Saturday, May 14, 2022

Cancel Carl?

Yesterday, Friday 13, Red Baron read a disturbing story in Der Spiegel:

Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier wanted to solemnly inaugurate a bust of Carl Schurz at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin, his official residence. According to the author of the article, 

Kein Held ist perfekt (No Hereo Is Perfect)

Dirk Kurbjuweit, Carl is one of the four “forgotten“ revolutionaries of 1848/49, together with heroes such as Friedrich Hecker, Gustav Struve, and Franz Sigel. Following the abortion of their revolution for democracy and freedom in Germany, all those Forty-Eighters emigrated to the States and fought slavery (what else?) in the Civil War.

Last Monday evening, our president had the inauguration appointment canceled with these words: "Allegations have come to light against Carl Schurz, relating in particular to his term as Secretary of the Interior of the United States from 1877 to 1881 and concerning the removal of Native American children to boarding schools."

Coincidence had it that the big story in BuzzFeed News on May 13 was:

The US has confirmed hundreds of deaths occurred
at Native American boarding schools.

The remains of more than 500 children were discovered at burial sites across the US as part of a wide-ranging investigation into the Indian boarding school system that systematically erased Indigenous culture from the early 1800s to around 1970. The real number of children whose bodies were dumped in the mass graves is expected to be much higher.

Advocates have been cataloging atrocities on their own for decades and have long called for official federal recognition and documentation. Last year, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna whose grandparents survived boarding schools, ordered a formal investigation to “uncover the truth about the loss of human life and the lasting consequences.

The investigation explained that in 1803, President Thomas Jefferson told Congress that he wanted to create policies to separate Indian tribes from their land. Children were ‘coerced, induced, or compelled’ to enter the schools, many without their parents' consent.

And again, on Friday, May 13, Jerry Coyne wrote a blog:

As I've said several times during this time of cancellation, renaming, and statue-toppling, I would only favor this kind of "erasure" (usually not by straight erasure, but by giving "context") when the person at issue fails to fulfill two criteria:

a. Are they being honored for their positive accomplishments? and

b. On balance, did their life and accomplishments make the world a better place?

If "yes," let them stay. If "no," erasure might be considered, though I favor the retention of history with, perhaps, an explanatory note.

Now, these are my own criteria, and others differ, but I'd say, for instance, that removing a Jefferson or Theodore Roosevelt statue because they were imperfect humans violates the two criteria above. Both men are "yes" in a. and b.

Slavery is an exception to what I just said. Even in times of slavery, there were many who opposed it, and so it has to be counted as a severe moral deficit in anyone connected to the slave trade or to have had slaves. And this brings up the matter of two of our most famous Presidents, both of whom were enslavers: George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. This issue is part of what led Caleb Francois, a senior at George Washington University in the District of Columbia, to write in the Washington Post:

Coming back to Carl Schurz. U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes made Schurz Secretary of the Interior in 1877. He was thus responsible for the indigenous peoples, who were mainly defeated and, to a large extent, living in dire conditions on reservations.

New findings of Schurz’s actions as U.S. Secretary of the Interior came to light thanks to his current successor, Deb Haaland, who belongs to the Laguna Pueblo people. She had an investigation conducted into how Schurz and others treated indigenous peoples. Some of the results are startling.

During his time as Secretary of the Interior, Schurz’s actions were controversial. From the point of view of many whites, he treated indigenous people too leniently. It was even rumored that out of respect for Schurz, many Native Americans have been given the first name Carl.

Now Haaland's "Federal Boarding School Initiative," which is having research done on how indigenous children fared when they were taken from their families and placed in special boarding schools, delivers a scathing verdict: "In the establishment of these brutal assimilation institutions, as well as in the forced sellout of the remaining reservations, Schurz, as Secretary of the Interior from 1877 to 1881, played a prominent, if not a decisive, role."

