrimination and are denied their rights to housing, employment, health care and education. Roma communities are often subject to forced evictions, racist attacks and police ill-treatment.”

The German project aims to buck that trend. Read the rest of the article…


From Germany and Back Again in Three Generations: A Family Reclaims its Heritage

The Jewish Post published an article by one of our recent speakers, Dr. Miriam Zimmerman. Read a little of her family’s story in our Mündliche Geschichtsreihe archive and download the article here.


Reality Check: Trayvon Martin’s Death: This White Woman’s Reality Check
by Christy Diane Farr • March 22, 2012

    Reality CheckChristy Farr is a life coach and an empowerment agent who shows the Wild Ones how to show up in the world. More than anything, she wants you to know that ... it doesn't have to be this way! Get the tools to dig into your personal evolution, visit ‘The Greenhouse’ at and join the Wildflower Evolution on Facebook.


German School System

Schwerer Weg nach oben: Das Elternhaus entscheidet über den Bildungserfolg – unabhängig von der Schulform. “Die hier vorgestellte, noch unveröffentlichte Studie zur Wirksamkeit von Gesamtschulen birgt Sprengstoff für die Debatte um das richtige Schulsystem – und die Möglichkeit der Schulen, zur sozialen Gerechtigkeit beizutragen. Der kürzlich emeritierte Pädagogikprofessor Fend, der in Konstanz und Zürich lehrte, hat bereits in den siebziger Jahren in Hessen die größte Studie zur Wirksamkeit dieser Schulform durchgeführt (»Gesamtschule im Vergleich«; Beltz Verlag, Weinheim 1982)”