During his time, Schurz said about his fosterlings, ”The wild look of the Indian boys and girls quickly gives way to a well-groomed appearance. A new intelligence that lights up their faces transforms their expressions.” He continued, “Let justice be done to them, and if they cannot be made as civilized and useful citizens as the whites, then let them become as civilized and useful as possible."

Kurbjuweit notices sheer racism in these sentences, although Schurz possibly saw himself on a humanitarian path, assuming these people would be better off if they lived like whites. 

We, the white people in Europe, in the U.S., are the best, and we know what is best for everyone: to become, to live like us. 

Is it right not to grant Carl Schurz a place in Bellevue Palace? Should he be canceled? Judge yourself by applying Jerry’s a and b criteria.

Friday, May 13, 2022

On the History of Freiburg‘s Sister Cities

Last fall, two students of the German-French Highschool interviewed the president of the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft and me on the history of Madison, particularly in the previous World War. Even after consultation with knowledgeable friends in our sister city, the information situation remained thin.

Thus Madison is presented at the exhibition on Freiburgs Parnerstädte und ihre Geschichte with only two posters, while the information on places that suffered during the war is documented on three posters.

Presentation of the Madison posters at the Zentrum Oberwiehre  by a student
On May 2, Red Baron took part in the vernissage.

Naturally, the posters about Madison found my interest. Here are the two posters. Click on them to enlarge.

             Marc Chagall's vision (©facebook)
The actuality, however, is with Lviv (Львів), Freiburg‘s battered sister city. Its Austro-German name is Lemberg, Polish Lwów [lvuf], Yiddish לעמבערג, Armenian Լվով [lvov], Russian Львов [lʲvof].

In addition to what is written on the posters, here are Red Baron’s personal observations:

Endowed with royal privileges, Lviv belonged to the Kingdom of Poland from 1349 until the first Polish partition in 1772, when it fell to the Habsburg Monarchy. Lviv became the capital of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria and the fourth largest city in the multiethnic state. Emperor Joseph II wanted to impose German as the administrative language in his entire realm, although German was already the lingua franca in the blooming city.

Population development in Lviv (©xyzzyva/Wikipedia)
From the second half of the 19th century until the end of the First World War, Lemberg was a melting pot of people, with 50% Poles, 20% Ruthenians (Ukrainians), and nearly 30% Jews.

The new map in 1920
(©The Independent (New York), June 14, vol. 98, 1919/Wikipedia)
With the Peace treaty of Trianon, Lwów became Polish again. Now Poland's third-largest city, it was a stronghold of Polish culture but remained a focal point of Ukrainian national feeling. However, the Habsburg supranational identity remained present in the background.

With the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Lvov was part of the Soviet Union. After the German army captured the city during World War II, nationalists proclaimed Ukrainian independence. The German occupation nipped these attempts in the bud. Lvov became part of the German General Government instead. The city now functioned again under the name of Lemberg as the capital of the district of Galicia.

In 1946, Poland was shifted westwards (©facebook)
After the war, the Russian victors retained the eastern Polish territories and moved the borders westward with the 4th partition of Poland. The Polish residents were resettled in Germany's eastern regions, mainly Silesia.

Russians and especially Ukrainians poured into the annexed territories, where the Ukrainian share of the population increased in recent decades as the Russian share decreased. The fate of the Jews can also be seen in the graph. Almost the entire Jewish population of לעמבערג perished in the Holocaust. Their percentage, which was only 7% in 1950, has further dropped to 0.3% in the wake of an underlying anti-Semitic atmosphere in the Soviet Union. Also, the Polish share of Lwów's population fell below 1%.

As a minor observation, Red Baron read on the poster of Tel Aviv:

Well, there is Betanien, or better Bethanien, a spot in the Holy Land, and there is Brittany, a female forename, but no such word Großbrittanien.

The correct spelling is Großbritannien, but the name is somewhat outdated. It is the German word for the Kingdom of Great Britain (1707-1801), the state after the union of England (one state with Wales) and Scotland.

This construct was followed by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801-1927). The latter is the predecessor name of the present Vereinigtes Königreich (United Kingdom) since 1927.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Cancel Culture only in the States?

The term "Cancel Culture" refers to boycotting or shunning a person (often a celebrity and sometimes a person from the past) whose behavior or statements are deemed unacceptable.

Nowadays, cancel culture is often the result of a person's "political incorrectness."

Cancel culture is not about engaging in open debate or factually refuting provocative claims but discrediting their originators.

©The Week
We watched the downing of monuments to Confederate generals who fought in the American Civil War and were suddenly reduced to their role as slaveholders?

There was no such thing in Germany, or was the demand to smelt the Freiburg Victory Monument erasing the memory of individuals? General August von Werder, for instance?

In fact, cancel culture is a new catchy term for something old. Just think of the burning of books of "un-German" authors by the Nazis.

Also, in the 3rd Reich, the fact that Einstein was a Jew was sufficient to brand his theories of relativity as "Jewish Physics." The theories were answered with a "Deutsche Physik."

In Germany, in recent years, it was sometimes sufficient to "cancel" authors or politicians hastily when anti-Semitic statements were found in their writings or speeches.

However, it cannot be denied that during its extended discussions the working group for the renaming of streets in Freiburg has considered the cases in a differentiated and proportionate manner. They did not make it easy for themselves. Is one politically incorrect statement or action already sufficient to discredit, sorry, cancel a person?

Red Baron still wonders why it was necessary to rename Rennerstraße in Freiburg. Renner who? 

Was the street named after the German communist Heinrich "Heinz" Renner (1892-1964), the first mayor of the city of Essen after the end of Nazi tyranny in 1946, or was it named after the father of the Austrian Republics in 1919 and again in 1946 Karl Renner (1870-1950)?

No, it was Johann Jacob Renner. He was a sheriff (Schultheiß) in Freiburg around 1600 and a financial benefactor of the city, but he also sent twelve women to the stake as witches in 1599. Consider that Johann Jacob was forgotten in Freiburg. He did not even have an article on Wikipedia. 

That article I wrote when the working group dragged Renner’s gruesome deed into the light of day. So, at least he is not canceled on the Internet.

©Andreas Schwarzkopf†/Wikipedia

The city wrote about the street renaming - in total twelve - in Freiburg: No historical facts are to be erased - on the contrary. Additional plaques and explanations on the streets keep the past present in the city's public.

However, the general rule is that streets are named after people who are to be given special honor. People with criminal views and deeds - even if their other achievements are undisputed - do not need to be honored in this way.

Anti-Semitism is as old as the Jewish diaspora, and through the centuries, Christians have failed to proselytize or reform the Jews.

Initially, Martin Luther saw missionized Jews as a way to counterbalance the Roman Church. His writing, "That Jesus Christ was born a Jew," bears witness to this. When the reformer failed in his attempt to win over the "unbelieving" Jews, his initial friendliness toward the Jews turned into abysmal hatred in his later writings, "Von den Jüden und jhren Lügen (On the Jews and their lies).“

In a sermon in Eisleben on the day of his death, Luther speaks his last words on the Jewish question: "If they do not convert, we shall not tolerate nor allow them among us. Therefore, always away with them, but if they confess, leave their usury, and accept Christ, we will gladly keep them as our brothers.“

In 1821, Karl von Rotteck, as spokesman in the state parliament, tried to make the total emancipation of the Jews in Baden dependent on their complete assimilation. This included the change of the day of the Sabbath, the abolition of dietary laws, the renunciation of Hebrew, and the purification of the Talmud from "anti-state tendencies." In other words, the Jews were to earn their civil rights through increased integration.

This covert anti-Semitism was enough for the Freiburg City Council to rename the Karl von Rotteck Medal of Merit into the Gertrud Luckner Medal. However, Rotteck's merits as a constitutional lawyer and co-author of the first Baden constitution prevented the Rotteckring from being renamed.

The situation is somewhat different for the proven anti-Semite, the poet, and theologian, Alban Stolz. A street in Freiburg named after him became Denzlinger Straße in October 2020.

Bust removal in December 2020 (©Thomas Kunz/BZ)
However, a culture war broke loose over Stolz's bust in front of the Konviktkirche. Municipal, ecclesiastical authorities and the State Cultural Office were at loggerheads for a long time until it was finally agreed to move the bust from the public space to the seminary garden, the Collegium Borromaeum. Alban Stolz was only partially canceled.

Let us return to the present. Recently President Putin complained that  Cancel Culture had turned into Culture Cancellation in the West. The names of Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, and Rachmaninoff would be dropped from concert programs, which is partly true. Russian writers and their works would be banned, which is not true.

And Putin continued, "We remember well the images of book burnings in city squares," referring to the Nazi practice of book burning in the 1930s.

Is the cultural bridge broken between Ukrainians and Russians? They fought side by side against Nazi Germany in World War II, paying a heavy toll of blood.

The day before yesterday, Mayor Vitali Klitschko personally supervised the demolition of the Soviet Friendship Monument in Kyiv. A case of Cancel Culture?

Friday, April 29, 2022

On the Path of the Revolutionaries

Last Saturday, on April 23, Red Baron followed the path Baden revolutionaries took from Horben, located in the Black Forest, on their way to Freiburg on April 23, 1848. 

Well, not in total, for my Gehwerkzeuge (legs) are no longer fit for long distances.

Sitting on a bench, waiting for the walkers to arrive,
and looking at the field of the 1848 skirmish
I actually waited for the hikers at the historical site where exactly 174 years ago a vanguard of Freischärlers (revolutionary irregulars) was stopped by government troops in its march to Freiburg, resulting in a skirmish near Günterstal.

An information board gives a brief outline of the events on Easter Sunday, 1848
Using the material from my website, “Freiburgs Geschichte in Zitaten,” I initiated the article “Gefecht bei Günterstal” in the German Wikipedia on December 18, 2012. Today still, 67% of the text is original.

On May 16, 2021, a bot, the MalnadachBot, performed the translation of the German article into English upgrading the “skirmish” into a “battle. Judge, whether the encounter between government troops and a few rushing ahead revolutionaries should be called a battle.


Red Baron also took part in the inauguration ceremony of the memorial for the fallen Freischärler at the Jägerbrunnen (Hunter's Well) at the site of the 1848 skirmish on Easter Monday (April 21) of 2003. My photo of the memorial stone I took on that date garnishes both the German and the English Wikipedia articles.

Ten years later, the memorial stone is slightly mossy
and keep the face of the bard in your memory.
Here is a photo that I took on the 165th anniversary of the 1848 skirmish in 2013.

Back to the 2022 commemoration walk from Horben to Günterstal.

Eventually the walkers from Horben arrived and stood around a bit lost.

Nine years later. Do you recognize the three participants of 2013?
At the end of the short commemoration at the monument to the fallen revolutionaries, the assembled people sang accompanied by the bard of 2013, "Thoughts are Free," a familiar song that originated shortly before 1800 in southern Germany.

Its basic philosophy is already known from ancient times. In the German-speaking world, Walther von der Vogelweide wrote around 1200: Joch sint iedoch gedanke frî (Yet thoughts are free). 

The poet Freidank summarized the core motif of the later song text more clearly in verse around 1229:

diu bant mac nieman vinden,
diu mîne gedanke binden.
man vâhet wîp unde man,
gedanke niemen gevâhen kan
No one can find the ribbon
that binds my thoughts.
One catches a woman and man,
thoughts no one can catch.

About 200 years later, Martin Luther wrote in his book: Von weltlicher Oberigkeit, wie man ihr Gehorsam schuldig sei: Thoughts are duty-free!

In his play The Tempest of 1622, Shakespeare has the magician Stephano say in the second scene of the third act: Thought is free.

This view continues into the late years of absolutism. Influenced by the intellectual and social reform movements in Western and Central Europe, Friedrich Schiller had the Marquis of Posa demand of the absolutist King Philip of Spain in his play Don Carlos in 1787, even before the French Revolution: Sire, give freedom of thought!

Since the days of the Carlsbad Decrees and the Age of Metternich, "Die Gedanken sind frei" became a popular protest song against political repression and censorship, especially among the banned Burschenschaften (student fraternities). At the Hambach Fest in 1832 the text is sung against the Carlsbad Resolutions* and the ensuing "persecution of demagogues."
*§ 1: Writings that appear in the form of daily sheets or in booklets ...  may not be promoted for printing in any German federal state without the prior knowledge and approval of the state authorities.

In the aftermath of the failed 1848 German Revolution, the song was banned.

Die Gedanken sind frei.

Die Gedanken sind frei,
wer kann sie erraten,
sie fliehen vorbei
wie nächtliche Schatten.
Kein Mensch kann sie wissen,
kein Jäger erschießen,
es bleibet dabei:
die Gedanken sind frei.

Ich denke, was ich will,
und was mich beglücket,
doch alles in der Still,
und wie es sich schicket.
Mein Wunsch und Begehren
kann niemand verwehren,
es bleibet dabei:
die Gedanken sind frei.

Und sperrt man mich ein
in finstere Kerker,
das alles sind rein
vergebliche Werke.
Denn meine Gedanken
zerreißen die Schranken
und Mauern entzwei:
die Gedanken sind frei.

Drum will ich auf immer
den Sorgen entsagen
und will mich auch nimmer
mit Grillen mehr plagen.
Man kann ja im Herzen
stets lachen und scherzen
und denken dabei:
Die Gedanken sind frei!
Thoughts are free.

Thoughts are free,
who can guess them,
they flee-past
like nighttime shadows.
No one can know them,
no hunter can kill them
It remains:
The thoughts are free!

I think what I want
and what makes me happy,
but always inwardly,
and as it suits.
My wish, my desire
no one can deny,
It remains:
The thoughts are free!

And if someone locks me
in the gloomy prison,
All that is absolutely
wasted work.
Because my thoughts
pull the barriers into pieces
and walls in two:
The thoughts are free!

I want to renounce
forever the worries
and want to never again
plague myself with whims
One can in the heart
always laugh and joke
and think:
The thoughts are free!

After that, the gathering dispersed. Lonely, Red Baron walked the rest of the way from the memorial stone to the Sternwaldeck-Pavillon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Neo-Nationalism or Blut und Boden

Looking for an illustration for this blog, I discovered the following Internet page:

Click for enlargement (©Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C.)
Following the racial and national monstrosities of the Nazis, leading to the most murderous war in history, Red Baron thought that nations had overcome this phase of human aberrations. Not at all. This time I am not referring to the Ukrainian war but to a reorientation of countries to nationalism. 

White Supremacy not only shall make America great again but Victor Orban’s recent runaway election victory in Hungary and in France Marine Le Pen’s current election campaign to destroy European integration share all the aversion to immigrants and a mythical exaggeration of the connection between the native soil and its inhabitants. 

Foreigners and their influence shall remain outside as long as financial goodies are not touched. International cooperation and European integration are shackles from which one must free oneself so that the own nation can achieve true greatness.

The argumentation is governed by feelings instead of reason. Neo-nationalism has no anchoring in reality, for it offers no viable answers to global challenges like hunger, flight and displacement, climate change, pandemics, inflation, and debt crises. It does not recognize all the interdependencies and problems that do not stop at the border. 

Nationalism is fueling conflicts instead. The talk of allegedly regaining national sovereignty in a networked world is just a story to help its mongers to convert the state into a self-service store.

Neo-nationalism is attractive for it stokes the emotions of an exaggerated patriotism that eventually leads to racism. In Germany’s past, the Nazis strengthened the we-feeling that many citizens still long for. 

In many modern societies, these atavistic sentiments are revived and accompanied by whispers of final battles in which one's own people will either triumph or perish. Even the tale of a global Jewish conspiracy by citing the Elders of Zion raises its head again.

Neo-nationalism is dangerous. Can the liberal West stand up against it?

Friday, April 15, 2022

Art Encounter

Last Monday, Red Baron was invited to the vernissage of the art exhibition Kunstbegegnungen. This event showing works of art from Freiburg‘s sister cities had been planned as a highlight on the occasion of the 900th city anniversary in 2020. Corona spoiled it all but better late than not at all.

The Ukrainian singing group Kupalinka opened and framed the exhibition.

In his welcoming speech, Freiburg's Lord Mayor Martin Horn said, “Having friends all over the world is good for you and broadens your perspective. In times of crisis, however, it can also mean concrete help, as the current aid deliveries from Freiburg to our a Ukrainian sister city Lviv prove.”

“Moreover, sister cities also enrich your cultural horizons, as the exhibition vividly shows. Freiburg now has a dozen sister cities, and indeed all twelve are represented in this multi-faceted exhibition with their own artistic contributions ….”

“I am grateful and proud of our lively partnerships with these twelve extraordinary cities - with them, we have found true friends throughout the world! Thank you to all who have made this interesting exhibition possible!”

Here is my private choice of art objects that are presently on display at the Meckelhalle.
N.B.: The texts below in italics are copied from the booklet accompanying the exhibition.


Thomas Perrin, Résines (2018) 
Thomas Perrin‘s sculptures grow on the floor of museums and art spaces. As a kind of fetish, they mix gender symbolism and unite the masculine and the feminine in forms that recall both the mother’s breast and childish toys.


Sebastian Barria, Arcano Ecléctico (2019)
“Imaginary, dreamlike rules are strongly present in my work, as are cosmic and mysterious environments.” To me, the drawing looks like a remake of M. C. Escher.

Liliana Ramírez, Liberdad de expresión (Freedom of Expression, 2019)
A successful variant of the old theme with a brush instead of a pencil.


Marilyn McNie, Autumn in Guildford (2019)
The artist mentions three happy years of living and working in Germany, “There are a few things more beautiful than autumn there, but this painting celebrates the beauty of autumn in Guildford.”

Nick Pyne, Caryatids (2019)
“I like to bring together disparate elements to create new and interesting objects or images. Working with mundane and everyday materials often has surprising results.”


Katharina Cibulka, We certainly don’t do it for the money (2012)
Katharina Cibulka pursues in her works a consistent political agenda, focusing on aspects such as feminism, social justice, communality, and questions about aesthetic processes and the role of art itself … The tremulously flickering neon in handwritten type is programmatic, gently cynical, and at the same time admonishing.


Minoo Iranpour, Borderless (2020)
“The concepts of love and hate coexist, but I have chosen love and intimacy in this work. The video clips are about the immediate, momentary feelings of people … when the phrase ‘I love you’ is heard from different people of different ages and from different communities.”

Masked right to the video installation stands the director of Freiburg's municipal savings bank (Stadtsparkasse), the latter being the main sponsor of the art exhibition.      


Tetyana Hamryshchak, Lobster (2019)
“In watercolor, there are no coincidences, no retouching; every spot of color requires a certain plan and a lot of experience. It is this mixture between flowing, almost unrestrained colors and the artist’s clear plan that makes this technique unique in painting for me.”


Ben Fleischmann, Pink Spring (2019)
Ben Fleischmann, Spring Flamingo (2019)
“I feel good when I paint. Big brushes on the big canvas work best. Sometimes I also like to put tape or tissue paper on the canvas before I paint. I like to do art with the radio on. I paint in time to the music. Painting is great. Sometimes I’m surprised by how my paintings turn out, but I always like them.”

Romano Johnson, Black Panther Car (2019)
“When I was a young kid in Chicago, I would draw ‘cause I love it and I was good at it. It’s what I like to do. I like to draw cars, car parts, faces, hair, clothes, and when I draw and paint, I’m always working for better ideas blending colors, adding glitter, coming up with patterns ….”


Watanabe Shūji, Ikkaku Sennin (2019)
The mask Ikkaku Sennin (The One-Horned Hermit/Immortal) is a mythological creature born of a deer that loses its supernatural powers when it succumbs to the charms of a woman.


Young-Teak Kwon, Otter at Odae Stream (2018)
In his painting, Kwon describes how the otter, which had disappeared because of ecological pollution, returned back to the Odea stream after the environment became cleaner. The clouds in the shape of an otter and a bird are flying over the Odea stream and mountain, illustrating the message of a new hope that respects the law of nature.

Pilyun Ahn, Law of conservation of mass (2019)
The work illustrates the universal principle that everything created passes away … This particular way of looking at the artwork itself tells us the story of existence, absence, and the cycle of life. To me, as a physicist, the artist gives me a chance of looking into a black hole that apparently is colored after all.

Tel Aviv-Yafo

Guy Yechiely, Tel Aviv coastline - A View from Old Yafo (2020)
Tel Aviv's coastline is beautiful, vibrant, and lively all day long and especially during its wonderful sunsets when the city skyscrapers are emphasized by its amazing colors.


Julio Barahona, Disfrutando del verano caliente (Enjoying the Hot Summer, 2018)
Julio Barahona, Recuerso del huracan lota (Memories of Hurricane Lota, 2018)
Julio Barahona captures moments of everyday life and documents festivals and celebrations in his city. The nature surrounding Wiwili and the people who live there interest the photographer. In 2018, Hurricane Lota caused great destruction in Wiwili and its environment. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022


"Where to? - to Golgatha" is an aria for basso e Coro in Johann Sebastian Bach's Johannes-Passion BW 245. The bass sings the text…

Eilt, ihr angefochtnen Seelen,
Geht aus euren Marterhöhlen,
Eilt - Wohin ? - nach Golgatha!
Nehmet an des Glaubens Flügel,
Flieht - Wohin? - zum Kreuzeshügel,
Eure Wohlfahrt blüht allda!
Hurry, you tormented souls,
leave your dens of torment,
Hurry – Where to? – to Golgotha!
Take the wings of faith,
Fly – Where to? – to the hill of the cross,
there your salvation flourishes!

… while the chorus interjects and repeats its pressing question, "Where to?"; Bach's stroke of genius.

On Palm Sunday, Red Baron listened to Saint John Passion BWV 245 at the Lutheran Church of Christ three blocks away from his department.

While Bach's Saint Matthew Passion BW 244, with its musical highlights, demands a good amount of sitting ability, the Saint John Passion is shorter. Many people regard the final choruses of the two Passions as the highlights. Indeed the forceful "Ruhet wohl "(Rest in peace) of BW 245 is haunting, particularly when listened to in a live performance.

Indeed, the best performance on your Hi-Fi equipment never replaces a life presentation in its transparency when you sit "within" the music. As the Badische Zeitung wrote, "Proximity changes the perspective. In Freiburg's spatially manageable Christuskirche, Bach's St. John Passion, thus the more dramatic of the oratorio passions of the Leipzig Thomaskantor, became an intimate spiritual theater.“

The "late "Gospel of John dates to the end of the first century and is independent in presentation and theology compared with the other earlier three synoptic gospels. The Christian faith of the congregation is now clear and consolidated and clearly distinguishes itself from Judaism, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (John 1,14)."

Bach transports that message in his composition. The encounter with Pilate in John 18 becomes a pivotal point:

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus, and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?"

34 "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?"

35 "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?"

36 Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place."

37 "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

38 "What is truth?" retorted Pilate. With this, he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, "I find no basis for a charge against him.

The themes raised by John in this discussion scene - the kingship of God versus worldly power and Jesus as truth, play a decisive role in the Christian faith.

In Matthew's gospel, Jesus dies with a cry, tortured and suffering; in John, the sentence "It is finished" makes Jesus the master of the situation. He knows about the "great plan." John portrays a strong Jesus who seems to be in control.

The rather austere St. John Passion appeals by its theology. One critique once wrote, "St. Matthew Passion leads the way of mystics, St. John Passion the way of metaphysics:" 
In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1,1).

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Georgia On My Mind

In the framework of the activities of the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft, our vice president gave an engaged and committed introduction to the exciting and long life of Georgia O'Keefe as a woman and artist at our Stammtisch on April 6. 

The next day, the talk was followed by a visit to an exhibition of Georgia's works at the Fondation Beyerle (Foundation) at Riehen near Basel.

If you missed the introduction to Georgia O'Keefe, you either look up Wikipedia, or you may read what the Fondation wrote:

O'Keefe was born in 1887 in Wisconsin, and grew up in modest circumstances, with several siblings, on her parents' dairy farm. Her creative abilities were already recognized during her schooldays, and she studied art. Her first significant works date from 1915, when she was teaching art in South Carolina and at the University of Virginia, and from the subsequent Birgit in Canyon, Texas, where she lived from 1916 to 1918 after being hired to teach at West Texas state normal college.

With the last long sentence, you probably noted that it is a translation of the German text shown at the entrance to the exhibition. It continues:

The first exhibition of the Fondation Beyeler's current anniversary year is dedicated to Georgia O'Keeffe, one of the great painters of the 20th century and an icon of modern American art. This major retrospective comprising works from six decades offers a rare opportunity in Europe to encounter the art of Georgia O'Keeffe, which is found in a few collections outside the US, and its full richness and variety.

The exhibition of the Fondation Beyeler highlights O'Keeffe's particular way of looking at her surroundings and translating what she saw into entirely new and hitherto unseen images, at times almost abstract, at times close to nature. "One rarely takes the time to really see a flower. I have painted it big enough so that others would see what I see."

Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe around 1921
From New Mexico in the fall of 1926 Georgia wrote in a letter to a friend, "It's a wonderful morning - the leaves are turning – crickets singing – most summer people gone home – there is no sun but it's warm and fine – We have been having perfect days of perfect quiet sunshine - working lots – and I feel like singing (…) I wish you could see the place here – there is something so perfect about the mountains and the lake and the trees -"

These quotes from 1926 can serve as a guideline for the examination of O'Keefe's art and life. The artist's unique gaze, combined with an approach to nature that was sensitive, respectful, and imbued with wonder, made here the 20th century's most significant and fascinating painter of landscape and nature.

For Red Baron, it is a mystery why Georgia is not so well known in Europe. On this side of the Atlantic, connoisseurs will immediately recognize an Edward Munch painting, Franz Marc is a cult, and even Max Liebermann is a sure guess. O'Keeffe, on the other hand, is challenging to identify. In fact, she always refused to be categorized in her painting style. She did it her way.

Below some of her pictures at the Beyerle retrospective are shown, which prove how difficult it is to identify an O'Keeffe except perhaps for her unique and most impressive flowers. Georgia uses colors, forms, and sometimes presents extreme details in her paintings.

Blue II, 1916
Blue Line, 1919
O'Keeffe stated, "When people read erotic symbols into my paintings, they're really talking about their own affairs." Sorry, I don't agree, for that is not my affair.
White Birch, 1925
Honi soit qui mal y pense.
East River from the Shelton Hotel, 1928
Taos Pueblo, 1929-1935
Ranchos Church No. 1, 1929
Jimson Weed, White Flower No. 1, 1932
It Was a Man and a Pot, 1942
Pelvis with the Distance, 1943
Black Door with Red, 1954
My Last Door, 1952-1954
Colors lost. Georgia's last black door is surrounded by gray surfaces. At the age of 67, did she have a presentiment of her death? Well, she continued to paint in colors and became 99. Georgis O'Keeffe died on March 6, 1986.
Misty - A Memory, 1957
Road to the Ranch, 1964
Untitled (City Lights), 1970ies